The 9 Best Medical Alert Systems
- Medical Guardian – Best Overall Value
- Bay Alarm Medical – Most Affordable
- Philips Lifeline – Easiest to Use
- GreatCall Lively – Fast Call Response Time
- LifeFone – Free Spouse Coverage
- LifeStation – Low Monthly Fees
- ResponseNow – Best Battery Life
- QMedic – Smartest Medical Alert System
- Alert1 – Best Cellular Coverage
Who Am I?
My name is Amie Clark, and I have 20 years of experience in various senior care roles in skilled nursing facilities in Oregon, and later, as a Senior Housing Advisor I helped seniors and their families find the best housing and care options.
In this role, I helped a client who was at risk of a fall-related injury by recommending a medical alert system. From there I began hand-testing medical alert systems and writing reviews about them. Over the past 10 years as Editor of TheSeniorList, my writing has helped over 800,000 seniors and their families choose the right medical alert system.
What Is a Medical Alert System?
Medical Alert Systems are life-saving devices that connect a user with help when a button is pressed, or in some cases, when a fall is detected. There are a large number of medical alert companies in the U.S., and they can vary widely in terms of equipment quality and services offered. With seemingly endless options to choose from, it’s difficult to know where to start. Rest assured, you’re in good hands. Our team of experts leaves no stone unturned when testing and reviewing medical alert systems.
How I Judge Each Medical Alert System
When it came to evaluating each medical alert system, I had my work cut out for me. Not only are there so many different devices available on the market, but each of them also possesses its own unique array of functions. Still, there are some traits that are indispensable in a solid medical alert system, regardless of the type.
Here is what I looked for.
- Reliable Equipment: Most medical alert equipment claims to be built to last, and I made sure to run extensive tests to verify this. Help buttons and base stations should be able to withstand a fall, and the systems as a whole should last you for a number of years.
- Ease of Use: The goal of a medical alert system is to simplify your life, giving peace of mind to both the user and their caregivers, so I kept my eye out for systems that streamlined the process, ensuring users of any ability level can operate them.
- Conscientious Customer Care: The human touch is key to the business of caregiving. This is why it’s important for medical alert companies to offer impeccable customer service, from the agents at their monitoring centers to their support personnel.
- Affordable Pricing: Medical alert systems tend to cost anywhere from $20-$40 per month for traditional in-home systems, with on-the-go systems costing a bit more. All of the systems detailed below fit within this range.
- Flexible Contracts: If you frequent The Senior List, you know I’m very much against long-term contracts. Some companies lock customers into 3-year commitments, which means you’re stuck paying if your loved one no longer needs it. All of the companies on this list, however, offer easy cancelation terms without requiring long-term contracts.
Without further ado, here is my list of the best medical alert systems currently on the market!
At a Glance: Our Top Rated Medical Alert Systems
Here is an overview of each system, its pricing and some other key features.
|Medical Alert |
|Starting At||Fall |
|In Home |
|#2||$19.95/mo||$10/mo||1000ft||AT&T 4G LTE|
|#9||$16.95/mo||$11/mo||600ft||AT&T / T-Mobile|
*Cellular units don’t require additional service plans. This cost is included with your subscription to the medical alert company.
Full List of the Best Medical Alert Systems of 2020
What separates Medical Guardian from other medical alert providers is their fierce commitment to protecting their customers. The company has even been recognized as one of the top places to work in the country, and happy employees leads to happy customers.
In terms of devices, Medical Guardian offers an in-home traditional medical alert system, an in-home cellular option, two mobile devices with GPS capability, and a smartwatch, all of which can be paired with their fall detection technology. What’s more, their systems are both intuitive and simple to use. I was able to get mine up and running in a matter of minutes. Medical Guardian promises a “life without limits,” a lofty goal that is certainly met.
This range of service features helps put them at the top of my list, as there is a Medical Guardian system to suit any set of needs. If Medical Guardian seems right for you, then check out my full review to learn more.
