The Best Medical Alert Systems of 2019
Date Updated: February, 2019
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every four older adults falls every year, and 20 percent of those falls are serious, resulting in a broken bone, head trauma or the similar injury. Seniors who experience a fall double their chance of experiencing another fall in the future. Unfortunately, the risk of falling can’t be completely avoided, so it’s crucial to provide immediate help and assistance if and when a fall happens.
This is where home medical alert systems can be invaluable. These devices allow seniors to retain their independence at home and in their communities, while minimizing the risk of further injury or death from falling being unable 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 from hidden fees. We’ve created this review to shed light on the top home medical alert options so that seniors and their loved ones can easily choose a reputable and affordable home medical alert company that works for them.
The 14 Top Home Medical Alert Systems
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.
|Classic Guardian||Home Guardian||Family Guardian||Mobile Guardian||Active Guardian||Freedom Guardian|
|Type of Device||In-home system||In-home system||In-home system||Mobile system||Mobile system||Smartwatch-style device|
|Battery Life||32-hour backup||30-hour backup||32-hour backup||24 hours||5 days||2 days|
|Range||1,300 feet||600 feet||1,300 feet||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Fall Detection||$10 a month||$10 a month||$10 a month||Not Available||$10 a month||Not Available|
* One-time device cost of $99
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, but no cancellation fees are ever charged. Those who opt-in to pay for their service annually will receive a discount from the base monthly cost.
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. Additionally, a companion app allows family and caregivers to monitor and track their loved ones and their daily activity.
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. For customers with an annual subscription, the lockbox is included at no extra charge.
- 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. It’s available with both the in-home and mobile device options.
- 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. It’s only available under the Family and Classic Guardian Plan.
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.
For more, read our in-depth review on Medical Guardian.
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).
|Type of Device||In-home system||Mobile system||In-home and mobile system||Smartwatch-style device|
|Battery Life||30-hour backup||24 hours||24 hours; 30-hour backup||48 hours|
|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
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.
MobileHelp essentially has three device options – an in-home system, a mobile device and a smartwatch. The fourth plan consists of 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.
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)
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).
For more, read our in-depth review on MobileHelp.
Best for Low Initial Fees
LifeStation doesn’t charge any installation fees, and all devices ship for free. The only customers who have to pay a one-time fee are those who choose the Standard package for the Mobile with GPS device- all other LifeStation plans have zero startup costs. LifeStation offers three services packages for each of its devices, so users have their pick of the one that meets their needs and budget.
|In-Home Traditional||In-Home Plus||Mobile with GPS|
|Type of Device||In-home system||In-home system||Mobile system|
|Battery Life||48-hour backup||48-hour backup||5 days|
|Range||650 feet||650 feet||N/A|
|Fall Detection||$5 a month||$5 a month||$5 a month|
Pricing and Plans
LifeStation has three plans which range in price from $19.95 to $26.95 a month with a Standard service package. The Select and Supreme plans are more expensive, but they also come with extra features. The Select plan is an extra $5 a month and includes either fall detection or the Protection Plan, which provides coverage for damaged, lost, or stolen devices. The Supreme package ranges from $10-$15 more than the Standard, and includes both fall detection and the Protection Plan.
The company offers free shipping on all of its plans, and does not charge any one-time fees other than a $50 activation fee for the Mobile with GPS Standard plan. Customers can cancel and return their equipment within 30 days for a full refund (return shipping may apply).
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 $5 a month. Customers who choose the Standard service plan for the Mobile with GPS will pay a one-time device fee of $50; no other LifeStaton devices or plans have any one-time fees.
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
LifeStation uses in-house monitoring centers located in New Jersey and Texas, rather than outsourcing their monitoring to a third-party company.
For more, read our in-depth review on LifeStation.
