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.

Medical alert systems offer peace of mind by providing instant access to assistance in the event of an emergency. Seniors who live independently often feel more confident about staying home alone when they know that help is available should something unexpected occur. Finding the best medical alert system involves figuring out what features work best for your lifestyle.

Medical alert devices designed for home use include a wearable device and a base unit that either connects to a landline or uses a dedicated cellular connection. Mobile medical alert systems consist of an all-in-one unit that you can bring anywhere or a compact base system you can carry in a pocket or bag that pairs to a wearable device. Some systems come with optional features or devices, including systems with components for vehicle use, fall detection and voice-activated wall buttons.

Voice Activation and Voice Services in Medical Alert Devices

True voice activation, which lets seniors speak aloud to send an alert, is a relatively new feature in medical alert systems. Most systems require the user to touch or press a button in order to activate an alert or turn on available voice features. Because these devices are typically worn as a pendant or on the wrist, the button is generally within easy reach should an emergency occur. To operate a voice-activated unit, you need to be close enough for your voice to reach it and your speech must be clear enough for the device to discern what you’re saying.

Voice services, which let seniors communicate verbally with the call center or relatives, are available as a feature on some medical alert devices. A button with voice activation and communication capability lets you verbally command the unit to make a call to the monitoring center and then lets you explain your situation once you’re connected.

The 3 Best Voice Activated and Voice Equipped Medical Alert Devices

Medical Guardian

Medical Guardian is a pioneer in voice activated medical alert devices and offers the only true voice-activated unit available as of 2019. The main component in this system is a touch-activated wearable device that sends an alert to the 24-hour call center to summon help. The voice-activated unit is a wall-mounted button that sends an alert when the senior says “Call Medical Guardian” twice in a row.

The voice activated wall button is only available under two Medical Guardian plans, the Classic Guardian and Family Guardian plans, which have base costs of $29.95 and $79.95 respectively. Both plans also offer optional fall detection for $10 per month. Another plan under the Medical Guardian system, Freedom Guardian, has voice-to-text capability, which lets you verbally create text messages to send to caretakers. This system costs $44.95 per month and uses a smartwatch-style wearable device that fits onto your wrist. The voice-activated wall button isn’t available with this system, though, so consider which features are most important to you before making your choice.

Boomer Alert

The Boomer Alert system is an easy-to-use wearable unit with two-way voice communication capabilities. It’s created to be used anywhere, so you can wear it at home or when you’re out running errands or enjoying local activities.

This system is only available in Canada and has one comprehensive plan that costs $79.99 CAD per month. The voice-capable pendant connects directly to the emergency monitoring center so you can tell the operator what has occurred and where you are. Built-in GPS sends your location even if you can’t verbally communicate using the device. Fall detection is included in the monthly cost, so there’s no need to add it on as a separate service. The unit also automatically sends a message to caregivers on a predefined list when a fall happens, so relatives know when a medical emergency has occurred even if they can’t communicate directly with you.

Medical Care Alert

While Medical Care Alert doesn’t offer a voice activated button, it does have units with voice communication built in. You still have to press a button to activate the voice capability, but once you do, you can speak directly to family members, caregivers or medical alert call center operators. Medical Care Alert plans that include voice capability are the Home & Yard system for $34.95 per month and the Home & Away Elite system for $39.95 per month.

The Home & Yard system is designed to let you move outside the home to enjoy your garden or relax on your porch. The wearable unit has a range of 600 feet from the base, and you can also use it to answer phone calls from wherever you are within that range. The voice pendant has a one-time cost of $60 in addition to the monthly fee.

The Home & Away Elite system is a mobile system that has a two-way speaker built into the wearable device. It operates on the AT&T network and uses GPS to identify exactly where you are so emergency responders can find you even if you can’t verbally tell them your location. This particular plan also has fall detection available for an additional $10 per month. This can be useful if a fall leaves you unable to reach your button to activate it.

When You Need Voice Activation as a Feature in a Medical Alert System

Voice activation makes it possible for seniors to call for help even if they can’t reach the button to send out an alert. In most situations, true voice activation isn’t necessary because the alert button is on a wearable device that remains within easy reach. Devices with optional fall detection can tell when a senior accidentally takes a tumble and sends the alert automatically without voice or touch activation required. For seniors who don’t wear their devices all the time, a voice-activated wall button might be useful in situations where a fall occurs and the device or base unit are across the room.

One reason seniors may not wear their device, and thus need a voice alternative, is over concerns about getting the unit wet in a shower or bath. Many modern wearable devices are waterproof, though, so there isn’t any reason to remove them. For seniors who simply don’t like wearing their devices, looking for a more comfortable unit may be another option.

If caregivers are concerned about seniors not wearing their device and being caught in an emergency without it nearby, a device with integrated compliance monitoring might be useful. These systems track whether the senior is wearing the device on a regular basis and let the caregiver monitor compliance through an associated app.

Choosing a Voice Activated Medical Alert System

When you’re searching for the best medical alert system, voice activation is a feature you might want to consider. If you do need a voice activated unit, your options are currently limited to just Medical Guardian.

Before choosing a voice activated unit, consider why you specifically want this feature. If you have concerns about being able to get help when you fall, getting a wearable device with built-in fall detection might be an alternative. If you’re looking for a unit that lets you communicate directly with the call center to explain your emergency, a unit with two-way voice communication might be a better choice. When you’re considering medical alert systems, also think about how they fit into any home modifications that help you live independently.