By Jagger Esch, president and CEO, Elite Insurance Partners LLC
There's so much wearable technology available right now it’s enough to make your head spin if you don’t know what you’re looking for, even for someone who’s knowledgeable. For many, the various capabilities the newest sports watches have are more than enough — text messaging, answering phone calls, even GPS. But what wearable technology is best-suited for the safety of our seniors? Here’s a compilation of what is available and how to put it to use.
Medical Alert Systems
The most commonly worn device by seniors are the easy medical alert systems that allow for independent living. Most of them are wearable as a pendant, and you press a button on if you fall or need help.
The biggest downfall to these? What if you fall and panic, or pass out? These systems are made with technology in place in case the wearer isn’t able to press a button if help is needed or unconscious. A few can detect sudden movements and falls and will automatically call the company’s emergency dispatcher to check in.
Another wearable is the Medical Guardian, which allows users to move farther away from the console than in the past (you can move up to 1,300 feet now). The device is small and can be worn as a necklace, bracelet, or even placed on a belt or clipped to a pocket to keep it barely visible. This version can use a cellular phone line instead of a land-line if necessary, an important improvement from the past, and also can detect extreme temperatures and call 911 in the case of a fire.
LifeFone is in this same category with a significantly smaller moving distance (480 feet), and the base model allows up to 1,000 feet. The company provides large self-help buttons that can be placed in dangerous areas where falls are likely, and you can answer your phone using the pendant which makes it an excellent candidate for daily use.
Lastly, Bay Alarm Medical is very similar but offers additional services— fall detection, carbon monoxide detection, smoke detection, a GPS enabled button for protection when you’re not home, and works with cell phones.
Daily Activity Wearables
Much like fitness devices that track exercise, calories, heart rate, and other features, there are watches available that focus on more important health issues as well. The Withings Pulse Ox goes on the wrist and tracks blood oxygen levels, heart rate, and sleep activity. It is usable with the companion app via Bluetooth as well so you can input your own activities throughout the day.
Lively is a watch and a pendant. It’s waterproof, so it doesn’t need to be taken off, and comes with a monthly monitoring package if needed. The button also connects you to a dispatcher who can call an emergency team or family member depending on the situation, similar to a medical alert system.
Lively’s Safety Watch is one option that goes a little further than others, using a variety of sensors around the home attached to the refrigerator door and pill boxes to ensure you remember to eat and take medication as directed. No phone line or internet is required, and it will remind you if you’ve forgotten to do something. If you don't answer, it’ll let your family know. Also, it records your normal activities, so it will know what your normal eating habits are and when it’s safe to consider something out of the normal range.
Worried about dementia but don't want any intrusive measures taken? There is now a pendant that will help make sure you or your loved one is in a safe place. Made by the daughter of a caregiver for a family member with dementia, the pendant is worn as a badge which seniors tended to keep on and forget about — it wasn’t being taken off or agitating the wearer like the bracelet prototypes were. The badge connects to the caregiver's phone using Bluetooth and will let you know when the patient goes out of bounds or accidentally leaves the area.
Other Wearable Additions
There are plenty of other wearable technologies that focus on one particular purpose rather than focusing on preventing and treating falls quickly. These are particularly useful for those with glasses, sight problems, or trouble forgetting when to take medication throughout the day.
Lechal Insoles is a smart shoe insert that helps direct you with gentle vibrations and phone notifications, allowing for independence and continuous freedom. The app companion also allows for GPS tracking if the family wants to keep an eye on loved ones.
The Active Protectant is another option, worn as a belt that automatically deploys an airbag-like pillow over your hips when it detects you were falling, protecting you from medical complications and breaking a hip. With falling as a high-priority medical issue, this device can be extremely useful.
There are other wearables that are in the works including a smart sock for diabetics that can alert when there is a risk for foot ulcers, wearable blood pressure monitors, and even a stress-level indication T-shirt made by OMsignal. The sensors can send heart rate and other vital signs to family and doctors alike. The general goal is to help prevent seizures, heart failure, and everything in-between.
These types of technologies will eventually allow insurance companies to base their policies off realistic information and facts regarding each patient’s health and behavior. Currently wearable technology is not covered under original Medicare of most supplemental plans. You can contact MedicareFAQ for more information on Medicare supplemental insurance plans, or Medigap and what they cover.
Technology is ever-changing, and new developments are made every day. These are examples of advances made over the past few years for seniors, so that family can rest assured loved ones are safe, as well as give the wearer a sense of ease. Some of them are issue-specific, but the majority ensure you get help when needed, even when you don’t realize you need it.
About The Author
Jagger Esch is an insurance expert in Clearwater, FL. Currently, Jagger serves as President and CEO of Elite Insurance Partners LLC (EIP). EIP hold licenses in 48 states and work with more than 15 of the most recognized Supplemental Medicare insurance companies nationwide. During his free time, Jagger enjoys boating, fishing, golf, and spending quality time with his family.