Commonly Asked Questions on Medical Alert Systems

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Q: Do I need to sign a contract that locks me into a particular medical alert system for an extended period of time?

A: The answer to this depends on which system you choose.  Some systems require you to sign for a year-long contract.  Fortunately there are many great systems that do not require a long term contract and allow you to cancel your service at any time without penalties.   At this site we try to highlight which companies require a long term contract and which companies are month to month.

Q: Does the medical alert systems come with a guarantee or warranty?

A: Almost every medical alert system that has a monthly service covers the costs of the equipment and you should never be charged for repairs, parts, labor and service. There may be a charge if the unit or transmitter is lost.

Q: I usually keep my door locked; will whoever responds to my distress call have to break down my door in case of an emergency?

A: No, because there are a few things that can be done to ensure that it is not necessary to break into your house to get you help. You can:

  • give your medical alert system provider a list of people within the general vicinity of your home who have a copy of your house key.
  • provide to your medical alert system provider a spot  outside of your residence where you have a hidden house key.
  • set up a lock box outside your home and provide your medical alert system provider with the combination necessary to open the lock box and retrieve the house key.

Q: What size is the emergency button (transmitter) and how do I wear it?

A: Most transmitter are reasonably small compared to the size of a matchbook and are generally worn around the neck as a pendant, on the wrist as a watch, as a chest strap, or clipped on to your belt.

Q: I have trouble hearing so in an emergency I may not be able to hear the monitoring station. Is this a problem?

A: This is not a problem.  If a medical alert call centre professional cannot reach you via the medical alert system, they would typically try to phone you.  If that fails and there is still no reply they would typically follow the response procedure that is set up for you and summon the appropriate prearranged help.

Q:What if I have an emergency and for some reason the emergency call centre professional cannot hear me?

A: This is not a problem since if a medical alert call centre professional cannot hear you then emergency help is quickly dispatched.  Every call is treated as an emergency unless you tell them otherwise.

Q: How much do medical alert systems cost?

A: Medical alert systems typically provide the equipment and monitoring service at one monthly fee ranging from about $28.00 a month to about $36.00 a month.  Some systems charge an installation fee but we advise avoiding this cost as all the systems we have seen are relatively simple to install.  Some systems provide optional accessories and other value added services for a few extra dollars a month.  While these accessories are not required for the system to work as designed, the convenience and extra features of these accessories should be individually evaluated to determine if they are needed for your specific needs.

Q: What are the typical additional accessories that some medical alert systems may offer?

A: Some medical alert systems provide the following optional equipment and monitoring service. (Note: not all companies provide these services)

  • Lock box – used to allow caregivers and emergency responders access to you in your home if the door is locked and you have summoned help.
  • Hallway Help Buttons – used to provide easy access to the emergency button for times when you have taken off or misplaced your personal help button.
  • 911 Phone Access – some medical alert transmitters allow direct contact to your local 911 emergency service even when you are away from your home.
  • Activity Assurance – some companies provide a service that call in every day to check on each client to ensure that all is well.
  • Additional Emergency Transmitters – used to allow additional users living in the same home and who may need the service access to the same medical alert system and plan

Q: I spend part of the year in a different location or I am planning to move soon. Do I need to get a separate medical alert response system for every location I’m at?

A: Definitely not.  The medical alert systems are typically very portable and you can take your system with you to your new location.  Just don’t forget to notify your medical alert system provider about your new location and setup a new response procedure that is specific for your new location.

Q: Do Medical Alert Systems use voice to voice (2-way) communication?

A: Yes. The system has a built-in speaker and microphone enabling you to establish 2-way (voice-to-voice) communication with the call centre operators.

Q: Is there a charge if I accidentally set off the system?

A:
Almost every medical alert system that we have seen does not have a charge per call so there is no cost for pressing the button by accident.  Just make sure that if the emergency button is pressed that you answer the operator and let them know that the button was activated by accident.   In fact it is our recommendation that you periodically press the emergency button to test the system to ensure that it is working as designed.

Q: Must I have a medical emergency to use my Medical Alert System?

A:
No, we suggest that in addition to a medical emergency you should use the system if you feel unsafe for any reason, have a house fire, see an intruder in your home, or as mentioned before just to routinely test the system to verify that it works well.  Also if you have any question on how the system works just push the emergency button and ask the operator your specific question.

Q: Do most medical alert systems monitor for burglar and fire alarms?

A:
No, most medical alert systems do not monitor a home for burglars or fires as the operators are usually trained to respond to medical emergencies.   That being the case if you are at your home and see a burglar or a house fire do not hesitate to press your emergency button and the operator will be able to dispatch the appropriate help and stay on the line with you till help arrives.

