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Purchasing or Leasing Personal Emergency Response Systems

Bernadette lives alone and after a recent fall, the family realized she had no way to contact them or dial 911.  Her daughter started to investigate various emergency alarm products.  In her search, she located a few systems to purchase along with many systems that require a monthly payment.  Instead of the models that had an up-front charge along with a monthly bill, the one she decided on was a one-time purchase model.  When her mother presses the button, it automatically calls the emergency list of family members or goes straight to 911.



The purpose of any alert system is to give a sense of security for the senior and family without fear of accidents or other medical emergencies.  The senior simply presses the medical alarm button to summon assistance.  These systems can often mean the difference between life and death during a crisis.  For example, falling, choking, delirium, or panic due to the threat of an intruder.

The best known Personal Emergency Response System is referred to as “I have fallen and I cannot get up” from the television advertisements.  When the button is pressed the majority of the calls go directly to the call center instead of the family.  There is an activation fee plus monthly charge $19-40 per month. The higher the price, the more bells and whistles that are available.  You may choose from Life Alert, LifeStation, Medical Alert, MobileHelp, Philips Lifeline, and Rescue Alert that are all rated by

The less well-known format is to purchase a unit with only one-time fee of $90 – $300, and no monthly fee.

The one-time purchase unit is available through Costco, Walmart, and Amazon.  Assistive Technology Service, Bay Alarm Medical, and Logic Mark are all companies that offer various models.

The advantages to “Monitor for Purchase” include:

  • Less expensive than the monthly fee models which might be more affordable for seniors on a limited income;
  • The range of the distance from the base ranges from 600 feet to up to a mile;
  • There are no hidden costs, no set-up fee, no activation charge , and no contract;
  • The system requires a land line or cell phone;
  • If the call is received by the caregiver who is familiar with the client’s routine, there is no call center on the other side of the country to do medical intervention;
  • When the alarm button is pressed in the case of an emergency, the call can include just 911 or up to 5 family members and friends.  These programed numbers are usually dialed in a systematic order until someone is reached;
  • The pendent is water resistant designed to be worn during a bath.
The disadvantages to “Monitor for Purchase” include:
  • It only works inside the residence – not down the block if the senior enjoys a walk;
  • The time for assistance may be delayed if no one is available to receive the call;
  • If the model you purchase is setup to call 911, an ambulance maybe sent which would incur the cost of the emergency trip to the hospital;
  • The call is not routed to a call center with trained medical technicians who would evaluate the situation and set a plan of action immediately.

Every system has different features, so be sure to check them out before purchasing.  Since the apparatus requires no contract, it can be returned within the return policy from the store where you purchased it.

~ Karen Owen-Lee does not endorse any of the manufacturers or devices mentioned in this article. ~

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