The Best Medical Alert Systems for Seniors

A full review of the top medical alert companies, plus a guide to choosing the best system

medical alert system

According to the CDC, one out of every four older adults fall every year, and 20% of those falls are serious, resulting in a broken bone, head trauma or the like. Those who experience a fall double their chance of experiencing another fall in the future. Unfortunately, the risk of falling can’t be completely prevented, so providing immediate help and assistance if and when a fall happens is vital.

This is where home medical alerts can be invaluable – these devices allow seniors to retain their independence at home and around their communities, while minimizing the risk of further injury or death from falling and not being able to receive immediate help.

While there are many quality, above-board companies in the home medical alert industry, there are also those that are overpriced, misleading or profiting off of hidden fees. We’ve created this review to shed light on the top home medical alert companies so that seniors and their loved ones can easily choose a reputable and affordable home medical alert company.

Key Insights

In addition to finding a company that’s transparent (no hidden fees), affordable, and offers great customer service, some of the most important features to look for in a system including the following.

  • Waterproof Devices : It’s very important to ensure that whatever devices you or your loved one will be wearing are waterproof since the bathroom is one of the most common places for seniors to experience falls.

  • Fall Detection Available : While fall detection technology is not 100 percent reliable, those at higher risk of falling (such as older adults who are diabetic or have mobility issues) should consider this potentially life-saving technology.

  • Location Monitoring : Caregivers of seniors with memory issues (such as Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia) can especially benefit from this technology, which allows you to locate a loved one wearing their mobile medical alert device.

  • Mobile Help Button : When shopping for a medical alert system, look for one that allows you to stow the mobile base unit and wear a smaller pendant or wristband, rather than having to wear a heavy all-in-one unit around your neck.

The Six Top Home Medical Alert Companies

Medical Guardian

Best for Premium Features

From smartwatch-style devices to remote activity monitoring, Medical Guardian provides numerous extra features for those who want the added peace of mind or don’t like traditional medical alert options.

Pricing and Plans

Medical Guardian has six different plans to choose from, ranging from $29.95 a month to $79.95 a month. Typically, the company doesn't charge device activation fees or installation fees. However, the "Freedom Guardian" (a smartwatch-style device) requires a one-time payment of $99. Currently, Medical Guardian doesn't provide free shipping.

Customers have 30 days to try the service and return their equipment for a full refund. After that, Medical Guardian doesn’t charge cancellation fees. Those who opt-in to pay for their service quarterly or annually will receive a discount from the base monthly cost.


Classic Guardian

Home Guardian

Family Guardian

Mobile Guardian

Active Guardian

Freedom Guardian

Monthly Cost

$29.95

$34.95

$79.95

$39.95

$49.95

$44.95*

Type of Device

In-home system

In-home system

In-home system

Mobile system

Mobile system

Smartwatch-style device

Connection

Landline

Cellular

Cellular

Cellular

Cellular

Cellular

Battery Life

32-hour backup

30-hour backup

32-hour backup

24 hours

5 days

2 days

Water Resistant

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Range

1,300 feet

600 feet

1,300 feet

N/A

N/A

N/A

Fall Detection

$10 / month

$10 / month

$10 / month

Not Available

$10 / month

Not Available

*One-time device cost of $99


Device Options

For in-home systems, Medical Guardian offers three different device options:

  • Classic Guardian: This barebones landline system is the cheapest option and comes with one waterproof neck pendant or wrist pendant. The system has a range of 1,300 feet and you are able to purchase automatic fall detection for an additional $10 a month.

  • Home Guardian: This option uses AT&T’s cellular network for those who can’t or don’t want to use a landline connection. It’s similar to the Classic Guardian in that it uses the same neck and wrist pendant options, but its range of 600 feet is less than half of the other two in-home systems.

  • Family Guardian: The Family Guardian package is rather expensive at $79.95 a month, but the package includes two motion sensors and one door sensor that allows family or caregivers to stay updated on a loved one’s activity levels by using an included app. The base station uses a cellular connection, and the help buttons are the same waterproof neck or wrist pendants as the other two in-home systems.

For those who need to take their medical alert devices outside of their home, Medical Guardian provides three devices to choose from:

  • Mobile Guardian: This package costs $39.95 a month which is the cheapest of the company’s mobile devices. However, the device solely relies on GPS signals to relay a customer’s location to emergency services, as opposed to the other two devices which can also utilize WiFi signals. Fall detection is also not available with this device. The wearable pendant is water resistant and the mobile unit has a battery life of 24 hours.

  • Active Guardian: The active guardian is a water-resistant device about the size of a small flip phone contains a two-way speaker and a help button, and it can be carried or worn around the neck – it doesn’t come with a wearable pendant like the Mobile Guardian. WiFi location services and fall detection is available. The monthly cost is $49.95 and fall detection is an additional $10 a month.

  • Freedom Guardian: This medical alert device is similar in design to a smartwatch and has some of the same functionalities expected with those devices such as voice-to-text SMS messaging with specific family and friends, customizable reminders and alarms, and the weather forecast. Customers can call for help by holding down a side button for three seconds. This device is not waterproof and automatic fall detection isn’t available.