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: 1,000 feet. Additionally, the company offers a unique service called “On the Road.” This car-based system automatically calls for help in the event of a crash or customers can press the help button if there’s an emergency in the car.
|In-Home (Landline)||In-Home (Cellular)||On the Go||On the Road||360° Protection|
|Type of Device||In-home system||In-home system||Mobile system||In-car system||In-home and mobile system|
|Battery Life||32-hour backup||32-hour backup||3 days||N/A||32-hour backup; 3-day mobile battery|
|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
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).
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.
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.
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).
For more, read our in-depth review on Bay Alarm Medical.
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.
|HomeSafe||HomeSafe with AutoAlert||GoSafe 2||GoSafe|
|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|
|Range||500 feet||500 feet||N/A||N/A|
*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
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.
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.
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.
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.
For more, read our in-depth review on Philips Lifeline.
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.
|HOME System||HOME-3G System (Cellular)||HOME & YARD System||HOME & AWAY ELITE (GPS)||HOME & AWAY PRIMO (GPS & Wi-Fi)|
|Type of Device||In-home system||In-home system||In-home system||Mobile system||Mobile system|
|Battery Life||72-hour backup||72-hour backup||24-hour backup||36 hours||4 days|
|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|
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.
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.
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.
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.
For more, read our in-depth review on Medical Care Alert.
Best for Compliance and Activity Monitoring
QMedic devices are more than just emergency call buttons. The devices actively monitor users’ activity levels, sleep patterns, and compliance (whether they’ve been wearing the device) to give caregivers, friends, and family a clear picture of their loved one’s wellness. The stats are updated on the Caregiver Dashboard so caregivers can watch for patterns in their loved one’s behavior and make sure they are actually wearing their device.
|Type of Device||In-home||In-home||Mobile|
|Battery Life||24-hour backup||24-hour backup||14 days|
|Range||800-1,000 feet||800-1,000 feet||N/A|
|Fall Detection||Not available||Not available||Not available|
Pricing and Plans
QMedic offers monthly and annual payment options. Equipment rental, free ground shipping, and 24/7 emergency and wellness monitoring are included with both monthly and annual plans.
There are no long-term contracts required, and customers may cancel their rental at any time (although customers who paid for an annual plan will not receive a refund for remaining months if they cancel before the year is over). There is also a 30-day money back guarantee on all systems.
QMedic offers three devices:
- Landline Medical Alert System: This system requires an active landline connection in the user’s home. The monthly cost of $30 includes the base station, a waterproof help button that can be worn as a pendant or wristband and 24/7 emergency and wellness monitoring. The emergency button has an 800-1,000 foot range from the base unit and a battery that lasts for 2 years.
- Cellular Medical Alert System: The cellular in-home system is identical to the landline system, other than the cellular connection. This device is ideal for those who spend most of their time in the home but do not have a landline. It is also $30 a month – the same price as the landline version, providing cellular coverage at no extra cost.
- Mobile GPS Medical Alert System: This is QMedic’s only mobile option. It costs $45 a month, including the device, charging cradle and cellular and GPS coverage. The portable device has GPS location services and is water-resistant so it can get wet in the rain. Unlike the in-home devices, the mobile device may only be worn as a neck pendant (not a wristband). The battery lasts 14 days in between charges.
All QMedic devices come with access to the Caregiver Dashboard. The dashboard is a free feature that allows caregivers, friends, and family members of QMedic users to access the wear compliance, sleep, and activity data tracked by the device. Caregivers can also view the user’s call history with the monitoring center.
QMedic devices are monitored by a UL-listed call center with locations in Utah and Idaho. According to the company website, it takes an average of 30 seconds for operators to respond to an emergency call.
For more, read our in-depth review on QMedic.
Best for Easy Repairs
ResponseNow customers can have peace of mind when ordering their devices. In addition to a 30-day money back guarantee, ResponseNow takes responsibility for fixing any problems with their devices. The company handles all service and repairs (including battery replacement) of faulty equipment, free of charge. For extra coverage, customers can choose the Care(+) Protection Plan for $3.95 a month, which covers device repairs or replacement due to accidental damage, theft, and lost devices. The in-home console and medical emergency buttons also come with a lifetime replacement warranty.
|In the Home||Belle||Belle+|
|Type of Device||In-home||Mobile||Mobile|
|Battery Life||24-hour backup||30 days||5 days|
|Fall Detection||$11.95 a month||Not available||Included in monthly cost|
Pricing and Plans
ResponseNow customers may choose to pay for their device on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. The monthly cost includes both the device rental as well as 24/7 emergency monitoring services.
