How to Choose the Best Medical Alert System or PERS Device for Your Family
Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) are devices that can call for help at the press of a button. However, many people searching for PERS devices aren't sure whether a medical alert system will work with their lifestyles. If your loved one is active, lives alone, or tends to be accident-prone, it may be time to consider using a PERS device or other medical alert system.
But where are you to begin? Every device has different features, and contacts help differently. Some devices are cheap, and others are expensive, and some even charge a monthly service fee. Will a monitored device or a non-monitored device make more sense for your family? There are many things to consider when you're looking for a new medical alert device. Here's everything you need to know:
Do medical alert devices and PERS actually work?
In short, the answer is yes. All PERS devices are capable of calling for help in an emergency, meaning that they work as intended. However, "work" is a broad term, and what works for you might not work for someone else. With these devices, the devil is in the details, and it's essential to find a device that will work for you and your loved one's specific needs.
Some people won't use PERS devices if they're afraid they'll contact 911, so a non-monitored device that contacts a friend or family member may be a better fit. Others may not like the look of the equipment and refuse to wear it, so mountable systems would be the better choice. There are many reasons a loved one may avoid using a PERS device, so be sure to communicate and discuss their fears, wants, and needs in regards to this big purchase decision. After all, a medical alert device is useless when your loved one isn't wearing it or keeping it handy in case of an emergency.
Who can use PERS devices?
PERS devices are perfect for just about everyone, young and old. They offer peace of mind, safety assurance, and can even provide loved ones with more freedom and independence. PERS devices are great for:
- People who live alone
- Parents with young children
- Chronically ill or injured patients
- Hospice centers
- Empty nesters
- College Students and Teachers
- Joggers, Hikers, Bikers and Climbers
- Fishers and Hunters
- Real Estate Agents and Bank Tellers
- Hospitality Employees
- Or anyone who spends time by themselves
Monitored Vs. Non-monitored Systems
Monitored Devices: Emergency calls placed with these products are answered by a monitoring center that has all the important information about your medical needs and how to best get your help. Depending on the situation, the operators can dispatch 911 to your location and notify your friends, family, or caregivers. With monitored devices, it's essential to consider that you're dealing with a middle man instead of contacting someone for help directly. In fact, these devices are notorious for false-alarm calls to 911 operators, and in many cases some 911 centers to consider contact from medical alert companies to be non-emergency calls that might not get picked up immediately.
With monitored devices, remember:
- You have to wait for the monitoring service to pick up.
- You have to wait for them to collect information about your problem or accident, so your loved one needs to be able to speak clearly.
- You have to wait for the company to call 911 for you.
- Often more expensive
- Requires a subscription fee.
However, there are also benefits to using monitored devices:
- 24-Hour Monitoring & Support Services
- Automatic Monthly Testing
- 2-way voice communication through base and pendent
- Doesn't always require the use of a pendant
- Great if your loved one doesn't want to talk to 911 directly
- 3rd party operator already knows where you are and your relevant information, expediting the process of getting help
- Often easier to set up than non-monitored systems that require a phone line
- More features
Our favorite monitored device: LogicMark's CaretakerSentry
Non-monitored Devices: Non-monitored devices have no monthly fee since they aren't monitored by a 3rd party call center. By pressing a button, you can be connected to friends and family or directly to 911. When peace of mind means having friends, family, or 911 just a touch of a button away, a no monthly fee product is right for you.
- If you can't get a hold of friends or family, you have to dial 911.
- No 24-hr monitoring
- Can be challenging to set up
- Limited features
- Smaller range of coverage
- Don't require a monthly subscription fee. Pay for the device, and it's yours forever
- Direct communication with loved ones, friends, and neighbors
- Can save on the cost of emergency response by allowing friends and family to help instead
- Great for seniors who live alone but still lead a pretty active, individual lifestyle
- Automatically send calls out to friends family or to 911 when the help button signals are received
- More affordable
Our favorite non-monitored device: LogicMark's FreedomAlert
"I bought this for my parents years ago. I never wrote a review since it had never been needed until yesterday. My mom (92) slipped and fell flat on her face. The alert button was in her pocket, and she immediately pushed the button to alert my sister, who was nearby. She spent the night in the hospital while they ran tests and held her for observation. She was discharged today with an impressive shiner. Without the LogicMark alert system, she would have laid on the floor for hours until my sister returned from work. It worked perfectly, and I am so proud of Mom for keeping it on her person all of the time." - Colleen C. via Amazon.com
Mobile devices are different from the other two. Monitored and non-monitored devices are home-based systems that protect your loved one at home. But what about when they're out and about? Mobile devices are PERS devices that are simplistic in design, lightweight, and able to come along on just about every adventure. They work in several different ways. Some mobile devices rely on GPS and a paid cellular line while others piggyback on any cell signal they can pick up while out and about. If peace of mind for you is knowing that your loved ones can call for help in an emergency, a mobile solution is for you.