Extra Features

Medical Guardian provides several different extra devices for an additional fee:

  • Lockbox: At $2 a month, a lockbox allows emergency personnel to enter your home if you are unable to unlock the door without causing damage to your home.
  • Mounted Wall Button: This device costs an additional $2 a month and is an option for those who want the added safety of a help button in a high-risk area in case they aren’t wearing their pendant.
  • Voice-Activated Wall Button: This device is similar to the mounted wall button, but it activated by voice instead of having to manually press the button. The monthly cost for this device is $5.

Monitoring

Medical Guardian uses a third-party monitoring service that is 100% US-based and certified by The Monitoring Association (TMA). Additionally, the company is a member of the Electronic Security Association.


Mobile Help

Best for Those Without a Landline

Unlike many other companies, MobileHelp doesn’t charge extra for cellular in-home systems. As a result, its classic plan with a cellular connection is the cheapest among the top companies we reviewed. As a bonus, the company currently includes a lockbox for free with customer’s orders rather than charging a monthly or one-time fee (as is common).

Pricing and Plans

MobileHelp’s four plans range in price from $24.95 to $41.95 a month. Customers can choose to pay monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually. For those who opt for monthly payments, a one-time fee of $49.95 will be charged – the other payment options don’t don’t require any type of equipment or activation fees (excluding the cost of the smartwatch which must be purchased under the “Smart” plan). Additionally, those who opt for bulk payments (quarterly and up) will receive free shipping and a small discount on their first billing cycle. MobileHelp offers a 30-day free trial and doesn’t charge any cancellation fees.


Classic

Solo

Duo

Smart

Monthly Cost

$24.95

$37.95

$41.95

$24.95*

Type of Device

In-home system

Mobile system

In-home and mobile system

Smartwatch-style device

Connection

Cellular

Cellular

Cellular

Cellular

Battery Life

30-hour backup

24 hours

24 hours; 30-hour backup

48 hours

Water Resistant

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Range

600 feet

N/A

600 feet

N/A

Fall Detection

$10 a month

$10 a month

$10 a month

Not Available

*The smartwatch device must be purchased at $349.95


Device Options

MobileHelp essentially has three device options – an in-home system, a mobile device and a smartwatch. The fourth plan is basically a combination of the in-home and mobile systems. All of the devices are cellular-based so no landlines are required.

  • Classic: This in-home system uses a base station and waterproof pendant which can be worn on the wrist or around the neck. The base station has a range of 600 feet and a fall detection pendant can be purchased for $10 a month.

  • Solo: This plan consists of a mobile device which contains a two-way speaker and a waterproof pendant (the same pendant as the classic plan). GPS and cellular triangulation can be used to locate the customer when the help button is pressed. The battery on the mobile device lasts 24 hours between charges.

  • Duo: This package is simply a combination of the classic and solo plans – both a cellular base station and a mobile device are included. The cost is only $4 more than the “Solo” plan at $41.95 a month.

  • Smart: This device is a smartwatch-style device created for MobileHelp by Samsung and it costs $349.95 to purchase, and then $24.95 a month for monitoring. It’s not a fully functional smartwatch – certain features such as messaging and receiving calls aren’t available. However, the watch does provide heart rate monitoring, step counting, and a weather report. The help feature can be accessed by holding down the side button and talking with emergency operators via the two-way speaker included in the watch.

Extra Features

MobileHelp offers several different extra features, including:

  • A wall mounted help button for $2 a month
  • Customizable medication reminders for $5 a month
  • A lockbox allowing EMS access to your home (currently it’s at no cost)

Monitoring

MobileHelp contracts Rapid Response to provide monitoring to its customers. Rapid Response is a US-based monitoring company that provides services to security companies in addition to home medical alert companies. The company is a member of The Monitoring Association (TMA).


LifeStation

Best for Low Initial Fees

LifeStation doesn’t charge any fees – no equipment, activation, installation, or even shipping fees are collected. This means that the only initial cost is equal to one billing cycle (i.e. one month, quarter, or year depending on the billing cycle chosen). The customer can choose to return their equipment within 30 days for a full refund.

Pricing and Plans

LifeStation has three plans which range in price from $29.95 to $39.95 when paying monthly. Those who pay quarterly or annually receive a discount equal to a few dollars per month, depending on the plan. The company doesn’t charge any equipment, activation, or installation fees and it offers free shipping on all of its plans – regardless of whether you pay monthly, quarterly, or annually. Customers can cancel and return their equipment within 30 days for a full refund (return shipping may apply).


 

In-Home Traditional

In-Home Plus

Mobile with GPS

Monthly Cost

$29.95

$36.95

$39.95

Type of Device

In-home system

In-home system

Mobile system

Connection

Landline

Cellular

Cellular

Battery Life

48-hour backup

48-hour backup

5 days

Water Resistant

Yes

Yes

Yes

Range

650 feet

650 feet

N/A

Fall Detection

$10 a month

$10 a month

$10 a month


Device Options

LifeStation has two different device options: an in-home system and a mobile all-in-one unit. The standard version of the in-home system uses a landline connection, but a cellular base unit is available for an extra $7 a month. Pendant or wristbands are available and both are shower-proof. However, fall detection is only available with the pendant work around the neck.

