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.

You may already realize you need a medical alert system for yourself or a loved one, but shopping for one takes time. Medical alert systems come in an assortment of styles, each with different features and benefits. Sorting through the numerous options available can easily get overwhelming, so we’ve compiled this guide to help you narrow down your search.

Whether you need a basic device for around the home or a high-tech smartphone that goes wherever life takes you, ask yourself the questions below while comparing the best medical alert systems.

Device Costs and Subscription Fees

Medical alert system costs range from less than $20 per month to more than $100 depending on the brand, features and accessories that you choose. You might keep your device for years, so it’s important to make sure any fees fit your budget now as well as in the future. Here are some questions to consider when you compare the top medical alert systems:

  • Am I renting the device or purchasing it?
  • Is there a way to get the device free with a subscription?
  • How much does a monthly subscription cost?
  • Are there additional fees for special features such as a lock box or automatic fall detection?
  • Are there activation or installation fees?
  • Is there a commitment-free trial period?
  • How much does cancellation cost?
  • Am I billing monthly, quarterly or annually?
  • Am I required to commit to a long-term contract?
  • Are there warranties or device protection plans available?

Make a list of the fees you must pay right away if you choose a specific device or brand. You may find that you need hundreds of dollars to get started, which may not work if you are on a tight budget. If you don’t want to spend much until you test drive the medical alert system, look for a company that offers free devices for new subscribers.

Medical Alert System Types and Coverage Range

Some seniors want a medical alert system for in-home use, while others need something that monitors movements on the go. In-home devices often require a landline connection, and some of them only have a range of 300 to 600 feet. Mobile devices use a cellular connection, but they may cost a bit more than in-home systems. However, you can use them just about anywhere, so the extra fees may be worth the extensive coverage.

Find out the answers to these questions when you compare different devices:

  • Is this medical alert system comfortable enough to wear all day?
  • Can you wear the device while bathing or swimming?
  • Does the medical alert system require a landline or a cellular connection?
  • How long is the battery life?
  • Is the battery rechargeable?
  • What’s the coverage range?
  • What type of device can I use with each subscription plan?
  • Can I use my own smartphone for a mobile medical alert plan?
  • Does the device have GPS tracking?

You may also want to find out whether you can use multiple devices, such as a wristband and a pendant, with the same in-home base system.

Features and Benefits

Every senior has different needs, so the device your neighbor relies on may not meet your expectations. That’s why it’s vital that you compare the features and benefits of each medical alert system before you choose one for long-term use.

Here are some questions that may help you select the best medical alert device for your lifestyle:

  • Does the device offer automatic fall detection?
  • Are PIN-protected lock boxes available?
  • Can loved ones access data via a caregiver portal?
  • Can you set alerts or reminders for medication and appointments?
  • Does the device offer compliance and activity monitoring?
  • Can you activate service with voice prompts?
  • Is a two-way connection available?
  • Are call center operators EMT/EMD certified or have they undergone formal training?
  • Who does the provider contact when an emergency occurs?
  • Can you only contact help during an emergency, or are services also available for roadside assistance and other needs?

These questions can help you determine whether the medical alert system you choose offers the protection you need. You may also want to find out whether 24/7 operators are available and find out what happens if you move to a new home or city.

Other Factors to Consider

When comparing medical alert systems, make sure you don’t choose an overly complicated device. Some seniors prefer simple alert systems with a single button, while others prefer devices packed with features. If a device is uncomfortable or difficult to navigate, you may not use it regularly. This puts you at risk for complications from strokes or fall-related injuries.

Read online reviews before you select a device. This can help you find out potential issues that may arise after regular use. You may also want to find out how long shipping and activation take if you need a device immediately.

A medical alert system can save your life during an emergency, so choose carefully. Compare multiple devices before making a selection, and don’t be afraid to ask the medical alert system provider questions about the product or subscription. Your safety depends on it.