The first thing you want to understand is that you’re actually paying for two separate things:
- Ongoing monitoring
Medical alert equipment
The equipment you need for medic alert monitoring consists of a base station and a transmitter that is worn on the body of the senior citizen.
The base station is plugged into your telephone line and it is programmed to connect with the emergency monitoring service if the user presses the button on the special transmitter.
The transmitter can be in the form of a bracelet, necklace, pendant, or other piece that is carried on the body. Some of these can be quite stylish, but they cost extra.
Believe it or not, most companies provide pretty much the same equipment to their users. The differences are in the shape and branding, not so much in the interior electronics.
Some equipment can be programmed to dial friends, family, or neighbors. It isn’t hooked up to a monitoring service at all.
Medical alert monitoring services
For most users, the alert equipment is only the first part of the story. The most important part of the service is the monitoring.
When a person needs medical help, they press the button on their bracelet or necklace. The base station then dials the monitoring command center, where an operator speaks to the person in trouble and, if necessary, calls for help to arrive. These monitoring services are large call centers located in various places across the country. As you can imagine, it’s expensive to maintain a staff of workers ready to answer the phone at any minute.
Different companies charge very different rates for monitoring services. It can be as low as $10 per month. The high end is about $50 per month for nationally-available services.
The big things to watch out for are long-term contracts that might lock you into a service that doesn’t meet your expectations.
If you look around you should be able to find a good quality monitoring service for about $30 a month. You should always buy the equipment outright. You’ll save a lot of money doing it this way instead of leasing or having it bundled into your contract.