5 Commonly Asked Questions About the Medical Alert System
By Rachel Lopez
About the Medical Alert System
A medical alert system, also known as a personal emergency response system (PERS), is a method of quickly and effectively alerting a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year call center to assist in an emergency. These response centers will notify designated personnel and emergency response teams, depending on the assistance required. These systems are typically for seniors or people with health concerns. This includes medical emergencies such as a stroke or a fall and can be used for a fire, or any situation requiring assistance.
How Does a Medical Alert System Work?Typically, a medical alert system involves three basic components: a small radio transmitter, a console connected to your telephone, and an emergency response center. Some systems are more intricate and they may also rely on GPS or cellular technology (i.e. car attachment or smartwatch). But, the principle remains the same – get expedient assistance in an emergency.
Radio TransmitterThe radio transmitter could be in the form of a wearable device such as an alert bracelet, a push button, or a smartwatch, and is almost always waterproof. So, the transmitter can be worn at all times (even in the shower or bath). The alert button and push button are only for sending one-way communications. When pressed, it sends an alert to the around-the-clock response center. This is useful if you fall or are otherwise incapacitated and unable to get up to reach the console, or unable to speak for whatever reason. Once the radio transmitter has been pressed, an operator will likely try to talk to you via the console.
ConsoleThe console is easy to install and plugs into your telephone jack. The telephone then plugs into the secondary jack on the unit. The console offers two-way communication and allows you to talk to an alert system response operator without having to pick up the phone. The operator will typically respond back via the console to triage the situation, once pressed. If the response center does not get a response, the operator will automatically notify predetermined individuals set up on your account. This could be family, friends, or emergency response.
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How much is a Medical Alert System?Medical alert systems range from $16-$79.95 per month, depending on the equipment, how many people are on the policy, and how technological you want to go. A few companies have $50 activation fees, but not all of them have this. The higher cost plans are typically for couples on family plans to allow coverage for multiple people.
Some companies offer free trials for 30 days (or money-back guarantees), so you can “try it before you buy it.” This is a great way to test multiple systems at once to determine which system is right for you (and potentially your family). Fall detection is a feature most companies offer and is sometimes free or costs an additional $5-$15/mo.
Tips for reducing cost:
- Check with your insurance company to see if they cover medical alert
- Look for a company that does not charge a monthly fee
- Call the company directly to get discounts
- Try a 30-day trial or money-back guarantee
- Look for fall detection to be included in the price
- Use a company that has a lifetime warranty
- Look for spouse monitoring to be included
- Use a short-term contract (most companies offer this)
What Medical Alert Features are Available?An abundance of medical alert companies are out there for your consideration and each offers features unique to you. Think about what you actually need and why you are looking into purchasing a medical alert system. The least expensive, simplest options are at-home medical alert systems that connect to a landline. This is the basic option that allows for medical response coverage within your home. But, you’ll need coverage outside the house also. If you carry a cell phone and you are always accompanied, then you may not need a roaming system.
If you often venture out alone without a cell phone, then you may want to consider an in-home and an on-the-go GPS option. Moblehelp offers an alert system that offers just that. This allows you to send an alert no matter where you are. If you have fallen and are unable to ask for help, then you will be quickly assisted. Here are some options to consider:
- GPS-enabled technology such as smartwatch, car transmitter to enable on-the-go help
- Alert bracelet/button with base offering two-way communications to allow assistance or questions without emergency response
- Up to 400-1300 ft of in-home monitoring – consider the size of your living space and where you spend the majority of your time
Does Medicare Pay for a Personal Emergency Response System?The short answer is no. Medicare Part A and B do not cover PERS, but Medicare Part C may be the exception. Although Medicare Part B pays for medical tests and equipment, a PERS doesn’t fit this description. Medicare’s equipment reference typically comes with a prescription and although a PERS could save your life, it will not directly contribute to your medical welfare or well-being day-to-day.
Medicare Part C is also known as Medicare Advantage (MA) and is Medicare-approved private insurance. Some companies cover medical alert responses, so check with your insurance company first. For example, Humana and United Healthcare MA plans include a personal emergency response system as a supplemental benefit (meaning it’s free!).
What is the Best Medical Alert System for Seniors?The best medical alert system is the one that works best for you or your loved ones’ lifestyle. For those seniors who love technology, there are high-tech options that include smartwatches and GPS features. GPS wearables are ideal for active seniors and allow connectivity anywhere GPS can connect. For those homebodies, or those who don’t spend much time outside of their home, an alert system that connects to your landline is just fine and you likely don’t need all the additional bells and whistles.
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Which Medical Alert System Does AARP Recommend?
- Life Alert: Bracelet, offers a warranty, free equipment, no need for a landline, lower cost
- Philips Lifeline: Free with Humana and United Healthcare MA insurance, in-home and on-the-go options, built-in fall detection, no warranty for in-home systems, smaller in-home coverage
- Medical Alert: Mobile app tracking technology, offers at home and out of home options, easy setup, above-average pricing, real-time alerts, no extra bells or whistles
- Alert1: Free month of service, free equipment, limited range of 600ft from the console, $26-$50/mo for service based on options
- ADT Companion: Direct affiliate of AARP, offers pendant or bracelet, no activation cost, and works up to 300ft from the console
ConclusionMedical alert systems or PERS are a good way to take care of yourself or your loved ones. They are easy to use, offer consistent coverage, and can be worn anywhere. Just knowing you are a press of a button away from getting help will allow you the freedom to live your life with ease. Find out which system works best for you!
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