Medical Alert Systems: What They Are & How to Choose

BY BROOKE FAULKNER

There comes a time in a person’s life, no matter what their independence level may be, when they need a little more help in the home. While a medical alert system doesn’t provide in-home help, it provides an emergency button for elderly and disabled individuals who may need help at some point while they are alone. Before deciding what type of medical assistance you need, consider the safety of your home.

A medical alert system is a combination of hardware and software that sends an emergency signal at the press of a button to the appropriate personnel when a person requires attention. Medical alert systems are also known as personal emergency response systems. More often than not, they are used by individuals who are either elderly or disabled and need to be able to quickly contact emergency responders in the case of a fall or a life-threatening problem.

As medical technology expands, so too do the resources available to patients. This can be hard to sift through when choosing a mobile alert system. Below are the top 4 things to consider when purchasing a medical alert system.

Reputation

The reputation of the company is probably one of the most important things to look at when choosing a medical alert system. The Underwriters Laboratories is a standard of safety to follow. Some monitoring centers choose to get a UL certification, which is a globally acknowledged gold standard for safety and reliability. Choosing a center with this type of certification will give you peace of mind knowing that it will be there when and if you ever need it. A company that has invested money and time in getting this certification is a safe bet.

Also, be sure to check with the Better Business Bureau to look for past issues customers may have had. This is a website and organization where consumers can cross check the legitimacy and reviews of specific companies before making the decision to work with them or not.

Asking around is another great way to get a personal opinion on a company’s reputation. Chances are, someone in your life has had experiences with medical alert systems. Taking the knowledge and experience of someone you trust into consideration can ensure you work with the most reputable company you can find.

Reliability

Equally as important to consider when shopping for a medical alert system is the reliability of the product. The range of the alert base is important to consider. Most base stations have a range of 400 feet so it can be activated anywhere on a person’s property. If you live a very active life but are considering a medical alert system, make sure the chosen system has a long range to protect against unexpected outside falls.

Battery life is another thing to take into consideration when purchasing a medical alert system. Most systems are chargeable to keep a constant battery life, but it is important to make sure that the system you choose has a backup battery system in case of power failure or a power outage. Some alert system batteries only last a few months, while others last several years. If the battery runs low, it should clearly notify you and the monitoring center so it can be replaced before it stops functioning properly.

Monitoring centers ensure that the correct person is called to provide the appropriate aid in an emergency. Many calls are best handled by having a third-party monitoring center contact an emergency contact list when there is no need for emergency services. Most medical alert systems have their own emergency response centers staffed with trained emergency operators available 24 hours a day to respond to calls. However, some do not. Make sure that whichever system you choose has this capability, as it is essential to the security of those living alone. Along with a 24-hour monitoring system, you want to make sure you have access to customer service and technical support whenever you might need it. Don’t sign up with a company that has limited customer service hours, as this can cause frustration down the road.

Ease of Use

These days, companies are offering motion-sensitive necklaces that can detect a fall automatically and call for help if the user is unable to push the button. Some companies even offer extra help buttons at an additional cost. These are typically waterproof wristbands or pendants with help buttons that can go anywhere you go. Wall-mounted buttons are also available. These can be used in high-risk fall areas like the kitchen or bathroom in case the user isn’t wearing their help button. It’s important that, aside from having a medical alert system, you focus on preventing falls in your home.

Medical alert systems with GPS capabilities are helpful if you are an active senior who would like the safety net that is provided by these programs. This is ideal for independent individuals who want to be protected wherever they go. These types of systems allow for GPS tracking in case of emergency situations. If the button is pressed while you are away from the base unit, the monitoring company can track where you are and provide emergency relief.

Cost and Contract

Cost and contract policies are other major factors to consider when choosing a medical alert service. Most medical alert systems cost around a dollar a day, or $25-$30 a month. Anything more, and you are at risk of being overcharged. Anything less, and you are putting your money into an organization that might not be able to stay in business very long.

Consider the other medical devices you are using or going to need in the future when factoring a medical alert service into your monthly budget. Look for devices with your specific health needs in mind. It is important to make sure the health care supplies you have help manage the conditions you face or will face in the future.

Some companies charge additional costs for shipping, installation, or your medical alert consult. There is no reason for you to pay any of these fees. Many well-respected companies offer free shipping and no upfront payments. Installation is often simple and easy to do on your own, so beware of installation charges. Choose a company that forgoes these unnecessary fees.

Contracts are a thing of the past when it comes to medical alert companies. Since you never know how long you will need the services or if you will even like a particular company, only sign up for a medical alert system that lets you cancel the service at any time. The last thing you want to worry about during a stressful and complicated time is the cancellation terms for your medical alert device.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to prevent every fall or emergency that may come your way. A medical alert system is beneficial to have as an added safety feature in your home. Even if you never have to use it, it’s comforting to know that if something were to happen, you or your loved one will be protected in case of emergency.