First, a few general remarks. I didn’t write many posts last year, but I kept a lot of notes for future topics. A lot of those topics combine the knowledge I’ve gained and explored from the major aspects of my life: my cancer experience, my personal life, and my work life as a healthcare clinician. I like that. It makes me feel like I’m finally integrating the messy, fragmented existence I’ve led since I was diagnosed into some kind of whole. This post covers one of those topics.
Medical Alert Services: Communicating Your Medical Reality
Back when I was helping METAvivor publish their blog, I published a great post written by Susan, of The Uppity Cancer Patient called Medical Emergencies and the Single Girl. Lots of my homecare patients wear medical alert bracelets, but Susan’s post provides a lot of information about how to use this service in ways I did not then know about, but which I have since passed on to many people. Most of us probably regard these bracelets and necklace pendants as simply notifying emergency personnel that the wearer has diabetes or a significant medication allergy. But, as Susan found, that’s just the beginning of the story. It can also enable medical personnel “to quickly find my emergency contacts, talk to my doctor, find my living will, and receive an up-to-date list of all my medications and conditions.” In other words, the message engraved on the medallion is meant to be quick shorthand only, detailing the most crucial information when you cannot speak for yourself. But it also identifies a means by which clinicians and EMTs can rapidly find whatever information you decide they might need to provide you with appropriate care according to your wishes. A list of services is provided here, on the MedicAlert website: My MedicAlert Services
To initiate MedicAlert, one needs to purchase a bracelet or necklace. There are many more styles available than ever, and on Susan’s post, you can find links to other sources of more fashionable versions. Generally, an initial bracelet with a year of services can cost as little as $24.99, and after the first year, the services can be renewed for $19.99 a year. You can find complete information on the MedicAlert Foundation website, at MedicAlert.org.
Emergency Alert Services: When You’re At Home
“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” In homecare, this now-iconic phrase is no joke. Every year, up to a third of adults over age 65 will suffer a fall, for all kinds of reasons. And older people are not the only people who fall or find themselves having a sudden health crisis. “I think I might be having a stroke,” “I can’t breathe,” and “I think I’m having a heart attack” comprise many a health crisis. Many of the people having a health emergency will be at home alone at the time. Many of them will have a cellphone that is nowhere near them, and can’t be readily found when they most need it. When we admit a new patient to home health services, we provide them with printed information about personal emergency alert services. Basically, this is a service that provides a communicator that is hooked up to a landline phone, along with a button that you wear. If you are having a crisis, you press the button, which automatically communicates with a response center. They will respond immediately and try to talk to you though the communicator speaker to determine the nature of your crisis and initiate the emergency services you might need. But if you cannot respond, they will automatically initiate those services that you specify when you sign up, such as notifying emergency services and friends or family members who can come to assist you. Probably the best known provider of this service is Phillips Lifeline. Standard monthly services usually cost $30 per month, and an auto-alert service that is automatically triggered by a fall costs $45 per month. There may be discounts available for these services through local home health agencies or other elder service agencies.
Emergency Alert Services: No Matter Where You Are
Perhaps the most helpful advance in emergency alert services has been the variety of devices, apps and services now available for mobile alerts that can be activated wherever you are. Phillips offers a Response App for your smart phone for $13.95 per month which does not require a long-term contract. They also offer a service called GoSafe which provides alert services anywhere you are if you don’t have a smart phone.
One of the most interesting developments in this realm has been the development of ‘smart jewelry.’ An article by Charlie Stevens for PFSK, about Artemis Smart Jewelry, describes how one company is taking emergency alert services to another level. Marketed primarily to women of all ages, a company called Sense6 Design is working on a comprehensive emergency service called Artemis that they plan to have ready by the end of 2015. The service works with your smartphone by means of a clip or a pendant that you can tap in any kind of emergency — health, assault, fire or other kinds. The rechargeable communicator in the clip or pendant “uses a wireless connection with your smart phone to send an emergency transmission to our private security agency which is available 24/7.[…]The security operator uses live audio from your necklace, coupled with GPS data and your personal profile to determine whether to contact police, fire or medical staff to help you [and] simultaneously sends a text message to your choice of loved ones with your current location and a request for help.” The cost of a pendant starts at $49, and various emergency service plans cost from $1/month to text or email three friends, to $19/month for the full security service described above. By December, 2015, they plan to have this service fully functional for people who have an iPhone 4 or later, and by mid-2016 for those with Android smart phones. Further information can also be obtained at the main website for Artemis smart jewelry at Artemis by Sense 6 Design.
Other start-ups working on similar smart jewelry include Cuff and First Sign Technologies, summarized with Sense6 Design in this article in WearableWorldNews, published in February of 2014. Cuff is offering smart bracelets that will include Fitbit-style health and activity tracking and text/call notification, along with emergency notification.
First Sign Technologies offer a variety of products, including hairclips and pod devices attached to your keys, paired with services similar to to those offered by Smart6 Design’s Artemis products. Device options allow you to choose either an assault alert or a fall alert option, but apparently not both at once. First Sign’s services are geared primarily to providing personal security in the event of a violent crime, even detering attackers by emitting an alarm, collecting and storing audio and video evidence for police and responders, along with contacting emergency services. The security service that will work with one of their products costs as little as $5/month and works like that offered by Artemis, as a smart phone app that will operate with Apple iOS 4.3 or later and Google Android 2.1 or later. The communicator pod in your hairclip or keychain tag will contact a security operator who will be able to communicate with you, gather real-time information about your emergency, including your GPS location, and notify the appropriate responders. I could not find a clear target date on their site for when their full services will be on board, but the article posted on the WearableWorldNews site stated that First Sign was already well on their way to funding their services as of a year ago, and their site suggests that their services are operational now.
An Ounce of Prevention…
I have to admit to feeling like this is the most dire post I’ve written so far, and that it makes me want to get in bed with my cat and pull the covers over my head. However, as anyone who’s ever been diagnosed with cancer knows all too well, shit happens, and there’s nothing wrong with providing ourselves with some useful assistance in case more shit happens in the future. It may require us to wear a little more jewelry, but it’s a crazy world, my friends. Stay safe, okay?