“Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

You have probably heard some variation of this iconic TV commercial hundreds of times. While this advertisement and others like it are fairly dated, the type of technology they’re selling has been continuously updated since its introduction in the late ’80s. Better yet, these systems might be able to save you some money in helping to care for a parent or other relative.

Do you or a loved one struggle with #healthissues ? Check out the costs and benefits of #medicalalertsystems to see if they'd work for you.These days, medical alert systems have many new options and features that make them even more effective. But whether they’re worth your while depends on several variables.

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Medical Alert Costs

If you’re considering a medical alert system for an aging relative, you’re not alone. This technology is often presented as an affordable solution to what would otherwise be a much more expensive proposition.

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

The cost of medical alert systems varies from company to company and is based on the capabilities of the system.

However, you can expect a monthly fee of $20 or more in addition to any up-front device fees. This price range is due to the wide variety of services offered.

Some systems offer features for older individuals on the go, like GPS and fall-detection technology, while others, more suited for aging individuals who lead a more sedentary lifestyle, are installed solely in the home. Though medical alert costs aren’t exactly inexpensive, they are far more affordable than the alternative.

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Would Something Cheaper Work?

Not everyone needs a medical alert system. It may be cheaper to buy a digital assistant for the home, such as a Google Home Mini. But bear in mind that these may not work if the power goes out, and can be difficult for an aging relative to use.

“No matter how simple they are, the majority of seniors still have trouble figuring out how smart home devices work,” says Dr. Nikola Djordjevic.

“And many of these devices do not have a battery, so they need to be plugged in all times and, therefore, have no backup in the event of a blackout.”

Another option may be a cell-enabled type device. 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 a pair will run you just $13.98, plus the cost of the devices.

How to Choose a Medical Alert System

If you 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.

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  • Can the device be worn on the wrist, hung around the neck, 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 for using it outside of the home with 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?

Medical Alert Costs and Benefits: The Bottom Line

A medical alert system could be a cheaper alternative to getting round-the-clock assistance for a loved one who only needs a way to contact someone in case of an emergency. However, its lower cost shouldn’t be an excuse to let aging relatives live alone if they are not capable of caring for themselves.

Make sure you investigate all your options and get feedback from your relative in order to pick a medical alert service that he or she will actually use. Regardless of the deal you may score on a lower-priced system, its effectiveness will be rendered null if your loved one can’t or won’t use it — especially if there’s an emergency.

Additional reporting by Kelly Meehan Brown.