The mobile system uses an all-in-one pendant worn around the neck. The unit's battery lasts for 5 days between charges and is waterproof, so it can be worn in the shower. Automatic fall detection is available with the mobile unit for an extra $10 a month.

Extra Features

LifeStation offers three different optional devices:

  • A lockbox which provides EMS access in an emergency is available for $2.99 a month
  • Mountable help buttons for high-risk areas cost $2.49 a month
  • An additional help button allows for an extra user and costs $3.99 a month

Monitoring

LifeStation uses in-house monitoring centers located in New Jersey and Texas, rather than outsourcing their monitoring to a third-party company.


Bay Alarm Medical

Best for Low Monitoring Costs

Customers who have a landline can take advantage of the lowest monthly cost among the top companies we’ve reviewed for an in-home system. Monthly monitoring starts at just $19.95 a month with no activation, equipment, or installation fees. Bay Alarm Medical’s in-home base units have an extremely large range of 1,000 feet, which is considerably greater than many other companies' in-home systems.

Pricing and Plans

Bay Alarm Medical has five different plan options which cost between $19.95 and $49.95 a month. While customers can choose to pay monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually, there’s no discount for choosing a longer billing cycle other than free shipping with the semi-annual billing plan. No activation, equipment, or cancellation fees are charged, and those who cancel within 30 days are eligible for a full refund (minus the cost of shipping).


In-Home (Landline)

In-Home (Cellular)

On the Go

On the Road

360° Protection

Monthly Cost

$19.95

$29.95

$29.95

$29.95

$39.95

Type of Device

In-home system

In-home system

Mobile system

In-car system

In-home and mobile system

Connection

Landline

Cellular

Cellular

Cellular

Landline/Cellular*

Battery Life

32-hour backup

32-hour backup

3 days

N/A

32-hour backup; 3-day mobile battery

Water Resistant

Yes

Yes

No

N/A

Yes

Range

1,000 feet

1,000 feet

N/A

N/A

1,000 feet

Fall Detection

$10 a month

$10 a month

$10 a month

N/A**

$10 a month

*A cellular base station costs an extra $10 a month

** Automatic crash detection is included


Device Options

Bay Alarm Medical has three different device options, including one unique offering:

  • In-home: The company’s in-home system is available with a landline or cellular connection – the only difference is the $10 monthly charge for the cellular model. The base unit has an 800-foot range and a backup battery life of 32 hours. The help pendant is waterproof and can be worn around the neck or on the wrist. Customers also have the option of choosing a package that includes both the in-home system and a mobile device.

  • On the Go: Bay Alarm Medical’s mobile device is an all-in-one unit that is typically worn around the neck. It’s important to note that the unit isn’t shower-proof. The battery lasts for 72 hours between charges and you can upgrade to automatic fall detection for an additional $10 a month.

  • On the Road: Bay Alarm Medical is one of the only companies to offer a medical alert device specifically designed for the car. This unit plugs into a cigarette lighter so it never needs to be charged. If you need help, you can press a button on the unit and you will be connected to a live emergency operator. The device will automatically send a signal for help in the event of a crash. On its own, this service costs about $30 a month, but it can be added on to another form of monitoring for only $20 a month.

Extra Features

Customers can benefit from the extra features and devices offered by Bay Medical Alarm:

  • Wall mounted buttons are $2.95 a month or $10 a month for a pack of four.
  • Extra wearable help buttons (wristband or lanyard) can be purchased for $1.95 a month.
  • A lockbox which allows EMS easy access to a customer’s home can be purchased for $1.95 a month.

Monitoring

Bay Alarm Medical monitors their medical alert systems in-house. The company is US-based and is a member of The Alarm Monitoring Association (TMA).


Philips Lifeline

Best for Automated Medication Management

Customers who struggle to adhere to complex medication plans can benefit from a proprietary system offered by Philips Lifeline. The company’s automatic medication dispensing service costs $59.95 a month, and it can accommodate up to 60 cups of medicine a day.

Pricing and Plans

Philips Lifeline has four different each costing between $29.95 and $54.95 a month. For all of the devices except the GoSafe 2, those without a landline are charged an extra $12 a month for cellular service. The company charges various one-time fees on all of its devices:

  • There is a $50 activation fee for the Home Safe and HomeSafe with AutoAlert
  • There is a $100 device fee for the GoSafe 2
  • There is a $150 device fee for the GoSafe

Additionally, a $20 “installation fee” is charged customers who opt for “self-installation.” According to the company website, this is to cover the cost of shipping and handling. The other option is professional installation which is quoted at about $100.

Philips Lifeline doesn’t currently offer discounts for paying for more than one month of service at a time. The company doesn’t offer a free trial. However, those who return the device within 30 days are eligible for a refund of the device fee. Note that the “activation fee” charged for the HomeSafe and HomeSafe with AutoAlert isn’t refundable.