Q: Can I wear the pendant (transmitter) when I am in the shower or bathtub?

A:
Almost every system that we reviewed has their transmitter in a waterproof casing which is designed to be submerged or exposed to water for a prolonged period of time.  This is a very important feature of a medical alert system as accidents can and do often occur in showers and tub.

Q: In the event of an emergency, who is called first? My family or 911?

A:
It depends on the type of emergency, if the operator can communicate with you, and the prearranged response procedure that you have setup with your account.   Most medical alert system providers are able to arrange with you the best response plan based on different levels of emergencies.

Q: Can the medical alert system care center notify my Doctor or Hospital if needed?

A:
Yes, a response plan can be customized to notify any person or persons you need.  A list of potential contacts include your doctor, hospital, police, fire, ambulance, friends, family or neighbors. You are typically not limited to the number of responders.  In the event you forget a contact but are coherent during your emergency you can always specify at that time the contact you need to reach and the call centre will contact that person.

Q: Are medical alert systems designed only for the frail or elderly?

A:
No, while a large amount of systems are sold to those who are older and still want to maintain their independence a medical alert system is designed to serve many other clients who may be recuperating from surgery or injury or those who are prone to sudden disability due to a health condition.

Q: Will using the medical alert system cause me to have a higher phone bill?

A:
No, Almost all the systems we reviewed use a toll-free number to get through to the operator at the Response Center.

Q: How difficult is it to use a medical alert system?

A: Set up of the system is fairly straight forward.  Most medical alert system need to be plugged into a phone line and power supply.   Once the system is setup the use of the system is even easier.  All the systems that we have reviewed have an easy identifiable buttons to press in an emergency situation.   If you have any additional question about your system we recommend pushing the button and asking the response operator at the call centre your specific question.

Q: How far away from the home unit will the medical alert system button work?

A: Most medical alert systems are designed to work anywhere in your home and just outside your home.  Each company has different specification but assuming minimal interference the range is typically from 300 feet to 600 feet from your base unit.   Additionally some systems have a 911 phone access which allows you to contact your  local 911 emergency service with the same coverage area of a typical cell phone .

Q: What if there is a power outage?

A:
Almost every system available has a power failure battery backup system in the event of a power failure.  Typically these batteries last from 30 to 80 hours in a power outage. When the power is restored the batteries are automatically recharged.

Q: Can I order a system for a family member but take care of the cost myself?

A:
Yes, this is a common transaction where one person orders and pays for an alert system for a close friend or family member to use.

Q: Do most companies provide free shipping of the medical alert systems?

A: Yes, free shipping is common for most medical alert providers for both delivery and returns.

Q: How do I tell if the medical alert company I have chosen is reputable and will provide good service?

A: We believe that there are two important factors in looking for a company with a high reputation. They are the years in business and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating of the company.  Our opinion is that a company that has been in business for five or more years and has a BBB rating of A- or better should provide you with sufficient service and customer satisfaction. 

Q: What hours of operation does a monitoring center have?

A: The monitoring center for medical alert systems are available 24 hours a day, year round ready for any emergency.   Some medical alert systems may have reduced hours for non emergency customer support or account info inquiries.

Q: Are emergency alarms handled by live operators?

A: All the medical alert systems that we have reviewed on this site have live, trained professionals who answer your emergency call and respond in an appropriate manner to ensure your safety and well-being.

Q: Who should I specify for my emergency contacts?

A: We recommend that you add the following people to your emergency contact list and based on the type of emergency the call centre can dispatch the appropriate assistance and/or keep your contacts in the loop to the severity of the incident.

  • Neighbor or someone you trust who lives in close proximity
  • Family members (both local and out of state)
  • Family Doctor

Q: What if I am on the phone when I need to use my pendant?

A: If you or someone else is on the telephone which is connected to the same line as your medical alert unit, most medical monitoring system will automatically disconnect your call and make a new emergency connection to the medical alert call centre.

Q: Which medical alert systems is the best system?

A: This answer varies based on each person’s individual needs and requirements.   We recommend that you compare the features that each system offers and select a system that best suit your personal needs.

The rankings of systems on this site are affected from feedback coming from users like yourself.  If you purchase a medical alert system please come back to rank and leave a review of the product.

Q: From where and what source is the medical alert information on this site gathered?

A: The medical alert system information compiled on this site was gathered from each respective website and also conversations with their sales reps.   As these companies change their products and services from time to time information on this site may change without notice to reflect these new updates. If you are a representative of one of the companies reviewed and would like to update any information please contact us.

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