COVID-19 Update: Since the medical alert industry is considered to be “essential” during the COVID crisis, monitoring and customer service centers are still open and ready to help. To learn more about how a medical alert device can help keep you or your elderly loved one safe and connected during this pandemic, take a look at our list of essential products for seniors during COVID-19.

An in-home medical alert system, also known as a personal emergency response system, allows seniors to remain independent while having the peace of mind that they can instantly receive help if they ever need it. Even with home modifications that provide a safer environment for seniors living alone, accidents can happen. Family members also often worry about what might happen to a senior loved one in a medical emergency. A medical alert system offers an ideal solution to help ensure an accident doesn’t turn into a tragedy.

The primary function of an in-home alert system is to connect seniors to trained staff who quickly get them the medical help they need. Traditional systems include a base unit with a radio transmitter, and a portable emergency help button that can be worn around the neck on a pendant or on the wrist like a watch. Should a senior fall or have any other emergency, a simple push of the button summons a dispatcher who contacts the appropriate emergency personnel. They can also call a senior’s family members to let them know what’s happened.

There are several factors involved in choosing the best in-home medical alert system. Use this article to learn more about three of the top alert system providers, features that make a system indispensable and the average fees of monthly service plans.

The 3 Best Medical Alert Systems for In-Home Use

Medical Guardian

Touted as the best provider for seniors looking for premium features, Medical Guardian offers six devices to fit different needs. There are three options for in-home use, with three more options available that can be used outside the home. Its least expensive plan is used in conjunction with a landline phone, and the second least costly option uses a cellular connection. Medical Guardian’s most expensive in-home plan offers comprehensive service with an array of features, including a door sensor, motions sensors and family and caregiver app access.

All three plans come with one waterproof pendant necklace or wristband, and the option to add fall detection for an additional monthly fee. Other premium features offered for a nominal monthly fee include mounted wall buttons and voice-activated wall buttons, which are convenient at times when a senior is not wearing the personal alert device.

Life Alert

Life Alert is the oldest, best known medical alert provider in the country and handles millions of calls annually. As an industry leader, it offers devices that never need charging for dependable, non-stop protection, 24/7. Life Alert’s Signature In-Home Service works with a landline, or cellular connection for no extra charge. This service comes with a waterproof pendant containing a battery that lasts up to seven years.

For added security, it also offers a wall-mounted emergency help button for an additional monthly fee. This device is designed for placement in the bathroom near the tub, where accidental falls often occur, but it can be placed anywhere in the home. An add-on, Help on the Go with GPS includes a small, portable device designed to travel anywhere outside the home.

Besides Life Alert’s standard devices, you can also contact its monitoring center over the phone or through a smartphone app for an additional layer of protection. Life Alert manufactures its own proprietary equipment and operates its own dispatch and monitoring center manned by dispatchers who spend up to one year in training. The service keeps users’ health histories on file, so dispatchers can quickly provide vital information to paramedics.

Medical Care Alert

All medical alert providers fully train their dispatchers, but Medical Care Alert only employs operators with emergency medical technician or emergency medical dispatch certification. Each of its operators has personal experience responding to emergency situations, which provides them with incomparable knowledge. This is paired with Medical Care Alert’s hospital-grade, easy-to-use HOME Medical Alert System, which includes two waterproof pendant-style or wrist-worn devices that never need charging. You can conveniently connect this low-cost system to a landline phone jack, use it with your cellular service or bundle it with your cable TV service.

You can add fall detection protection for an additional monthly fee, trade one of your two wearable devices for a wall-mounted alert button or keep both devices and add a wall-mounted button for an additional fee. People who enjoy spending time outdoors, gardening or visiting nearby neighbors, may want to consider the HOME & Yard System, which offers a pendant with a two-way voice feature that can even be used to answer the phone. Medical Care Alert offers a free, 14 day trial with a price lock that guarantees fees will never go up.

Importance of In-Home Medical Alert Systems

In-home medical alert systems offer a fast, easy way for seniors who live alone or have health issues to get help whenever they need it. These systems provide a lifeline 24 hours a day, seven days a week to an experienced operator trained to handle all types of emergency situations. Whether you’ve had an accident, a medical issue, a fire or any emergency that requires immediate response, your alert system ensures help is just a push of the button away. Choosing the right medical alert system largely depends on the features you value most.

Although medical alert systems originally only worked with a landline phone, many providers now offer the option to use a cellular connection. This can be an important feature if you don’t have a landline, or you want to use your in-home service while on-the-go. Mobile alert systems use your cell phone’s network to connect you to your provider and incorporate GPS technology, so help can still find you even if you can’t talk. Unless you never leave your home, it’s generally best to choose a provider that offers systems that work both in the home and on the go.

While unmonitored systems are cheaper, a provider that offers 24/7 monitoring by a live person in a dispatching center can offer greater peace of mind. During a crisis, you’re instantly connected to a dispatcher trained in emergency response as soon as you press the help button. Some companies also offer fall detection that senses falls when they occur and automatically contacts the dispatch center for you without the need to call for help. The best medical alert devices are lightweight, waterproof and the size of an average key ring, making them easy to wear and more reliable during showers and baths.

Getting the Best System at the Best Price

Seniors wanting to live independently for as long as possible often find medical alert systems a worthwhile investment. However, the variety of features, service options and fees can make it difficult to decide which system is right for you. Price is a significant factor for seniors on fixed incomes, so make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck by comparing features and the average cost of service from reputable providers.

Regular medical alert monitoring fees typically run between $20 and $90 per month, depending on your plan. This is a wide range, which makes it important to learn exactly what you get from each provider’s plans. Companies that offer multiple service levels usually have a cost-effective plan that runs between $20 and $30. As you add features, the monthly cost increases. Providers with fewer service plans may have a higher rate for the lowest level of service, and you can often find an enhanced plan with more features at a comparable rate from another company.

You can also save money and still get the service you need by dropping options you don’t need. If you use a landline connection instead of a mobile network, you can usually save about $10 per month. However, if you need a system that works at home and on the go, you must choose a plan that works on a mobile network. Mobile plans can run between $10 and $20 more per month than landline plans, depending on whether the service is tiered. Not all companies offer fall detection, but expect to pay an additional $5 to $10 per month if they do. A few providers offer this service at no extra charge.

Contracts and Hidden Fees

It’s essential to read the fine print before signing on the dotted line. Watch out for hidden fees that may make a low-cost option higher than it first appears. Some providers have equipment charges of $200 or more, and others require device and/or activation fees that can cost up to $100 each. There also may be a steep cancellation fee for early termination, especially if you signed a contract. You could be on the hook for monthly charges for the remainder of your contract. However, some providers will let you out of your contract for a qualifying reason, such as moving to an assisted living community. When comparing providers’ fees, it never hurts to ask for a discount on advertised prices, which many companies allow their salespeople to offer.