Medical Guardian Key Points
- Features: Medical Guardian offers landline and cellular in-home options, mobile options with GPS capabilities, and water-resistant help buttons worn around either the wrist or neck.
- Extras: Additional wrist or neck pendants can be added to a system, which is a great option for couples and roommates. Medical Guardian also offers automatic fall detection pendants, wall-mounted help buttons, voice-activated wall buttons, and waterproof lockboxes.
- Battery: In-home systems feature a 32-hour backup battery, ensuring your system will still function in the event of a power outage. Their mobile units feature a rechargeable battery that lasts for up to 24 hours.
- In-Home Range: The Classic Guardian, their in-home system, features a connectivity range of 1,300 feet, which is more than enough for most homes.
- What Stands Out: The connectivity range of Medical Guardian’s in-home systems is unrivaled in terms of distance. You can also add multiple help buttons under the same system, a common-sense feature that is lacking in most medical alert products.
Medical Alert Systems Offered
- No Long-Term Contracts
- Variety of Medical Alert Systems for Any Budget or Lifestyle
- Excellent Range (1,300 ft) for Classic In-Home System
- Sleek, Updated Hardware
- Smartwatch Option
- Water-Resistant Pendants
- Free Caregiver Platform
- Higher Monthly Fees Than Some Competitors
- Add-Ons Require Monthly Charges
Since 1946, Bay Alarm Medical has brought medical alert systems to homes throughout the country. Despite all this time, they’re still family-owned and operated, allowing them to provide care that is both personalized and attentive.
Bay Alarm Medical offers a traditional in-home medical alert system, in addition to a GPS-enabled mobile unit and an in-car system, the first of its kind. This system, I observed, would also be great for young drivers, as it allows you to track its location and set notifications when the device leaves a certain boundary.
They also allow you to save by bundling their in-home system with one of their on-the-go options. Some of their systems can also be used with their Caregiver Tracking app, which allows you to track the user’s location, in addition to sending you notifications when the system’s battery is low.
All of these features come at a shockingly low cost. Bay Alarm Medical’s in-home systems start at a mere $19.95 per month, not to mention that they also waive activation, installation, and equipment fees.
Bay Alarm Medical Key Points
- Features: Bay Alarm Medical offers landline and cellular in-home options, a mobile option with 4G LTE coverage, and an in-car medical alert system. Each of their help buttons (worn as either a pendant or wristband) is also water-resistant.
- Extras: In addition to the systems themselves, Bay Alarm Medical also offers several useful add-ons including additional help buttons, wall buttons, automatic fall detection, and lockboxes for your keys. They also have some products not often seen with other systems. Their Bella Charms offer a stylish way to spruce up the staid appearance of the help pendant, and their Vial of Life is a handy way to keep track of medical information. For more details on these extras and their pricing, check out my full review of Bay Alarm Medical.
- Battery: The in-home system features a backup battery that can last up to 32 hours, and the mobile unit can last 72 hours on a single charge.
- In-Home Range: Bay Alarm Medical’s in-home system has a connectivity range of 1,000 feet, enough to cover most homes and potentially even accommodate venturing into the yard.
- What Stands Out: Bay Alarm Medical offers simple pricing and equipment that’s a breeze to install. Although their number of systems is not as large as other companies, they are still able to cover almost any type of care situation. On top of everything, Bay Alarm Medical offers stellar customer service. Each time I made test calls to their monitoring centers, I was treated with patience, skill, and, most importantly, compassion.
Medical Alert Systems Offered
- No Equipment Fees
- Lowest Monthly Cost
- In Business Since 1946
- No Long-Term Contracts
- 30-Day Risk Free Trial
- Excellent Customer Service
- In-Home and Cellular Mobile Options
- Innovative In-Car Medical Alert Device
- Geofencing Functionality
- Longer Shipping Times to East Coast
In 1974, Philips Lifeline became the first company in North America to provide medical alert services. Founded by a gerontologist, this company has consistently proven itself as an innovator in the world of caregiving, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Of all medical alert companies, Philips Lifeline has the largest subscriber base in the country.
