Aging Parents: Alert Pendants Researched and Reviewed–Part 1

Good News! My 97-year-old mother-in-law, R, should return home soon, after sustaining a broken hip from a fall in late-September. Surgery and rehab are successful.  She’s in the final stages of strengthening the leg that couldn’t be weight-bearing until everything healed.  She will go home with a cane and walker…and an alert pendant.

R needs (for practical reasons) and we need (for peace of mind) an alert pendant, which up until now she thought she had no need for. The doctor says only 3% of people her age make such a good recovery, and it has been hard work.  Understandably R doesn’t want a repeat.

Two octogenarians and I gathered the following information, aided by contributions to “the cause” from older friends.  Below are companies rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau. Clearly our list is not all inclusive, but gives you a start.

First, repeating from an earlier post: 9 Things to Consider When Deciding on an Alert Pendant.
1. Cost
2. If there’s a trial period
3. Cancellation/return policy: read the fine print.  Among other things, it seems some people have signed a 3-year contract without realizing it can’t be broken, short of death.
4. Ease of installation Note: added after R’s alarm unit was installed–No problem for traditional phones, but her phones are wireless. Installation required  (we aren’t handy) hiring someone to purchase and add a “splitter.” Check this out with companies as you research if your parent’s phone is wireless.
5. The range–distance depends on obstructions as opposed to “open field.” (Will the button work if I fall in the laundry room? in the garden?). Know 300 ft. is the length of a football field.
6. If a hearing aid is compromised due to a fall, can the fall victim hear the monitor’s voice?
7. How–and how often–is the “alert” pendant tested?
8. Does the alert/alarm signal go directly to a trained person, is it outsourced, or does it go to a central place then get redirected to a trained person?
9.  Portability.  If going to Florida, for example, is it easy to take along?

Now, the companies:

  • American Medical Alarms: (800-542-0438) has been providing and monitoring medical alarms for over 20 years.
    Range: 2500-3000 sq. ft, one of–if not the–longest transmitter ranges. 6,000 sq. feet  from the console, one can activate the alarm and hear the monitoring center  Most people can use their pendants/wristbands from 2-300 ft. outside their homes, although range varies.
    Response :”professional state certified operators” respond within 30- 45 seconds at a US based monitoring center (UL Listed, FM Certified, Dept of Defense Certified).
    Testing: company can do remote checks but wearers are encouraged to test monthly. Because they believe elderly people are often leery of new equipment the company recommends the elderly practice test regularly and not wait for the emergency.
    Battery life around 5 years, then a new button is exchanged for old one at no charge.
    Contacts: Can have 5 on the list.
    Financial: No Contract. $24.95 a month. Prorated for partial month’s
    use as appropriate.

    Other stuff: “Alarm system is an acoustical computer really good for the hearing impaired.” Translated: they say answering voice is loud. Don’t know if volume is adjustable.   24/7 technical support.  Equipment: free with a lifetime warranty. Wristband or pendant. Additional button $35.
  • Lifeline (1-800-797-4191) (a Philips product) offers about 30 years of experience.
    Range about 1000-1500 sq. ft.
    Response in 20 second or less. One center monitors all call volume, with “highly trained” people who outsource to local faciliators.
    Testing: lifeline tests  system once a month with user.
    Battery life: don’t know precisely but an18-m0nth back-up comes with the system.
    3 people listed, who live within 15-20 minutes.
    Financial: No contract. 2 alert options: Standard ($45, bracelet or necklace)) or Auto-alert ($55-necklace only). Click site for information on options.
    Other stuff: For hearing impaired, check out Cordless device (dt1000); or for a standard 2 speaker communicator (carepartner 6900)-bracelet or necklace. Recommend a lock box–cost: $45. Tech support available during business hours. Additional button $10-$13.
  • Life Station (1-866-220-0942) While the brand is 6 years old, the company is in its 34th year of medical monitoring.
    Range: from the base up to 400 feet will get signal—“homes up to 3500 sq ft are within voice range.”
    Response: within 20-30 seconds a care specialist from Life Station’s own central monitoring station (monitoring is not outsourced) comes on live.  (Care specialists are trained 160 hours, then 80 additional hours before becoming certified.) If the older person is “with it” the specialist follows her/his directions. There are 2 specialists on the line–one stays on with the older person; one makes necessary emergency calls.
    Testing: a weekly silent test checks if system’s working properly.
    Battery life:
    4-6 yrs. that same battery will power Life Station console up to 32 hours. If battery–or any equipment– wears out it’s replaced free–no shipping costs.
    Contacts: unlimited number of contacts allowed on contact list.
    Financial: No contract.  User agreement $28.95 a month; $27.95 -3 months; $26.75–year. Life Station will reimburse what you don’t use. There’s possibly a senior discount
    Other stuff: 2nd button cost (replacement) $35.  Button can be on the necklace, wrist band, or belt-clip.

If you have 3 minutes, click this link and click “A Call for Help” within this link.  You’ll become more informed and–importantsee how confusing the names are because many are so similar.

This list continues on Saturday.  Clearly this information should help parents age well, especially those who live alone.

One thought on “Aging Parents: Alert Pendants Researched and Reviewed–Part 1

  1. Pingback: Guest blog: Insight into falls among the elderly | EPOCH Senior Living Blog

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