Choosing a medical alert system

by the Editor, SeniorInsider | May 31, 2011

While it is something that you hope you will never need, having the ability to send medical alerts in an emergency situation could provide peace of mind for you and your family. There are a variety of options available for sending medical alerts, so it makes sense to understand them relative to your situation in order to choose an alert system that matches your needs and lifestyle.

Medical Alert Bracelets

While you might not think of medical alert bracelets as an alert system, the truth of the matter is that these aids for elderly people can be a life saving device in a real emergency situation. For example, if you have a drug allergy that can be life threatening, having that information on one of the many styles of medical alert bracelets available could prove critically useful if you are involved in a car accident and are injured and can’t communicate with the paramedics. The medical alerts provided by the information on your bracelet could make a huge difference in your care and treatment at the accident scene, on the way to the hospital, and once you are at the hospital.

Medical Alert Bracelets Versus Home Medical Alert Systems

While medical alert bracelets travel with you wherever you go, they are only useful if someone sees them. This might not do you a great deal of good when you are home alone and have a medical emergency. For this situation, having a system at home for elderly assistance that can send medical alerts can be invaluable.

There are some choices that have to be made when evaluating systems that provide medical alerts from your home. One of the first has to do with whether you want a system that is monitored or not. A monitored system will have a fee associated with it, normally paid as a monthly service charge. A system that is not monitored generally does not have recurring charges.

Another consideration is the size of your home, and ensuring that the system you choose will work from anywhere in and around your home. What you would need for an apartment or small house could differ widely from what you would need to send medical alerts from the second floor or backyard of a large home.

Monitored Medical Alerts

A medical alert system that is monitored means that you have a base station and alert button that call a center that is staffed at all times. This means that when you push the button on your system, a call goes immediately to a live person. You can explain the emergency and get help over the phone while emergency assistance is dispatched to your home, if necessary.

Depending on the level of the problem that prompted you to press your alert button, the operators at the other end of the phone may be able to help you. This depends on whether your call center is staffed with trained medical personnel like paramedics, or whether it is staffed with operators who can only call for medical help. This is something you will want to ask system providers about when you are evaluating medical alert systems for your home.

Non-Monitored Medical Alerts

The big difference between a monitored and a non-monitored system is that with the non-monitored system, you are not paying a monthly fee to have an operator available at the push of your alert button. However, this does not mean that you can’t call for help using your system.

With a non-monitored system, once you buy the equipment, you no longer have expenses associated with having the alert system. The way that this type of system works is that you set it up to call certain phone numbers when the alert button is pressed. For example, you might load in your son’s phone number as the first to call when the button is pushed, followed by your neighbor, followed by an emergency number like 911.

Costs Associated with Medical Alert Systems

Whether you choose to have a monitored system or a non-monitored system, there are costs for the equipment that is installed in your home. This will include a base unit as well as at least one button that you wear that activates the medical alerts.

The size of your home comes into play too as far as whether or not your voice can reach the base unit from where you suffer from the emergency situation. Think of the base unit as being similar to your phone answering system in range; if you can hear your answering machine from anywhere in your home, then you should be able to communicate through the base unit of your medical alert system once it is activated.

The costs of the equipment may be fairly similar from one system to the next, so it pays to ask plenty of questions about what is included with each system for that price. You might pay less up front for a monitored system since you will be paying a monthly monitoring fee.

The major difference in price comes with a monitored system. In this case, you will pay a monthly fee to the monitoring company. It is not unusual for this to cost about $30 per month. On the one hand, that may seem like a small price to pay for 24-hour a day monitoring, and the peace of mind that it gives. On the other hand, if you are on a fixed income, that could seem like a significant amount of your budget.



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