Currently, they offer a traditional in-home system, the HomeSafe, which can be purchased with or without fall-detection, in addition to the GoSafe 2, their mobile alert system with GPS capabilities and two-way talk. Recently, they have also introduced the Philips Cares app, which allows caregivers to view the status of their loved one’s device and even create schedules for checkups and other assistance.
With plans starting at $29.95 per month, Philips Lifeline is on the higher end when it comes to price, and that’s not including activation fees, equipment costs, and add-ons such as fall detection. Still, the quality of this system and its monitoring is hard to beat, and that’s why I’ve ranked it so highly. For more info on Philips Lifeline, check out my full review.
Philips Lifeline Key Points
- Features: Philips Lifeline’s in-home options can function through either a landline or cellular connection. The mobile system uses AT&T’s cellular network, and it also features GPS tracking, fall detection, and two-way talk through its all-in-one pendant design.
- Extras: Philips Lifeline offers automatic fall detection as an add-on for their in-home systems, and this option comes standard in the GoSafe 2. The in-home systems also feature voice extension, allowing you to speak to the monitoring center even while in a different room from your base unit. They also offer an automatic medication dispenser for $59.95 per month.
- Battery: Their in-home systems feature a 30-hour backup battery. The GoSafe 2, however, can last up to seven days on a single charge.
- In-Home Range: Philips Lifeline’s in-home cellular system can cover 400 ft, whereas the landline version covers about 200 ft.
- What Stands Out: For decades, Philips Lifeline has been a trusted name in mobile medical alerts, and I appreciate the simplicity with which I was able to install and operate my systems. They also keep pricing simple. No matter how long you sign up for, the monthly price remains the same, meaning there’s no need for long term contracts.
Medical Alert Systems Offered
- Waterproof Help Buttons
- No Long-Term Contracts
- Automatic Fall Detection
- Personalized Response Plans
- Responsive Monitoring Center
- All-In-One Mobile Pendant
- Long-Lasting Batteries
- Affordable Monthly Plans
- Activation Fees for Most Systems
- Costly Automatic Fall Detection
- No Activity Tracking or Smart Features
With their popular line of easy-to-use cell phones, the Jitterbug, it’s likely that you’ve heard of GreatCall. What you might not have heard of, though, is their standalone medical alert device, the Lively Mobile, which combines the portability of a cell phone with the safety features of a personal emergency response system.
The Lively Mobile from GreatCall is a completely cellular medical alert system that includes features such as fall detection and telehealth capability. There’s also an app, GreatCall Link, that allows families and caregivers to be instantly tuned in with a user’s health and safety.
GreatCall service starts at a mere $24.99 per month with no long-term contracts or cancellation fees; however, if you want to make the most of your Lively Mobile, I’d recommend going for the Ultimate Package, which includes fall detection, GreatCall Link, and access to medical professionals. At $39.99 per month, this plan is competitively priced when compared to other mobile systems. Check out my GreatCall Lively Mobile review for the full rundown on my experience with this system.
GreatCall Lively Mobile Key Points
- Features: The Lively Mobile comes with just about everything you’d expect from a mobile medical alert system: automatic fall detection, GPS, professional monitoring, and two-way talk. My favorite features, however, come with GreatCall’s Ultimate monitoring plan, which includes access to the GreatCall Link app, in addition to an extended warranty on the Lively Mobile itself.
- Extras: Included in both the Ultimate and Preferred plans is what GreatCall refers to as Urgent Care. This unique feature allows you to speak to a live nurse or board-certified doctor at all hours of the day, no appointments required. They can even write or fill prescriptions for common drugs. This, on top of fall detection, GPS capabilities, and rock-solid audio performance make the Lively Mobile quite the enticing option for someone seeking a portable system.
- Battery: In my testing, I found that the Lively Mobile lasted about 24 hours on a single charge.