For all ResponseNow devices, the annual and quarterly plans are slightly less expensive than the monthly plan (users will save a few dollars per month). Additionally, the company doesn’t charge any shipping or activation fees and all devices come with a 30-day money back guarantee.
Response Now offers one in-home device and two mobile devices:
- In the Home: This device is designed for those who spend the majority of their time inside of their home. The monthly cost includes a base console and water-resistant emergency button that can be worn as a pendant or around the wrist. Users can also purchase a fall detection pendant for an additional $11.95 per month, as well as extra emergency buttons for $2.95 per month for each button. In the Home must connect to a landline, so it is not an option for those without one.
- Belle: The Belle is a basic mobile medical alert device. It connects with AT&T cellular network for widespread coverage and has a very long battery life of 30 days. At $39.95 per month, it is the less expensive of the two mobile devices, but it also lacks some of the advanced features that come with the Belle+. Fall detection is not available for this device.
- Belle+: This is the more advanced and expensive of the two mobile devices at $49.95 per month, but that cost includes fall detection. The Belle+ also has GPS capabilities and includes device tracking, so the device can be located via a registered cell phone. Both Belle devices are water-resistant.
For an additional cost, ResponseNow customers have the option of adding extra features to their monthly plan:
- Lockbox: For $3.95 a month, users can rent a lockbox. Response Now will keep their code on file to give to emergency responders if the user is unable to open their door during an emergency. Customers who choose an annual plan receive a lockbox free of cost.
- Care(+) Protection Plan: The Care(+) Protection Plan provides extra insurance for device damage. It includes coverage of accidents like dropping the device in the toilet or spilling a beverage on the console. The Care(+) Protection Plan can be added to any rental for an additional $3.95 per month.
ResponseNow operates several U.S. based monitoring centers. Operators will have users’ emergency contacts such as friends, family, or caretakers on file, and will ask users whether they should contact one of these people or emergency response services. If the operator cannot communicate with the user, they will dispatch emergency response services.
For more, read our in-depth review on ResponseNow.
Best for Two-Way Communication
RescueTouch devices are not only used to connect users with emergency monitoring centers, but also their friends and family. Upon purchasing a device, users can add up to five personal contacts that they can choose to contact when they need help rather than emergency services.
The personal contacts also have the ability to call their loved one via the device. Each device is given a phone number, like a cell phone, that family and friends can call if they cannot reach their loved one for any reason. This is designed to give friends and family of RescueTouch users peace of mind when their loved one is not answering their phone.
The exception to this is the 9-1-1 Caller plan, which only connects users with emergency services.
|EMS Response- 9-1-1 Caller||Family Response -Care Caller||Family Response- Fall Caller||EMS Response- Maximum Monitored Caller||Family Response- Chit Chat Twin Pack||EMS Response- Chit Chat Max. Monitored Twin Pack|
|Type of Device||Mobile||Mobile||Mobile||Mobile||Mobile||Mobile|
|Battery Life||5 days||2.5 days (5 days with GPS off)||2.5 days (5 days with GPS off)||2.5 days (5 days with GPS off)||2.5 days (5 days with GPS off)||2.5 days (5 days with GPS off)|
|Fall Detection||Not available||Not available||Included in monthly cost||Included in monthly cost||Included in monthly cost||Included in monthly cost|
Pricing and Plans
RescueTouch customers have the choice of paying for their device on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. The six plans range in price from $25 to $69 a month, plus a one-time device purchase cost of $99 for single devices and $178 for the twin packs. There is a lifetime price-lock, so the monthly cost will remain the same over time.
