“Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” All of us have probably seen that TV commercial hundreds of times. While that advertisement and others like it are usually dated, the type of technology they’re selling may actually be able to save you money. Medical alert systems have come a long way from the original versions that were made decades ago. They have many new options and features that can make them even more useful. But whether they’re worth your while depends on severable variables. Here’s what you should consider:

LifeStation Difference

What’s the Alternative?

If you’re considering a medical alert system for an aging relative, you’re not alone.

Such a device can be an affordable solution to what would otherwise be a much more expensive proposition.

If a relative simply needs a way to contact someone for help in case of a rare emergency, getting an alert system is a significantly cheaper option than moving your loved one to a senior living community or an assisted-living facility.

While the pricing on medical alert systems varies from company to company and is based on the capabilities of the system, you can expect a monthly fee of at least $25 to as much as $75 in addition to any up-front device fees. While this isn’t exactly inexpensive, it is much less costly than the alternative.


Would Something Cheaper Work?

Not everyone needs a medical alert system. It may be cheaper to buy digital assistants for the home, such as Google Home Minis. But bear in mind that these may not work if the power goes out.

Another option may be a cell-enabled type device like the Republic Wireless Relay. It’s essentially a walkie-talkie that uses Wi-Fi and cell towers to connect and has GPS tracking as well. Give one to your relative, and keep one with you at all times. If your relative needs anything, he or she simply presses a button to speak with you. The monthly service fee is only $6.99 per device, so two will run you just $13.98, plus the cost of the device.


How to Choose a Medical Alert System

If you do decide to purchase a medical alert system, make sure you compare the different brands available. You’ll want to determine if the devices fit your relative’s lifestyle.

  • Can they be worn on the wrist, hung on a necklace, or put in a pocket?
  • Are the devices voice activated, or do you need to press a button?
  • Will the device’s range cover the area of the whole house and yard?
  • Can the devices be used anywhere or just around the house?

You should also look closely at other features that could save your relative’s life in certain situations.

  • Can the device use mobile 911 to call the local 911 provider?
  • Does the device automatically sense falls and call for help?

And of course, you’ll want to consider the financial aspect of any system you consider buying.

  • What is the monthly service fee? Is the fee different if you use a landline telephone or a cell phone?
  • Does the service charge extra to be used out of the home using GPS technology?
  • Is there a minimum service contract that you must sign up for? If so, what is the cancellation policy?
  • Is there an activation fee?

The Bottom Line on Medical Alert Systems

A medical alert system could be a cheaper alternative to getting round-the-clock assistance for a loved one that only needs a way to contact someone in case of an emergency. However, its lower cost shouldn’t be used as a rationalization to let someone live alone when she’s not capable of caring for herself.

Make sure you investigate all your options and get feedback from your relative in order to pick a medical alert service that she’ll actually use. After all, it won’t help anyone if you buy a system that your relative doesn’t like and won’t use, even if it is the best deal out there.

Further Reading: “5 Questions to Ask Your Parents About Retirement Planning”