Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mobile Medical Alert Devices: AT for People on the Go

By Kim Cantrell, CFILC’s Program Director

“Kim, I’ve been stuck against the closet for nearly 3 hours. I think, I think I dislocated my hip…yeah, I think so…. And I just called an ambulance and they are coming. I’ve been yelling for hours….wait, they are here…gotta go…”

picture of author's mom smiling wearing a small pendent around her neck - the mobile medical alert device
Mom wearing mobile medical alert device
And then she hung up. It was my mom. She had dislocated her hip. And questions started forming in my mind. Why was she stuck for THREE hours? What hospital was she going to? Where was my grandpa?

Later I met my mom at the hospital and learned that she completely dislocated her brand new hip that was less than three weeks old.

And no, she didn’t trip or fall. She simply turned and leaned over into her hall closet. It happened that fast, and she was stuck in an upright position.

The Decision

My mom lives with my grandfather, and we believed that if something happened to her that he would bring her a phone or would alert a family member. He is very hard of hearing and refuses to wear hearing aids or any other hearing amplification device. My mom yelled for help for hours. Grandpa couldn’t hear her. She had no other way to get his attention. Only when Grandpa decided to go to his bedroom did he find her in the hallway. That is when he brought her a phone. It was Grandpa who saved the day. (Hooray Grandpa!) But it took a long time. If she had been living alone, it would have been much longer.

Afterward, Mom decided that she needed a medical alert device. She wanted to maintain her independence and feel secure that she could call for help in an emergency.

Most medical alert systems work by having the user wear an emergency button around their neck or wrist. The base unit is plugged into the home's wired telephone line, ideally in a central location. When there is an emergency, the user pushes the button and within seconds an operator’s voice sounds loudly on the base unit and you are able to have a two-way conversation. If the operator doesn’t hear you, they immediately dispatch emergency personnel.

Why a Mobile Medical Alert Device?

picture of a base with a device similar to the size of a small wireless home phone
Mobile Medical Alert Base with GPS unit
picture of a small purse and inside of it is the unit that you carry around with you that detached from the base - about the size of a cell phone
GPS unit in purse
When I began my research into medical alert devices, I ran into a problem. My mom doesn’t have a traditional landline phone through the local phone company. Her home phone uses a technology called Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP). Most Medical Alert systems only connect to traditional landlines. I quickly learned to ask the various medical alert companies whether they connect to VOIP systems and they all said no.

Finally, after much research, we found the best option for my mom. We purchased a device that works on a cell network and has a GPS tracking unit.

Here is how it works: The unit comes with one main base. You install the base permanently in your home and there is a smaller piece that sits in the base while you are at home. This smaller piece is the GPS tracker. When you leave, you remove it from the base and carry it with you. My mom keeps it in her purse so it is always by her side. 

She wears a pendant around her neck with the emergency button. If she has an emergency far from home, she can push the button and the service triangulates the position of her purse, knowing that she is close by. She can talk to the operator through the GPS device. The only time the GPS will not work is if she is deep inside a building or parking garage that blocks reception.

We like the mobile alerts because she can call for assistance outside of her home, which traditional medical alert services don’t offer. She likes the service because she is always on the go. Her service costs about $30 a month, and the equipment was leased for free with a 6-month contract.

Close up of small pendent worn around the neck to push in case of emergency
Pendant worn around the neck
How well does it work? She has tested it multiple times both at home and around town, both accidentally and on purpose. So far an operator has answered every time both quickly and professionally. She hasn’t used the device in an actual emergency (and hopes she never has to).

My mom purchased her service in August 2012. In just one year many other companies have jumped into the mobile medical alert game and now offer systems similar to the one described above.

If you or someone you love doesn’t have a traditional landline phone or is always on the go, they may find a mobile medical alert system that will make them feel secure so they can continue their activities of daily living inside and outside of the home.

Do Your Homework!

Please research several companies and read multiple user reviews of their services. Many companies have sales people that work on commission. Please do not feel pressured to sign up when you are calling for information regardless of the “today only” discounts they offer. Make sure the service is right for you before signing up. When my mom eventually enrolled in a service, the company honored their “today only” discount over a week later.

The following is a sampling of companies that provide mobile medical alert systems:
·        Connect America   
·        eCare
·        Medical Alert
·        Mobile Help

As mentioned above, do your homework. The AT Network does not endorse or recommend any of these companies.

Have you used a medical alert device before? Please tell us about your experience in the comments box below.


  1. Great to hear about it! Thanks for installing those pictures.They provides a better insight about the Medical Alarm System.Great blog!We don't know when emergency may occur !So prevention is better than cure! Waiting for more updates on this topic!

  2. This is a great article and very informative. I think technology has changed for the better and has the ability to improve a lot of systems, especially for companies and organizations in the medical field. There are so many new health programs that are becoming better due to new technology. My company started using a Managed hosting service to help improve our IT capabilities and and also help manage our IT complexity. I know new technology like this is being used in all industries and should help companies grow.

  3. I recommend a new medical alert system called SafeinHome. It uses sensors to monitor the movements of the person without interfering with the person's daily routine. The sensors connect wirelessly to a communications hub that had its own built-in cellular connection. The hub works with the sensors to send information and alerts about the senior’s activities and routines to your smart phone and computer. You don’t have to buy an extra phone line, like most other medical alert systems require. It is caregiver-centric instead of senior-centric, meaning that the older person does not need to worry about wearing a medical alert bracelet if he or she does not want to. The website is: www.safeinhome.com

  4. It is really amazing! So many new things that I even didn't hear about them. Difficult to follow for a not professional, a private individual. The world goes on progressing by innovating and inventing. Thanks for sharing !

  5. This is really a good article. Thanks for the tip.

  6. God bless all these people who are always 24/7 available

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