In May, we mentioned that all seniors should have a fall detection wearable. These wearables can detect if you or a loved one has had an accident and notify the appropriate caregivers and authorities of the accident. The broad category of these devices is called “medical alert systems“. Unfortunately, it’s quite difficult to select a medical alert system. There are dozens of products out there, each with dozens of features. Our focus today is providing some clarity on what these systems do and how to think about selecting the best one for you.
Medical alert systems have functionality beyond just fall detection. Some useful features that we have seen include:
- Monitoring Center – staff who monitor for emergencies and contact you and the appropriate emergency personnel if necessary
- GPS Monitoring – tracks your location so that your loved ones have peace of mind knowing that you’re in a safe location
- Smoke Detection – provides a secondary detection of smoke beyond your house or apartment’s smoke detectors, especially if you are asleep
- CO Detection – provides a secondary detection of carbon monoxide, an odorless gas that is very dangerous
- Wall Mounted Alert Buttons – buttons placed in strategic locations around your home so that you can press it in case of an emergency
However, there are other factors in selecting a medical alert system beyond just features. Most systems will boast to offer these features so it may be hard to tell them apart. Here are some additional areas you should think about when selecting a system.
- Battery life – many the small wearables have limited battery life. You don’t want to have to remember to charge these frequently so pick one that real customers have verified to have long battery life
- Range – many systems work by having a “base station” that the peripherals communicate with. As a result, your wearables only work while in the range of this base system so you will want to select one that has a wide range. There are also some systems that provide access to certain features without being in the area of a base station but these will usually charge a cellular fee.
- Check Ins – some providers send technicians to your home on a periodic basis to ensure your systems are working properly. This can be a really helpful service since as we all know technology can be finicky at times.
- Comfort of Wearables – some wearables are smaller and more comfortable to keep on your person than others. Choose one that fits your personal style and needs.
- Family Plans – similar to cellular plans, some providers allow you to add on a spouse or others living in your home to one plan at a reduced cost
- Payment & Fees – choose a provider that is clear and upfront about their fees. Some less reputable firms will try to hide fees from you. Typically there is an initial fee for the equipment and setup and a recurring monthly subscription fee for the monitoring services. Also be aware that some firms have a cancellation fee.
Given that there are so many different providers and so many facets to evaluate these systems, we looked for experts who have done the due diligence for you. In reviewing these experts, we looked at their evaluation methodology and the general usefulness of their reviews. These websites are where we suggest you start looking if you are researching medical alert systems.
Our Top Pick: Reviews.com
Reviews.com is an extremely well known and thorough reviews website. Their in-house experts periodically survey the entire landscape and compare a large number of systems using a well thought out set of criteria. Through “over 100 hours of talking with elder-care experts, digging into service agreements, and hand-testing the top contenders,” Reviews.com provides a detailed analysis of their top picks for medical alert systems. Their initial evaluation consisted of 69 different systems and their team eventually recommend two top contenders based on many key factors.
Our #2 Pick: ReviewsBee.com
ReviewsBee.com takes a slightly different approach to evaluating their providers. Their experts aggregate data from other expert review websites and consumer review sites and use a proprietary review algorithm to determine which products are the best. This is an interesting approach because they are able to leverage the power of crowdsourcing to develop an unbiased opinion.
Honorable Mention: TopTenReviews.com
TopTenReviews provides numerical rankings based on various features and decision criteria for the 10 most popular medical alerts systems. Their website provides a detailed explanation of each feature or criteria and how they thought about the importance of each one.
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