The Top Five (5) Things to Look for When Shopping for Medical Alert Services

Does your older relative live alone? Are you worried about he or she might fall and not be able to get a telephone and call for help?

For decades, millions have turned to Medical Alert Services to address this life-threatening situation. Yet, choosing the right Medical Alert bracelet or necklace can be confusing.

How do You Choose the Right Emergency Medical Alert System?

Following, are 5 key factors to consider when choosing among Medical Alert Services for your older relative (referred to, from here, as "Mom") who lives alone.

# 1: The Right Technology for Mom

Technology is advancing at lightning-speed but, when it comes to Mom's safety, high-tech does not always mean better. For example, modified cell phones are now being sold as medical alert necklaces or bracelets but, think about it, how many times has your cell phone battery been dead when you needed it most? A dead cell phone could be disastrous for Mom in her moment of need.

For a safety device to be effective, the pendant (what Mom wears) should be:

  • Small, light, simple and reliable
  • Maintenance free (no batteries to change or charge)
  • Waterproof so it can be worn in the bath or shower
  • Always available when she is home
  • Cell phones and other complex technologies also can not be used in the shower or bath where many falls occur.

What good is an alert button if it's in the battery charger while Mom is on the floor? Bottom-line, the more technology put into the pendant, the more Mom can be inconvenienced or worse yet, put at risk.

Bottom line; when it comes to Mom's safety, simple is always better.

# 2: Monitored versus Un-Monitored Systems

Medical Alert Services come in two basic categories:

  • A Monitored System versus
  • A Non-Monitored System

The goal of both services is to get family or "911" on the scene. But, the limits to a Non-Monitored service can be:

  • Will the "high tech" pendant Mom is wearing work when it's needed most?
  • Will Mom know which buttons to press when in a panic?
  • If the pendant is big and bulky, will she even wear it?
  • Will family be available when called?
  • If "911" is dispatched, can they get in the house without cost damage?

The solution to all these challenges is a monitored emergency service where:

  • The emergency button is monitored to check battery life
  • Mom presses one button for help and gets a friendly voice 24/7/365
  • An attendant can call emergency ("911"), fire dept., Police and family contacts
  • The attendant has Mom's medical information, doctor's name and hospital of preference
  • The attendant can give instructions to "911" to access the home without damage

When Mom presses a monitored emergency button, she will be in contact with a live emergency operator that will make decisions for her and make multiple phone calls on Mom's behalf. Remember, also, Mom may not want to use her "911 only" button when her nightgown is simply caught on a door handle and a family member can solve the problem.

A major advantage of Monitored service is it can help avoid cost damage to the home. Forceful entry can result in costly repair bills. A good monitored service will contact a "key 'holder" or give the combination to a lock box or garage door to emergency responders.

# 3: Picking the Monitoring Company – Track Record / BBB Rating

From here forward I'll be assuming that you, like millions of others, see the value in having a monitored service. Choosing the right monitoring company can be simpler than you think.

First, make sure the company has a proven track record and an A + Ratings with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). The leading Medical Alert Service companies have been operating for over 30 years.

# 4: The Pricing and Contract

When it comes to safety, cheapest is obviously not always best. You do not want your Medical Alert System vendor cutting corners. But there's also no reason to overpay. Paying higher than $ 29.95 / mo. is usually paying too much.

Contractually, there are two things to be cautious about:

  1. Make sure you're not signing a long-term contract
  2. Do not prepay for the year unless there is a refund policy

On the Internet, you may see prices under $ 20 / mo. but beware of the fine print. Low prices usually mean you are paying a year at a time. Prepay only if the company provides a prorated refund. Think about it, if Mom's circumstances change and you cancel the service in six months, without a refund policy, you'd pay double! Make sure you can get a prorated refund if you pay in advance.

Also, some campaniles make you sign annual or multi-year contracts … avoid annual multi-year contracts like the plague! Mom's needs could change tomorrow and you could be stuck paying high cancellation charges. Here, make sure to ask about the contract period and the refund policy.

# 5: Who Owns the Monitoring Center?

There are two key aspects of Medical Alert Services:

  1. The System (Console and Pendant)
  2. The Monitoring Center

Serious Medical Alert Services own and operate their own 24 x 7 x 365 monitoring center and also supply the emergency equipment. How can you predict the service your Mom will get, when she presses the emergency button, if you do not know who owns the monitoring center?


When it comes to Mom's safety at home, the devil's in the details. Possibly the best thing you can do from here is talk to an expert who can answer all your questions … after all, picking the right Medical Alert Service may just save your Mom's life.


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