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A medical alert system can be a life-changing piece of equipment, but there are a lot of reasons why they could do more harm than good. With such a vast range of systems on the market, it isn’t difficult to end up choosing one that doesn’t serve you in the way you had hoped.
Spending a little time looking into the various options as well as assessing your personal needs will allow you to find a system that will be ultimately beneficial. In this guide, we uncover the common mistakes to avoid when choosing a medical alert system.
1. Being Tied into a Long-Term Contract
One of the biggest issues faced by a lot of people signing up for a medical alert system with monitoring is that they end up tied into a long-term contract without realizing. Before you sign or agree to anything, you must speak directly to a representative from the medical alert company and ask questions about whether you are tied into a contract, and if so, what the terms are. In addition to this, we would always advise reading the small print as sales reps may be encouraged to skim over the finer details. If you think you may struggle with this, don’t be afraid to ask a friend or loved one to help you.
In many cases, these medical alert systems will come with either monthly or annual fees. Quite often, you will find that these plans come with free cancellation meaning that you can choose to end the contract at any point, without incurring a penalty. However, this does not apply across the board and some companies will expect you to remain within the contract for a set amount of time. While you will be free to leave at any point, you will have to pay a cancellation fee, which could be as much as paying out the rest of your contract term.
There are a lot of medical alert system companies that offer a free trial. This is usually around 30 days and gives you a chance to try out the system with no obligation. If you don’t like it, at the end, you can send it back. However, you may be liable to pay shipping fees.
In any case, it is important to ask about the amount you will be required to pay each month. It can be all too easy to fall into the trap of getting so excited about the idea of regaining independence through the use of a medical alert system that you overlook the cost. There are some plans that come in at less than $20 a month, whereas others may skyrocket past $50 a month. It is, of course, essential that you are able to afford the payments.
As well as contract fees, you may also be required to pay additional costs such as an activation fee, shipping costs, and a range of other upfront fees. Understanding what these are, how much you need to pay, and why is imperative.
2. Choosing the Wrong Type of Medical Alert System
The brilliant thing about using a medical alert system in modern times is that there are various types meaning you will be able to find something that perfectly matches your needs. However, far too many people select a system without looking at the options and this could lead to you having an alert system that doesn’t benefit you.
There are generally two types of medical alert system; the home system and the mobile system. A home system features a base that is installed in the home and can operate either on a landline or over a cellular network (not all home systems have this capability). Conversely, a mobile system can be used outside of the home, uses a cellular network and is generally preferred by people who lead a more active lifestyle and leave the house more frequently.
In addition to this, you must think about the alert button. Many systems offer a pendant which will connect to the home base allowing you to call for help wherever you are. A mobile unit may also make use of a pendant but will connect to a cellular network. However, there are also watches and handheld buttons that you can pop in your pocket or bag. These are great if you want something more discreet.
Home systems will have a certain range on them meaning that if you leave this range, the button will not connect and you won’t be able to ask for help. You must also think about whether you want a monitored or unmonitored system. With a monitored system, you will normally have to pay a subscription but in return you have the peace of mind that you can call for help at any time. These systems are connected to a call center that will be able to alert family or emergency services as well as often having two-way communication to talk you through any challenging emergencies. Moreover, these systems are ideal if you live alone and do not have immediate access to help.
On the other hand, an unmonitored system will allow you to connect directly to predetermined people such as friends or family and even the emergency services. These generally don’t come with a monthly or annual fee. If you have people who live nearby and who are willing to come to you in an emergency, this may be a good option.
Many mobile systems feature a GPS tracking option which is ideal for people who are at risk of becoming lost or disoriented. For people who struggle with cognitive problems or dementia, this option allows for a little more freedom, giving the family peace of mind that they can use the accompanying app to locate their loved one in an emergency.
3. Choosing a Medical Alert System on Price Alone
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when choosing your medical alert system is opting for a system simply because it has an attractive price or does not come with a subscription fee.
This may be an incentive when purchasing other items but when it comes to a medical alert system, this is something that could potentially save your life. Choosing one based on price alone might mean that you end up with something that doesn’t provide you with optimal safety.
