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The Safety Debate: Medical Alert System or Cell Phone for Seniors?

November 10, 2015

The Safety Debate: Medical Alert System or Cell Phone for Seniors?
If your Indiana senior loved one lives alone, safety is probably a big concern for both of you. Medical alert systems and cell phones are two ways to make it easy for the senior in your life to quickly call for help should they need it. But for Indiana seniors on a fixed income, having both may not be affordable.
If you are trying to decide which one is best, we have a few questions you can ask yourself:
  1. Does your senior family member still drive or go out and about on their own? Most medical alert systems work with a wireless pendant that transmits a signal to a console on the senior’s home phone. The pendant won’t work if they move beyond the range of the wireless signal. While some medical alert systems also offer a mobile 911 phone, it is at an additional expense.
  2. Do they have any physical limitations or vision impairments that would make it hard to dial a cell phone for help? Chronic health conditions like arthritis and Parkinson’s disease can make using a traditional cell phone very challenging. The touch screen and tiny keypad may be tough to manipulate. But there are vendors who provide a special kind of cell phone you can consider for an aging Indiana loved one. The Jitterbug 5 earns high praise from seniors because of the large buttons on the keypad and the enhanced volume options.
  3. How compliant will your loved one be about charging a cell phone?  As we all know, cell phones batteries need almost daily recharging. Will your older family member remember and be willing to charge the phone each day? Medical alert systems typically send a reminder to the monitoring station when the battery is low. That warning allows you to call the senior with a reminder to charge their device. Low battery alerts on many cell phones are small and easy to overlook.
  4. Do you want GPS tracking abilities? This can be a tipping point for families who have an aging loved one with dementia. If you are concerned they may wander, you might want to choose a system that allows for GPS tracking.
  5. Will the senior you love remember to keep their cell phone with them? If you think a cell phone may be the best option, can you count on your aging family member to keep it on their belt or in a pocket whether they are inside or outside of the house? Most falls happen in the bathroom. Will they remember to take it in there with them? Medical alert bracelets and pendants are easier to wear all of the time.
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A final tip is to contact the Indiana State Medical Association (ISMA).  Their Free 911 Cell Phone program converts used cell phones in to free emergency phones for seniors. They have over 100 hospitals, physician offices and senior organizations that act as distribution centers. These free phones can be used to call 911 in the event of an emergency.