All of the payment options include free shipping and a 30-day money back guarantee. Customers may also cancel at any time without penalty.
RescueTouch actually only offers one device: the mobile SOS pendant. Customers choose the plan that meets their needs, and the device is programmed accordingly. The SOS pendant may be programmed for unmonitored use, which means it contacts friends, family, or a caregiver when the emergency button is pressed, or monitored use, meaning it connects with the emergency response center.
All pendants are showerproof, worn as a necklace, and include a two-way speaker. All of the plans other than the 9-1-1 Caller include GPS capabilities. Fall detection is available with certain plans.
There are three Family Response Unmonitored plans. Customers who choose these plans alert their personal contacts (friends, family, and/or caregivers) when they press their emergency button, rather than the emergency response center. It is up to their personal contacts to determine whether to call 9-1-1 for the user or handle the situation on their own.
- Care Caller: With this plan, users can add up to five personal contacts to be notified when they press their help button. Personal contacts can also check the location of the device via GPS, and have the option of initiating contact with their loved one. This plan is $35 a month, and does not include fall detection.
- Fall Caller: This plan includes all of the same features as the Care Caller, plus fall detection. Fall detection is included in the monthly cost of $41.
- Chit Chat Basic Twin Pack: The Chit Chat Twin Pack plan comes with two SOS pendants, so customers can use them as a “walkie-talkie.” Otherwise, the features are identical to the Fall Caller plan. The total monthly cost for both devices is $65, plus the one-time $178 sign-up fee.
RescueTouch also offers three EMS Response Monitored plans:
- 9-1-1 Caller: This is the most basic and least expensive RescueTouch plan, at $25 a month. The device connects directly with 9-1-1 rather than a monitoring center. This is the only RescueTouch plan that does not include GPS location services or the option to connect with friends and family. Fall detection is not available with this plan.
- Maximum Monitored Caller: Customers who select this plan will connect with the monitoring center when they press their help button. They can then tell the operator to contact their listed friends and family, or call emergency services (if the operator is unable to communicate with the user, they will automatically call emergency services). The monthly cost of $51 also includes GPS services, fall detection, and the option for friends and family to initiate contact.
Chit Chat Maximum Monitored Twin Pack: This plan is identical to the Maximum Monitored Caller, with the addition of the chit-chat feature between the two included devices. The plan costs $69 a month including both devices, fall detection, and GPS.
The mobile SOS pendant is an all-in-one device, and RescueTouch does not offer any additional features at this time.
RescueTouch devices connect with a monitoring center based in Utah. All operators undergo thorough training to handle medical, fire, and security emergencies.
For more, read our in-depth review on RescueTouch.
Best for Free Accessories
All Rescue Alert device rentals and purchases include a nice perk: free accessories. With any payment option (monthly, quarterly, or annual rental, or one-time purchase), customers receive either a second personal help button or a lockbox, free of charge. All Rescue Alert customers are eligible for the free gift, no matter which payment plan they select.
|MXD||MXD3G||Rescue Alert GPS|
|Type of Device||In-home||In-home||Mobile|
|Battery Life||80-hour backup||60-hour backup||48+ hours|
|Range||600 feet||600 feet||N/A|
|Fall Detection||$10 a month||$10 a month||Not available|
Pricing and Plans
Rescue Alert users have the same payment plan options for all of the devices: monthly, quarterly, or annual rental. The rental cost includes the device itself as well as 24/7 monitoring services. Customers looking for an in-home unit also have the option of purchasing the device. There is no device fee for rentals, no activation fee, and no shipping costs for any of the products.
Customers are free to cancel their plan at any time without incurring a penalty. Additionally, all new customers are able to return their device for a full refund within 30 days of receiving it if they are unhappy with the product or service.