4. Medical Alert System Does Not Have Sufficient Range or Coverage
In an earlier point, we mentioned that home medical alert systems come with a specific range. Once the person wearing the button moves outside of this range, the device will not connect with the base therefore, help cannot be accessed in an emergency. It is essential that you choose a medical alert system that has enough range for you to remain safely in it when you are at home. This extends to time spent in the garden and on the boundary of the property.
There are also some home medical alert systems that have an even greater range, allowing you to leave the property and visit a neighbor while still being able to use the system.
This is a consideration for anyone buying a home alert system but even more important for those who live in a larger property. The range will be detailed within the product listing or you can speak to a service agent who will explain the reach on the device. Never be tempted to buy anything with a shorter range just to save a few pennies; your health and safety simply isn’t worth the risk.
If you have opted to use a device that works on a cellular network then you will need to consider how good the coverage is in your area. It is imperative that you have a strong and consistent signal for the device to work at all times. Each company will use a different cellular network so make sure to check the local coverage before committing.
5. Opting for Extras That May Not be Necessary
When you buy anything, companies will try to sell you add ons that you may not necessarily need. While medical alert systems are a necessity for many people, having every feature on offer might not be fitting with your needs.
There is no need to pay over the odds for services and add-ons that aren’t going to benefit you. In many cases, medical alert system companies are very flexible and offer a range of plans for differing needs. For example, there is no need to take an alert system with GPS tracking if you have excellent cognition and rarely leave your home.
Another thing that a lot of medical alert systems benefit from is fall detection and a lock box. These are handy features but may not be necessary for everyone. These typically come as extras on any given package and can be removed. By doing this, your monthly fee will be lower.
6. Being Pressurized by Sales Staff
The main aim of companies producing medical alert systems is to make a profit; regardless of the fact that these systems are designed to help people, business is business, at the end of the day. But this should not mean that the sales staff should put pressure on you to buy anything or opt into a contract that isn’t necessary for you.
There are some companies whose staff will behave in this way but it is essential that you have the knowledge and confidence to politely decline anything you don’t need. They may try to sell you something from a different angle and this is why it is a good idea to have a very clear picture of what you want in mind before talking to a sales agent.
The best medical alert companies won’t be pushy but will offer clear, helpful advice that allows you to choose the right system for you.
7. Choosing an Over Complicated Medical Alert System
For many people with health conditions and disabilities, physical or cognitive difficulties may limit the ability to use an over-complicated medical alert system. This can lead to the system being obsolete and unusable. It is therefore important to opt for a system with simple controls and easy to understand instructions.
People who are suffering with dementia may find it much more difficult to use and may become easily confused. A clear display screen and an easy to push button are essential.
You should also check whether the company offers an installation service. Many do, but for those that don’t, you should be looking for a medical alert system that can be quickly and easily installed.
In any case, you may want to check whether there are additional services that will help to ensure the system is installed and working correctly. For companies that install the system for you, it is important to find out whether they provide a demonstration on how to use the equipment. On the other hand, if your system must be self-installed, you’ll want to ensure that there is some kind of support desk you can call should you get stuck.
Finally, it is worth looking at how easily the buttons and controls are to operate. If you have limited dexterity, it is crucial that there are no stiff or difficult controls to use.
8. Choosing a Medical Alert Company with Poor Response Times
In the event of an emergency, your medical alert system will be your first port of call so it is vital that it provides you with the help you need as quickly as possible. A company whose response times are slow could mean the difference between life and death, in some cases.
This largely applies to monitored systems since those that are unmonitored rely on the speedy response of your chosen friend or family member. For monitored systems, you should spend some time researching online reviews and speak to other people who use the system. This will give you a good idea of how long you will need to wait for help to arrive.
But more than this, the first contact you receive is important. When you first receive the system, it is a good idea to test it out and see how quickly a call center assistant comes through. It may also be worth doing this to see how well the responder reacts to your situation; do they make you feel calm and ease your concern?
There are a lot of different nationalities living in the United States and not everyone here speaks English as a first language. Some don’t speak English at all. In these situations, it is vital that the medical alert system company offers a multilingual service that allows everyone to benefit from the assistance they provide. This information is usually given in online product listings and it is something you can ask when ordering the system. Even in the case that you speak English as a second language, you may find it easier to speak in your native tongue in an emergency.