The average North American is overwhelmed with stories of murders, natural disasters, terrorist attacks and various other threats to ones’ safety that take place outside of the home. What is not generally paid much attention to however, are the high levels of household incidents that threaten the lives of seniors and those with special needs every day. Each year, accidents that happen in the average household take the lives of thousands of North Americans, and many of the deaths resulting from these incidents are 100% preventable. The speed at which medical attention is given is a vital factor in determining survival or death. This is the reason that medical alert systems have become increasingly common in the households of senior citizens and the disabled.
A medical alert system is any set of mechanisms that aids in the assistance of an individual needing medical assistance but not able to call for this themselves. This most often comes in the form of a medical alarm, which is composed of an easy to use console on the individual and a wireless connection to a station equipped with medical personnel. Although medical alert systems are most commonly found in the homes of senior citizens and disabled persons who suffer from severe restrictions on their movement, this type of alert system is helpful to any individual. In fact, studies have shown that over one third of seniors have suffered a life threatening fall in their old age. This does not mean that every one of these seniors suffered from serious barriers to their movement; in fact many seniors that suffer falls are active and independent. However, the fact remains that as individuals’ age, a fall is increasingly difficult to recover from, both in the short term and the long term. Thus, having a safety net allowing one to immediately contact medical professionals in the case of a medical emergency should not be seen as any indication of a lack of independence, but rather a smart and rational choice based on the capacity of the human body. Medical alert systems could even go far in aiding pregnant women, individuals suffering from epilepsy, or even persons who have a temporary injury such as a broken leg or arm.
The development of medical alert systems has truly gained speed since the 1970’s, when alarms were bulky, not waterproof, and could only be worn around the neck. As with any technology, medical alarms have increased in sophistication throughout the years, as they have grown increasingly smaller, more durable and far more user friendly. However, until the 90’s the price of safety proved to be a rather large and unaffordable pill to swallow for the majority of seniors. The average price of a medical alarm in the 80’s was around $2,000 U.S dollars, with an additional service and monitoring fee that ranged from $15 to $50 U.S dollars per month. Not only was this exorbitant considering the weight and size of the equipment, but was sold mainly by door to door salesmen who would often prey on the vulnerability of seniors and disabled persons. These salesmen would often convince a senior to enter into a contract that proved extremely difficult to get out of. Today, however, most medical alert systems are rented; individuals only pay for the monthly cost of monitoring service. Additionally, alarms are now waterproof and are small and light enough to be worn around ones’ wrist, making it much less cumbersome.
Medical alert systems are not only for those with extreme disabilities; rather they are an important safeguard in case of a medical emergency for any individual living on their own. As the technology has developed, medical alarms have become smaller, more affordable, and far more durable, making their popularity increase accordingly.