Since the 1970s, medical alert systems have provided security for seniors who reside alone, especially those living with chronic conditions or at a high risk of falling.  Due in part to the public health crisis created by COVID-19, medical alert systems are now surging in popularity. In a world where pandemic safety concerns have created barriers to physical contact with loved ones, medical alert systems can help vulnerable seniors with one touch of a button, giving family members peace of mind.

The Basics of Medical Alert Systems

Medical alert systems are designed to provide emergency help at the touch of a button or through an automatic fall-detection feature. These devices typically include a base unit equipped with a speakerphone and an ultra-sensitive microphone, enabling two-way communication with operators at a remote monitoring center. These representatives are trained to assess situations and dispatch the relevant emergency services or alert a predetermined contact.

Many medical alert system companies have developed wearable devices such as wristbands, pendants, and watches. These accessories provide the wearer with greater service range inside their home and allow access to emergency help at all times. Some of these devices are also able to detect falls, monitor activity, and use GPS tracking.

In-Home vs. Mobile Systems

Medical alert systems are available as in-home units or mobile devices. In-home systems typically work through a landline connection and include wearable buttons, allowing users to call for help anywhere within range of the base unit. Mobile alert devices operate anywhere within the coverage of cellular or Wi-Fi networks, usually for time spent outside of the home. GPS tracking is often a built-in feature for mobile systems, enabling operators to dispatch emergency services to the user’s exact location.

Monthly Costs

The cost of medical alert systems varies by manufacturer and type of unit, but monthly subscription fees typically average between $20 and $50 per month for basic plans. Keep in mind that these payments can easily increase with the addition of enhanced features such as automatic fall detection and location tracking. Companies will often require other costs such as one-time activation fees and initial purchase prices. Although some providers supply the initial hardware for free with a contract, others may charge anywhere from $50 to $200 to initiate services.  

Benefits and Drawbacks of Medical Alert Systems

Benefits

Drawbacks

The intended purpose of medical alert systems is their greatest benefit, providing around-the-clock emergency service to seniors at home and on the go.

There is a monthly cost to having this type of emergency assistance so readily available, which can increase with added features and extra protection.

There is a peace of mind that comes with knowing help will be on the way with the push of a button.

Some seniors may feel there is a stigma around wearing a medical alert device, leading to feelings of embarrassment.

Whether in their own home or out in public, seniors are granted the mobility to live their lives with the security net of a medical alert device.

False alarms can occur by accidentally pressing the alert button or fall sensors misinterpreting motions.

Bay Alarm Medical

  • Best for: Seniors who want excellent customer service and a great value
  • In-Home Basic monthly cost: $19.95
  • Mobile Plus monthly cost: $39.95

Bay Alarm Medical has over 70 years of experience protecting the health and independence of their customers. With an average 10-second response time, seniors can count on the company’s USA-based call center during any personal emergency. Bay Alarm Medical offers a variety of models such as in-home systems, mobile help buttons, and even smartwatches. Each plan starts at a reasonable monthly price, and customers can upgrade their systems with accessories and enhancements for an extra monthly fee.

The company is responsible for designing the world’s first in-car medical alert device. This new product allows for vehicle tracking, detailed trip information, and customizable driver profiles. In the event of a traffic collision, first responders can access data related to the severity of the crash and all medical history in the driver profile.

Pros:

  • 30-day risk-free trial period
  • No contracts or startup fees
  • Discounts available for bundle packages

Cons:

  • One-time equipment costs for select models
  • Automatic fall detection for mobile devices only
  • Free shipping is limited to select plans

LifeFone

  • Best for: Seniors on the go
  • At-Home Landline monthly cost: $24.95
  • At-Home & & On-the-Go VIP monthly cost: $39.95

LifeFone is a solid choice for active seniors or those living with chronic medical conditions. Independent elders can benefit from the company’s extensive selection of mobile-friendly features. Users can access the virtual escort service for help in unsafe locations and use the smartphone app when out of range of the in-home unit. The system also offers an integrated GPS tracker, which can locate the wearer in the event of an emergency. Seniors can opt for a lightweight, water-resistant wristband or pendant with 36 hours of battery life.

For family members, LifeFone’s systems include access to a caregiver portal where loved ones can update emergency care instructions, and view a user’s location history. LifeFone also offers an Activity Assurance service that directs seniors to press a button at predetermined times, letting loved ones know they’re okay. Users can also request a daily check-in call.

Pros:

  • Interactive caregiver portal
  • Lifetime price lock
  • Wide variety of enhanced features

Cons:

  • Advanced features incur additional fees
  • Fall detection is not included and must be purchased separately
  • Backup monitoring centers are not company owned

MobileHelp

  • Best for: Seniors looking for reasonably priced features
  • Classic monthly cost: $19.95
  • Solo monthly cost: $37.95

As the first company to offer a mobile medical alert system, MobileHelp has plenty of experience bringing security to active and independent seniors. The company  provides in-home and hybrid options, and users  also have access to a plan that  allows their tablet function as a base station. Enhanced features such as GPS location tracking and automatic fall detection can be added to select plans at an extra cost.

