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Choosing the Best Medical Alert System
Though all of the medical alert systems reviewed here provide comprehensive monitoring and some much-needed peace of mind to older individuals living alone, certain companies stand out in some areas more than others do. The lists below are good places to start for individuals who are focused on finding a company that excels in a particular area.
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Alert Button is an important category that covers the types and features of medical pendants offered by the personal emergency response system company. These alert buttons typically come in the form of a wristband or necklace. They are waterproof so they can be worn at all times, and some devices also have a GPS and built-in microphone for occasions when emergencies occur outside of the home. In addition, some companies offer pendants that detect whether or not an individual has fallen and automatically place an emergency call. However, it's important to think carefully about whether this is the right technology to choose because some of these systems have been known to cause false alarms when the individual is going about his or her daily activities. As a whole, this category is very important because it's what enables the user to notify the monitoring center of an emergency.
- Built-In Microphone - The company has an alert button with a built-in microphone.
- Fall Detection - The alert button automatically detects falls.
- Mobile Alerts - You can use your mobile phone or a special mobile device to send an alert when you're away from home.
- Pendant - The alert button can be worn as a pendant.
- Waterproof - The alert button is waterproof.
- Wristband - The alert button can be worn as a wristband.
Base Unit explains the features of the central unit of the medical alert system. Many of these plug into a traditional phone line, though there are some cellular options for those who don't have a landline in their home. There is a two-way intercom that enables the individual to communicate with the emergency monitoring center and explain the nature of the emergency situation. The base unit also features an emergency button that works just like the alert button and can be used to contact the monitoring center. In the event of a power outage, most base units have a battery backup that enables them to keep working for a number of hours after the power shuts off. This is another central category to a emergency alert system and something worth paying attention to when considering which company to choose.
- Battery Backup - The base unit has a backup battery.
- Cellular - A base unit that uses a cellular connection is available.
- One-Touch Dial - Dispatch can be reached by pressing a single button.
- Traditional Phone Line - The base unit can be connected using a traditional phone line.
- Two-Way Intercom - You can communicate with the dispatcher directly through the intercom.
- Voice Amplification - The base intercom has voice amplification technology.
Protection Services lists what kinds of emergencies the medical alert system handles. The majority of monitoring centers notify police, fire, or ambulance services of any major emergency that arises whether it be a fall, fire, or a home intrusion. Perhaps the most important offering to pay attention to in this category is whether or not the company has dispatchers standing by 24/7 to provide assistance. This may not be a deciding factor when selecting a emergency alert system, but it's still something to make note of when looking at any personal emergency response system.
- 24/7 Dispatchers - You can reach a dispatcher 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Fire - You can contact a dispatcher in the event of a fire.
- Home Intrusion - You can contact a dispatcher if there is a home intrusion.
- Medical Emergencies - You can contact a dispatcher if you have a medical emergency.
Contracts and Fees describes the different terms and costs associated with the medical alert system. This includes any activation, cancellation, shipping, or equipment fees as well as contractual information. Some companies require you to sign a contract when you purchase the service and won't let you out of that contract unless you pay a cancellation fee or the person receiving the monitoring passes away. However, this shouldn't be a major concern because most companies do not have these restrictions and allow individuals to get a month-to-month contract and cancel at any time without penalty. This category is definitely one to pay attention to. Since many emergency alert systems use similar equipment, looking at the company's contracts, fees, and business practices may be the only way to determine which company is the right choice.
- Free Shipping - The company ships equipment to you free of charge.
- Member Discounts - You can get a price discount for being a member of AAA, AARP, or other similar organizations.
- No Activation Fee - The company does not charge a one-time fee to activate your account.
- No Cancellation Fee - The company does not charge a cancellation fee.
- No Equipment Costs - Base units, alert buttons, and other basic equipment are included free of charge.
- No Long-Term Contract - Month-to-month contracts are available.
Support refers to the different ways individuals can contact the medical alert system provider with questions or concerns about the system. The primary method of communication with all of the companies is by phone, but some companies also allow customers to contact them via email, live chat, or social media. It's important to make sure the company selected has at least one channel of communication where they can be reached at any time in case of questions, problems with the system, or other concerns. However, this category is not one of critical importance to an emergency alert system, so it isn't likely to be a deciding factor when choosing between two or more companies.
- Email - The company has an email or ticket system dedicated to support.
- Live Chat - The company offers live chat support.
- Phone - You can contact the company by phone to get support.
- Social Media - You can contact the company with questions through social media networks.
Home Monitoring discusses what other types of in-home monitoring is offered by the medical alert system company. The majority of companies do not provide these services and require individuals to press their alert button to inform the monitoring center of any sort of emergency. However, a few companies can link up the smoke, carbon monoxide, and temperature sensors in your home to the medical alert system so any significant changes automatically trigger a call to the monitoring center or emergency services. This service often comes at an additional fee, but it's an option for individuals who want a more complete emergency monitoring service. However, since home monitoring is not a critical component of a medical alert system, it probably won't be a big influence in most people's decision-making processes.
- 24/7 Monitoring - The detectors and sensors in your home are monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Carbon Monoxide Detection - The company offers carbon monoxide detectors that automatically alert a dispatcher when CO is detected.
- Smoke Detection - The company offers smoke detectors that automatically alert a dispatcher when smoke is detected.
- Temperature - The company offers a temperature sensor that automatically alerts a dispatcher if unsafe temperatures are detected in your home.
Learning Materials are the resources provided by the company to assist customers in learning more about the medical alert system and how to use it. Typically, this includes an FAQ section on the website and a way to request a brochure or information kit to help people understand what they're purchasing. User guides are also helpful for setting up the system and learning how to use it correctly. While these features can be helpful, particularly when trying to decide which company to choose, they aren't as important as some of the others that directly affect usage.
- Brochure/Information Kit - You can request a free brochure or information kit that provides more information about the product.
- FAQs - The company provides a list of answers to frequently asked questions.
- User Guide - A user guide or training manual is provided by the company.