How do I Compare Personal Medical Alarms?

Written by debra stang
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How do I Compare Personal Medical Alarms?
Most personal medical alarms cannot connect to a cell phone. (phone. image by Alexander Lukyanov from

A senior medical alarm is composed of two parts: an emergency button, which the person wears as part of a bracelet or a necklace, and a communication device, which is attached to the telephone. When the person pushes the button, an operator from the call centre speaks through the communication device to ascertain the situation, offers help and contacts the most appropriate responders. A medical alarm device can allow an elderly person to remain independent, because help is always available at the push of a button. When choosing a medical alarm device, there are several points to consider.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Landline telephone
  • $20 to £32 per month
  • Elder able to understand concept of pushing button for help

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  1. 1

    Call and ask for literature on two or three medical alarm systems. A social worker at the local hospital, hopsice, or Alzheimer's Association should be able to give you the names of a few medical alarm providers. If you don't want to wait for printed literature to arrive in the mail, you can easily find information about various personal medical alarms online.

  2. 2

    Compare costs. Most personal medical alarm systems charge an operating fee of between £13 to £32 per month. Some also have buy-in charges, initiation fees, or set-up charges. Call the company and ask if these extra fees can be waived. Some companies are willing to issue coupons for free installation or set aside the fees to initiate services.

  3. 3

    Compare terms of membership. Some systems lock you into their plan for a year. This doesn't make good financial sense for a frail elderly person. Your loved one might pass away, fall or become ill and require long-term care, or decide to move in with relatives. Steer away from any company that won't allow you to go month to month. Also, ask if there is a charge for "accidental calls." A confused person might forget what the button he or she is wearing is for and push it multiple times. You don't want to be charged for that.

  4. 4

    Compare features. Some personal medical alarms also come with medication and appointment reminder features. One, Phillips Lifeline, offers technology that can sense when a person has fallen, even if that person doesn't press the rescue button. Remember, you don't always need to select the most advanced system. The more simple it is to operate, the better the chance that your loved one will remember how to use it.

  5. 5

    When the unit ordered arrives, set it up and test it immediately. Most units come with clear written instructions as well as verbal instructions delivered by the responder box. Try the system for a month or so. If there are things about it you don't like, send it back and try one of the competitors instead. The market is so full of different personal alarm devices, your loved one is bound to find one that will suit him or her well.

Tips and warnings

  • Highest cost does not necessarily translate into "best"; find the model whose features most closely meet your loved one's needs.
  • Make sure your loved one understands he or she must wear the rescue button all day, every day. He or she must even wear it in the shower--where falls are likely to occur--and in bed.

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