You’ve no doubt made many significant purchases by this point in your life but this may be the first time you’ve found yourself shopping for a personal alarm. Here are 6 things to consider prior to making your purchase:
Who Is It For?
It seems obvious but you should think about the person who will be using it. Maybe that’s you or maybe it’s for one of your parents. You need to think about why they need it, what kind of features are necessary, and how comfortable they are with gadgets.
If you’re buying it for someone else, then it’s better to discuss it with them first, rather than present them with a personal alarm and emergency response service that they may not yet want. A medical alert pendant is of no use if it’s not worn – and your loved one is more likely to wear it if they agree it’s useful and have been involved in decisions about it.
What Features Does It Need?
Or, to put it another way, why are you buying it? Often it’s for peace of mind, knowing that there’d be help available in an emergency. While it’s never nice to imagine things going wrong, there’s usually a particular focus or reason for your worries. So, what kind of emergency do you envisage? Does the personal alarm have the right features to handle it?
For example, is it:
Able to detect a fall and send an alert?
Waterproof, in case you slip in the shower or in the swimming pool changing rooms?
Shockproof, because what use is it if it breaks in a fall?
GPS-enabled, so that responders can pinpoint your location?
Equipped with two-way communication so you can tell someone what’s going on?
Able to remind you to take your medicines?
Is Geofencing Necessary?
This is particularly useful if you’re worried about someone wandering off and getting lost. You can set a perimeter that allows your elderly mum who has mild dementia, for example, to walk from home to the local shops along familiar streets but that will alert you if she goes beyond that virtual fence. Geofencing allows you to balance the desire for independence with the need for monitoring.
Pendant or Watch?
This is a personal choice but it’s an important one. Remember, medical alert devices must be worn at all times if they’re to be any use so you need to pick a style you like and will wear.
If your wrists are jangling with bracelets, you might prefer a pendant. If you hate having things dangling around your neck, then you might choose a watch.
Pendants or watch designs both tend to have the same features making this mostly a choice of personal style. That said, the pendants tend to be bigger with a more obvious and more easily pressed help button, meaning they might be easier to operate if you have low vision or arthritic fingers.
How Does the Battery Recharge?
A medical alarm with a flat battery is no use to you but batteries are small and changing them can be a fiddly job.
Look for a device with a long battery life or one that recharges in a cradle next to your bed, just like your mobile phone does.
This is particularly important if you’re buying for someone who can’t get to the shops easily to replace batteries or tends to do better when following a regular routine, like charging their device at bedtime. And make sure there’s an obvious warning if the battery power is getting low.
What’s the Level of Care and Cost?
Would you like a personal alarm that calls a pre-set contact (e.g. your partner or your adult children) if there’s a problem? If you don’t need a monitoring service, then you’re looking at the one-off cost of a device. While there are no ongoing costs, you do need to be sure that the pre-set emergency contact is always able to respond – what happens if they’re sleeping, in a meeting, or away on holiday or on business?
The next step up is a device with a monitoring service. Vitalcare’s Rosie service puts you in touch with trained responders (in Australia) at any time of day or night. They’re guaranteed to answer, talk to you about what’s happening, and send the necessary help. And they’ll call your family too.
The top-level service is Rosie+, which offers all the benefits of a personal emergency response, welfare checks plus a personal concierge service to book appointments, remind you to take medication, or simply call you for a friendly chat.
Monitored systems are paid for by a monthly subscription fee, where you rent the device, similar to your mobile phone plan. There’s also the set-up costs of installing a key safe outside the house so that the first responders can get inside in case of an emergency.
Once you’ve got your alarm, recognise that it’ll take time to get used to it. It’s a bit like remembering to put your glasses on or to wear your sunhat when you go outside. Hopefully, you will begin to enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’ll be OK if there’s ever an emergency. That reassurance gives you the confidence to enjoy life, trying new places and new hobbies, or enjoying your solitude.