Dear Savvy Senior,
Do you know of any medical alert SOS buttons for seniors that work away from the home? I would like to get one for my 80-year-old mother, but would like to find one that's not limited to the house.
There are actually a number of medical alert products on the market today that give seniors the flexibility to call for help both inside and outside the home.
For years, medical alert devices (also known as "personal emergency response systems" or PERS) have been popular home safety products for elderly seniors that live alone. These systems come with a wearable SOS pendent button -- usually a necklace or wristband -- and a base station that connects to the home phone line.
At the press of a button, your loved one could call and talk to a trained operator through the system's base station receiver, which works like a powerful speakerphone. The operator will find out what's wrong, and will notify family members, a neighbor, friend or emergency services as needed.
But these devices are limited because they only work in and around the house. If you're away from home and need help, you're out of luck. But today, there are numerous mobile products that work anywhere. Here are some top options.
If you're interested in getting your mom a comprehensive, high-end medical alert device that works everywhere, consider the Philips Lifeline GoSafe system. It provides a necklace pendent button, which works like a two-way communication device, allowing your mom to speak and listen directly through the pedant.
If your mom were to fall or need help at home, she could press the button and the home-base communicator system would be activated to make the call to the response center, who would then dispatch help as needed. But if she fell or needed help away from home, the system's AT&T wireless network would kick in and place the call.
This system also has six sophisticated locating technologies so the response center would know your mom's exact location, even where GPS signals are weak. And it has fall detection sensors built into the pendent that can automatically summon help if a fall is detected and your mom is unable to push the button.
The GoSafe is available at lifelinesys.com (or 855-276-7761) for $149, with monthly services fees that start at $55.
Most Affordable Alert
If the GoSafe is more than your mom needs, another option that's easier on the budget is the GreatCall Splash, which costs only $50, with a $35 activation fee and monthly service fees that starts at $20.
This pendent-style waterproof device, which fits in the palm of your hand, works like a cell phone with GPS tracking capabilities, and can be worn on a belt, around the neck or attached to a key chain.
To call for help, your mom would push one button, and an operator from the device's emergency monitoring service would be on the line to assist her, and because of the GPS technology, her general location would be known. Or, for even more peace of mind, there's the Splash with fall detection capabilities (this option costs $35 per month, and the pendent must be worn around the neck for it to work) that will automatically call for help when a fall is detected.
The Splash can be purchased at GreatCall.com (or 800-918-8543), or at Walmart, Sears, Best Buy and Rite Aid Pharmacy stores.
If you want some additional options to shop and compare, there are other good companies that offer moderately priced mobile alerts, including Consumer Cellular; Bay Alarm Medical; MobileHelp; Medical Alert and Life Alert.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of "The Savvy Senior" book.