A Closer Look at Medical Alert Systems

Medical alert systems are potentially life-saving because they enable your aging loved one to get help quickly in the event of a fall or accident. Let's take a look at what's typically included in a medic alert system and evaluate the pros, cons, and costs.

What You Get

With a medic alert device, your loved one can call for help with the press of a button. The device itself typically comes in the form of a bracelet or necklace. Some systems also include help buttons that can be installed throughout your loved one's home, and most trigger automatically in the event of a fall.

The Pros

There are many reasons why investing in a medical alert system is a good idea. First, it allows your loved one remain independent for as long as possible while giving you peace of mind. If help is needed, the system will immediately put your aging loved one in touch with an operator, caregiver, or 911.

The Cons

Perhaps the biggest drawback is these systems can be quite expensive. In addition to purchasing equipment, you also have to pay a monthly fee for monitoring. Most companies require that you sign a contract for a predetermined amount of time - and if you break that contract, you'll likely encounter an early termination fee. Another con is that systems are not foolproof and may not be able to auto-detect all slips and falls.

What Does a Medic Alert System Cost

Equipment costs and service fees vary quite a bit, depending on what system you invest in and what options you choose. We did a quick price comparison and found that several companies charge around $50 upfront for equipment and $25 per month for monitoring. Others offer free equipment and only charge monitoring fees, which vary based on service tier.

Before you rule out medic alert systems based on cost alone, do your homework. You may be able to save money by taking advantage of discounts. For example, some service providers offer reduced fees for AARP, USAA and AMAC members.

What to Look For

It's critical to know what you're getting for your money as not all medical alert systems are created equal. In addition to automatic fall detection, look for:

  • Range
  • Response Time
  • Ability to use cell service (some devices use a landline)
  • Customer Service
  • Ability to detect a fire or carbon monoxide in the home
  • Choice of who to call (some devices connect you with an operator, others with the primary caregiver, and others automatically call 911)

Now that you understand the pros and cons of medic alert systems, you can decide whether or not it's a good fit for you and your aging loved one.

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