- In-Home Range: Technically, it’s limitless, although I’d expect nothing less from a mobile system.
- What Stands Out: Of all the medical alert companies, GreatCall had the fastest agent response times, with their 5Star monitoring agents never failing to receive a call in more than several seconds. You can also try this system risk-free for 30 days.
- Waterproof Device
- First 30 Days Are Free
- No Contracts or Cancellation Fees
- Add-On Features Included in Every Service Plan
- Uses Verizon’s Cellular Network
- Device Needs to Be Charged Daily
- Higher Startup Costs
- Can Only Be Worn as a Pendant
With its entire workforce based in the United States, LifeFone is able to offer an unparalleled level of service to its customers. They also offer bundles of their systems, such as the At-Home and On-The-Go GPS combo, which is perfect for spouses or roommates.
In total, LifeFone offers four different alert systems: in-home (both landline and cellular options), a bundled at-home and on-the-go system (perfect for couples), and a bundle of two mobile units (perfect for active couples). All of these systems also have available the option of fall detection. While LifeFone certainly offers options suited for couples, their solid equipment, and locked-in pricing make them a great fit for just about anyone.
In terms of pricing, LifeFone’s systems start at $29.95 per month, but don’t let that number fool you. Their fall detection costs only $5 per month, lower than anyone else in the industry. Additionally, their bundled systems offer savings to those of us looking to add additional users. All of this makes LifeFone a deceptively affordable option. Check out my full review to learn about all things LifeFone.
LifeFone Key Points
- Features: Every LifeFone system features the fall detection option, two-way talk, and access to their U.S. based monitoring agents. The mobile systems also feature GPS capability, meaning that the monitoring center and loved ones can track the user’s location.
- Extras: When it comes to add-ons, LifeFone has you covered. They offer services such as daily check-in calls, medication reminders, and activity assurance, which is a great way for the monitoring center to verify the wellbeing of the user. LifeFone also offers a hanging lockbox, a leather carrying case, and a vanity pendant, which can help disguise the clinical appearance of a help button.
- Battery: LifeFone’s in-home system features a 32-hour backup battery, whereas the mobile system lasted about five days on a single charge, based on my testing.
- In-Home Range: Whether the system is cellular or landline-based, the help buttons will work up to 1,300 feet from the base station.
- What Stands Out: LifeFone has a proven track record of customer service excellence and equipment made of high-grade material. Their bundles offer a unique and cost-effective solution for cohabitants. Their fall detection also comes in at steal, only $5 per month.
Medical Alert Systems Offered
- Free Spouse Coverage
- Price-Lock Lifetime Guarantee
- Most Affordable Fall Detection
- 1,300 ft Range for In-Home Systems
- No Long-Term Contracts
- In-House Monitoring Center
- High Quality Equipment
- Mobile Unit Is Not Waterproof
For over 40 years, LifeStation has played an instrumental role in protecting senior citizens. Designed by industry veterans, LifeStation systems are designed with older adults in mind, and the end result is three systems that provide ideal ways for folks to age in place.
Currently, they offer a traditional in-home landline system, a cellular in-home system, and a mobile system with GPS capabilities. Starting at $19.95 per month, these systems are quite the steal, and their fall detection only costs an additional $7 per month. Despite the low price, LifeStation sacrifices nothing when it comes to the quality of care.
Each LifeStation monitoring agent is a CSAA-Certified Care Specialist, meaning with each call I made with my system, I was in the hands of trained professionals. These men and women will respond quickly and effectively, either by arranging emergency services or contacting a loved one designated in your personalized care plan. For those who want a no-frills medical alert device that performs well beyond its price range, look no further than LifeStation. Check out my LifeStation review, which goes into greater detail.
LifeStation Key Points
- Features: Currently, LifeStation offers an in-home cellular unit, an in-home landline unit, and a mobile option with GPS capabilities. Each of these systems is completely waterproof. Since up to 80% of falls in the home occur in the bathroom, the importance of this feature cannot be overlooked.
