What You Need to Know About Medical Alert Devices

Staying Put at Home Tips for Home Safety Having the security of a medical alert device or personal emergency response system (PERS) in your home can help you feel more confident about Aging in Place, as you’ll have somebody available in case of emergency. In a 2005 survey, 75.6% of participants said they felt more secure with a medical alert device.1 This week, Staying Put at Home looks at what a medical alert device is and what you need to know before getting one.

What is A Medical Alert Device?

Are you afraid of falling at home? Are you apprehensive about staying in your house because of this? Medical alert devices are designed to address this concern. These appliances usually include a pendant that you can wear around your wrist or neck and a base station that is plugged into your wall. In case of emergency, you can push a button on your pendant, which will send a signal to your base station, alerting your dispatcher that you are in distress.

What Questions You Should Ask About a Medical Alert Device

Not all medical alert devices offer the same services. Think about what you are looking for in a medical alert device and make sure you get the one that suits your home and your needs. We’ve gathered a few questions you should ask to help find out which medical alert device is your best option:

  • Is my monitoring station open 24 hours a day, seven days a week? Who does it notify when my button is pushed? What is the dispatcher’s training? What is their response time?
  • Does my medical alert device use a landline or is it cellular? (This is important if you do not have a landline in your home.)
  • How far is the range of my medical alert system? Will my pendant work from anywhere in my home?
  • Do I install my medical alert device or does your company have someone who will do this? If you do have an installer, will you charge me extra to install it in my home?
  • Do I own my medical alert device? Am I just leasing it? What happens if my equipment is damaged? Is it waterproof?
  • Does my device come with automatic fall detection?
  • Is a mobile 911 phone included with purchase of the medical alert device?
  • Is it certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL)?

Cost

Most medical alert systems cost $25-$75 per month.2 Be wary of any company that charges less than this amount, as they may be cutting corners and not providing you with valuable benefits. Some companies will charge a setup fee, which usually costs $50-$200. Although Medicare will generally not cover the cost of medical alert systems, some state Medicaid programs will assist in payment. For example, HCBS waivers and Consumer Directed Services can be used to fund your medical alert system.3

Read the Fine Print

Inspect your contract carefully before you sign it. Many medical alert systems use long-term contracts that do not have an opt-out clause, trapping you with a system and payment plan you may not want. Some companies will charge you if your medical alert device’s button is accidentally pushed and triggers a false alarm. Other companies may not call 911 if the button is pushed, thereby leaving you stranded in case of emergency. Cancellation policies also differ between some companies, so you might not be able to cancel immediately. Make sure you know exactly what you are signing up for by checking www.fda.gov to find out if a medical alert system’s company has had any recalls or complaints.

Beware of Scams

In 2013, a story made the rounds about calls offering free life alert systems to seniors. If this sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is. These scams will often cold-call seniors and pressure them to provide bank account and social security information. They will often use generic names like “Medical Alert USA” and “Medical Alert Systems” to trick people into believing they are legitimate.

In 2014, the scam returned. This time, though, it was an automated message telling seniors that they were entitled to a free device and $3,000 worth of coupons. They instructed seniors to press 1 if they wanted more information and press 5 if they wanted to be taken off the call list. If this happens to you, hang up. If you press 5, the scammers will know that your phone number is working, and they will bombard you with more calls.

We hope that this article has clarified some of the questions about medical alert devices. There are many medical alert companies out there, and we advise you to do your research to find out which one works for you. Did we leave anything out? Please let us know in the comment section!


1. Use of Personal Emergency Response Systems by Older Individuals with Disabilities | Return to Text
2. Medicaid and Personal Emergency Response Services / Personal Safety Monitors | Return to Text
3. Medicaid and Personal Emergency Response Services / Personal Safety Monitors – HCBS Waivers | Return to Text

How You Can Make Your Kitchen Safer

Staying Put at Home Tips for Home Safety Whether you are a master chef or a microwave connoisseur, it’s likely that the kitchen is one of your household’s central hubs. With the kitchen getting so much use, it is not surprising that fires and falls are frequent mishaps. In fact, home fires kill seniors at twice the rate of society as a whole.1 While we have already covered some helpful tips on this subject, we thought it would be a good idea to provide a more comprehensive look at how you can modify your kitchen to make Aging in Place easier and more comfortable.

