Best Emergency Alert System?
August 23, 2010 8:29 AM   Subscribe

The short version: My parents now need a LifeAlert-ish system for their home. Looking for the best one, with some added difficulties.

My mom has ALS and is confined to a chair for most of the day. She doesn't have the strength to get to her power chair on her own, which means that unless she's in it, she can't answer the door.

She also has just had a tracheostomy and is on a ventilator almost all the time (but has the ability to be off for a few minutes at a time). So she can't talk.

It's just her and my dad at home - her biggest fear is that something will happen to my dad and she'll need to call for help -- but not be able to tell the person on the other end what is wrong, not be able to answer the door and not be able to call out when emergency services gets there.

So it's been recommended that they get a one-button emergency alert system - but there are SO mancy out there.

Does anyone have any practical experience with one service or another?

Added note: they do not have a home security system that this could be lined into at the moment.
posted by unlucky.lisp to Technology (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If they don't have it already, a TDD. I realize this isn't the answer you were looking for, but I wanted to throw it out there.
posted by 6:1 at 9:03 AM on August 23, 2010

I am about 70% sure my family uses Lifeline. My dad has ALS, and he has a button that makes noise. When he presses the button, anyone in the house can hear it. If no one responds, and he presses again, the service calls our house. If someone answers (like if my mom were in the backyard, but she hears the phone), they tell her that the button's been pressed. If no one answers the phone, emergency services show up. He can use the button to indicate where he is.

Does your mom has a separate means of communicating? My father cannot talk at all. He uses a letterboard, which has several pros and cons, but it does allow him to communicate with emergency personnel if it's not obvious what the problem is.

I'll doublecheck that it's Lifeline.
posted by quadrilaterals at 9:22 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I work at a hospital, and I was just asking one of the social workers the same question last week for my mom. She recommended a company called Life Response USA. I have not contacted them yet, but she highly recommended them. She said that the nice thing was that they have lots of regional offices, so if you have any questions or concerns, you're talking with someone locally and not in some other state. Good luck!
posted by fresh-rn at 10:15 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I got my mother a Philips Lifeline system in January, and it works as advertised.

You can give them all the limitation information when you register the unit - personal contacts to call before emergency response is contacted, where the hidden key can be found, allergies, medical conditions, etc. They call once a month to make sure the unit is working. Mom has used it once and knowing that the process works is a real relief. I'm paying about $40 a month.

We're all going to be dealing with this stuff sooner or later - better to be prepared.
posted by DandyRandy at 10:35 AM on August 23, 2010

We have lifeline for my mother, who has friedrich's ataxia and is in a wheelchair. They definitely work as advertised, contacting whomever is on the authorized respondent list and emergency services. Just realize that they have limits, and while they are an extremely valuable part of a plan of care for a disabled person they are reactive, and won't necessarily stop bad things from happening. Planning for the eventuality of full time care, either in home or in a nursing home is something you'll not be able to avoid. We have lifeline, two part time home health aides and my wife and I live with my mother, and things still happen. Not often, mind you, but they do. Good luck.
posted by chosemerveilleux at 2:10 PM on August 23, 2010

My elderly mother-in-law has a LifeGuard system. It works like a cordless phone, the main unit plugs into her phone line and a small gadget can be worn around her neck. The small device has a AAA battery in it, press the one button it has a few seconds and it will call 911 and you can hear the operator on the speaker on the small device asking what the emergency is. This is a good solution if you can not afford the monthly subscription fee other services offer.
posted by sandyp at 5:37 PM on August 23, 2010

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