- Extras: Keeping true to the minimalist spirit, LifeStation offers few add-on features and devices. Still, I appreciated the “Find My Loved One” feature, which allowed my husband to trace my location through his smartphone. Something else I loved was how additional pendants could be added to my in-home system for only $3.99 per month.
- Battery: The in-home system has a 32-hour backup battery, which should be long enough to keep you protected through any power outage. The mobile unit also showed a good battery life, lasting about five days on a single charge.
- In-Home Range: In my tests, I found that LifeStation’s in-home system worked up to 500 ft away from my base station.
- What Stands Out: LifeStation proves that quality doesn’t have to come with a big price tag. Each of their systems performed flawlessly, and their monitoring agents responded to my test call with genuine care and expertise.
Medical Alert Systems Offered
- No Long-Term Contracts
- 30-Day Money Back Guarantee
- Water-Resistant Buttons
- Five Day Battery Life on Mobile Unit
- Monthly Monitoring Starting at $19.95
- Fall Detection Somewhat Prone to False Alarms
- Lack of Add-Ons
In my years as a caregiver, ResponseNow has always been a favorite among colleagues. It’s not hard to see why. Their reliable in-home system and innovative Belle and Belle+ cellular systems ensure that they have the right solution for any older adult looking to maintain their independence.
ResponseNow is so sure of their systems that they’ll allow you to try them out for thirty days with no strings attached. After this period, their systems start at $29.95 per month, putting them towards the higher end of pricing. Still, their solid customer service justifies the cost of entry.
Rather than offering a single, stock package with superfluous (and expensive) add-on services, ResponseNow keeps it honest. Their range of options makes it possible to personalize the amount of care and monitoring your loved one receives. And with ResponseNow’s monitoring centers being some of the best rated by the Better Business Bureau, you can trust that behind ResponseNow’s equipment is a dedicated team of professionals.
You can learn more about this reputation in my ResponseNow review.
ResponseNow Key Points
- Features: ResponseNow’s in-home unit has everything you’d expect or need: a base station with two-way talk, a waterproof help button is worn as either a pendant or as a wristband, and the option for automatic fall detection. Where things really get interesting, though, is with their Belle and Belle+ systems, two mobile, GPS-enabled medical alert systems, the latter of which including fall detection.
- Extras: Currently, ResponseNow doesn’t offer anything else in the way of bonuses for its mobile units, other than the automatic fall detection included on the Belle+. Their in-home system can also be used with fall detection, in addition to a lockbox, and extra help button pendants.
- Battery: The Belle+ boasts a battery life of up to five days on a single charge, and the Belle can last up to 30 days, depending on how often calls are made to the monitoring center.
- In-Home Range: In my testing, the in-home system had a range of about 500 ft.
- What Stands Out: The Belle’s 30-day battery life is ridiculously good, making it far and away the longest lasting mobile unit. Additionally, ResponseNow scores big points when it comes to customer service and user experience. Everyone on the ResponseNow team, from sales reps to monitoring agents, demonstrated heart, dedication, and the highest standards of customer care.
Medical Alert Systems Offered
- 30-Day Battery Life on Mobile System
- Fabulous Customer Service
- 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
- No Long-Term Contracts
- Customer-Friendly Cancellation Terms
- Waterproof Pendant
- In-Home Range of Only 500 Ft.
- Few Device Add-Ons
- No Caregiver App
Developed by MIT scientists, QMedic combines the simple functionality of a medical alert system with an advanced array of proactive measures such as wellness calls and activity monitoring. Using their own proprietary equipment, QMedic gives caregivers peace of mind when it comes to keeping tabs on their loved ones. Their systems are a great choice for users who are frail, blind, or disabled.
In terms of systems, QMedic offers two in-home options, landline or cellular, in addition to a mobile unit that uses AT&T’s cellular network to connect to one of their two monitoring centers, located in Utah and Idaho. These centers are fully redundant, meaning that in the event of a power outage at one, the other would be able to fully assume its responsibilities.
