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Comparing Medical Alert Devices – how to choose?

Woman on GroundThere are many medical alert devices and systems available on the market today. The good news is there are lots of options to find the right medical alert device for your situation. The bad news, is that it can be confusing to sort through all the choices.

Here is our simple guide to help you understand the differences between some of the medical alert devices and systems available to you.

Two-Way Medical Alert Device with 24/7 Monitoring

HOME Medical Alert SystemThis is the most common type of medical alert device and it generally consists of a two-way console which communicates with a monitoring center. A signal is sent when you press the button that is worn on your wrist or around the neck as a pendant.

The monitoring center will have your complete information on a computer screen at the time you call. They will take appropriate action depending on the situation, including dispatching 911 to your location and notifying people on your call list. A good example of this kind of medical alert system is the HOME Medical Alert System offered by Medical Care Alert.

Typical Cost: $27.45 a month and higher.

Things to look for:
• Range of the pendant signal to the base unit – 800 feet minimum
• US Based monitoring agents, not based overseas
• Name brand equipment with warranty. Look for quality names you’ve heard of like BOSCH or GE
• No long term contract – never sign a long term contract, you situation may change


Two-Way Medical Alert Device with Speakerphone Pendant
Monitored 24/7

HOME & YARD Medical Alert System

This type of medical alert device is monitored, and lets you speak through the pendant. The distinguishing feature is that the pendant itself is a two-way speakerphone and allows the user to communicate with the base as long as they are within range. The range of these devices is typically 300-600 feet from the base.

The advantage of this type of medical alert device is the ability to speak into the pendant if you are far away from the base unit and cannot be heard. They are appropriate for folks who get outside the home to garden, get the mail, or visit a neighbor. The HOME & YARD Medical Alert System from Medical Care Alert is a good example of this kind of system with professional 24/7 monitoring.

Typical Cost: $34.95 a month and higher for a monitored system.

Things to look for:
• Range of the pendant signal to the base unit – look for 500-600 foot range minimum
• Extra features - some 2-way voice pendants allow you to answer the phone through the pendant.


GPS Medical Alert Device with 24/7 Monitoring

GPS Medical Alert System from Medical Care AlertA monitored GPS medical alert device provides complete freedom and protection inside and outside the home. These systems use cellular technology and provide pin-point GPS coordinates of your location to the monitoring center.

These systems work like a traditional medical alert device - simply press a button and be instantly connected to the monitoring center which has your personal profile on file. You will speak through the 2-way speaker on the pendant/device. The HOME & AWAY GPS Medical Alert System from Medical Care Alert is a good example of this type of system.

The advantage is flexibility and the ability to get help where ever there is cellular coverage. This kind of medical alert device is right for folks who travel, golf, or are still working.

Advantages of a GPS Medical Alert System include:
Monitoring center knows who you are. Your personal profile is on file and the responding operators will know your name, home address, medical conditions, or who to call in the event of an emergency. Plus they will know your location for dispatching help.
GPS Location Accuracy. In the event you are unable to speak, the monitoring center will know your exact location based on your GPS coordinates transmitted by the medical alert device.

Typical Cost: Typical GPS Medical Alert Devices cost around $35.00 - $50.00 a month

Things to look for:
• Are the buttons large and easy to push?
• Is it a phone, or a dedicated medical alert system?

Two-Way Medical Alert Device, No Monitoring, Calls 911 or other number

Medipendant style medical alert deviceThis type of medical alert device generally consists of a two-way console and button which will dial a phone number you program into the unit. It will call a neighbor, family member, doctor, 911 (except in California and Illinois) or any other number you program.
The advantage of this kind of system is the one-time fixed cost of purchasing the unit. However, you won't have a dedicated monitoring center with your personal profile and preferences on hand, and some communities do not allow you to program 911 into this kind of system.

Typical Cost: $275.00 - $350.00 to purchase.

Things to look for:
• Range of the pendant signal to the base unit – 500-600 feet minimum
• Phone type – many do not support VoIP phones or DSL phones
• 911 policy in your local area – residents of California & Illinois may NOT program 911 into this type of medical alert device – check your local laws before considering this type of system.

Cellular Medical Alert Devices – Not Monitored, Calls 911

This type of medical alert device is often sold as an “add-on” to a traditional Medical Alert system with monitoring. The small, hand-held device transmits a signal via GSM cellular when the button is pressed and dials 911 directly.

The advantage of this type of medical alert device is the perceived added security to have access to emergency personnel when you are outside of the home, or beyond the range of your home medical alert system.

However, it’s important to understand what these systems do, and what they don’t do:
Calls 911 – the call will be routed to 911 based on the location of the nearest cellular tower that connects your call
No GPS Location Information Provided – these are not GPS systems. If you are unable to speak, 911 will only know the location of the cellular tower closest to your current location. In 2012, cellular providers are required to give 911 a geo-location within 300 meters (about 1,000 feet) of the location of the signal.
No Personal Information Provided – 911 will not know your name, or personal medical history.

We are aware of a very high dissatisfaction rate, and high cancellation rate for these kinds of medical alert devices. As such, we do not offer them.

Typical Cost: $10.00 - $20.00 a month in addition to a monthly plan of $30-60 a month.

Things to look for:
• Battery life – these systems need to be constantly charged
• Actual need – will the person using the system be alone outside of the home enough to justify the cost?

Choosing the right medical alert device for you:

We know the choices are overwhelming and confusing, and that families need to balance the needs of the senior, convenience, costs, and reliability. We are happy to answer all your questions about any medical alert device you are considering to help you make the right choice for your situation. Please call us at 1-855-272-1010 anytime to review your medical alert device options.

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