Caregivers can easily check on an elder’s status by accessing the mobile app or web portal. These online tools provide system alerts, activity data, and location tracking. The system also generates charts to help family members assess a user’s movement trends for a better understanding of their care needs.

All customers receive a free lockbox, which provides designated caregivers or emergency personnel with easy access to the user’s house in a crisis. Caregivers may also sign up to be notified if a user demonstrates abnormal activity or long periods of inactivity.

Pros:

  • Good selection of premium features
  • Landline and cellular options for in-home units
  • Mobile app and web portal for caregivers

Cons:

  • Customers may have to pay activation fees for select models
  • Fall detection is only available on certain devices
  • Paid features are offered free by other companies

Medical Guardian

  • Best for: Seniors with memory impairments or those who want to stay connected to caregivers
  • Classic Guardian monthly cost: $29.95
  • Mobile 2.0 monthly cost: $39.95

Medical Guardian offers a wide array of in-home and mobile devices with features designed to keep seniors closely connected to loved ones. A smartwatch-style device is available through the company’s  MGMove plan, providing advanced features such as voice-to-text messaging and location tracking technology. Active seniors will appreciate the built-in calendar alerts, weather data, step tracker, and medication reminders.

Select plans allow caregivers to set up medication reminders, access an alert history, monitor activity levels, and get in touch with the user through SMS messaging in the MyGuardian app or online portal. Seniors can also supplement their Medical Guardian plan with upgraded features, including a lockbox that lets emergency responders access their home and voice-activated wall buttons for high-risk areas such as a bathroom or garage.

Pros:

  • Variety of devices and plans
  • Offers a smartwatch-style device rather than a traditional wristband
  • Many plans include caregiver-friendly companion apps

Cons:

  • Cost for mobile systems may be high
  • Shipping costs
  • Some services may only be available with select plans and devices

Life Alert

  • Best for: Active seniors who want an experienced provider
  • In the Home monthly cost: $49.95
  • Home, Bathroom and On-the-Go monthly cost: $89.95

Life Alert has provided personal medical protection services since 1987 and brings decades of industry experience to its customers. Features such as GPS location and 10-year battery life can bring peace of mind to seniors when they’re out and about. Users may also appreciate the versatility of Life Alert’s waterproof mobile device, which can be worn or tucked into a pocket or bag.

Life Alert is known for its exceptional customer service and representatives who stay on the phone with a user until help arrives. During an alert, dispatchers will immediately notify designated family members and have the user’s medical history available for first responders. Seniors can also opt to contact the monitoring center directly by phone or by pressing a button on the companion app.

Pros:

  • Decades of industry experience
  • 10-year no-charge mobile battery

Cons:

  • Three-year contract required
  • Automatic fall detection isn’t available
  • No mobile-only plans
  • Comparatively higher activation and monthly fees
  • Limited product offerings
  • Location sharing unavailable to caregivers

Other Medical Alert Systems to  Consider

In addition to the five medical alert companies covered above, there are several other brands you can consider for high-quality devices that can keep you connected to loved ones. You can learn more about these companies below:

Overview of the Top Recommended Medical Alert Systems
Bay Alarm Medical
  • Starts at $19.95
  • In-Home, Mobile GPS, & Smartwatch Options
  • Free Shipping + Free Month on Select Plans
See Packages → Read Our Review →
MobileHelp
  • Starts at $19.95
  • Free Lock Box
  • No Landline Required
See Packages → Read Our Review →
Medical Guardian
  • Starts at $29.95
  • Free Shipping & Lock Box
  • Caring.com Special: 1 Month Free
See Packages → Read Our Review →
MedicalAlert
  • Starts at $18.28
  • Up to 800 Feet of Range
  • Starting Fee as Low as $0
See Packages → Read Our Review →
LifeFone
  • Starts at $20.79
  • Up to 1,300 Feet of Range
  • Starting Fee as Low as $0
See Packages → Read Our Review →
GetSafe
  • Starts at $24.95
  • 1,000 Feet of Range
  • Monthly Fall Detection At Just $10/mo
See Packages → Read Our Review →
MedicalCareAlert
  • Starts at $29.95
  • Up to 1,000 Feet of Range
  • Monthly Fall Detection At Just $10/mo
See Packages → Read Our Review →
Qmedic
  • Starts at $25
  • Up to 1,000 Feet of Range
  • No Intial Fees
See Packages → Read Our Review →
Rescue Touch
  • Starts at $99
  • Monthly Fall Detection At No Extra Cost
  • Unique Two-Way Communication
See Packages → Read Our Review →