Starting at $30 per month, QMedic systems are not the most affordable; however, their service plans are not tiered. All of their innovative caregiver features are included in this price. For more info on QMedic and their pricing, check out my full review.
QMedic Key Points
- Features: Both QMedic’s in-home and mobile options feature help buttons that are completely waterproof. These systems feature two-way communication and 24/7 access to QMedic’s monitoring center. The only notable omission is automatic fall detection, which is not available with QMedic systems.
- Extras: QMedic keeps it simple when it comes to add-ons. The real focus is the in-depth activity monitoring, which is included with all systems. With each of their systems, caregivers can check in on their loved one to make sure they’re wearing their device, that it’s charged, and if the wearer is displaying abnormal activity or inactivity levels.
- Battery: The in-home system features a 24-hour backup battery, and the mobile device lasted me an impressive 14 days on a single charge.
- In-Home Range: Both the cellular and landline in-home systems had a connectivity range of about 900 ft.
- What Stands Out: QMedic shines when it comes to proactive monitoring. Their caregiver dashboard, accessible through a web browser, provides real-time access to vital information regarding the wearer. You can even arrange it so that their monitoring center will also see this information, making calls to the user in the event of inactivity.
Medical Alert Systems Offered
- Waterproof Help Buttons
- Detailed Proactive Activity Alerts
- Two Year Battery Life on Pendants
- Straightforward Pricing
- Straightforward, no-frills pricing
- 1,000 Ft. Radius for In-Home Systems
- No Automatic Fall Detection
- Limited Device Add-Ons
Alert1 has been providing medical alert services since 1988, and today they serve customers in all 50 states. All staff is U.S. based, and support is provided in 190 different languages. Alert1 has no long-term contracts and has agreed to zero termination fees for The Senior List customers. Serving all 50 states, Alert1 offers simple yet effective medical alert systems that can suit any budget. See the full equipment lineup in my Alert1 review.
Although they require no long term contracts, they offer discounts for users who pay annually and quarterly as opposed to monthly. Alert1 is also a good fit for couples who each need their own help buttons. Every one of their medical alert packages has the option to upgrade with a discount for the second user.
Presently, Alert1 does not offer anything in the way of a caregiver app; however, what they do provide is stellar monitoring at a price that doesn’t break the bank.
Alert1 Key Points
- Features: Alert1 offers a landline in-home option, a cellular in-home system, a mobile unit with GPS, and waterproof help buttons. Automatic fall detection is also available as an add-on on each of its systems.
- Extras: Alert1 offers a host of products that you can use to bolster your system. First, they have an automatic medication dispenser, perfect for staying on top of regiments of supplements. They also have a voice extender, a lockbox, wall-mounted emergency buttons, a surge guard, a monitored smoke detector, and protective cases. They also offer a fall protection package, which includes two motion sensor lights and emergency buttons that can be placed at high-risk points throughout your home.
- Battery: The in-home system features a 24-hour backup battery, while the mobile unit lasted me for almost 30 days during testing.
- In-Home Range: The in-home system has a connectivity range of about 600 ft.
- What Stands Out: Alert1 makes choosing the right system both uncomplicated and affordable with the help of their skilled sales team. You also have the option of choosing either AT&T or T-Mobile, whichever has the better cellular coverage in your area. If you’re looking for a system that’s both easy to install and use, look no further than Alert1.
Medical Alert Systems Offered
- All-In-One Mobile Unit
- Highly Affordable In-Home System ($16.95/mo)
- Free Shipping and Activation
- Choice of Either AT&T or T-Mobile
- Cellular Plans Cost More Than Competitors
The Ins and Outs of Medical Alert Systems: Our Buyers Guide
If you’ve ever seen a commercial for Life Alert, then I’d wager you understand to some degree the function of a medical alert system. In the event of an emergency, a system such as this can connect you with a monitoring center, one staffed with trained professionals who will talk you through your situation and coordinate an appropriate response, whether through sending an ambulance or even contacting a neighbor.