HomeSafe

HomeSafe with AutoAlert

GoSafe 2

GoSafe

Monthly Cost

$29.95*

$44.95*

$44.95**

$54.95***

Type of Device

In-home system

In-home system

Mobile system

In-home and mobile system

Connection

Landline or Cellular

Landline or Cellular

Cellular

Landline or Cellular

Battery Life

48-hour backup

48-hour backup

2-3 days

7 days; 48-hour backup

Water Resistant

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Range

500 feet

500 feet

N/A

N/A

Fall Detection

No

Included

Included

Included

*The cellular model costs an extra $12 a month; a one time $50 activation fee is required

** A one-time $100 device fee is charged

*** The cellular model costs an extra $12 a month; a one-time $150 device fee is charged


Device Options

Unlike many other companies, Philips Lifeline manufactures their own devices rather than using those from a third-party company. There are three basic devices to choose from:

  • HomeSafe: The HomeSafe system comes standard with a landline connection, but customers may upgrade to cellular service for $12 a month. This in-home system is also available with automatic fall detection for an extra $15 a month. The wearable help buttons are waterproof and can be worn with a pendant or wristband.

  • GoSafe: GoSafe is made up of two devices: an in-home communicator and a mobile all-in-one device worn as a pendant. Because the system doesn’t include smaller pendants to be used around the home (such as those included with the HomeSafe system), the bulkier all-in-one device must be worn while at home. The pendant’s battery lasts 7 days between charges. Those who don’t have a landline will need to pay an extra $12 a month for cellular service for the in-home communicator. Automatic fall detection is included at no extra charge.

  • GoSafe 2: The GoSafe 2 is similar to the GoSafe, but without the in-home communicator. The all-in-one waterproof mobile device is used to communicate with emergency operators both at home and wherever there’s a cell signal. The battery lasts for 2-3 days between charges and automatic fall detection is included at no extra charge.

Extra Features

One of the features that make Philips Lifeline unique is their automatic medication dispensing. For $59.95 a month, seniors can automate complex medication schedules. This can help to eliminate the potentially serious consequences of missed or extra doses. On top of the $60 monthly fee, there is a one-time fee of $99 for professional installation (self-installation isn’t available with this device).

In addition to medication dispensing, the company offers a voice extension base for large homes for $10 a month. Additionally, a lockbox which allows EMS easy access to a customer’s home in case of an emergency can be purchased for a one-time fee of $29.95.

Monitoring

Philips Lifeline has in-house monitoring centers based in the U.S. and Canada. According to the company’s website, the 200-member response team responds to an average of 18,000 calls per day.


Medical Care Alert

Best for EMT/EMD Certified Monitoring

Medical Care Alert ensures that all call center staff are prepared to respond to emergencies by only employing EMT/EMD certified operators in the monitoring center. In addition to their emergency medical certifications, all operators undergo a Security Industry Association certified training program. Upon dispatch, the monitoring center automatically sends an SMS text message alert to a predetermined list of people, which can include family, friends, caregivers and even your doctor. This provides peace of mind and may even allow for nearby family or friends to provide help before EMTs arrive.

Pricing and Plans

The prices for different Medical Care Alert systems only vary by $10, ranging from $29.95 for the least expensive system to $39.95 for the most expensive option. Customers can try any of the systems for 14 days, free of cost.

For each of the systems, new customers can choose to pay for an annual, semi-annual, or quarterly subscription. The annual subscription typically saves you a few dollars per month. If you do decide to cancel your subscription at any time, you’ll receive a prorated refund for any prepaid months.

New customers must sign up for a subscription plan; month-to-month pricing is only available after the initial subscription period is over. If you do decide to switch to month-to-month payment, the monthly cost is the same as the quarterly plan. The prices listed below are for quarterly subscriptions.



HOME System

HOME-3G System (Cellular)

HOME & YARD System

HOME & AWAY ELITE (GPS)

HOME & AWAY PRIMO (GPS & Wi-Fi)

Monthly Cost

$29.95

$34.95

$34.95

$39.95

$39.95

Type of Device

In-home system

In-home system

In-home system

Mobile system

Mobile system

Connection

Landline

Cellular

Landline

Cellular

Cellular

Battery Life

72-hour backup

72-hour backup

24-hour backup

36 hours

4 days

Water Resistant

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Range

1,000 feet

1,000 feet

600 feet

N/A

N/A

Fall Detection

$10 a month

$10 a month

Not available

$10 a month

Not available


Device Options

Medical Care Alert offers both in-home and mobile devices. Those looking for an in-home system have three options:

  • HOME System: This is the most basic and least expensive device offered by Medical Care Alert, costing $29.95 per month. The HOME System connects with a landline phone jack and comes with two waterproof pendant alert buttons. The system has a range of 1,000 feet, and you have the option to add fall protection for an additional $10 a month.

  • HOME-3G System: If you would like to stick with the basic, in-home system, but do not have a landline, the HOME-3G system offers the same features as the HOME device but via AT&T cellular rather than a landline. It is a bit more expensive than the landline option, but it includes the cellular connection for the system in the monthly cost. Customers who purchase a HOME-3G system also have the option to add fall protection for $10 a month.

