Written by Aaron Hall | Last Updated February 24th, 2020Aaron N. Hall is a Content Management Specialist for Best Company and specializes in the home security and medical alert system industries. He would tell you that he’s probably taking pictures, writing music, or working on his next novel while out of the office, but he’s actually just watching Parks and Rec.
Recently, Best Company had the chance to catch up with medical alert expert Amie Clark of The Senior List. We asked her about what people should know before they decide to buy a medical alert system. Here's what she had to say.
First, how do medical alert systems typically work?
- Medical alert systems are life-saving devices that with the press of a button connects users to a monitoring center who can alert the user’s family or emergency services. Some medical alert systems offer the option of bypassing the monitoring center and connecting the user to a predetermined list of contacts instead. The equipment comes in the form of a small pendant or button that the user wears all (or most) of the time.
What different kinds of medical alert systems should consumers be aware of?
- There are two primary types of medical alert systems, in-home and cellular. In-home systems require a landline to work, while cellular units simply require a cell connection to connect.
What would you recommend for someone trying to live an active lifestyle?
- I would definitely recommend a cellular unit for someone who is active and who may venture out of the home frequently.
What about someone who mostly stays at home?
- For someone who mostly stays at home, an in-home unit may work, as long as the range of the base station to the button is adequate within the home. Some systems have a very small range and are ineffective for larger homes or outdoor areas such as the yard or mailbox.
What are some things customers should be aware of when it comes to contracts?
- I recommend staying away from companies that require any sort of long-term contract. Any agreement that locks a consumer in for more than a year is unacceptable. The best medical alert companies have monthly, quarterly and/or annual prepayment agreements that don’t lock the user into longer terms or automatic renewals and are more cost effective than month-to-month plans. In fact, many medical alert companies will refund or pro-rate a portion of the prepayment if the service is canceled before the agreement is up. Make sure you understand the length of the agreement, cancellation terms, any fees (set-up, administrative, activation, etc...) that you may be responsible for and shipping costs when returning the equipment.
When do you know you need a medical alert system?
- If someone is at risk for falls and is alone for any amount of time throughout the day, the time for a medical alert system is now. We know that the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for seniors are falls. While a medical alert system will not prevent a fall, it is crucial in the moments after a fall has occurred in notifying contacts and emergency services that help is needed.
Are these systems just for seniors?
- Medical alert systems are used by people of all ages: seniors, lone workers, women, kids, people with disabilities and athletes, just to name a few.
What’s the typical price range of a good medical alert system?
- In-home systems can start as low as $19 per month, cellular systems are more expensive at $29-$35 per month. Devices with fall detection may be an additional $10-$15 per month.
What can seniors do to live a healthy, active lifestyle and prevent falls?
- Make sure your loved one sees a physician on a regular basis. If falls are an issue, a physician can help identify any underlying issues that may be contributing and recommend an action plan. Get regular exercise and take advantage of balance and strength training programs at local senior centers and gyms. Additionally, assess if there are areas in the home that need to be addressed, like lighting, installing handrails on stairs, or installing grab bars in the bathroom.
What are the medical alert call centers like and what are the response times?
- I had the opportunity to tour a monitoring center a few months ago. The people who work at the monitoring centers take their jobs very seriously, as they should since they are in the business of saving lives! From the people who develop the technology to ensure the monitoring center never misses a call to the customer account specialists and the heroes who answer calls for help everyday, all of these people are passionate about helping others. I was most impressed with the “hub” of the monitoring center where dozens of calls for help were coming in from all over the United States and a room filled with monitoring specialists who were calmly talking to seniors, loved ones, and emergency services personnel. It was truly an emotional experience seeing the professionalism and caring these people had. In regards to response times, I imagine this varies based on call volume, but most systems I have personally tested are 20-30 seconds, at the most.