For five decades, medical alert bracelets and pendants have provided emergency responders with vital medical information. These simple devices speak to emergency personnel so they can treat people for pre-existing conditions and avoid medical errors.
Rick McClure, Fire Captain/Paramedic for the Los Angeles Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services section, explained, “Those are items that we’d look for right away at the scene. Medical alert bracelets give us a reference point when doing the evaluation, and those are key signals ...”
Medical ID bracelets are the standard in “speaking” for a person in an emergency. But more technologically sophisticated medical alert devices and emergency response systems also offer added safety, peace of mind and independence for people with disabilities, including those with ALS.
Here’s a glimpse at some that might fit your needs…
|Alert Sentry Emergency System
Alert Sentry Emergency System
One-time activation fee: $19.95
Monthly fee: $29.95
The push of a button on either the portable, waterproof pendant or the main unit calls for emergency assistance. The system, which features a hands-free function, works with your existing telephone line. The response includes a call to local fire or police, or to a family member or friend. If the call center operator can’t get a verbal response from you, the operator calls for help according to your prearranged plan. Operators also convey general information about your medical condition to emergency personnel.
Retail price: $229.95 (MDA clients only)
Fred 911 is a fast-response emergency dialer that features a remote control with a large red button and automatically dials 911. The dialer plugs into any standard phone jack, and the remote control pendant activates the dialer from up to 150 feet away. You can talk “hands-free” to the dispatcher from up to 60 feet away from the dialer.
If you can’t speak or are more than 60 feet away from the base unit, you can still press the button to call for emergency assistance. NeoGenesis Marketing representatives suggest that you check with your 911 call center for details about local response procedures.
Installation fee: $100; Monthly fee - $45
Lifeline’s Personal Help Button pendant works with either the Lifeline CarePartner Telephone or the CarePartner Basic Unit, and can be used anywhere in or around your home. Once you push the Help Button, the Basic Unit or Telephone is activated and dials the Lifeline Response Center. Response personnel who have instant access to your profile will contact you. If you can’t answer, Lifeline will send help.
The Basic Unit works with your existing telephone and offers 24-hour personal response, with two-way voice communication. For added safety, the unit features a monthly test call reminder and a 15-hour battery backup. The telephone unit has programmable reminders. And, remote call answering allows you to answer the phone by pressing the Personal Help Button.
For people with ALS who can’t speak or can’t press the help button, Lifeline offers assistive devices, for example, a sip-and-puff device that will activate the system or answer incoming calls with the remote answer feature and speakerphone. The system can be mounted to a wheelchair, and you can purchase the assistive device and transmitter box for $195.
Retail price: $49.95
In addition to gaining access to the 24-hour Emergency Response Center, MedicAlert members may purchase the E-HealthKEY, a USB key that contains your complete medical history to help track and manage your health. Membership costs $35 for the first year and $20 each year after. You can retrieve and update information, which is then transmitted to MedicAlert’s information repository via the Internet. The software is built into the key and requires Windows XP.
A password can prevent others from going beyond the emergency screen, which contains your member identification number, name, call center phone number, and lists of medical conditions, allergies, medications and medical devices. If the key is lost, MedicAlert will disengage the device.
(Editor's note: In 2010, we learned that the E-HealthKEY was no longer being offered by MedicAlert. The company does continue to offer its full line of MedicAlert jewelry, including necklaces, dog tags, bracelets, sports bands, watches and shoe tags.)
Retail price: $39.95
MedicTag stores all of your emergency information — including existing conditions, medications and emergency contacts — and the USB key fits on your key ring. You simply plug the tag into a computer USB port, and access, print, or update and save your personal medical information. The device requires Windows and a compatible word processing program.
Ideally, an emergency responder with a laptop could use the device. MedicTag recommends against installing a password for the file because it would prevent emergency responders or medical personnel from unlocking the document. When the medical file is opened, a yellow block area appears on-screen and flashes the patient’s most critical medical information.
Retail price: $29.95
You can store emergency contact information and record audio medical information on a pager-sized device. A pushbutton gives emergency responders and medical personnel access to a voice recording with 60 to 80 words of information, including your blood type, allergies, medical conditions, medications, doctor’s name and phone number, and emergency contacts. It also comes with a medical card for printed health information and emergency contacts. You can update and re-record your information at any time.