It’s natural to worry about medical emergencies as we get older. Seniors might wonder what if something happens when they’re home alone, or out running errands. Caregivers worry about what would happen to mom or dad if they fell or got ill, and there was no one there to help them.
Medical alert systems provide seniors and their caregivers with the peace of mind that comes with knowing that if something were to happen, they could get help at the press of a button. However, the cost of a medical alert can be a little worrying for some seniors. Most medical alert systems cost anywhere from $20-$30 monthly and mobile options can be as high as $45 monthly. For those who are watching their budget, the monthly commitment can be off-putting.
For those looking for a cost-effective way to get peace of mind, medical alerts with no monthly fee are an option.
How Do Medical Alerts With No Fee Work?
Medical alerts with no fee tend to have fewer features than traditional medical alerts. Instead, the way they work is very straightforward: Seniors press the button when they need help, and the device connects directly to an emergency number.
Depending on the specific model, the alert could connect to one of three options:
- A call center operator who can send help (though this is usually offered as an upgrade)
- An emergency services operator (aka 911)
- A pre-programmed number such as a family member, caregiver, or neighbor
Once a user presses the button, the alert sends out a signal to the appropriate number, and help is dispatched. All the options in this article have GPS technology, so seniors can wear them out and about to get help no matter where they are.
Who Needs A Medical Alert With No Fee?
Seniors who are wary of signing up for a monthly service might want to consider investing in a medical alert with a one-time payment.
In general, we recommend all seniors have a medical alert system of some kind. Whether a senior is active in their community and still independent, or whether they are mostly homebound, a medical alert offers peace of mind.
Having a medical alert means that no matter what happens, seniors can get help. That’s reassuring for seniors and their caregivers alike. No one wants to think of themselves needing help, but the truth is that as we age we’re more at risk of falls and other medical emergencies. Falling and being unable to get help can lead to complications both from the fall itself and from getting stiff or cold while waiting for help.
Medical alerts also reduce the worry for seniors living alone, or for those whose caregivers can’t always visit as much as they would like.
What Should You Look For In A Medical Alert With No Fee?
When choosing a medical alert with no monthly fee, we recommend looking for the following:
- Comfortable to wear. If seniors don’t find a medical alert comfortable to wear, they’re more likely to leave it behind, where it can’t provide any support.
- Make sure the alert you choose is small and comfortable enough that mom or dad won’t take it off.
- A choice of who the alert notifies. Some buttons connect only to emergency services – this is fine, but one that offers a choice of where to connect is even better.
- Works outside the home if it’s for a more active senior. Not all no-fee buttons work outside the home. This is okay for seniors who spend most of their time at home, or only go out when accompanied, but for those who are more active look for an alert that works anywhere.
- Double-check that there is only a one time fee. Nobody likes hidden costs!
- Water-resistant. You want to be sure mom or dad can safely wear it while bathing or out in the rain.
- A guarantee or warranty. You want to know that you have some recourse to get the device replaced or your money refunded for a while after purchase.
- GPS location technology. You need to know that in the event of an emergency, the device can be located even if the wearer is unresponsive.
- Two-way microphone so your loved one can talk to their caregiver or 911 after the call is placed.
Pros and Cons Of A Medical Alert With No Fee
No monthly fee medical alerts have some pros and cons to consider.
- Lack of monthly fees
- Quick and easy to purchase and start using
- If you choose one with GPS it keeps your loved ones covered outside the home as well as inside
- Most models are quite small and unobtrusive
- Easy to use – these models lack bells and whistles and are therefore very straightforward to use
- No dedicated call center or service agents – a medical alert with a dedicated call center can respond on an individual basis to each call and make sure appropriate action is taken
- If the unit only calls 911 you could end up with emergency services when a caregiver visit would have sufficed – this could even include 911 having to break and enter the home
- If the unit calls caregivers there’s a risk they won’t answer – without a dedicated call center there are fewer options available for getting alternative help any time, day or night
- Less in the way of caregiver support options such as online portals or health tracking
- Much narrower range of different options regarding features, extras, and styles
Medical Alert Systems with No Monthly Fee
How it works: When you set the system up, you call MobileHelp and provide medical information. Then, pressing the button connects the wearer to a U.S. based emergency operator who knows their medical history. Operators can assess the situation and send appropriate help.
Features: GPS, water-resistant,
Two-way communication: Yes
Who can you contact: Operators can contact a friend, caregiver, or emergency services as needed.
Cost: We saw this listed for $479.99, with a regular price of $778.75
Long term contracts: No
Pros: Out of all the companies in this article, this is the one that offers a well-known and reliable medical alert experience. It functions much like MobileHelp’s other options, with the main difference being that you pay upfront rather than paying a monthly fee. Just like other MobileHelp products, you get connected with a call center operator who will send appropriate help and stay on the line with you.
Cons: The high upfront costs means that you might be as well to sign up for a device through the MobileHelp site and pay monthly. A similar offering on their site clocks in at $37.95 monthly or $395.40 per year.
The Verdict: A reliable medical alert with 24/7 monitoring, backed by a well-known name and good customer service.
Silent Beacon is a sleek, modern panic button designed to work wherever you are. One button press connects you to 911.
How it works: Silent Beacon is a customizable panic button. When you press it, it will call pre-set numbers of your choosing, and can also send out text alerts or push notifications to multiple emergency contacts. Silent Beacon works via the Silent Beacon app – users need to have a Bluetooth 4.0 tablet or smartphone to run the app in order for the device to work.
Features: Water-resistant, works on BlueTooth, sends your GPS location to listed emergency contacts, “find my device” function in case it gets lost. Has a silent alert mode so you can call for help without anyone knowing. Also offers an option to upgrade to a call center service, so you can speak to an operative who will assess the situation and assist you in getting appropriate help. Available in blue, pink, white and black. You can charge it on the go, too.
Two-way communication: Yes
Who can you contact: You can set Silent Beacon to call a number of your choice in an emergency, whether that’s 911, another emergency number, or a friend or caregiver.
Long term contracts: No
Pros: We love the look of this one – small, sleek and modern. The flexibility on who to call sets it above some other no-fee medical alerts and an upgrade to 24/7 monitoring is available.
Cons: Only works if you have a compatible smartphone or tablet, and you have to remember to carry the device with you to use the app.
The verdict: Good features, an affordable price, and nice looking to boot.
FastHelp is a straightforward device that calls 911 when the wearer presses the button.
How it works: In case of an emergency press the FastHelp button to be connected with a 911 operator.
Features: Water-resistant, small design, comes with a warranty and a 30-day money-back guarantee, can be worn on a belt or lanyard, GPS technology, lasts around a month per charge.
Two-way communication: Yes
Who can you contact: Only 911 – no other calling options are available.
Cost: On sale for $149 at the time of writing – usually retails for $299.
Long term contracts: No.
Pros: Straightforward to set up and use, and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Good battery life.
Cons: Only calls 911 with no option to call other numbers.
The verdict: Works well as a quick way to connect to 911, but doesn’t offer much in the way of features, flexibility, or other options.
Peace of mind is important for any senior, and a medical alert button is a way to get it. Although these devices do what they say they’ll do, we recommend looking for a monitored device instead. They cost a little more, but the cost is spread out, and the professional monitoring center and extra features are well worth it.