19003814-help-black-and-red-square-web-glossy-iconMobile Medical Alerts Offer New Technology And Better Emergency Response

Robert Snyder was putting his shoes on when the chair he was sitting on collapsed, slamming his head into the bedroom door frame at his St Louis, MO home. Badly bleeding, he called out to his wife a number of times, but she was in the kitchen making a meal and with the radio on could not hear her husbands call for help.

Robert, then 93 pushed the button on his mobile medical alert pendant. Within seconds his wife, Diane, 79, received a call from the emergency response center operator who said, “We got an medical alert signal. Is anything wrong?” Diane ran upstairs and found Robert lying in a growing pool of blood. The operator stayed on the line while Diane stanched the bleeding enough to help her husband into the car and to the emergency room.

The device really proved its worth, says Diane, recalling that morning in April 2010, three months before her husband’s death from unrelated causes. He had worn it every day for several months. “The kids and I insisted on Robert wearing his mobile medical alert,” she says, referring to the couple’s two grown children. “He was getting frail. That caused us to worry.”

Mobile medical alert devices, such as the Livewell Libris and GoMobile alerts, can help older adults to remain independent and in their own homes. The mobile medical alert devices also are reassuring to adult children who know that if an aging parent suffers a fall or, worse, a stroke or heart attack, immediate help and medical attention will be summoned.

But doctors, aging experts and even company officials emphasize that while mobile medical alert systems can save lives, the key to their success is a motivated user. The much-mimicked “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” TV commercials raised awareness of the problem but also created a stigma, they say.

“The 80-year-old woman lying on the ground, screaming for help — who wants to be that person?”

Lingering Stigma

Unfortunately, that’s a common problem.  The visualization of the fallen senior calling for help can sabotage the value of the mobile medical alert devices. They are great tools but requires participation by the user.  More often than not, the owner takes a fall “while the device is hanging on the bed rail or sitting on the dining room table.”

Indeed, research shows that in the majority of falls, push-button medical devices are never activated. Reasons include forgetfulness, panic, trauma or simply not wanting to alarm others. The reports also find a high rate of nonuse or resistance to using medical alert devices, even after a senior has experienced a fall.

The newer mobile medical alert systems are designed to overcome most if not all of these barriers, and possibly any lingering stigma attached to their use. Many of the recent devices on the market are sleeker, lighter and less conspicuous. Some are clip-ons that resemble a cell phone or a pedometer.

Will it work and will he or she wear it?  At the end of the day, it’s all any son or daughter should ask. Will it work when your parent is unconscious a mile away? Will they wear it or will set it aside? At Livewell, each individual has a personal care manager that makes monthly calls to each subscriber and talks to them about their daily habits and the use of their mobile medical alert. This is very helpful in getting better daily and uniform use of their Livewell Alert.

Falling and the fear of falling

Falls among older people are a huge problem. More than one in three adults 65 and older will fall in a given year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two-thirds will fall again within six months. Falls can result in debilitating injuries such as broken hips and head trauma. Moreover, people who fall and lie helpless for hours or days can suffer serious complications, including dehydration, hypothermia, pressure ulcers, muscle breakdown and renal failure.

The elderly mother of Ventura County, Calif., psychiatrist Jeffery Kendall, was discovered alone in her bedroom, dehydrated, injured and barely conscious a full day after she suffered a fall and stroke last June.

Because of the delayed discovery, “she had missed the window in which strokes can be aggressively treated to minimize or counter the effects of interrupted blood flow to the brain,” Dr. Kendall says. His mother, who before the stroke had no serious health conditions, now lives with him and his wife.

Moreover, the fear of falling, even without ever actually falling, has its own serious consequences. Seniors who fear falling may restrict their activity. This, in turn, creates premature physical and functional decline, which increases their risk for falls.

New Mobile Medical Alert Technology Offers Better Service

The first medical alert systems were introduced in the mid-1980’s and were relatively simple to use push-button devices worn on the wrist or around the neck. Typically, a medical alert device would call a 24-hour emergency response center in the event of an emergency and allow two-way communication. The problem with these type of systems is that they operate like a intercom system with the microphone and speaker located in a base station that is typically located in the kitchen and requires the user be within close proximity to speak and hear the emergency call center operator. They also must be used in or near the home as typical systems have a range of a few hundred feet from the systems base station.  This means that the user is not protected when they leave the range of the system or they may have limited voice to voice communication with the emergency call center even if they are at home.

Innovation and sophisticated technologies have ushered in a new era for these medical alert systems. Mobile medical alerts have grown in popularity as many people no longer have a land line. Generally the mobile systems operate in a very similar manner to the traditional land line based systems but allow the user to have more freedom and extended coverage so long as there is a cellular tower within range of the phone. Livewell offers two new mobile medical alert systems: GoMobile Alert and the Libris AutoAlert. Both are extremely easy to operate and offer the user the comfort of being connected to the emergency call center no matter where they may be. In addition the Libris Auto Alert detects falls automatically, summoning help without relying on its user to push a button. Additional information can be found on the Livewell website: www.livewellalert.com

To appeal to younger seniors and people with active lifestyles, several companies now offer more advanced systems featuring varying combinations of push-button and automatic fall detection, emergency call center assistance, and medical monitoring.

What to look for when shopping for a Mobile Medical Alert

If you’re looking for a mobile medical alert, keep this checklist in mind:

1. Look at several systems before making a decision.

2. Compare costs. Charges for equipment and services may include a setup fee (Livewell does not have a set-up fee) ranging from $50 to $200 and a monthly fee ranging from $30 to $60. Most all companies lease their equipment; Livewell is unique in that it also offers system purchase plans which can save customers hundreds of dollars over the standard lease programs offered.  Private insurance or Medicare generally does not cover the devices. Some Plan B Medicare policies do cover a mobile medical alert provided the user has a doctor’s prescription.

3. Read through the contract carefully and understand the cancellation process.

4. Make sure the provider offers 24/7 customer care (preferably a call center) and technical support.

5. Ask how often and by what procedures they test their system.

Don’t Feel Pressured to Buy

If you ever feel pressured by a sales associate or uncertain about whether to sign up with a particular mobile medical alert service, be aware that some companies have been accused of using aggressive sales or marketing tactics. Never agree to a plan if you’re feeling forced to make a quick or uninformed decision. Instead, consider reviewing your options with an adult family member, friend, doctor or caregiver.

Livewell Alert Offers the Newest Mobile Medical Alert Technology