What to Do With Power Cords and Socket Covers

  • Reduce the amount of cords in your kitchen to as few as possible. Make sure those remaining are not in any pathways. Not only will this save you energy, but it will also remove a number of tripping hazards. In addition to removing these cords, getting rid of certain appliances, like blenders and toasters, could lower the risk of an accident.
  • Make sure that your appliances are easy to unplug and not near your sink. You put yourself at risk of injury if you constantly need to bend over to unplug something.
  • Put socket covers on your wall outlets to diminish your risk of shock. This is extremely important in your kitchen, as a lot of liquid flows here.

Have Safe, Convenient Light Switches & Outlets

  • Have your light switch by your doorway. How many times have you walked through your kitchen in the dark looking for your light switch? It doesn’t matter if you have done it a thousand times, one open cabinet door or a chair out of place could be a dangerous tripping hazard. With a switch near your doorway, you can light your kitchen as soon as you enter.
  • If you are having trouble seeing your light switch, then place brightly colored tape on it to make it more visible.
  • Install motion sensor lights. Motion sensor lights trigger automatically when they detect the least bit of movement. This means that you would never have to navigate your kitchen in darkness.
  • Ensure your outlets are GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupters). GFCI-protected outlets reduce the risk of electrocutions. A GFCI monitors the current flowing through a circuit. If the current differs by even a slight amount, then the GFCI outlet will shut off power immediately. Your kitchen may already be equipped with GFCI outlets, as they have been part of the National Electrical Code since 1987.

Don’t Hurt Yourself Trying to Open Your Cabinets

  • Install pull-out and pull-down shelves. Pull-out shelves make it easier to access items at lower levels, as you just have to pull the shelf out instead of crouching to find something. If you have osteoporosis, hip or back problems, then bending over could be difficult and dangerous. Consider getting a pull-out shelf if you have this condition. Pull-down shelves allow you to bring a shelf to your level, meaning you won’t need a hazardous stepstool. Furthermore, food that is hard to reach often does not get used, causing it to expire. Not only does the food go to waste, but eating it can lead to illness.
  • Install “D” shaped handles to make it easier to open cabinets. This is especially helpful for somebody with arthritis.

Make Your Sink Easy to Use

  • Place the faucets and sprayer on the side of your sink to make them easier to reach. Consider getting lever handles that are easier to use.
  • Use anti-scald devices on your sink to prevent burns.

Find the Right Dishwasher

  • Raise the height of your dishwasher so that it is easier to load and unload. Like with low shelves, it might not be feasible to bend over to empty your dishwasher on a regular basis. Lifting your dishwasher to a more manageable level could make this routine activity much more comfortable.

Use a Chair to Preserve Stamina

  • Use a chair to sit at your countertop or at your stove so that you won’t tire as easily. While you stand at your countertop chopping vegetables, you might feel yourself getting a bit fatigued. As you age, you tire more easily and tend to have less energy than younger people, meaning it can be harder to stand for long intervals.2 Always remember to return your chair to a familiar, out-of-the-way area so that it does not pose a tripping hazard.

Make Your Stove Safe

  • Make sure your stove has an automatic gas stove shut-off feature in case your pilot light goes out. This device automatically detects unattended cooking by monitoring the user’s movement in the kitchen, preventing stove top fires and dangerous gas emissions. You don’t want to fill your house with gas.
  • Ensure that your knobs are permanent and not removable, as it is easy for these knobs to be misplaced.
  • Never leave your stove unattended. Fire spreads quickly, and it can take seconds for your entire kitchen to be engulfed.
  • Throw away any frayed and tattered oven mitts. These can lead to burns when removing an object from your stove.

Cut Down On Fire Hazards

  • Designate an area of your kitchen away from your stove or oven where you can place potential fire hazards. Keeping items like paper towels, dish rags, potholders and oven mitts near an open flame could cause a disaster. Most home fires begin in the kitchen,3 so moving these objects away from a flame is a great step to protect yourself.
  • Keep a working fire extinguisher within easy reach and make sure your fire alarms are functional.

We hope that these tips help you think about how to make your kitchen safer. If you have any suggestions of your own, please let us know in the comment section.


1. “Aging in Place” Topics | Return to Text
2. Aging Changes in the Bones – Muscles – Joints | Return to Text
3. Home Fires Involving Cooking Equipment | Return to Text