Aging Parents: Alert Pendants Researched and Reviewed–Part 2

Happy New Year!  It’s happy for us.  My 97-year-old mother-in-law, R, is walking now, steadied by a belt around her torso that the therapist controls to give her a feeling of security and stability. The broken hip has healed, her left leg can bear weight, and physical therapy is doing its job. R has walked for three days now; she says it’s “hard work.”  More progress updates in another post.

Soon R will be ordering an alert pendant. The information on these last 2 posts can help older alone-living parents, grandparents (and R before she goes home) make a selection. Also check the sites and/or request brochures.

The list of companies continues…

  • Life Fone (888-678-0451)  http://lifefone.com/ 30 years in business, it’s the alert system of choice (after checking 3 companies) for a smart, older working wife who realized her husband couldn’t physically help her if something happened.
    Range: 600 ft.
    Response:
    Don’t outsource, have own call center in New York, with trained people, quick response.
    Testing: Ask older person to test 1-2x a month to stay familiar with system (they also monitor and test)  
    Battery life
    : 5 years (free replacement)
    Contacts: 5 people on list
    Financial: No contract.  $24.95-$29.95 depending on number of prepaid months.
    Other stuff: Easy to install; bracelet, pendant.
  • Medical Home Alert (800-800-1297)  http://www.medicalhomealert.com/ Good Housekeeping’s “top pick” in 2005. CVS selected MHA as their exclusive provider of Medical Alert Systems in their 6000+ stores in 2007. A couple I’ve known many years, in their mid-80’s, he still works, recently signed on for this system and is “completely satisfied.”
    Range: 600 feet from the base, when no obstructions; otherwise think 300 feet+.  One woman in a 3rd floor apartment made contact from basement laundry room
    Response: Not outsourced.  A “911-trained” person in their state-of-the-art call-center in New York answers within 30 seconds. Remains on the line until help arrives.
    Testing: the self-testing mechanism automatically contacts the monitoring center every 28 days; but they recommend that once or twice a month the pendant-wearers also make contact so they feel connected.
    Battery life: back-up battery continues to operate up to 36 hours if power outage; button lasts 5-7 years
    Contacts: no limit to # of names on emergency list
    Financial:
    No contract. $29.95 a month; 1 month free if pay for a year in advance.
    Other stuff: in business since 1977. Easy to assemble and disconnect system. Easily transportable. Pendant, wrist band, or belt clip. 2nd button may be free if requested.

Life Alert (800-360-0329) http://www.lifealert.com/, has a BBB A+ rating, but opinions about it differ.  Several older people in my small sample use and like it. One daughter says they are “very responsive, have wrist straps and pendants and my mother really likes them. She checks in every Monday to make sure everything is working. She prefers the wrist strap since the pendant goes off inadventently sometimes if you happen to press it (while sleeping, etc) .”

On the other hand, in October 2010 my octogenarian cousin phoned Life Alert. She wanted to get an alert system and her son’s mother-in-law uses–and is satisfied with– Life Alert.  My cousin says the salesperson was aggressive. She told him she couldn’t order immediately–wanted to speak with her children first; he responded something like “why do you need your children’s permission?” and called her back at least three more times that day. Life Alert also requires a 3-year contract which, according to ConsumerAffairs.com, has presented problems.  (Note: the May 2012 Consumer Affairs site makes no mention of the contract–see reader’s email below. That said, the link 2 lines above obviously mentioned it in 2010 (and has been updated to match the reader’s May 2012 link below), so perhaps the contract problem no longer exists. I hear you can pay by the month and if you pay by the year, one month is free. Check it out.)

We try our best to support our parents’ independence; we do our best to help them age well. Yet with many competing medical alert companies and with such similar names, the decision becomes difficult. ConsumerAffairs.com  http://www.consumeraffairs.com/health/ provides an additional resource that may be useful in our quest to help our aging parents.

Later addition, January 2012:

  • Halo (888-971-4256)
    http://www.halomonitoring.com/ seems to have state-of-the art technology for detecting falls and an excellent list of questions and answers (http://www.halomonitoring.com/products/faq) so I won’t be redundant in listing Range, Response etc.  The service is expensive (approximately $703 [Halo Clip] or $823 [Halo Clip Complete]), which includes $99 deposit, $16 shipping, and 12 months of service at $49 [Clip] or $59 [Complete] each month. Depending on need, it could be very helpful. My 98-year-old, independent-living, “with-it” mother-in-law, however, would never wear anything that would make her feel less than “normal” (the chest strap) or look less than well-put-together (her term for stylish) and seldom wears belts. I ran the option by her, which elicited the above. That said, she doesn’t regularly wear the pendant either (puts it in her pocket sometimes when she’s in her home and isn’t feeling steady on her feet). She’s fully aware of the downside. We respect her decisions.

May 23, 2012 from a reader: Thank you Marie for contributing this current information.
Hello,
First I want to say thank you for the work you put into your site. It’s very informative!
Also, I was doing some research into medical alert systems for my mother the other day and found a really helpful webpage. I thought your readers might find it useful: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2007/09/lifealert_alternatives.html I just wanted some basic information to compare brands and types, and this was very easy to read.
Anyway, thanks again for what you do!
Sincerely,
Marie

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