  • HOME & YARD System: The HOME & YARD System is designed for those who frequently spend time outdoors, garden, or walk to the mailbox. The pendant has a two-way voice feature, so you can speak into the pendant, and even answer the phone via the pendant. The system comes with one water resistant pendant and has a range of 600 feet from the in-home base. HOME & YARD costs $34.95 per month.

If you or your loved one needs a mobile system that works outside of the home, Medical Care Alert offers two mobile options:

  • HOME & AWAY ELITE: The HOME & AWAY ELITE system works from anywhere in the United States that has cellular service. It is more expensive than the in-home systems at $39.95 per month, but that price includes GPS services, AT&T cellular service, and two-way voice communication. Fall detection is available for an additional $10 a month.

  • HOME & AWAY PRIMO: The HOME & AWAY PRIMO system is very similar to the ELITE mobile device, and is the same price. The main difference is that the PRIMO has a longer battery life than the ELITE, and upgraded location services with Wi-Fi capabilities. In addition to finding your location in case of an emergency, the location feature can also be used to help you locate the device if you misplace it. However, fall detection is not available with the HOME & AWAY PRIMO system.

Extra Features

In addition to fall detection which can be added to some of the systems for $10 a month, Medical Care Alert offers extra features including:

  • Lockbox: Medical Care Alert includes a lockbox free of charge with their annual plans, and on certain devices, it’s also included for free with the semi-annual and quarterly plans. Otherwise, it’s a one time cost of $29.95 to purchase.

  • Wall Mounted Button: If you purchase a HOME or HOME-3G system, you have the option of replacing one of your two pendants with a wall mounted alert button. The wall mounted button can be placed around the home in high-risk areas like the bathroom or by the stairs. It has a range of 1,000 feet from the base station. If you would like to keep both of your pendants, you can pay $29.95 for the button.

Monitoring

The Medical Care Alert monitoring centers are located in New York and California and are staffed by EMT/EMD certified operators. Spanish-speaking operators are on duty at all times, and support for deaf or hearing impaired customers is also available. The staff training program is certified by the Security Industry Association.

Guide to Medical Alert Systems

Medical alert systems allow seniors to get the help they need should they suffer a fall or another medical emergency. There are two basic types of devices: the classic home unit and mobile units.

Home units provide medical alert systems within a limited range of your home.

With a home unit, a stationary base that is connected to power and the monitoring center via either a wired landline or wireless cell service. The home base contains a powerful speaker and microphone that allows you to communicate with an operator at the monitoring center.

The second part of the system is a small button that you can wear around your neck or on your wrist. In the event of an emergency, you push the button, and this activates the help function of the base. If for some reason you are not able to communicate with the operator (if you're outside, for example), they will automatically put your emergency plan into place, such as calling loved ones or sending EMS.

Mobile units provide seniors access to emergency help wherever there is cell service.

These units use a cellular connection to communicate with the monitoring center and often use GPS and other location services to provide family or emergency personnel with your exact location in the event of an emergency. With quality, above-board companies, you aren’t required to pay additional fees or add the device to your cell phone plan – the cell service is included in the monthly fee.

Mobile medical alert systems may be all-in-one devices (with a button on the small, flip phone-sized device) or two-part systems. Both types have a small mobile unit with a two-way speaker that allows users to speak with the operators at the monitoring center. The main difference is that the two-part system has a wearable help button (necklace or wristband). This allows you to use the device while it’s charging or not on your person for some reason, such as if you stow it in your purse or another bag while on a walk.

Unlike home units, mobile units need to be charged regularly. The battery life varies (usually 1-5 days), but it’s normally recommended to place the mobile unit on its charging dock each night.

Who Should Consider a Medical Alert System

Modern medical alert systems don’t just provide security for seniors who are prone to falls, they have many other uses as well. Below is a list of those who may benefit from medical alert systems.

Independent & Active Seniors

Falls don’t just happen indoors – a 2017 study shows that 48% of the most recent falls for seniors happen outdoors. Seniors who enjoy an active lifestyle and the outdoors can use medical alert devices to maintain that freedom as long as possible. Mobile medical alert devices give them and their loved ones peace of mind by knowing that help is available if they need it, and that their location can be tracked by emergency personnel and loved ones if necessary.

Seniors who fall into this category should look for a medical alert device with the following features:

  • Mobile Device: This gives seniors and their loved ones’ peace of mind, and it allows seniors to maintain an active lifestyle for as long as possible.
  • Wearable Help Button for Mobile Device: In addition to being more versatile and comfortable, a help button that you can wear on your wrist or neck allows seniors to use the mobile device in their home, as well as on-the-go. An all-in-one unit is cumbersome and not always shower-safe. Both MobileHelp and Medical Guardian provide these this feature.
  • Pinpoint Location Tracking: Devices with the newest technology can be located with a much greater degree of precision, since they don’t just rely on cell service tracking. The best systems use multiple tracking methods including cell service, GPS, and WIFI hotspots.

