With the right senior monitoring system, your loved ones are never alone. Senior monitoring systems help track critical information like vital signs and movement, as well as providing instant access to emergency services during a crisis event.
However, with so many senior monitoring systems on the market today, choosing the one that meets your needs can be challenging. In this guide, we’ll give a brief overview of what to look for in an elderly monitoring system, so you can help your senior loved ones keep living independently without sacrificing safety.
The first step in choosing a senior monitoring system is assessing your loved one’s medical needs, access to home internet, and other factors. Let’s take a quick look at some important decision points:
- Medical Needs: What are the key health challenges you’re seeking to address? Various elder alert systems are available for specific medical needs, including fall monitoring, cardiac events, and memory care.
- Internet Access: Some alert systems require home Wi-Fi, while others work on cellular data or are connected to a landline phone. Consider whether your loved one has access to Wi-Fi or will need a system that uses other means of connectivity, and run an internet speed test to assess the speed and reliability of their wireless signal.
- Living Arrangements: Seniors who have immediate support available, such as those in residential care communities, may only need a basic alert system. By contrast, technology for elderly people living alone is often more comprehensive and provides additional options for detecting problems and accessing help.
- Assistance Level: Some seniors need only a basic alert system for emergencies, while others need more comprehensive monitoring of vital signs and other health indicators. Think about your loved one’s current level of independence, as well as what they might require in the next few years, when choosing your alert system.
Many medical alert systems offer the ability to remotely monitor vital signs like heart rate and blood sugar. Typically, these systems use wearable devices, such as sensors attached to the skin, or even normal smartwatches. If the wearer’s vitals leave a set range, the device will send an alert to family, guardians, or medical professionals.
A monitoring device with two-way video or audio communication allows convenient daily check-ins, as well as quick response to problems. Some offer automatic answering to ensure a loved one can receive a message without crossing the room or even getting up. This always-available communication channel is often essential for seniors’ safety, but it can help improve general well-being too, by providing the conversation and companionship that’s so critical for older adults.
When an emergency strikes, a monitoring system is among your most important tools for protecting a senior citizen’s health and safety. The classic “big red button” models make it easy for your loved one to contact help by providing a 24/7 connection to a monitored service line. In addition, many systems offer configurable alerts that can be triggered by certain conditions, such as a lack of movement or a sudden change in heart rate.
Medical alert systems often feature around-the-clock professional monitoring of emergency alert lines. Any time of day or night, your loved one’s emergency alert system can connect them to a trained professional, who can summon emergency services if necessary. (Note that these typically require a subscription, as we’ll discuss further in a second.)
Voice assistant functionality can be a major quality of life improvement for seniors with limited mobility. By speaking voice commands to a smart speaker, seniors can make phone calls, turn smart home devices on or off, and perform other daily functions. Smart home services like Google Home and Alexa are common ways to implement these functions. Note that these often require a Wi-Fi connection, so it’s worth looking at some of the available options for affordable Wi-Fi for seniors if your loved one doesn’t currently have a reliable connection.
For seniors with certain conditions, especially neurological illnesses like dementia, GPS monitoring is an important feature for medical alert systems. GPS tracking allows you to quickly find your loved one if they wander or get lost, providing a potentially lifesaving intervention. Of course, GPS tracking always comes with an inherent privacy tradeoff that needs to be balanced with your loved one’s health needs. Geofenced trackers, which activate only when a person leaves a predetermined “safe” zone, can be a good compromise.
Also, When considering care for seniors with dementia, looking for facilities offering memory care is essential. These specialized programs are designed to meet the unique needs of individuals with dementia, providing a safe and supportive environment.
Making Your Choice
Most senior alert systems require both an upfront purchase cost and a monthly or yearly paid service subscription. Additional equipment, such as extra sensors or smart speakers, will increase the cost above that of the base package. Of course, the cost of a preventable medical emergency is much higher than any system. That said, with options available at a wide variety of price points, it’s still possible (and important) to shop around for an option that fits your budget.
Standard Medicare (Part A and B) does not generally cover in-home monitoring for seniors. Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans may cover alert systems, depending on the specific plan. Generally, if you’re counting on having insurance coverage for an alert system, talk to your family doctor and see if your chosen system qualifies as medically required.
Some senior alert systems need to be installed by a professional, while others are do-it-yourself. Many offer both options. Professional installation can be advantageous for seniors (or caregivers) who struggle with technology, while DIY offers flexibility and cost savings.
When you have a question or problem with your senior monitoring devices, you want to be sure that the device vendor will support you. High quality monitoring systems often offer multiple customer support options, including live chat or phone support. Check the company’s website for resources, too — many offer useful information like FAQs and instructional videos that can help guide your decision.
Every senior citizen deserves to enjoy their golden years in safety and with maximum independence. The right medical monitoring system — combined with in-person care and rich social opportunities — will help set your mind at ease and put both of you on the path to a safer and healthier future.