There are two in-home Rescue Alert units, one for landline connection and one with a cellular connection. Additionally, Rescue Alert offers one mobile device:
- MXD: The MXD is an in-home unit that connects to a landline and provides two-way voice communication between the user and Rescue Alert’s Response Center. Customers can rent the MXD with a monthly, quarterly, or annual plan, ranging from $27.95 per month for the annual plan, to $32.95 per month when paying month-to-month. Customers can also purchase the device for a one-time payment of $849 or an initial payment of $199 plus $15.95 per month for monitoring services.
- MXD3G: This device is the Rescue Alert’s cellular option for in-home units. The MXD3G connects with AT&T cellular service. Plans are a bit more expensive than the landline option, ranging from $37.95 per month for the annual plan to $42.95 for the monthly plan, but that includes cellular service. Customers may purchase the device for $299, plus $25.95 per month for monitoring services.
- Rescue Alert GPS: This mobile medical alert device connects with the AT&T 3G network and uses GPS to update users’ location every 15 minutes. The lightweight device can be worn as a belt clip or simply placed in a pocket or purse. There is no purchase option for this device. Rental plans range from $37.95 per month for the annual plan to $44.95 per month for the monthly plan. All plans include the device, a charging dock and cable and a free lockbox.
Customers have the option of purchasing special features, including:
- myActive Alert Fall Detection: MXD and MXD3 users have the option of purchasing the myActive Alert fall detection pendant for an additional $10 a month. If a fall is detected and users are unable to press the help button, myActive Alert automatically calls the monitoring center. The water-resistant pendant has a range of 600-1000 feet.
- Wall Button: MXD and MXD3 users may also purchase a wall button that connects with their in-home device. The button can be mounted anywhere in the home, including around the bath or shower, and has a range of 600 feet from the MXD or MXD3 base. Customers can order wall buttons for $5 a month per button.
- Lockbox: Lockboxes allow users to safely store a spare key for family members or emergency responders to use to enter their home during emergencies. All Rescue Alert customers who purchase or rent a device have the option of receiving a free lockbox with their subscription or purchase, or they can purchase a lockbox for $39.99.
All devices connect to one of the Rescue Alert’s Response Centers, both of which are located in Utah. The centers are certified by ETL.
For more, read our in-depth review on Rescue Alert.
Best for Access to Medical Advice
GreatCall offers a feature it calls “Urgent Care” that allows customers to be directly connected with a licensed nurse or doctor from their Lively Mobile device. The nurse or doctor can help to answer medical questions, provide advice, or even send in a prescription to the customer’s pharmacy. This feature is included for no extra cost in the Preferred and Ultimate plans.
|Type of Device||Mobile||Mobile||Mobile|
|Battery Life||24 hours||24 hours||24 hours|
|Fall Detection||Not Available||Not Available||Included in Monthly Cost|
Pricing and Plans
Rather than leasing or renting devices as part of the monthly fee, GreatCall’s customer must purchase their devices upfront. The Lively Mobile device costs about $50, and there are three monthly plans to provide monitoring: Basic, Preferred and Ultimate.
As the name implies, the Basic plan only includes monitoring. The Preferred plan includes a telehealth option called “Urgent Care” and access to the GreatCall Link app, which allows family and caregivers to check up on their loved ones. The Ultimate plan includes all of the above and adds fall detection and device replacement.
There are no contracts, and customers are typically charged for one month at a time. There’s an activation fee of $35 for all three plans and a $10 shipping fee. For those who wish to return their devices, there is a 30-day return policy to get a full refund including the cost of the device, the activation fee and the cost of monitoring. However, a $10 restocking fee is charged. Outside of the 30-day window, customers who cancel in the middle of the billing cycle will get a pro-rated refund of their monitoring charges.
The Lively Mobile is an all-in-one mobile unit that works on Verizon’s cellular network, and it can be used in the home and anywhere that has cellular service. The waterproof pendant can be used in the shower or bath, and it can be worn around the neck, on the wrist or clipped to a belt or pocket. It’s GPS location services helps EMS responders locate the wearer in case of an emergency.
