Choose medical alert services carefully

Medical alert devices are a beneficial life saving tool that can assist seniors in the event of a fall, and/or medical emergency. With a properly set up system, assistance can be dispatched within minutes. Most seniors want to live at home and keep their independence as long as possible. Medical alert systems are generally easy to activate and provide peace of mind both for seniors and their families.

Recently, a long-term friend contacted me about problems she was having with her medical device company. My friend told me that a technician/salesperson came to her home and installed a monitoring system after she signed a three-year contract.

Soon after the installation, my friend began to experience an unusual debilitating feeling and thought she was having a heart attack and ultimately went to a neurologist. She was told the alert system interfered with her heart monitor, causing twitching in her left hand and chest. The system was disconnected and the company was advised of the device’s affect on her. But the company was not sympathetic to her situation – they wanted a $300 disconnect fee and continued to bill $40 a month for the disconnected system. Letters went unanswered, the billing continued, so she was forced to close her credit card account.

When I first heard my friend’s story I thought the monitoring company may have legal exposure for whatever harm my friend incurred because of their device and I anticipated they would try to mitigate their exposure by canceling the contract and not bill her. I did not believe the company was so consumer-insensitive. After further research, I learned that the company uses a high pressure sales technique and has been sued in California for violation of consumer protection laws.

The medical monitoring business is very competitive; this company is not the only one to use high-pressure sign-up tactics. Seniors must stay alert, be diligent and read what they sign.

When selecting a medical monitoring alert system, seniors should make sure the monitoring device being installed is compatible with their internal electrical system such as a heart pacemaker. Seniors should pick a company that has low or no activation charges, a contract no longer than a year with a reasonable cancellation policy, free spouse coverage and a price guarantee.

Here is a list of medical monitoring companies that you can review on the Internet: American Senior Safety Agency; ADT companion service; Alert 1; Life Alert; Lifefone; Lifeline; Life Response USA; Life Station; Life Watch USA; (AKA Connect America); Medical Guardian; MediPendant.

Remember, be cautious, do not make a rash decision. Read the agreements and make sure the system is installed correctly and does not interfere with your existing personal medical devices.

Finally, do not give the company automatic credit card authority. You should be billed monthly.

Leonard Kelley is the Older Persons Action Group board president.

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