For 3.4 million Americans, living with epilepsy means knowing that a seizure could occur at any moment.1 Many wear medical ID bracelets, necklaces, and other jewelry as a means of identifying their medical status in the event of a seizure while out of the home.
While medical ID jewelry serves an important need, it is not a medical alert device, although it is sometimes confused as one. The difference is that a medical alert system or device enables you to press a button that will immediately connect you to an emergency monitoring center. Even if a seizure renders you unable to communicate, a monitoring center agent will be able to identify your location and send emergency services.
Learn why medical alert systems are an ideal alternative or addition to medical ID jewelry for individuals with epilepsy.
What Is Epilepsy and When Is Emergency Help Needed?
Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes recurring seizures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a seizure as a short change in an individual’s brain activity. Epilepsy is sometimes referred to as a seizure disorder.
When a seizure occurs, a person may stare straight ahead or appear confused or drowsy. or falling asleep. Some people have more serious seizure activity such as falling, shaking, or losing awareness of their surroundings.
The cause of the majority of epilepsy cases is unknown. However, a few known causes include stroke, a brain tumor, a brain infection from a parasite, traumatic brain injury, or a genetic or neurological disorder.2
Not all seizures require medical attention, but immediate emergency help is needed if a seizure lasts more than five minutes or when multiple seizures occur close together and the person doesn’t recover between seizures.3 Medical help may also be needed if an injury results from a fall during the seizure or if the seizure occurs while in a body of water.
For these situations, a medical alert system can quickly and effectively summon help for the person in need.
Benefits of Medical Alert Systems for People with Epilepsy
As mentioned previously, the primary benefit of a medical alert is 24/7 access to an emergency monitoring center. These centers employ trained associates who know how to efficiently problem solve and send emergency help when necessary. With some systems, predesignated family members, friends or other caregivers are also contacted.
Importantly, the monitoring center agents have several tools at their disposal. The first is a digital file with previously submitted personal information that the associate can utilize and pass on to an emergency dispatcher. This includes health history, allergies, a list of medications, contact information, and possibly a key code to gain access to your home.
Monitoring center associates also use GPS location detection, so that if you are away from home, have a seizure and need medical attention but are unable to communicate your location, the associate can quickly determine and transfer it to emergency services. Some providers even offer advanced location detection — using GPS, Wi-Fi, and cellular data — to pinpoint your location with even better precision. To learn about a few systems that do location tracking well, read about Best Medical Alert Systems with GPS.
Helpful Add-On Products and Services for Those Living with Epilepsy
Because a seizure could lead to a fall and related injuries, automatic fall detection is the most important add-on for those living with epilepsy. Using a variety of sensors, the device will detect a fall and automatically contact the emergency center. A monitoring center associate will then contact the user to assess the situation. If the individual is confused or unable to speak, the associate will send emergency services. A medical alert system with fall detection can truly save lives.
In addition, most people diagnosed with epilepsy are on at least one medication. Some providers offer apps that include medication reminders, helpful to the person taking one or more meds.
A few providers even offer telehealth services or partner with driving services, beneficial for the person who is unable to drive. In fact, most states regulate driver’s license eligibility for those diagnosed with diabetes. Individuals are usually required to be seizure free for a specific amount of time, per a doctor’s evaluation.
Considerations for Selecting the Right Medical Alert System
There are a variety of medical alert systems available today, each with its own equipment, services, monitoring, and options for accessories or additional devices. The key is finding the system that works best for you. The medical alert system that is best for you is not necessarily the ideal system for your neighbor or relative. You have to choose the ideal system for your needs.
For example, are you a person that stays close to home or only goes out with a companion? does not leave home often, without someone with you? An at-home system, with either a landline or cellular connection, will likely be a good choice for you and will cost you less than what you would pay for an on-the-go system. One thing to consider is the system’s range, or distance that you can travel from the base unit while wearing a help button. Most systems offer a range of at least 300 feet, fine for a cozy home. For a larger home or yard or even the ability to wander over to the neighbor’s yard, you may need a larger range. The highest that we have seen is 1,400 feet.
On the other hand, if you are someone who goes out independently, you will probably want an on-the-go system. Several types are available, so you can choose the type that fits your needs, lifestyle, and preferences. One note of caution — while medical alert smartwatches include several nice benefits, most do not come with fall detection, a critical feature for those living with epilepsy.
Hopefully, we have convinced you of the benefits that come with a medical alert system when you are living with epilepsy. Your next step is learning about the many options that are on the market today. Head over to our synopsis of The Best Medical Alert Systems of 2023to read about our top picks.