There are numerous forms of dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common type of dementia – especially amid the senior demographic. That being said, many forms of dementia cause problematic symptoms such as memory loss, issues with cognizant functioning, getting lost and mobility and balance problems. This can be of great concern for not only dementia sufferers, but it can also be worrisome for the friends and family of seniors choosing to age in place.
Fortunately, more seniors who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease are able to stay in their homes longer without 24/7 care with the help of modern medical alert devices. When first introduced to consumers, medical alert devices were simple pendants with a button that would connect users with a monitoring center representative who could send out the appropriate emergency responders. Today, they have expanded dramatically concerning features, many of which are highly useful for seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Key Features of Medical Alert Devices for Dementia Patients
Seniors with dementia related conditions like Alzheimer’s are much more prone to falls, which is what made medical alert devices so popular. Seniors simply push the button and help will arrive shortly thereafter. However, additional features to consider include automatic fall detection, two-way communication and GPS tracking. These key features allow users to be found in case they fall away from home or simply wander away. Additionally, they permit users to communicate with authorized parties directly through their unit in case of an emergency. Here’s a bit more about the importance of these medical alert system options.
The Importance of Automatic Fall Detection Systems
Many dementia and Alzheimer’s patients have a greater risk of falling due to a number of reasons besides the aging process. Research has indicated that these patients tend to have higher levels of amyloid beta plaques within the brain. This can affect balance, which increases one’s falling risks significantly. Unfortunately, there may be times when a senior has fallen and is physically unable to press the SOS button, which is where devices that boast automatic fall detection can come to the rescue.
Essentially, even if the SOS button is not depressed by the user to contact the monitoring center, the sensor will detect sudden elevation and motion changes within the scope of falling. The device automatically sends an alert to dispatch assistance to the user’s location, so they can get help fast. This can be a lifesaving feature, as there could be an incident such as a seizure, a spell of disorientation or losing unconscious that would render a traditional medical device useless until the user regains their senses. Devices equipped with automatic fall detection add a layer of extra security for patients with dementia and Alzheimer's as well as greater peace of mind for their loved ones.
The Advantages of GPS Enabled Medical Devices
Automated fall alert technology is only the beginning of the vast improvements in medical emergency devices today. The addition of GPS location detection is extremely helpful for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, particularly those in the more advanced stages of their condition. A GPS enabled device along with monitoring services allow the wearer to be located in an emergency, even if they are in a remote location. There are even some providers that offer GPS location coverage around the world for those who travel.
Because many dementia patients suffer from some level of cognitive impairment, it is not uncommon for them to become disoriented and forgetful. Furthermore, according to the Alzheimer’s Association six in ten individuals with dementia will wander off alone, which presents a number of potential dangers. They may not remember how to get home, where they live or even that they have a medical alert device. Wandering seniors can also be located remotely if an authorized person contacts the monitoring center and requests a ping to reveal their loved one’s precise location.
Another thing to consider is that in situations of wandering, disorientation or an accident away from home, a well-intentioned passerby can help with ease if the patient is wearing a GPS medical alert device. By simply pressing the alert button, the concerned citizen will be connected to the user’s monitoring center and can explain the situation. From there, an agent will contact the appropriate party such as a relative or emergency services.
Dementia and Aggression: How Medical Alert Devices Can Help
Those with cognitive loss due to dementia can cause seniors to exhibit certain behavioral changes as the disease progresses. Some typical changes they experience may include being overly suspicious of others, aggression and extreme agitation. When these bouts occur, a caregiver can become overwhelmed quickly and need a helping hand calming the patient down. Having the ability to summon extra assistance with the push of a button can come in handy in such times. That being said, physician may also prescribe medications for patients in advanced stages of their disease, which can also lead to greater chances of falls and injuries—another solid reason to have a medical alert device with monitoring services.
Things to Remember About Senior Medical Alert Devices
While their benefits are vast, medical alert devices to require just a tiny bit of upkeep to ensure they are operational when they are needed most. Because they are portable, medical alert pendants and bracelets utilize rechargeable batteries, which can take a certain level of presence of mind to remember. How often they need charging will depend on the model chosen, as some need daily charging and others may last up to a week with normal use. So, battery life may be an important factor when deciding on a device for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Another consideration is whether the senior will actually remember to charge as needed and then retrieve the device once charging is complete. This is where having a second pendant for one user can be invaluable, and most companies offer dual unit packages. Also, when setting up emergency contacts, it may be best for a caregiver to communicate this message to the provider company or to do the manual setup of those personally, rather than the senior themselves. This prevents any misinformation that can get communication wires crossed if an emergency occurs.
How Much Does a Medical Alert Device Cost?
The price of medical alert devices is fairly consistent across the board, with the variances mostly involving equipment features and monitoring services. However, you will unlikely be able to buy the equipment directly, as providers lease customers the equipment as a part of their monthly monitoring contract. Upon termination of the contract, the equipment must be returned or a hefty fee must be paid to the provider.
On average, basic medical alert monitoring starts around $29.95 monthly and can go as high as $89.95 for those signing up for multiple devices and all the features the devices can offer. To get features such as fall detection and GPS, the average cost is around $49.95 per month. There are medical alert monitoring companies that offer month-to-month services and others that will require a long-term contract. Most companies also charge an activation or setup fee that can range between $40 and $150 on average. Many providers might waive activation charges for customers agreeing to long-term contracts.