If you're in the market to buy a medical alert system, you'll likely be dazzled by the sheer volume of products, devices, features and claims of greatness. There is no shortage of choices, that's for sure.
Unfortunately, not all medical alert solutions are created equal. In fact, some can be down right horrible. Make the wrong choice and you could get stuck with price increases, broken promises, faulty equipment and unbreakable contracts with no cancellation options.
It's All About the Company
The one thing experts will agree on, is that the most important consideration when choosing a medical alert system is the company itself, not the device.
While choosing between a landline, cellular, mobile or smartwatch is important, most companies offer each of those options. In fact, the hidden secret in the industry, is that many companies actually use the exact same equipment and emergency response centers. They buy their hardware from the same companies and outsource their emergency response centers to the same companies.
So, if much of the equipment is the same, and many of the emergency response centers are the same, what separates one medical alert offering from the next? It's the company - customer service, contracts, terms and pricing. Some companies behave like they're in the direct marketing industry, others behave like they're in healthcare. Some companies treat their customers like widgets, while others treat their customers like human beings.
Unfortunately, the medical alert industry is riddled with companies that have tried to exploit the trust and vulnerability of seniors. Some of these companies can even be big name brands advertising on TV, that lock customers into long term contracts. There are countless horror stories of seniors who get a medical alert system, find out they don't like it, or don't need it any longer, and get stuck paying a monthly bill for the next 3 years.
That's why we think it's essential you only deal with reputable medical alert companies (you can find some of them on our recommended list here).
Here are some questions you can ask to help you separate the good from the bad medical alert companies:
- Can I cancel my contract at any time?
- Do I have to pay any fees upon cancellation of my contract?
- If I cancel my contract do I have to pay for return shipping? Restocking charges?
- If I prepaid for the year, do I get the unused portion refunded upon cancellation? Are there any financial adjustments made?
Note: We highly recommend you only deal with companies that allow you to cancel your contract with no strings or fees attached.
- If there is a long term contract:
- How long does it last?
- Under what conditions can it be cancelled, if any?
- What proof is required to show that I meet the conditions of cancellation (e.g. copy of death certificate, letter from nursing home)?
- If the contract is under my name and my mother meets the conditions for cancellation (dies or goes into nursing home), but I don't, can the contract still be cancelled?
- Is my monthly price guaranteed, or can it increase?
- If other people's prices have increased, by how much and how long after they subscribed?
- What happens if my equipment stops working?
- Will it be replaced for free?
- How long will it take to be replaced?
- What happens if my cellular medical alert system doesn't get a signal in my house?
- Are you using 3G or 4G cellular technology? (You should only accept 4G)
- Are there any charges for pressing the emergency button, or can it be pressed an unlimited amount of times?