With so many companies providing medical alert systems, it's difficult to pinpoint which one answers your (or your loved ones') demands the best. The good news: with so much on offer, there’s a perfect solution for everyone. What's essential is that people looking for a medical alert service understand their needs and research for a company that acts accordingly.
Most companies offer a monitored system where seniors can connect to specialized staff when an emergency arises with a push of a button. But that isn't always the way. Some companies configure the device to automatically call a family member or a friend instead, and others connect the senior directly to 911.
We do believe that monitored systems are the better option – agents are paid to pick up the phone, so it's certain there's always someone on the line to help. There are some distinctions between monitoring systems, though. Since accidents happen day and night, we recommend getting a medical alert system that works 24/7. If loneliness or mental health problems are an issue, go for a company that trains their care agents specifically to deal with issues related to depression and anxiety.
In-Home Station vs Mobile System
As standard, companies offer two types of devices: in-home stations and mobile buttons. It's easy to understand where they differ. The former is designed to be stationed at a central point of the house where the senior can press a button to call for help. The latter operates with cell reception and can be used everywhere, even outside the house. Although mobility comes at a higher cost, if the user is still an active member of their community, it's recommended to get the mobile button since accidents can happen anywhere.
There are also companies that provide an in-car system. This is the perfect solution for seniors who still drive as it contains a sensor that calls for immediate help when a car crash is detected.
Types of Accessories Required
Besides the monitoring equipment, most companies offer a comprehensive accessory portfolio that adds an extra layer of security.
One of the most common accessories is the fall detector which automatically connects the senior to a care agent if a fall occurs. Considering that falling kills an older adult every 19 minutes, you shouldn't pass on this one. Another popular feature is GPS tracking which can be incorporated into the mobile buttons. Although this one is a little more controversial – since it can be seen as a privacy breach – it's perfect for when seniors are disorientated. It can be life-changing for users with Alzheimer's disease or those with a habit of wandering off.
The options don’t end there, though. It really depends on the senior’s needs and your budget. Wall buttons that enable elders to call for help from multiple rooms, smoke detectors that call for immediate assistance in case of fire or carbon monoxide leaks, and lockboxes that allow an assistant to enter the house without breaking in, are just a few of the many examples of accessories you can get to ensure higher security.
Equipment Characteristics to Consider
Regardless of the system you decide on, the equipment should be of the highest quality. Some characteristics to keep in mind are:
- 2-Way Communication: The senior and the care agent should be able to speak to each other through the device, especially when it comes to mobile buttons
- Audio quality and reach: Since in-home stations are going to be at a central point, they must have loud and crystal-clear audio so seniors and care agents can hear each other several feet away from the device.
- Waterproof: Devices that are to be worn should be waterproof so seniors can take a shower with them or go outside when it’s raining.
- Battery: Home stations should have an incorporated battery in case of a power blackout. At the same time, mobile devices should come with a battery that lasts for at least a full day.
Getting the Best Price
When everything is sorted out, and you know what you're looking for, you'll probably find several companies offering very similar products. This is where pricing becomes a decisive point. The first thing to look out for is hidden fees. Some shady companies advertise a price that isn't entirely honest, and customers may end up with hundreds of dollars in debt. Consequently, it's essential to ensure that you're doing business with a transparent company that shows the full price upfront.
Afterward, it's time to think about the contract. Usually, medical alert systems offer their service as a subscription, where the customer can opt between several billing cycles and get higher discounts by committing to a longer period. There are also medical alert systems that offer a trial period where users can test the service and ask for a full refund if they aren't completely happy. Another way to save some money is by taking advantage of coupons or by being a member of organizations affiliated with the service.
AARP Membership Discounts
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is one of those organizations where membership can save you a lot of money when purchasing a medical alert system. Their website also has a wealth of information, like highlighting medical alert scams and explaining how to avoid them. Although it requires a small subscription fee, the large amount of savings on offer more than make up for it.
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