Thinking About a Medical Alert? Here’s a Glossary of Terms to Understand

Exploring the Different Types of Medical Alerts

Did you know that one-third of all non-fatal injuries in the United States are the result of falls? That’s information from the National Safety Council, which also points out that much more serious falls – those that result in death – happen to seniors every 20 minutes. Given those statistics, you might wonder about your own fall risk. Are you in danger?

The unfortunate truth is that our odds of falling increase as we get older[1]. One of the best and most affordable safety options is a medical alert device. This small button can literally be a lifesaver if you slip and fall or suffer any other kind of emergency. Knowing that help is a button push away can give elderly adults and their loved ones incredible peace of mind.

But when you start looking at these senior life-saving alert systems, the terms can be unfamiliar. Knowledge is power that helps you make a more informed decision. Here are some of the more common terms you’ll encounter when deciding if an emergency response solution is right for you.

Base Unit

An in-home emergency button alert system uses a plastic box with a built-in speaker called a “base unit” for verbal communication between the user and a trained response professional. The base unit plugs into either a landline jack OR a standard wall plug outlet but also has a battery backup that keeps it running for up to 24 hours in the event of a power outage. The base unit has a coverage area of 600 feet. To put that in perspective, a football field’s area of play is 300 feet long by 210 feet wide[2]. With such a large coverage area, a medical alert pendant will very likely work even if you are gardening in the backyard, getting the mail, or tinkering in the garage, depending on your property size.

When you press the button pendant for help, trained professionals will get in touch with you via the two-way speaker in the base unit. Keep in mind that you need to be close enough to the speaker for the professionals to hear you. If you aren’t close enough to communicate with them directly but you have pressed your button alarm, they will err on the side of caution and send help to you anyway.

An on-the-go medical alert doesn’t require a base unit; it uses wireless technology to keep you safe and provides coverage in all 50 US states. This type of medical alert device is perfect for anyone who wants to be protected outside of their home and immediate property.

Voice Extender

Are you worried about not being close enough to the speaker if an accident occurs and you have an in-home system? If you have a base unit at home, you can opt for voice extenders. These small units can be placed in other areas of your home. For instance, if your base unit is downstairs and you sleep upstairs, a voice extender can be placed in your bedroom. If you are an avid gardener, a voice extender installed near the door can help ensure you can speak with someone directly if you suffer an accident or emergency while outside. A voice extender can provide excellent peace of mind for those who want an in-home unit. Of course, a mobile unit will offer protection within the home as well as outside of the home, and eliminates the need for a base unit altogether.

Aging in Place

When a senior wants to live in their own home for as long as possible, it’s called “aging in place.” For most people, making that happen means opting for aging in place home modifications, such as grab bars in the bathroom, non-skid flooring, doors widened for easier wheelchair access, roll-in showers or walk-in tubs, lowered countertops, and other changes to your living area. It might also mean talking to a certified aging in place specialist, who can evaluate your home and determine exactly what you need to stay there as long as possible.

An affordable emergency medical alert can be a strong part of your aging in place plan, knowing help is always on stand-by. This is especially important for elderly adults who live alone or who cannot lift their partners if someone falls.

Command Center

This might be called a monitoring center, central station, or other term that reflects a center where you can get in touch with a team of trained professionals at the touch of the panic button alarm. When you get in touch with the Command Center, either through your base unit (for home-based systems) or the speaker in the pendant itself (for on-the-go systems), the helpful professional on the other end of the line will send whatever type of help is needed—whether it is a neighbor, family member, or emergency services. These highly-competent agents are available day and night, around the clock, ready to get you the help you need.

Alert1’s Command Center professionals are all TMA 5 Diamond Certified. This means they go through a rigorous training program in emergency care, and thus know exactly how to respond to any emergency you might have.

Circle of Care

The Circle of Care refers to the individuals you designate as those to contact in the event of emergency. It might be a neighbor who can come to your aid quickly. It might be friends or family members who live nearby. These individuals will be contacted by the Command Center if you press your button and need help other than emergency services.

You don’t have to include emergency services in your Circle of Care. If the emergency requires first responders, the Command Center will get in touch with them immediately, and at Alert1, we will stay on the line with you until help arrives. Not all medical alert companies provide this service with membership.

Medical Alert Pendant

A medical alert pendant is like a lightweight, unisex button that you should wear all the time. The pendant contains a button alert that allows you to call for help with one touch. It’s important to wear the pendant at all times, even in the shower, as the bathroom is a top spot for slips and falls, according to the CDC. That’s why many medical alerts are shower resistant! This might also be called a medical alert necklace, although it also is often available with a belt clip or in a wristband style.

Medical Alert Watch

Designed with many of the same features as the pendant, the medical alert watch offers some options that are unique to the device. Alert1’s medical alert watch can locate where you are with built-in GPS, so when you press your watch SOS button, our professionals can pinpoint your location to send help.

Our medical alert watch also includes a pedometer. This tracks your steps and helps you keep on the right path with your fitness goals. The watch is an excellent option for those who are active outside the home and prefer a more modern style.

Fall Detection

Medical alert systems with fall detection can add even more peace of mind. The fall detection works with the use of tiny fall sensors in the device. These sensors can track the speed and angle of your movement. A sudden acceleration followed by a sudden stop, or an awkward angle of movement that is unlike your usual movements, can trigger the fall detection alert. This means that when you fall, those sensors will automatically alert the Command Center. You don’t have the press the button!  Fall detection can help ensure that if you do trip and fall in your home or while out and about in the community, you can get assistance immediately.

Two-Way Voice

This is how Command Center professionals communicate with you in the event of emergency. When you press the button, or when your fall detection triggers a call, you will hear a compassionate, trained professional’s voice coming from the base unit at your home or directly from the pendant or watch you are wearing. They can hear you as you speak back to them. This two-way voice feature allows you to communicate in real time about what just happened and what help you might need.

The Bottom Line

There are other terms that you might encounter when you explore purchasing a medical alert device. For a quick reference that helps you understand those terms, check out Alert1’s glossary.

Medical alert devices can help ensure peace of mind for caregivers, family, friends, and most importantly yourself – and can potentially make it easier to stay at home through your golden years. Take your time to explore Alert1’s website and find the emergency button alarm that is right for you.