Aging in Place

75% of older adults plan to stay in their current home for the rest of their lives, but not having the constant presence of a caregiver in a long-term care facility creates a substantial risk of falling and not receiving the immediate care that is needed. The risk is substantial for seniors – every 11 seconds an older adult is treated for a fall in an emergency room, and 25% experience a fall once a year.

A medical alert system enables aging in place for those with mobility issues (such as needing a walker or using a wheelchair) and for those who receive in-home care. It’s especially necessary for those who don’t have a loved one or caregiver who stays home with them 24/7.

Seniors with mobility issues and those who need in-home care should look for the following features in a medical alert system.

  • Affordable Monthly Monitoring: In addition to paying for their home and living expenses, seniors who choose to age in place face the expense of paying for home care, and the last thing they need is another large, monthly expense. Seniors in this situation should compare companies and rates to find a quality, affordable solution such as Bay Medical Alarm for landline monitoring or MobileHelp for cellular in-home units.
  • Automatic Fall Detection: Those who struggle with mobility are at a higher risk of falls, so it’s wise to invest in as much protection as possible. Automatic Fall Detection doesn’t work 100% of the time, but it can be a lifesaver for those who fall and aren’t able to press their button.
  • Voice Activated Wall Button: This is a relatively new feature that is offered by Medical Guardian and may be offered by additional companies in the future. Seniors can call for help by repeating “Call Medical Guardian” twice. This benefits seniors who may have difficulty reaching a wall button or the home station should they suffer a fall while not wearing their help button.
  • Medication Reminders and Automated Dispensers: If you or your loved one lived in an assisted living facility, staff would be available to provide reminders and assistance with medication. Those who choose to age in place and opt for home care don’t always have caregivers present to provide this service. Some companies, such as MobileHelp, provide automated medication reminders for those who often forget when to take their medications, and Philips Lifeline offers an automated medication dispenser.

Seniors with Alzheimer's or Dementia

60% of those with dementia will wander, and a senior with Alzheimer’s will often be unable to remember important information such as his or her name, address or phone number. Wandering presents a serious risk for seniors with dementia, but medical alert devices can help caregivers locate their loved ones if they become lost.

In addition to mobile devices with location services, there are device options for seniors who have difficulty remembering to wear or charge their device.

  • Mobile and Home Device Combination: Seniors who may wander off or become lost can benefit from a mobile device that allows their loved ones to track their location, but they also can benefit from a home medical alert system that won’t stop working if they forget to charge their mobile device. MobileHelp is an example of a company that offers an affordable bundle of a mobile and home medical alert system. The cost is $41.95 a month for both systems.
  • Wall Buttons: Wall buttons are helpful in high-risk locations (such as the restroom) if you or your loved one forgets to wear the help button. Simply press the button and the monitoring center will be notified that help is needed.
  • Pinpoint Location Tracking: As mentioned above, caregiver tracking allows loved ones and emergency personnel to locate seniors in case of an emergency. Newer technology uses the cellular service, GPS, and nearby WIFI hotspots to provide the senior’s exact location, with a much greater degree of accuracy than older units that just use the cell service or GPS by itself.
  • Geofencing: Seniors who tend to wander can especially benefit from this service. Some companies (such as Bay Alarm Medical) allow loved ones to set geofencing alerts that send notifications (text message/email) when a loved leaves or enters a predetermined area, such as the area immediately surrounding their home.
  • Battery Monitoring: Battery monitoring can take different forms – some devices automatically alert the senior when the battery is getting low and it’s time for charging, while others send alerts to loved ones via text message or email when a mobile device’s battery reaches a critical level. This is helpful for seniors who tend to forget to charge their devices.
  • Medication Reminders: Some companies, such as MobileHelp, provide automated medication reminders for those who often forget when to take their medications.

Seniors with High-Risk Medical Conditions

Almost 70% of older adults with diabetes will die due to some type of heart disease, and about 1 in 6 will die due to a stroke. Many deaths could be prevented if the senior was able to get the help they needed in time. Medical alert devices can be lifesaving for seniors with serious medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. Consider the following premium features that provide extra protection for those with high-risk conditions.

  • Automatic Fall Detection: While not 100% reliable, automatic fall detection is an extra line of protection for those at a high risk of falling or suffering a medical emergency. If you can’t push your button during an emergency, automatic fall detection can prevent further long-term damage and may even save your life.
  • Activity Monitoring: Companies (like Medical Guardian) that offer this premium feature utilize extra motion sensors to detect a sudden change in activity level – such as when a loved one hasn’t been moving when they normally would. If that situation were to occur, the system sends an alert to a loved one that something may be wrong.

Understanding Additional Features

Along with the basic function of alerting a monitoring center to a medical emergency, medical alert systems come with a host of other features (sometimes included and sometimes optional at an extra cost) that can benefit many seniors.