Customers who purchase a Health & Safety package for the device have the option of using special features, including:
- Urgent Care: Urgent Care gives users 24/7 access to a registered nurse or doctor from their Lively Mobile device. Users are connected with a nurse or doctor to ask questions, advice, or even get prescriptions over the phone. This feature is included in the Preferred and Ultimate plans.
- GreatCall Link: This application allows caregivers to stay up-to-date on their loved one’s health and activities. Caregivers can download the GreatCall Link app on their smartphone or access the tool online. This allows caregivers to be alerted when their loved one presses their button, and they can view the current location and power level of their loved one’s device. GreatCall Link is included with the Preferred and Ultimate packages.
- Device Replacement: This feature is included in the Ultimate plan, or for an additional $3 a month on either of the other plans. Device Replacement covers any loss, theft or accidental damage of a device.
- Fall Detection: The fall detection technology automatically alerts the 5Star monitoring center if a fall is detected. However, it’s not 100% reliable, so customers should be sure to press their button if they are experiencing an emergency. Fall detection is included in the Ultimate plan.
The GreatCall Lively Mobile device connects with the IAED-certified 5Star Urgent Response Service center. Upon receiving their device, customers complete a Personal Profile that 5Star agents use to access important information like medical history and emergency contacts. In severe emergencies, agents can locate a caller’s location using GPS services and will call emergency dispatch to the caller’s location. Agents can also provide translation services for support in over 100 languages.
For more, read our in-depth review on GreatCall Lively Mobile.
Best Standalone Mobile App
In addition to its in-home and mobile alert devices, LifeFone has an easy to use smartphone app, Mobile Alert. Customers can use Mobile Alert to contact the call center as they would with their medical alert device, and can also use the app as a “virtual escort service” if they are ever in a situation that makes them feel unsafe. The app is only $5.95 a month for existing LifeFone customers, and $7.95 a month for new customers.
|At-Home||At-Home Cellular||At-Home & On-the-Go GPS||At Home & On-the-Go GPS, Voice-in-Necklace|
|Type of Device||In-home system||In-home system||In-home and mobile system||Mobile system|
|Battery Life||32-hour backup||32-hour backup||24 hours; 30-hour backup||36 hours|
|Range||1,300 feet||1,300 feet||600 feet in-home, 350 feet mobile||N/A|
|Fall Detection||$5 a month||$5 a month||$10 a month||$5 a month|
Pricing and Plans
LifeFone offers four different systems, all of which can be purchased with an annual or quarterly subscription, or paid for on a month-to-month basis. All of the systems come with a 30-day risk-free trial, during which customers can return the equipment for a full refund. Additionally, customers can cancel their subscription at any time and will receive a prorated refund for any prepaid months. There are also no shipping, equipment, or activation fees.
There are two in-home device options:
- At-Home Landline: The At-Home Landline system is a basic medical alert device, and the least expensive of LifeFone’s offerings at $29.95 per month. The system must be connected to a landline, has a range of 1,300 feet from the base, and has a 32-hour backup battery. Fall detection can be added for an additional $5 per month.
- At-Home Cellular: The At-Home Cellular system has all of the same features as the At-Home Landline, but connects to AT&T cellular network, making it a good option for those looking for a basic in-home system but who do not have a landline. It is slightly more expensive than the landline system at $34.95 per month, but that includes cellular connection.
LifeFone also offers two mobile systems:
- At-Home & On-the-Go GPS: This system is actually both a mobile and in-home system. For $39.95 per month, users receive an in-home base unit with a range of 600 feet, as well as a waterproof mobile device with GPS. Fall detection can be added for an addition $10 per month.
- At-Home & On-the-Go GPS, Voice-in-Necklace: This all-in-one system is the only LifeFone offering that does not require an in-home base. The only equipment is a lightweight pendant necklace or wristband, and a small charging dock. The two-way voice pendant also has GPS location services, a 36-hour battery life, and is water-resistant. This is the most expensive LifeFone system, at $46.95 per month. Fall detection is an addition $5 per month.
