A Call for Help!

Question:  My mother lives alone and is prone to falling.  We want to be sure that she can get help if she falls or has some other type of emergency.  Where do we start?

Answer:  In today’s society we are very fortunate that we have the technology to offer good solutions to this type of problem.  There are many monitoring companies that offer systems that a senior adult or disabled person can use to summon help when an emergency occurs.  These companies offer an array of services that can provide an effective way of contacting help.  The problem is how to make the best choice. 

There are definite considerations that need to be explored before making a decision as to which emergency alert monitoring system is the right choice.  Hospital or medical professional recommendations may not be reliable as they may be influenced by monitoring company compensation rather than what is the best program for the customer.

Medical alert monitoring companies typically provide a customer with a console or receiver and a help or panic button.  The button normally is in the form of a neck pendant, belt clip or wrist band.  Assistance is summoned by pressing the button if an emergency occurs.  The response to the call may differ from company to company.  Some companies may immediately contact emergency services in the area.  Most companies communicate with the customer through the console and then decide on subsequent action.  Other services that may be offered include bathroom or hallway help buttons, lock boxes for emergency entry keys, GPS locators, voice extenders for better communication, fall detectors, additional user provisions and daily activity assurance calls.

When making the decision as to which company to select, the following questions should be considered:

  • Does the company manage its own services or contract with another company to provide services?  Responsibility and accountability for quality service may be difficult if a third party actually delivers the service,
  • Where is the location of the call center for the company?  If the call center is located outside the United States, language barriers may prove to be a difficulty when determining the need for help and staff training may be questionable,
  • Is the monitoring center UL (Underwriters Laboratory) certified?  UL certification requires compliance to strong standards that the centers must follow?
  • Does the monitoring center have 24/7 coverage with sufficient staff to make a quick response to the customer call and make the emergency 911 request while remaining on the line to comfort the customer?
  • Does the company offer 24/7 technical support if there is an equipment failure?
  • Does the monitoring center immediately contacts 911 or offer prearranged procedures to cancel a mistaken call or contact family or friends, if the customer cannot be contacted?
  • Has the company provided monitoring services for a substantial number of years and is this their primary business?

The equipment provided by the company is very important when considering the reliability of the service.  The factors to be considered concerning the equipment should include:  the range of the console, since a shorter range may be too restrictive; if the monitoring center offers automatic testing of  the equipment on a regular schedule; the  ease of use of the equipment with features such as lighted buttons and low battery notification; whether the company offers free equipment repair or replacement with 24/7 customer service; and if the company provides a standby battery in case of battery power failure.

An essential consideration of any monitoring company service is the cost and contract requirements.  It is always best to avoid long term contracts.  Circumstances can change and the service may no longer be required or wanted.  Look for service agreements which do not require installation fees, equipment shipping fees and monthly monitor rental costs.  Monthly service fees should be the only cost.  Be sure to understand the cancellation policy of any service agreement and avoid agreements which require cancellation penalties or equipment return shipping costs.  Termination of service should be immediate without required minimum 90 to 120 pre-payment prior to termination.  The average cost of monitoring service is $1.00 per day.  Be cautious of services charging less.  You may not get adequate service.

The last and most important consideration is whether the customer really wants the service and will use it.  Many older adults refuse to use the devices provided and will not request help even when available to them for a variety of reasons including embarrassment or fear of damage to their homes. 

To find out more about emergency alert monitoring systems and checkout the various companies, please refer to www.topconsumerreviews.com