A personal emergency response system (PERS), often called a medical alert system, can help seniors maintain a degree of independence without sacrificing the peace of mind of family and friends concerned for their health and well-being.

There are many medical alert system options available and before choosing the one best suited to your situation or that of a loved one, it is important to understand the factors that may contribute to your system choice.

System Functionality – What Can the System Do for You

When choosing a medical alert system, it is important that the system you choose meets your expectations in terms of functionality.

You are investing in this system to provide care and alleviate safety concerns and because of this, functionality is critically important. Consider how you expect the system of choice to function in terms of the following points:


  1. Signal for assistance – Can the system call for help? Many medical alert systems include an element of emergency response connectivity. For example, wearable medical alert devices may feature a button that can be pressed to alert emergency services of an immediate medical need.
  2. Fall detection – Can the system detect when a fall has taken place? As perhaps the most common medical emergency, fall detection can help provide important medical assistance.
  3. Medical, fitness, and activity monitoring – Does the system feature automated medical reminders or monitor vital signs? Does it monitor activity and movement?
  4. Daily check-in function – Is there a daily check-in setting that can be enabled? This function may be a phone call or electronic check-in through the medical alert system.
  5. Home security monitoring – Does the system connect to or provide home security monitoring for things like smoke, fire, and carbon monoxide?
  6. Family connectivity – Is there a function included in the system that alerts the family of a medical emergency?
  7. System responsiveness – Is the response time of the system fast? Seconds, rather than minutes. Are the response center personnel knowledgeable and able to communicate effectively?
  8. Call routing – Does the function exist to route emergent and non-emergent calls appropriately to the proper emergency response professionals (fire, police, medical)?
  9. Customer service – Is there 24/7 live customer service to assist as needed?

Medical Alert System Equipment – What Equipment Is Needed For The System To Work Properly?

Whether the system includes a wearable element, activity beacons around the home, or a combination thereof, it is important to consider the equipment involved in the installation and function of


the medical alert system you choose. Ease of installation and use are impacted by the equipment involved.

  1. Wearable devices – Is there a wearable element that is easy to access and comfortable for the wearer?
  2. Waterproof – Is the wearable device waterproof? This is important, as slips and falls in wet showers or on wet floors may be a concern.
  3. What is the range of the system? – It is important to choose a device that has a signal range that works for your specific needs. Find out how far from the base unit the wearer can travel and still maintain a strong signal. Can it reach out to the garage, driveway, and mailbox?
  4. Quality – Is the device durable? Can it handle being dropped and is the technology used in the device up-to-date, to be supported for a reasonable amount of time?
  5. Battery life – How long is the battery life of the device? Is it fast charging? Is there an alert when the battery runs low?
  6. Mobility – Is the system easy to un- and re-install, should the need to move arise?
  7. Lockbox – Does the system include a secure lockbox that can be accessed by emergency responders to enter the home, should the wearer be unresponsive or incapacitated when help arrives?

What Will The System Cost To Use?

It is important to have a very clear understanding of the upfront and ongoing costs associated with the installation, use, and maintenance of a personal emergency response system.

Be sure to ask for an outline of items included, as well as itemized billing statements to ensure that all costs are accurate and transparent.


  1. Equipment purchase or leasing fees – The more equipment needed to run the system, the potentially higher the cost of initial purchase. Some companies may offer equipment leasing options.
  2. Installation fees – Find out how much it will cost to have the system installed by a professional. Do you have the option of installing the system on your own to lower the cost?
  3. Monthly operating fees – After installation and the purchase of equipment, how much will it cost to maintain the system? Monthly fees may range from $25 to $50 per month. Review all contracts in order to best understand what the policies are on temporarily disabling the system.
  4. Discounts – Ask for information on discounted rates for equipment, installation, and system maintenance. Discounts may be available for veterans, multiple users in the home, and members of specific organizations.
  5. Insurance – Private insurance and Medicare benefits will not cover the costs associated with a medical alert system. Medicaid may cover at least part of the cost. Contact your insurance company to see if there are discounts or referrals available. Similarly, burial life insurance is something you must buy. Medicare and Medicaid do not cover burial expenses.
  6. Tax-deductible – Ask your tax professional about any tax deductions on expenses deemed medically necessary.

Local Availability And System Support

There are many medical alert system providers that operate nationally but with that, it is important to ensure that there is local support for your medical alert system.

Local companies may be available in your area, some of which may support national brands. Make sure, when choosing a system, you choose one that offers local technology and equipment support. Just like when you’re shopping for senior citizen funeral insurance, you need to consider all the variables.

Research your options online, contact your local center for the aging, review consumer reports, and ask for referrals. There are many resources available to you when gathering information on your medical alert system options, be sure to use all of that is out there when making this important decision.