  • Fall Detection: Fall detection is a newer technology that automatically detects when you fall down. While it’s not 100% accurate, it can be life-saving or prevent further long-term injury for those who fall and aren’t able to press their button, such as those who fall and are knocked unconscious. It typically comes at an extra monthly cost (usually $5 - $10) and sometimes requires a separate device.
  • Caregiver Tracking and Monitoring: This feature is designed for loved ones who care for a senior, and allows them to monitor his or her activity as well as their device. This is most often used with mobile devices. For example, you can log into an online or mobile application to see the battery level of the senior’s device, find the location and set up alerts. One popular option is geofencing which allows you to receive a text message or email when your loved one enters or leaves a set area.
  • In-Home Cellular Devices: Cell-enabled home bases serve the same function as landline bases, they just rely on cellular service instead of a phone line. While there are typically more expensive than landline systems, they are almost always cheaper than the cost of a landline medical alert system plus the cost of a landline-based phone service. Keep in mind that it’s not always as reliable as a landline system if you have spotty cellular coverage in your area.
  • Medication Reminders and Automatic Dispensers: Some companies offer automatic medication reminders which alert the senior when it’s time to take their medicine. Another option is a separate device that automatically dispenses the correct medications at the right time. This can help seniors who struggle with remembering if they’ve taken their medication, and can help to ensure that they don’t take too many or too few of their pills.
  • Wall-Mounted Buttons: Some seniors or caregivers may want the added security of a wall-mounted button that will trigger the medical alert system in a high-risk area (such as a bathroom or kitchen) in case the senior isn’t wearing their pendant/help button for some reason.
  • Voice Extender: Those who don’t want a mobile device but have very large houses or like to spend time in their yard can utilize a voice extender that extends the range of the microphone and speaker of the home base. For instance, those who like to garden could install a voice extender on the outside of their home so they can hear and speak with an operator. This also is also helpful to avoid accidentally calling EMS if you press your button but can’t hear the home base to cancel the alert.
  • Remote Phone Answering: Some companies allow seniors to use their home base to answer phone calls made to their landline without having to pick up a phone – essentially functioning as a speakerphone. Fire/Smoke/CO/Water Monitoring: These devices can alert the monitoring station when there is an emergency involving fire, carbon monoxide, or water leaks.

Buyers Guide: How to Choose a Medical Alert System

Decide Which Type of Medical Alert System Is Best for You

The first step is to decide which type of medical alert system will work best for you or your loved one – you can choose a traditional home system, a mobile system (preferably one that will be practical to use in your home as well), or a bundle of both.

This decision mainly hinges on whether you or your loved one spends time out of the home unaccompanied. Active seniors or those who wander out of the home can especially benefit from the features provided by mobile devices, while those who mostly stay at home can opt for an in-home device that doesn’t require charging.

Find a Quality Company

Finding a quality company is important since there are those that provide sub-par equipment at a higher price without quality customer service. As a starting point, you want to consider two main aspects of a company.

Is the company transparent?

Companies that provide concrete information about details such as pricing and fees are better to work with since they don’t have anything to hide. Be sure to get clarity about every aspect of the contract, return policy and fees. If it’s not readily available online or if representatives don’t offer straightforward answers to your questions, chances are good that you may be dealing with a shady company.

What is the return policy like?

It’s important to choose a company that allows you to return equipment and cancel your service without extra charges. You will almost always pay return shipping, but other than that they shouldn’t charge any fees. If you opt for quarterly, semi-annual, or annual billing, be sure that you can get a refund for the unused portion of your subscription.

Prioritize Comfort and Convenience

A medical alert system only works if you wear it. Whether you are researching for yourself or you are a caregiver researching for a loved one, it’s very important to take comfort and wearability into consideration. Some mobile units are more comfortable and convenient than others.

Most of the home systems have very similar help buttons/pendants, and you typically can choose to wear it around your neck or on your wrist. However, mobile units are not all the same. Some systems require you to wear the main unit around your neck or in another accessible place, while others allow you to stow the base unit in a bag, purse, or on your belt, and you only have to wear a small, lightweight button on your wrist or neck.

Pay Attention to Battery Life

If you or your loved one is already plugging in a cell phone every night, they may be more comfortable with a mobile unit that requires nightly charging. However, if you or your loved one are especially forgetful, make sure to choose a system with a longer battery life or one that allows for battery monitoring (where alerts are sent to a loved one if the battery gets too low).

Consider Optional Features

There are a large number of optional features to consider. Some of the most helpful ones to consider are listed below.

  • Fall Detection: It’s important not to fully rely on this technology as it doesn’t work 100% of the time, but for seniors at risk of falling, it can be life-saving. If a senior isn’t able to press their button, this can automatically detect the fall and call for help.
  • Lockbox: If EMS is called to a senior’s home and he or she doesn’t answer the door, they are obligated to break it down to enter the home. The repairs from this can be quite costly. Getting a lockbox allows EMS to access your home in case of an emergency without causing damage.
  • Caregiver Tracking: Caregiver tracking is a huge bonus for those who care for seniors. It allows you to monitor a number of aspects, depending on the specifics of the system. Some of the most useful features include monitoring the battery level of the device, geofencing (getting notifications when seniors leave or enter a predetermined area such as their home), and location tracking.

Choose a Subscription Type

Most companies offer a discount and extras (such as free shipping and even free accessories) for those who agree to be billed quarterly, semi-annually or annually, with the largest discounts often offered for annual subscriptions.

