Commonly worn around the wrist or neck, clipped to a belt or carried in a pocket or purse, there’s a ton of medical alert systems to choose from, which is where I come in. I test out each medical alert system personally to make sure it’s trustworthy, important given that 25% of all Americans over age 65 fall every year.
If you’re new to medical alert systems, you might be wondering what you should be looking for. On this page, I break down your general options in terms of connectivity, features, pricing, and more, guiding you to the right medical alert system for the senior in your life. Let’s get started!
Medical Alert Systems: The Basics
No experience with medical alert systems whatsoever? No problem. Here are the fundamental things to look for when you’re shopping:
Landline vs. cellular connection: While some medical alert systems require landlines, some connect to a cellular network, with no landline needed. I didn’t have to have the same network as my cellular provider to be able to use a system; for example, I don’t have AT&T, but I could easily use systems that did.
In home vs. on the go: For less active seniors, you’ll probably want a system that only works in one home, meaning it’ll have a finite range from the base unit. This range is typically between 400 and 1,500 square feet, but the senior won’t be able to use their system outside of that range. For more active seniors, cellular systems can go anywhere as long as there’s network coverage.
GPS Enabled: Many seniors with dementia or another form of memory loss are prone to wandering, which can lead to getting lost. However, if their pendant has GPS built-in, the monitoring center will be able to locate them no matter what.
Fall detection: Remember the phrase from those old commercials “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up?”. Sadly, sometimes when seniors fall, they aren’t able to reach the button of their medical alert pendant. For those times, some companies offer automatic fall detection, meaning that the pendant can sense motion and velocity, recognizing falls. Typically, companies charge about $5 to $10 a month extra for fall detection, which I highly recommend as the rate of fatalities from falls increased by over a third from 2007 to 2016 for those ages 65 and up.
Common Mistakes When Purchasing a Medical Alert System
Since I’ve worked with seniors for the large majority of my career as a social worker, I’ve more than once seen people make mistakes when buying a medical alert system. Watch my video to hear about them, or keep reading below:
Wrong type of system: Whether it’s in home or around the world, a necklace or wristwatch, a waterproof or water-resistant design, some people just buy the wrong type of system for the senior at hand.
Long-term contracts: Many people aren’t aware that they’re locked into long-term contracts, which can be as long as three years. It’s also important to check out a company’s return policy and warranty, which I cover in my reviews as well.
Insufficient coverage: If your house is larger than 400 to 1,500 square feet, you may have some issues connected to the monitoring center; I’ve noticed that this is also affected by walls and furniture, so it’s important to make sure the range works for your house
Waiting too long to buy a system: You know what they say, better safe than sorry! It’s best to buy a medical alert system too early rather than too late; if you spot an unsteady gait, physical weakness, or signs of memory loss in a senior, it’s time to get them a medical alert system, especially if they live alone.
Hard to install systems: This isn’t the case for most of the medical alert systems I tested, but some are hard to install, while some require professional installation. If it’s the former, make sure you know what you’re in for in terms of the time the system takes to set up as well as the tools needed.
Hidden fees: Especially for companies that only do orders over the phone, slick salespeople have a way of leaving certain things out of their pitch, including hidden fees. My advice? Read the fine print to see if you have to pay any upfront costs or penalties if you cancel, or ask your sales representative directly before signing anything.
How exactly do I review medical alert systems? By testing them out of course, but that’s not enough; it also requires a good deal of online research. Here’s an overview of my methodology:
Ordering, setting up and testing the system: Of course, I’m mostly relying on my experience with the physical system, from ordering it online or over the phone to getting it delivered, setting it up and testing it out. I always make sure that each system actually connects with the monitoring center, looking for fast response times as well as testing out its fall detection. Since medical alert systems have the potential to save lives, this is the most important part of my reviews. Of course, I also want to make sure that the setup process isn’t too arduous, especially if it’s DIY.
Quality assurance: It’s a fact that not all medical alert systems are created equal, particularly when it comes to the quality and durability of their devices and technology. In general, I look for well-made systems with the most up-to-date technology on the market.
Reviewing monthly costs: With any consumer product, price is always at the forefront. Most in-home systems cost around $20 to $30 a month, while systems with cellular technology, fall detection, and GPS can range from $30 to $50 a month. There’s no reason to spend more than $50 a month on a medical alert system, although some companies might disagree with me. If you want to avoid monthly fees completely, I’ve even tested out a number of medical alert systems that fit the bill!
Community feedback: Sure, I’m the expert when it comes to helping seniors live safe lives, but I also want to know what other customers think, which is why I will occasionally turn to the Better Business Bureau. I also pay close attention to the feedback people leave here on the site. Mostly, I’m looking to see that a company has few complaints, and for the complaints that they do have, respond promptly and politely.
Medical Alert Company Reviews
There you have it, everything you need to know about picking out a medical alert system and what to look for. Now, it’s time to get into individual reviews, all done by our team:
There are dozens of great choices when it comes to medical alerts. Above all, you should find the one that works for you!
Amie has been writing about senior care products and services for the last decade. She is particularly passionate about new technologies that help improve the quality of life for seniors and their families. Seeing her parents and grandparents age made Amie ask herself, “Would this be good enough for my loved ones?” In her spare time, Amie enjoys outdoor adventures and spontaneous road trips. Learn more about Amie here