- Great for anyone who spends time on their own outside of the home
- Small and lightweight enough to go wherever you go
- Good battery life
- Offers a direct line to emergency services anywhere you have a cell signal.
- Often more simplistic in design, making them more comfortable for seniors to use
- Offers more freedom and independence as well as peace of mind knowing your loved one is protected wherever they go.
- May require an additional fee
- Cost more than average
- Usually only dials 911
Our favorite mobile device: LogicMark's Notifi911+
"My 93-year-old mother lives in an in-law apartment next to my brother and sister-in-law. Her mind is sharp, and she takes care of herself and the house independently, but she needs a walker to move around. We worry about what may happen when everyone else is out of the house, and there is an emergency. We considered other medical devices, but monthly fees and having to give a key to the fire department or police station didn't go over well. The Notifi911+ is the perfect solution. I recommend the Notifi911+ for the safety of any impaired person" - Review via Walmart.com
Tips for picking out a new PERS device:
Not all medical alert systems are created equal. Additionally, there are a ton of features for these devices that may not make sense for you or your loved one's needs. The best thing you can do is be informed and try a few devices before settling on one. Here are a few tips for new buyers:
- You probably don't need a device with fall protection. Many people choose devices will fall protection for their loved ones. However, these devices are notorious for false alarms. If you move your arm the wrong way, the device may register it as a fall and send emergency responders to your house. This can discourage your loved one from wearing the device at all as they go on with their normal active lifestyles, effectively making the device useless. Medical alert devices with fall detection are a good option if your loved one is entirely immobile or bedridden. However, you can also save a few bucks by simply mounting an emergency wall communicator near the bed, floor, or in the bathroom.
- Not all PERS devices have to be monitored by a 3rd party company. A common misconception about medical alert systems is that they're always monitored and require a subscription or service fee. There are hundreds of devices out there that are monitored by friends and family members or not at all. These devices allow the wearer or user to call 911 in an emergency instead of the central station. Some can be programmed to dial friends or family members, alternatively. These devices are often more affordable and provide a more personal approach. Best of all, you should only ever have to pay for the device itself and a landline, never any contracts or subscription dues.
- Avoid signing contracts. Since PERS devices and other medical alert systems are often purchased because of an emotional response to an injury, many companies will hike up their prices and lock you in for services you may not need. Most likely, you'll pay the price, because the safety of your loved ones comes first. We suggest avoiding contract agreements. Contracts lock you into a guaranteed pay structure for several years. However, you might not need the device for all that time, or your financial situation may change, rendering the usefulness of the device to zero.
- Try the devices you're interested in. If you reach out to medical alert companies and request to try a device, they're generally happy to oblige. We recommend avoiding companies and monitoring services that don't allow you to trial the device and service. These devices will become a pretty permanent fixture, so you must like the device and understand how it works. Try before you buy.
- Test your PERS device. When you trial new devices and monitoring services, be sure to test it. You should make sure your buttons are functional and easy to use by pressing the emergency button multiple times quickly. You should also make sure you get in touch with someone fast. You want to work with a monitoring company that responds in 30 seconds to a minute, never anything more. Test the device multiple times per day during your trial and make sure the central station is finding your location easily. If the device can't find your location well or the monitoring company consistently takes more than 30 seconds to answer calls, return the device, and keep looking.
- Don't forget to leave your information with the monitoring company. Most monitored PERS devices require you to leave a list of contact information and relevant personal information so they can better assist your loved one in an emergency, such as a fall. Be as thorough as you can, and include your loved one's medical conditions, medications, dosages and frequency, as well as ways to access the home, pets in the house, and other emergency contact information. Remember, the more information you give; the better emergency responders can assist you.
- Use multiple devices for complete protection. Many personal emergency response systems cover the home and surrounding yard using a landline. Others work via cell signal. If you want to ensure full protection, you should always opt for a device that works on the go, too. The Notifi911+ is a great mobile option for calling 911 in an emergency. It doesn't require any additional services and can be kept in a purse, backpack, automobile, or pocket for protection wherever you go. Best of all, it's one of the most affordable buttons on the market. Another great way to add protection is to utilize extra pendants and emergency wall communicators by mounting them in high-risk areas. This way, if your loved one ever has an accident without their device or cell phone, they can still call for help without having to drag themselves into another room or up a flight of stairs with an injury.
- Price matters. While medical alert systems are essential, they shouldn't break your bank or cost you an arm and a leg. Always avoid spending more than you can afford on a medical alert device. There are hundreds of options at all price points that provide excellent results. Odds are, you don't need the tech-est equipment anyway. Additionally, if affordability is an issue you can look into local grants and talk with your provider about payment plans. Free and low-cost PERS devices are also available through the VA as well as many senior outreach companies.