We have written extensively about healthy aging and aging in place over the years. Part of healthy aging is planning for the worst while hoping for the best. When you plan for bad situations, you can enjoy your life without worries, knowing that — if things go wrong — you’ve got it covered.
When it comes to medical alert systems, most of us probably immediately think of the famous commercial featuring the line “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.” Many of us eschew them as something we don’t need. There is a certain level of stigma around them. But, 86 percent of people who have them have used them, making them an incredible tool.
A medical alert system helps connect people with emergency services. They are mainly marketed to people who want to age in place. But, they can be great tools for anyone with a serious health concern for whom getting fast help could be essential.
In a survey of people who use medical alert systems, 86 percent had used them at least once. Fifty percent said it had saved them from a catastrophe, while 36 percent said the situation could have escalated. People liked different aspects of the systems. For 49 percent, activity monitoring and medication reminders were the most important feature. Forty-four percent said it was the 24/7 assistance. While the famous old commercial was about falling and not being able to get up, only 39 percent of users ranked automatic fall detection as the most important feature for a system. And only 37 percent said a discreet wearable device was important to them.
While 53 percent of users believed that medical alert systems somewhat or strongly invaded their privacy, they felt the benefits outweighed the cost. Many shared that they had loved ones concerned about their safety, and that played a role in their decision to get the system. In fact, 34 percent said they got the system for their peace of mind, while 33 percent said they did it to put their loved ones at ease. It could be that providing their family and friends peace of mind and not putting the onus of caregiving and protection on loved ones was worth the trade-off in privacy.
People paid anything from less than $10 to more than $50 a month for their system. Most people paid between $21 and $40. The good news is that AARP has discounts for members. Some insurance companies will cover the price of a system. Medicare does not, but Medicare Advantage (Part C) does in many states.
If you have been on the fence about getting a medical alert system for yourself or a loved one, this information may change your mind. While they may invade privacy a bit, they also save lives and protect health. As they can be so affordable, it might be worth the investment just to have the knowledge that you have backup should anything go awry.