There are a lot of good medical alert systems on the market, and the one that’s right for you might not be the right one for your neighbor.
And it’s not likely to be one of the brands you see advertised on TV all the time…
Here are some factors to consider:
Are you on a tight budget?
Then you might want to consider a system that doesn’t require a monthly monitoring fee. Here’s how these work: you buy a unit that you plug into your phone line. It’s like a speaker phone. You program it (or have a helpful friend do this for you) so that it will dial the phone numbers of people who care about you. Usually you can program these machines to call up to 4 or 5 friends. Maybe the first call goes to your neighbor. The next goes to your son who lives across the country. Etc. If you have an accident, you just press the button on the transponder you wear, and the machine starts dialing. When someone picks up, the machine automatically announced that this is a distress call from you. Then the speaker phone allows you to communicate with the person you called. My favorite of these “no-fee” devices is the LogicMark Freedom Alert (aff). LogicMark also makes the Guardian Alert (aff), a system that only dials 911.
Do you want a monitored system so you have professional responders to help you?
These systems are by far the most popular. Be aware that the kinds of equipment vary widely, and so do the fees. It’s not hard to find a vendor with affordable monthly fees, but I don’t recommend buying solely on price. After all, if a company isn’t charging much for the monitoring service, you might wonder how well they staff their monitoring centers, and whether you’ll be able to get service when you need it.
Companies like Medical Guardian offer a range of equipment, from old-fashioned base station units to the latest mobile medical alerts with fall detection. See what Medical Guardian has to offer (aff).
Is money no object? There are quite a few companies that are happy to speak to you if money is no object. They will happily charge you upwards of $50 a month (some as high as $100) for the monitoring service, and $500 for the same base station equipment that others sell for just $200. Some companies will lock you into a 3 year contract that you can’t get out of even if you’re disappointed in the service. It’s not clear to me that paying a lot more than average actually gets you anything better, though.
So tread carefully. If a company wants more than $30 a month for basic service, it’s either because you’re actually getting premium service, or because they’re trying to rip you off.
What kind of equipment do you need?
There are now several different kinds of life alerts in use.
The first is the standard “old-school” medical alert that consists of a base station that has a powerful speakerphone in it. These aren’t fancy, but they work great for many people. Click here for more info about the different standard medical alert systems.
The second is a medical alert that also has automatic fall detection. Phillips Lifeline was a leader in this area, but you can now get home based medical alerts with fall detection (aff) and mobile medical alerts with fall detection (aff) from Medical Guardian for better rates.
The third is a mobile medical alert, which can contact a monitoring center when you’re away from your home. There are a lot of different systems in this market, and things are evolving rapidly, so it’s a little hard to keep it all straight. Some systems are hybrids which have standard functionality at home, and some are just for when you’re out. Others work with a special cell phone, or even your existing cell phone. The best one I’ve seen is the one from Medical Guardian (aff).
(My opinion is that the home is the most important place to protect yourself, because that’s where you’ll be alone.)
See the comments below for a helpful discussion with a sales rep for Life Alert. Their contract terms have changed sometime since the difficulties with the issues referenced in various consumer protection websites. They are a lot more consumer-friendly now, at least according to the rep. As with all contracts, you’ll want to read it yourself and seek legal advice if you need it.
To summarize: there are a lot of options when you’re looking for life alert or medical alert services. It’s important to understand all your options before you sign a contract.