The first step in buying a medical alert is understanding your own needs. (Or the needs of the person you’re buying for.)
If you don’t understand your needs, you’ll get sold a system that isn’t a good match.
- First, make sure you really want a medical alert. They’re great, but if you won’t wear or carry the panic button, don’t bother buying one
- If you’re homebound, don’t waste money on a mobile or cellular alert
- If you’re not homebound, don’t waste time looking at old-fashioned home-based systems. You’ll only feel trapped.
- If your budget doesn’t include $25 to $40 a month (around $1/day), you need to be looking at “no-fee” systems
Jump to the next lesson Learn the truth about range
Why is it so important to understand your needs?
Let’s look at what happens if you don’t. Most people start by doing a Google search and going to a so-called “review site” that promises to match you to a system that’s right for you.
But really all they’re doing is taking your personal details and selling them to several competing medical alert companies. Once you type your name and phone number into their form, your phone will start ringing with pushy salespeople.
Now you’re on the defensive, trying to see through the fast talk of the commission-based salespeople.
But if you understand your own needs, you’re in control of the process.
First, do you really want a medical alert system?
Especially if you’re buying for someone else, it’s easy to subtly pressure them into agreeing to get a medical alert system when they really don’t want one.
What happens then is that – as you would expect – they don’t use it.
Which is a waste of money and doesn’t solve the problem.
If the person you’re buying for is lukewarm, talk to them about it. Find out why they aren’t interested.
Remember that one option is to get a system on a trial basis. Plan on having it for about 3 months, and be sure to understand your return policies (which I cover in a later lesson).
Second, are you homebound?
Homebound means you spend all or almost all your time at home.
When you do go out, it’s almost always with a companion, either a family member or a paid caregiver.
A lot of the things you used to do, like gardening or even taking the trash out to the curb — you don’t do those anymore.
(The opposite of homebound is what we’re going to call “active.” If that’s you, you’re still out and about on your own. Grocery shopping, shoveling the sidewalk, raking leaves, running errands. Maybe you have some health concerns sneaking up on you, and your balance isn’t what it was 10 years ago, but you’re still going strong.)
Why is this such an important question?
Because it helps narrow down your choices.
If you’re homebound, you want to focus on “standard” medical alerts and only look at the mobile/cellular systems if you find an insurmountable problem with the basic systems.
If you’re not homebound, stop wasting time looking at anything but a mobile or hybrid system. An old-fashioned speakerphone style medical alert is not going to help you. In fact, it is likely to diminish your life because you might curtail some of your activities out of fear that you’re out of range of your system.
Third, what’s your budget?
Budget is a big factor when you choose a medical alert system.
Are you willing and able to spend $25 to $40 a month for the peace of mind of a medical alert system?
If so, you have plenty of choices.
If you can spend more, you’ll get more bells and whistles (like automatic fall detection).
If you try to spend less you’ll you’ll be looking at one of the “no-fee” systems. These start at about $160 and go up toward $300, with some poorly designed and possibly dangerous models on sale for less. Once you’ve paid the up-front cost, you never have to pay again.
Lesson Three is about the important concept of “range.” This is an area where a lot of websites are downright misleading.
And after that we’ll look at contracts, return policies, and guarantees. Beware a false sense of confidence about your options!