Along with the Mobile Alert smartphone app, LifeFone customers can purchase additional accessories and features including:
- Lockbox: Customer can store a house key in a lockbox for EMTs or loved ones to use to enter their home in case of an emergency. LifeFone offers three different lockboxes: a hanging Master Lock Box and a wall-mounted Master Lock Box are both available for $39.95, and a basic hanging lockbox is available for $29.95.
- Wall-Mounted Button: For added protection, customers can purchase a wall-mounted button for $39.95. The button can be mounted anywhere in the home, and functions like the pendant or wristband to contact the LifeFone call center during emergencies.
- Activity Assurance: LifeFone customers with an in-home device can add the Activity Assurance feature for an additional $6 per month. Activity Assurance is designed to give caregivers and friends and family peace of mind about their loved ones who use LifeFone. Each day at a set time, the base unit will beep until the user presses a button on the unit, letting LifeFone know that they are okay. If there is no response within 15 minutes, an emergency care agent will call the user. If there is no answer, the emergency care plan is put into place.
LifeFone’s call centers are located in New York and California. Emergency Care Agents are available 24 hours-a-day, and will follow the personal Emergency Care Instructions that every user sets upon receiving their system.
For more, read our in-depth review on LifeFone.
Best for Multilingual Support
Alert1 goes above and beyond bilingual support in their call centers by offering customer support in over 150 languages. Customers’ preferred language is kept on file, and interpreters are always on standby to provide support when customers call the monitoring center for help. The feature is great for those who feel more comfortable communicating in a language other than English.
|Home||Home Fall Detection||On-the-Go||On-the-Go Fall Detection||On-the-Go + Home Fall Detection|
|Type of Device||In-home system||In-home system||Mobile system||Mobile system||Mobile system|
|Connection||Landline||Landline or cellular||Cellular||Cellular||Cellular|
|Battery Life||24-hour backup||24-hour backup||30 days||5 days||24 hours|
|Range||600 feet||400 feet||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Fall Detection||Not available||Included in monthly cost||Not available||Included in monthly cost||Included in monthly cost|
Pricing and Plans
Alert1 has five different systems to choose from, including systems with fall detection. All of the systems may be purchased with an annual, semi-annual, or quarterly plans. New customers who choose the annual or semi-annual plan are eligible for a refund if they return the device within 30 days of receiving it (the refund is not available to quarterly subscribers). Customers do not pay for equipment, but there is a one time $50 activation fee for all systems.
There is no month-to-month payment option, so the quarterly plan is the best option if you are looking for a short-term commitment. Prices listed below are for the quarterly subscription.
For in-home systems, Alert1 customers have two options:
- Home Medical Alert: The Home Medical Alert system connects with a landline and has a range of 600 feet. Customers have the choice of wearing the water-resistant alert button as a necklace or wristband. This is the least expensive device at $25.95 per month, but fall detection is not available.
- Home Fall Detection Medical Alert: This in-home system can be used via landline or cellular connection, and includes a pendant with a battery life of over two years. The home fall detection system’s range is a bit shorter than the other in-home option, at 400 feet, and it is more expensive at $36.95 per month. But, the monthly cost includes fall detection.
Alert1 offers three mobile devices:
- On-the-Go Medical Alert: This mobile system can be used with either T-Mobile or AT&T cellular networks, so you can choose the network that has better connectivity in your area. The water-resistant device works anywhere in the United States, and it can be worn as a necklace or on the hip. This device costs $36.95 per month and does not include fall detection.
- On-the-Go Fall Detection: The On-the-Go Fall Detection system uses the AT&T network and a combination of GPS, Wi-Fi, and cellular coverage to locate you if you call for help or a fall is detected. The device battery lasts up to 5 days in between charges, and can be worn in the shower. At $47.95 per month, this is one of the more expensive options, but the price includes 24/7 fall detection.
- On-the-Go + Home Fall Detection: This system includes a mobile fall detection pendant, a home fall detection pendant, and a home wristband, all of which are water-resistant and use the AT&T cellular network. It is the most comprehensive and most expensive system, at $58.95 per month including fall detection.