As mentioned above, be very careful to find out whether you will receive a full refund if you cancel mid-subscription. For instance, if you decide to cancel after three months, but you paid for six months, will you receive a refund for the three months you didn’t use?

Overall, those who are able to pay for a year at a time usually pay the lowest monthly rates, but you should be very careful to choose a reputable company.

Tips for Caregivers

Include loved ones in the purchasing process.

Whether you are purchasing a system for your loved ones or are just helping them to make the choice, be sure to include them in this process as much as possible. At the end of the day, it’s of no benefit if you convince them to get the system, but they don’t wear it consistently. If your loved one is resistant to the idea of purchasing or wearing a medical alert device, it is especially important to include them in the purchasing process to help them get more comfortable with the idea and increase the likelihood that they’ll actually use the device.

Consider your loved one’s specific needs.

There are many different features you can choose from when purchasing a medical alert device, so consider which ones your loved one will get the most use out, and which features will be most vital in keeping him or her safe. For example, if they have dementia, a device with location services may be a good idea in case of wandering. Likewise, fall detection may be necessary if your loved one is prone to accidents. Make sure you check which specific features and tools a device has and whether it will meet all of your loved one’s needs prior to making your purchase.

Be prepared to try several different options.

You might have an idea of what system will be best, but if your loved one doesn’t like it, be willing to return it and try something different. Either you or they may love the idea of a certain type of system initially, but after wearing the device and trying it out, they may realize it doesn’t work as anticipated or it isn’t comfortable.

In that case, you should return the device and try something different, whether from the same company or a different company. This highlights the importance of choosing a company with a gracious return policy. Also, keep in mind that many companies offer the same devices, so just choosing a different company doesn’t mean that you will get a different type of medical alert device. If it looks similar, chances are that it was manufactured by the same company.

Make sure your loved ones are using the device.

It does no good to pay for a medical alert system if your loved one isn’t actually using it or is using it improperly. Upon purchasing a device, take the time to walk your loved one through how to wear it and use it in case of an emergency. You may want to consider the simplicity of use of a device if you have any concerns that it may be difficult for your loved one to adjust to using it. It may also be wise to drop in (if possible) or call and check-in regularly, especially at first and until they get used to wearing the device all the time, every day.

Emphasize the importance of wearing the device during high-risk activities.

Be sure your loved ones are wearing their devices at the times when they are most at risk of a fall. For instance, ensure that they have a waterproof device that they are wearing during the shower and that they sleep with it on in case they have to get up in the middle of the night.

Medical Alert Systems Cost & Payment Assistance for Low-Income Seniors

Most of the time, companies don’t charge for the actual medical alert devices – customers lease the systems for free and pay a monthly monitoring fee. This fee can range from around $20 a month to $60 a month, depending on the type of system and optional services you choose. For a standard in-home medical alert system connected via landline, you can expect to pay between $20 and $30 a month. For cell-enabled, mobile units, you will typically pay $30-$45 a month.

For some low-income seniors, this monthly cost is out of reach. Additionally, Medicare and private insurance typically don’t provide coverage. That being said, there are some payment assistance options available to you depending on your income, personal situation and the state in which you reside.

Free Medical Alert Systems for Veterans

The VA offers a number of services designed to help elderly or disabled veterans maintain their independence. One of those services is a device very similar to a medical alert system.

The main difference is that the device which you wear around your neck only dials pre-programmed numbers and isn’t professionally monitored. The downside of this setup and the reason it’s not considered a “true” medical alert system, is that loved ones aren’t always near their phones or able to receive a call or text. For example, if you were to suffer a fall in the middle of the night, your call or text could go hours without being noticed.


That being said, this type of system is better than nothing if you absolutely can’t afford the monthly cost of a medical alert system. For more information and to apply, visit your nearest VA location or call (844) 698-2311.

Medicaid Coverage of Medical Alert Systems (PERS)

In most states, Medicaid covers some or all of the monthly cost of medical alert systems. These are officially called “Personal Emergency Response Services” or PERS.

Whether through waiver programs or other programs, most states offer help to seniors who qualify for nursing home care but wish to remain more independent. PERS is often one of the many services that can be used by seniors to maintain their independence.

Non-Medicaid State Assistance

Most states also have non-Medicaid senior assistance programs that are designed to help seniors get the services and medical support they need. In many states, these assistance programs can help seniors purchase medical alert devices at a significantly reduced price, or free of cost. The assistance programs vary from state-to-state, but most can offer at least partial assistance or a suitable alternative.

Long-Term Care Insurance

If you have long-term care insurance, you may be covered for the purchase of a medical alert device. Most long-term care insurance policies cover durable medical equipment and will provide coverage for services or equipment that help individuals remain in their home rather than relocate to residential care. Check the details of your policy to see if durable medical equipment or other in-home services are covered.

Contact Your Local Area Agency on Aging

Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) is a nationwide network of organizations that provide services and assistance to seniors. Your AAA may be able to direct you to state or local assistance for obtaining medical alert devices. Contact your local AAA to find out if any financial help for medical alert devices is available in your state or city, or if you are confused about what assistance you qualify for.