A Home Defibrillator: The life-saving tool all families need

Before discussing the pros & cons of purchasing a home defibrillator, it’s helpful to understand what AEDs do and why they are needed.

Automated External Defibrillators, commonly known as AEDs, are used to revive someone in Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). SCA is a dangerous, life-threatening condition that occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. Without a proper heartbeat, victims of Sudden Cardiac Arrest will die within minutes. Fortunately, there is a treatment! AEDs treat patients in SCA by safely restarting the heart. 

Sudden Cardiac Arrest is not only dangerous, it is also the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming the lives of over 350,000 people every year!

The most recent data suggest that 70% of cardiac arrests happen at home, with the vast majority of the victims dying before help arrives. That’s 250,000 lives lost each year in American homes. This massive number of people is equivalent to one-third of the population of Seattle, WA dying each year. 

 

“For us, having an AED at home is very important because we know people at risk. We bought a personal AED for our house in the event that cardiac arrest were to happen at home. It’s not unrealistic that we could be walking around the house and suddenly one of us is laying on the floor in sudden cardiac arrest. We want to be prepared with an AED so that we can do something to save a family member in the event of cardiac arrest."

– Julia Kawas, diagnosed with Long QT syndrome at the age of 14, shares why her family purchased AEDs upon learning that she, her mother, and brother have a potentially lethal heart arrhythmia.

Smart Technology for Your Home

AED units make saving a life simple by using smart technology and guiding users through the rescue process. When the AED’s electrode pads are applied to a person’s chest, they read the person’s heart rhythm to see if they need to be treated with a defibrillation shock.

If they are in a shockable heart rhythm, then the AED will deliver a shock that can save their life. If they are not in a shockable rhythm, then the AED will NOT deliver a shock. Therefore, AEDs cannot hurt someone who doesn’t need help. Learn more about how AEDs work and when they’re needed.

Time is of the Essence

When Sudden Cardiac Arrest occurs, a person’s heart unexpectedly stops beating. Therefore, oxygen-rich blood is not being delivered to the brain and other vital organs. This lack of oxygen causes victims to collapse and become unresponsive. Without oxygen, the chances of survival for cardiac arrest victims decrease quickly by 7-10% for each minute that passes. Therefore, to increase the likelihood of survival, AEDs should be used as fast as possible!

AEDs are Built for Lay Responders

While it is prudent for health care professionals to have AEDs at home, you don’t need a medical license to use an AED. They are built for use by anyone!

In fact, there are many stories and even research studies about how youth can successfully use AEDs 

Home AED Resources

 

Frequently Asked Questions about Buying an AED for Personal Use

AEDs are an important part of home safety, so make sure you’re informed before buying a portable defibrillator!

Are AEDs for home use different than other AEDs?

All FDA-approved AED units work in fundamentally the same way. They are powered on, electrode pads are applied to the patient’s chest, the AED reads the victim’s heart rhythm, and, if a defibrillation shock is needed, they charge to deliver a shock. So, in a sense, any AED model can be used for home use.

But, in our opinion, there are certain characteristics that make some AEDs better for home use than others. If you’re thinking about buying an AED for your household, make sure that it’s as portable as possible. This means they should be small, lightweight, and easy to carry. Read more about finding the best AED for home.

The nearest fire department is close to my house. Do I need a personal AED?

Time is of the essence in cases of Sudden Cardiac Arrest. While it may seem that being physically close to emergency resources will decrease the time-to-defibrillation, the reality is that 911 calls commonly go through a complicated process to get from you to the eventual first responders.

In many areas, fire and medical calls are transferred to a secondary call center, which slows down response times. In other areas, fire departments aren’t dispatched to medical calls like a Sudden Cardiac Arrest at home. 

More importantly, your “home AED” doesn’t have to stay at home! You can take your AED with you so that you have the tools required to help others in need whether at a picnic in the park, youth baseball game, or crowded mall parking lot.

Does insurance cover the purchase of home defibrillators?

The unfortunate answer is that it depends. 

Some insurance programs, like flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) allow you to use your set-aside insurance dollars toward the purchase of an AED. So, if it’s year-end, and you’re about to lose your unspent FSA dollars, why not apply them toward the purchase of an AED to protect your family and neighbors?

Traditional insurance programs, like HMOs and PPOs, do not typically cover the cost of an AED unless a patient has been diagnosed by a physician with a condition requiring an AED. 

Federal programs, like Medicare and Medicaid, require a similar diagnosis, performed in-person by a treating physician.

But, in all cases, don’t merely take our word for it. It’s best to consult with your insurance provider and physician to learn about your coverage options.

How much do home AEDs cost?

Prices vary from brand-to-brand, but a good home AED unit should cost less than $1000 upfront. 

Make sure to look into the upfront  purchase price of the device as well as the ongoing costs for consumable items that expire, like batteries and electrode pads, over a set period of time, like 8 or 10 years. Together, these costs will be the total cost of ownership, one of the most important numbers you can calculate!

How are AEDs used on infants and children?

The right AED for your household should have an easy conversion to the pediatric mode when the victim is under 8 years of age. The faster this conversion, the better! Avoid AEDs that require you to replace the adult electrode pads and insert new pediatric pads; this effort will cost valuable time during an emergency response.

Pediatric mode attenuates the energy level, reducing the number of joules to 50 from 150. The electrode pad placement for children and infants may vary as well, so check out our guide for more information and consult your AED owner’s manual.

How do I maintain my AED?

Every AED unit performs different types of self-checks, at different intervals, and then displays the results in different ways. Make sure to consult your AED owner’s manual for the specifics on how your AED unit should be maintained.

We recommend you buy an AED that performs daily self-checks. 

We also recommend AED units that wirelessly send their self-test data to you, so that you’re informed when there is a problem with the device as  quickly as possible.

Where do I put my AED at home?

When placing your AED at home, make sure it is accessible by everyone who might be a potential responder. The AED should be easily visible  and not obstructed by anything that might make it hard to find or access. Don’t put it in a cupboard or behind any locked doors. 

Lastly, sometimes placing the AED near an obvious landmark can help  during an emergency. In other words, if someone shouts “where is the AED?!”, you can quickly and clearly say “next to the thermostat” or “on the utility counter.” Here’s more on where to put your personal AED.

Do I need an AED for my car? Or, should I take it with me in my car?

AEDs are only useful if they’re accessible during an emergency. If you’re at a youth hockey game and your AED is at home (not in the glove compartment of your car), it’s not going to do any good.

Conversely, if you’re leaving a birthday party at your house to run to the store for more chips, then the AED might be better at home.

Use common sense. Where is a cardiac arrest incident most likely to occur? That’s where the AED should be. Or, to make life easier, buy two AEDs. Then you won’t be forced to pick and choose where to take it!

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