A monitored medical alert system is a medical alert button and base station that call a professionally-staffed call center when the panic button is pushed.
The big difference between a monitored system and a no-fee medical alert device is that when you press the button you get a live operator on the other end of the line.
The live operator can talk with you through the base station. They can find out what’s wrong, and dispatch appropriate help. Sometimes this is as simple as calling your neighbor to have them come over to help you. Other times it might be that you need urgent help because you’ve fallen or gotten injured. In this case they can call the ambulance. Then they can also call a family member to notify them.
Differences between monitored medical alert systems:
With a monitored system, you need to focus on two areas. The first is the equipment provided by the service. As with no-fee medical alerts, the quality and the features of the equipment can vary. Each company’s website will help you understand the exact features and benefits of the unit they sell.
The other area is the call center. Some call centers are staffed with paramedics or other trained professionals. Others are staffed with low-paid phone operators who might or might not be helpful in an emergency. This is an important area to investigate. In general, you want to find a company that is able to keep phone staff for many years, and you’ll want to know what kind of training they do.
Another difference between different monitoring centers is the kind of services they expect to provide. Some monitoring services are only for emergencies. Others welcome check-in calls or non-emergency requests for assistance.
Additionally, different companies will have different rules for what kind of information they give out to family members.
One of the biggest advantages of a monitored setup, in my opinion, is that you have a live person who can determine the appropriate level of help. They can also communicate with other people: for example they can notify your family or tell the ambulance crew how to get access to the house without breaking windows.
Photo from the Seattle Municipal Archives, via Flickr Creative Commons