Customers have the option of purchasing extra features and accessories for their medical alert device, including:
- Lockbox: Customers who purchase an annual plan receive an emergency lockbox free of charge with their subscription. All other customers can purchase a lockbox for a one-time fee of $39.95.
- Wall-Mounted Emergency Button: A wall-mounted button can be purchased for $39.95 and placed anywhere in the home for extra protection in case of an emergency. It is only compatible with the in-home systems, not the mobile devices.
- Fall Protection Package: Customers who purchase in-home systems can also buy an additional fall protection package for $200. The package is designed to make the home safer for those at risk of falls. It includes two wall-mounted emergency buttons, two motion-sensing night lights, an 18-pack of adhesive tub strips, and a 12-pack of corner guards.
- Automatic Medication Dispenser and Organizer: Alert1 offers an automatic medication dispenser and organizer device for $149.95. The device can be programmed for up to 4 medication reminders per day, and includes an organizer and dispenser with a lock for extra safety. An alarm will sound at the preprogrammed time and continue until the pills are removed from the dispenser.
The Alert1 monitoring center is US-based, UL-listed, and undergoes random certification checks. All operators must complete a training program certified by The Monitoring Association. Additionally, interpreters are always on hand and can provide support in 190 languages.
For more, read our in-depth review on Alert1.
Best for Industry Experience
Life Alert was founded in 1987 and is one of the longest-standing medical alert device companies in the United States. Today, Life Alert remains one of the largest companies in the field, handling over 2 million emergency calls per year. The company is Five Diamond certified with the International Central Station Alarm Association and maintains an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
|In the Home||In the Bathroom||On the Go|
|Type of Device||In-home||In-home||Mobile|
|Battery Life||72-hour backup||72-hour backup||Up to 10 years|
|Range||800 feet||800 feet||N/A|
|Fall Detection||Not available||Not available||Not available|
*One time fee of $95
**One time fee of $96
***One time fee of $198
Pricing and Plans
Life Alert offers three “levels of protection:” In the Home, In the Bath and On the Go. The pricing structure is tiered, so you pay $49 a month for the first level (in the home), $69 for the second (both In the Home and In the Bath), and $89 for all three. You cannot select either the bath device or mobile device on its own.
There is a 3-year contract for services. Customers who break the contract without a qualifying reason (such as a moving to a nursing home) may be held responsible to pay part or all of the remainder due. Additionally, there is a $95 fee that covers shipping, in-home installation, and activation for the first level, a $96 fee for the second level and a $198 fee for the third.
Life Alert manufactures their own equipment, and each device comes with a lifetime warranty. The company has three equipment options:
- In the Home: The in-home system is available with a landline or a cellular connection at no extra charge. The base unit has a range of 800 feet and is paired with a waterproof pendant. There is a 72-hour battery backup in case of power failure.
- In the Bathroom: Life Alert’s “second level of protection” includes both the in-home unit and a wall-mounted button designed to be used in the bathroom. It’s a waterproof button with both a microphone and a speaker that can be placed in the tub in case of a fall. The button could also be placed anywhere else in the home.
- On the Go: The “third level of protection” includes the first two devices plus a mobile unit that uses a cellular connection and GPS to locate the user in case of an emergency. The mobile unit has a battery life of up to 10 years, at which point it must be replaced.
Life Alert has a mobile app that customers can download to their smartphone. The app connects them with the monitoring center if they ever are not wearing their device or simply find it easier to use their phone during an emergency. Users can also call the center via the app even if there is no emergency, but they just feel unsafe and want to have someone on the line for protection. There is an option to dial the monitoring center on a normal cell phone for those who do not have a smartphone.
Life Alert owns and operates their own dispatch and monitoring center which is located in the United States and is UL certified. Dispatchers spend up to one year in training. Agents notify users’ family members when an emergency call is made, and keep their health history on file to give to paramedics.
For more, read our in-depth review on Life Alert.
Medical Alert System Basics
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.