With that said, there are many different types of medical alert systems. Some use a landline connection while others operate on cellular service. Some systems are designed to protect you at home, and others can be brought along while traveling. Nowadays, there are even some devices with proprietary smartphone apps that bring caregiving into the modern age.
How Do Medical Alert Systems Work?
At their core, all medical alert systems have a similar function. When triggered, a medical alert system will quickly connect you to a monitoring center, whose personnel will assess your situation and, if necessary, contact emergency services.
Naturally, there are several different types of medical alert systems used both in and outside the home. Here is an overview of the categories.
In-Home Medical Alert Systems
- In-Home Traditional: This system is meant to be used inside of the home, and it requires a working landline to connect with a monitoring center. These systems are easy to install by simply plugging them into a power outlet and phone jack. They also tend to be the most affordable option.
- In-Home Cellular: No landline? No problem. Many medical alert companies offer in-home systems that use a cellular connection to work. Simply plug in the power source, and the system will initiate. These systems often look identical to their landline counterparts, though they usually constitute a slight step up in price. Luckily, the cost of cellular service is included with your medical alert service plan, so no additional contracts are necessary.
Both types of in-home systems include a base station with a two-way speaker. This is what is used to communicate with monitoring personnel, and it’s activated through pressing a small help button worn around either the neck or wrist.
Remember to consider the range of the base station and help button, as not all systems are created equal in this regard. Currently, the best in-home systems have a range of up to 1,300 feet, which is enough to cover most sizes of homes. Generally, I recommend systems with a range large enough to cover an outdoor area of your home, as many falls occur outside.
Mobile Medical Alert Systems
Mobile or on-the-go medical alert systems are ideal for people who want access to help even while outside their home. Using a cellular connection, these alert systems feature a two-way speaker and a help button, giving you the same protection of an in-home system but in a portable package.
Some mobile medical alerts are even GPS enabled. This helpful feature allows monitoring staff and even loved ones to locate a user while their device is turned on. This feature is important as some users may be unable to verbalize their location if they are hurt, confused, or otherwise experiencing an emergency.
Medical Alert Smart Watches
The medical alert smartwatch is a recent addition to the industry. Geared towards both men and women, these modern devices provide safety in a sleek and discrete package. These systems work independently of a cell phone (with no additional cellular fees), and they look like a typical wristwatch. Not only are they stylish, life-saving devices, but they also operate as a functional watch, activity tracker, and messenger. My favorite medical alert smartwatches can even be set up to provide medication reminders and location data.
How Does Medical Alert Monitoring Work?
Medical alert systems function as a direct line of contact between the user and a monitoring center. I know what you’re thinking: What’s a monitoring center? Put simply, monitoring centers are contracted by medical alert companies to provide 24/7 care to customers. They do so by receiving distress calls, assessing the situation (emergency or otherwise), and then contacting an appropriate response measure, whether this be medical services or a neighbor who can check in on their friend.
These monitoring centers are not your average call center either. Not only are they staffed well enough to field calls in a matter of seconds, but their specialists often receive extensive training to ensure a high degree of care.
Which Medical Alert System Is Right for You?
If you’re interested in purchasing a medical alert system, here are some questions you should consider.
In-Home or On-The-Go?
Generally speaking, medical alert systems can be broken down into these two categories, systems for use in the home and systems for use outside of it. Both types provide the same functionality; however, each of them suits a different lifestyle.
In-Home Systems connect through either a landline or cellular connection. When you press your help button (generally worn as either a wristband or pendant), you’ll be connected to the monitoring center via the base station, which has both a speaker and microphone for easy communication. This type of system is best suited for those who spend most of their time indoors, although some systems have a large enough connectivity range to cover parts of your yard.
On-The-Go Systems connect through cellular service, allowing you to travel just about anywhere with adequate service. Most often worn as a pendant, though some companies offer wristbands or smartwatch designs, these systems provide the same security and peace of mind as the in-home models but with a greater range of freedom. Generally speaking, these systems come with a higher price tag.
