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How to Choose a Medical Alert System

It can be complicated: As technology advances, the range of options has grown from the basic, wearable device with a button to call a response center in case of emergency. Now systems may include fall detection or prevention, in-home health and well-being monitors, fitness trackers, movement sensors and more.

When selecting a medical alert system, start by evaluating your loved one’s specific needs and abilities — both now and how they might change in the future. For example, if she has dementia, would she understand how to operate a system? Or is something automatic, like a fall-detection device, more appropriate? Does she have a disorder, such as aphasia, that will make communicating with a call center difficult?

And note that for any of these devices, you might ask if a free trial period is offered so you and your loved one can see what works best.

Things to consider:

1. What you need the system to do

Call for help. Wearable devices with buttons to push for help may connect to a live person or directly to emergency services (fire department, police).

Fall detection or prevention. One in 3 people over age 65 fall every year — perhaps the most common motivator for obtaining a medical alert.

Medical monitoring. Including medication reminders and monitoring health vitals
GPS location detection and tracking. Useful if your loved one is still driving and relatively independent

Activity monitoring. Motion detectors and beacons that track movement in the home
Daily check-in services. Via a live person or electronic check-in

Fitness tracking. Including built-in step counters and tools offering information, health challenges and virtual family connections

Home security monitoring. For fire, smoke and carbon monoxide

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