Medical alert systems can literally be a lifesaver for many seniors. People aged 65 and over live with a risk of falling, stroke or heart attack, as well as many other emergencies that require immediate assistance. Having a call button that can summon help in a hurry provides peace of mind and enhanced safety for seniors in all physical conditions.
This is especially true for blind seniors. Medical and safety emergencies are frightening enough on their own, but dealing with them can be extra difficult for seniors who have trouble seeing the dial on a telephone or finding the call button when they need it. Medical alert systems for visually impaired users must have a set of features that make them easy to find in an emergency, easy to use and simple enough to reliably call for help when it’s needed the most.
This guide goes over some of the best medical alert systems for blind adults. It’s intended to clarify the most important features in such systems and the options currently available for managing emergencies.
RescueTouch is a GPS-enabled medical device that allows the user’s position to be fixed from almost anywhere. This is exceptionally helpful for visually impaired users who could get lost on a trip and can’t tell where they are if they need help. The device comes in four high-visibility colors: black, bright blue, neon green and hot pink, so it’s easy to find for users with limited vision or who need high-contrast to identify objects. Raised ridges in the center make it easy to find the call button by touch. The button is embossed with the raised letters SOS, and the whole body of this lightweight device is covered with a waterproof silicone layer that lets users carry it with them into the shower or bath.
Once the call button is activated, the system calls to any of five preprogrammed numbers. This can be a caregiver, neighbor, friend or 911. It can also direct calls to a call center where operators can reach out to the appropriate agency for help. Caregivers can also use the device to remotely check in on users without being physically present, which makes it easier for visually impaired people to live on their own.
MobileHelp is a budget-friendly medical alert system that offers totally upfront pricing and the choice of several plans. The basic plan provides an in-home monitoring unit with a 30-hour backup in case power is lost. Higher-tier plans include a smartwatch and optional fall monitoring. The company’s four pricing tiers include a smartwatch and in-home system that connects to the monitoring center via the cellular network.
Part of the MobileHelp system is a wearable call button that’s water-resistant and can be worn in the shower. GPS-based triangulation can be used to fix device positions as an aid to caregivers looking for wandering seniors with dementia or for visually impaired users who need to be found. Unusual for a medical alert system, MobileHelp offers a free 30-day trial period seniors can use to try out various plans to find a level they are happy with.
QMedic offers three tiers of service, starting with a base unit inside the home with a range between 800 and 1,000 feet. Within that radius, visually impaired seniors can signal for help from a wearable call button, a cellular device or a waterproof monitoring wristwatch. This wrist monitor can also track sleeping habits, which is an aid to caregivers and medical staff diagnosing sleep disturbances and other health issues.
One of the features that makes QMedic so attractive for blind and visually impaired users is the extensive caregiver support the system provides. Caretaker services are provided by a 24/7/365 monitoring center in the United States. The average call response time at this center is under 30 seconds, and there’s no charge for false alarms if the user cancels the alert when the operator comes on the line.
It can be difficult for seeing-impaired people to get to the door in an emergency. To help emergency services get access to users’ homes, QMedic calls family members or a caregiver who is known to have a key and who can grant access to the home. Alternatively, the company provides an optional lockbox for keeping the spare key close to the front door. This box locks with a combination QMedic staff can pass along to fire and rescue responders.
Life Alert is one of the oldest and largest medical alert systems on the market, and the services it offers are in many ways the standard for the industry. Three plan levels are available, with two base units inside the home and an optional mobile device, and pricing can be high relative to other companies. One reason Life Alert is especially helpful for visually impaired seniors is its ability to connect mobile devices through cellular networks with an effectively unlimited range. The mobile device has an extended battery life of 10 years, while the in-home monitors can run for up to 72 hours after power is lost.
Medical alert systems can do a lot to keep blind and visually impaired seniors safe inside their own home. Having on-call emergency help promotes independence for blind and seeing-impaired seniors, who otherwise might need supervision in some kind of residential care facility. Blind seniors are at special risk for falls, and they may have extra difficulty calling for help in the event of a medical emergency. Having an in-home or mobile medical alert system that can rapidly summon help means that blind seniors don’t have to struggle to find a landline phone or cell phone that may be out of reach.
You have several factors to consider when you’re shopping around for a medical alert system for blind or visually-impaired people. Features to look for include mobility, ease of use and accurate GPS on the user’s location. Two-way voice communication is extremely helpful for blind and low-vision users, as are tactile controls that can be felt for without seeing them.As a rule, you should expect to pay between $20 and $90 a month for a medical alert system. Some providers include a set-up fee that can run as high as $200. Prices vary with the number of devices and whether or not monitoring is included. Some providers charge less a month or waive device and set-up costs if you commit to a long-term contract. You can learn more about your options and find a system that works for you by reading our article about paying for medical alert systems.