What Are My Monitoring Needs?
Each of the systems mentioned here come with some form of 24/7 professional monitoring; however, some of them offer additional features suited to individual needs.
With caregiver apps and platforms, loved ones and caregivers can keep tabs on the user, tracking their location, monitoring their activity, and even checking to make sure they are wearing their device.
Many medical alert providers also offer personalized response plans. With these, a call to the monitoring center can also trigger alerts to neighbors or loved ones. Although a monitoring agent can certainly contact emergency services, not every help call requires such drastic action, so I always appreciate these individualized sorts of responses.
Do I Want Fall Detection?
Most medical alert systems offer automatic fall detection, and it will cost anywhere from $5-$15 extra per month. Although it might be tempting to save money by omitting this feature, I think it’s essential and could even save your life.
What Is Automatic Fall Detection?
With falls being a leading cause of injury to older adults, it’s critical to have the proper ways of addressing this problem. Oftentimes, fall can leave a person unable to reach for help, and that’s where fall detection comes in.
Through sophisticated accelerometer technology, automatic fall detection pendants can detect a fall and automatically place a call to monitoring personnel without the user having to press the button. Keep in mind, this technology is not 100% accurate, and false alerts may occur. However, in the event that a loved one falls (or has a medical emergency) and is unable to press the button on their safety device, there is comfort in knowing that help can still be reached.
As a lifelong caregiver to older adults, I take great pride in helping people navigate the often-complicated world of medical alert systems. Everyone deserves independence, regardless of age, and a reliable medical alert system is the perfect tool to help you do so.
If you made it this far in the article, you can tell there is a lot to know about these types of systems. But have no fear! I’m here to do the leg work, testing out the latest and greatest in caregiver technology, making it that much easier for you to remain assured that your loved ones are aging gracefully.
Medical Alert System Frequently Asked Questions
- Will a medical alert system keep my mom/dad out of assisted living?
While a medical alert system may not solve all of the challenges of remaining at home for older adults, it can certainly help. In conjunction with other devices such as walk-in tubs, a medical alert system can play a key role in helping your loved one age in place.
- Are there medical alert systems without monthly fees?
All medical alert systems have monthly fees. Most often these payments include the cost of leasing equipment in addition to monitoring. Luckily, this means that startup costs are traditionally low, despite the advanced nature of this technology.
- Why won’t my loved one wear their medical alert device?
It can be frustrating to spend the time, energy, and money on a safety device for your loved one, only to find out they aren’t even wearing it! First, find out what their reason is for not wearing it. Is it uncomfortable? Are they embarrassed? Are they simply forgetting to put it on? If one device is uncomfortable, perhaps another device might be more accommodating. Many medical alert companies give users the option of wearing the button around their neck on a lanyard, or on the wrist with a wrist-watch type band. If they are embarrassed to be seen wearing the system, talk about discreet ways it can be worn under clothing. Or, perhaps your loved one would be more comfortable with a smartwatch medical alert system? If they don’t want to wear the button around the house, check with the alert company to see if they offer voice-activated wall buttons that can be placed in high-risk fall areas throughout the home.
- How can I avoid long-term contracts for my medical alert system?
If you choose any of the companies on this list, then you’ll never be locked into a long-term contract, although several of these companies offer discounts when you make annual or quarterly payments as opposed to monthly. If you go elsewhere, always read the fine print to make sure there’s no indication of being locked into a commitment of over one year.
- Why is a medical alert system better than a cell phone?
In the event of an emergency, a cell phone can be difficult to navigate or may not be in close proximity to make a call. With an alert system, it only takes the simple push of a button to reach help.
- Does Medicare pay for medical alert systems?
Unfortunately, Medicare does not cover medical alert systems at this time. It is something that is frequently discussed in the industry, and many alert companies are advocating for the change. With that said, some health insurers do cover the systems for their members, so be sure to check with yours.