I have had many caregivers, parents and loved ones, ask me over the years what kind of Medical Alert/Monitoring Systems are there for someone with epilepsy. Yes, some do work for a person with epilepsy. There are a wide range of them today you can research and look at from personal emergency response systems, sleep monitors, watches and more that can offer piece of mind.
Recently I read an article by Amy Goyer for seniors but it made a lot of sense and also applies for persons with epilepsy. Chuck Carmen, Executive Director and Founder of EpilepsyU.com.
It can be complicated: As technology advances, the range of options has grown from the basic, wearable device with a button to call a response center in case of emergency to systems that may include fall detection or prevention, in-home health and well-being monitors, nighttime seizure monitoring, watches, trackers, movement sensors and more.
When selecting a medical alert system, start by evaluating your needs and the persons to be using it their abilities. For example, if they lost consciousness can they use it? Would they use it if having an aura, are they aware enough after their seizure where they can use it or not if needed. Can they communicate via voice, or not, with a call center?
Things to consider:
- What do you need it to do?
- Call for help. Wearable devices with buttons to push for help may connect to a live person or directly to emergency services (fire department, police).
- Fall detection or prevention.
- Medical monitoring. Including medication reminders and monitoring health vitals.
- GPS location detection and tracking. Useful if one wonders or is confused and especially if they live independently.
- Activity monitoring. Motion detectors and beacons that track movement in the home.
- Daily check-in services. Via a live person or electronic check-in
- Is it wearable? Is the device comfortable (beware of sharp edges or strap materials that may irritate fragile skin), and is it attractive or unobtrusive enough that your loved one will be willing to wear it?
- How waterproof is it? Can it be worn in the shower? Can it be fully immersed in water in the sink or bathtub?
- What’s its range, mobility and connectivity? Ask about the distance the device will operate from a base unit. Will it work in the yard or garage? Does it include GPS so that it works anywhere you go? Does it connect to a smartphone or via Bluetooth?
- Is it high quality? Does the device have a good durability rating? Is the technology up to date?
- How’s the battery life? Also ask about the charging method and how you’ll know if the battery is low.
- Will it need technology updates? If so, ask how those are implemented (automatically or manually). Will you or your loved one have the ability to manage them?
- What are the logistics for setting it up? If there’s a base unit or console, will you need more than one to cover the entire home and yard? Should the unit sit on a table or be mounted on a wall? Does it require an electrical connection, or is it battery operated or backed up (in case electricity or phone service is lost). What type of phone service is required — cellular or landline, or both? Can you add stationary buttons around the home?
- Does it include a “lockbox”? A “lockbox” that emergency medical personnel can access if they need to for a list of medication, physicians, emergency contacts, etc.
- Can family members connect with the device? Can you check in using a smartphone, tablet or computer?
- Details regarding response and monitoring
- Response center. Average response time should be a matter of seconds, not minutes. Does the company operate its own response center or contract externally? Is the response center certified? How are the dispatchers or operators trained, and are they able to communicate in your loved one’s preferred language? Will your loved one be able to talk with a live person via their wearable device, or do they need to be close to the base unit to be heard?
- Call routing. Can you designate how you want various types of alerts/calls (urgent, non-urgent, emergency) routed, including to a response center, family/friends or directly to emergency services (police, fire department)?
- Customer service. Quality customer relations are key. There should be a live person you can call 24/7 with questions about the service. Other options may include email, live chat, an easy-to-navigate website and a comprehensive FAQ section.
- Cybersecurity. How does the company protect private information and prevent hackers from accessing your system?
- Fees. Beware of complicated pricing plans and hidden fees. Look for a company with no extra fees related to equipment, shipping, installation, activation, or service and repair. Don’t fall for scams that offer free service or “donated or used” equipment.
- Contracts. You should not have to enter into a long-term contract. You should only have to pay ongoing monthly fees, which should range between $25 and $45 a month (about $1 a day). Be careful about paying for service in advance, since you never know when you’ll need to stop the service temporarily (due to a hospitalization, for instance) or permanently.
- Guarantee and cancellation policies. Look for a full money-back guarantee, or at least a trial period, in case you are not satisfied with the service. And you’ll want the ability to cancel at any time with no penalties (and a full refund if monthly fees have already been paid).
- Discounts. Ask about discounts for veterans, membership organizations, and medical insurance or via a hospital, medical or care organization. Ask if the company offers any discount options or a sliding fee scale for people with lower incomes.
- Insurance. For the most part, Medicare and private insurance companies will NOT cover the costs of a medical alert. In some states Medicaid may cover all or part of the cost. You can check with your private insurance company to see if it offers discounts or referrals.
- Tax deductions. Check with your tax professional to find out if the cost of a medical alert is tax deductible as a medically necessary expense.
- Availability in your area
Many national companies offer medical alert services, but they may not all be available near you, so call and inquire about service areas. Local companies may be an option, as well. In addition to companies that have been in the medical alert business for decades, technology companies and home security companies are now increasingly offering these services, as well.
- Do an online search. Use keywords such as “medical alert systems,” “personal emergency response systems,” “fall detection devices” and “urgent response devices,” along with the name of your city or state to find companies that service your area.
- See if you can add medical alert services to a current home security system. Be sure to ask if there is an additional fee.
- Research quality of services. Investigate consumers’ responses and reactions to the various companies and service options. Check with the Better Business Bureau, local or national consumer reporting agencies and websites, the local Chamber of Commerce, your state attorney general and other organizations that monitor the quality of services and complaints.
- Get referrals. Ask friends and family members if they can recommend any medical alert systems they have used.
Adapted for an article by Amy Goyer, AARP
NOTE: Here is a nice review of some medical alert systems: