Please Note: You are viewing the non-styled version of The Ohio Department of Aging. Either your browser does not support Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) or it is disabled. We suggest upgrading your browser to the latest version of your favorite Internet browser.
In 1990, it was nearly impossible to turn on the TV without seeing the now iconic commercial featuring an elderly woman on her bathroom floor, calling out: "I've fallen and I can't get up!" Despite the ad's campiness, it put a face to a very real risk that seniors face, especially those living alone. The utterance soon became a pop-culture catch phrase and helped push a multibillion-dollar industry into the forefront. Today's home medical alert systems are sophisticated and use the latest technology to help ensure the safety of our loved ones.
Invented in Germany during the 1970s, medical alert systems were designed for one simple task: to allow someone in danger to summon help at home, no matter where in that dwelling he or she may be. For older adults, the ability to get help when they are unable to get to a phone can be the difference between life and death.
At its most basic, an alert system consists of a device that connects to the owner's phone line and a wearable, wireless transmitter that usually takes the form of a pendant or bracelet. In the event of a household accident, such as a fall, that renders the wearer unable to make it to the phone, he can summon help with just the push of a button. The least expensive systems dial 9-1-1 and allow the person to communicate with an emergency operator. The operator will identify his needs and dispatch the appropriate personnel to respond.
But many of today's advanced systems take full advantage of available technology. Some offer live, 24/7 monitoring. Instead of automatically dialing 9-1-1, these systems connect the wearer to an emergency response center. Professionals at the center can communicate with the person to determine her needs and can present options such as summoning emergency crews or contacting her friends or family members to come help. A monitored system typically costs more than a basic system and includes ongoing monitoring fees, but provides the owner with more flexibility and allows her to tailor the assistance to best suit her needs and preferences.
Some systems also can link to other devices in your home for more complete protection. Depending on the system, you may be able to get a smoke or carbon monoxide detector that communicates with the emergency alert system and notifies the response center if there is a detection. Similarly, many systems can be integrated seamlessly into home security systems. Some systems offer sensors in rooms of the home that allow the response center and family members to monitor temperature and motion, among other factors that may indicate a problem, via a secure internet connection.
Emergency alert systems offer great flexibility in price, service and ease of use. Here are few things to consider when deciding which type of system is right for you or a loved one.