Accidental falls account for the majority of injuries, both fatal and non-fatal, for American seniors, and the risk of death due to a fall increases the longer a senior remains on the ground in need of medical care. When a fall or medical emergency occurs, seniors need an easily accessible way of alerting their family or emergency services that they require immediate help. In these urgent circumstances, it may be difficult for a senior to reach a wall button or pull a device out of their pocket, which is why a medical alert bracelet can be a preferred choice for anyone who needs a device that’s easy to use and always available.

Medical alert bracelets are devices that can be fastened around the wrist rather than worn around the neck or kept in a pocket. These devices may also be called medical alert wrist pendants by some companies. Medical alert smartwatches are also popular options that can be worn on the wrist, but they are typically differentiated from bracelets or pendants by their advanced set of features. Common features for most medical alert bracelets include a rechargeable or battery-operated power source, a water-resistant design and a button that can be pressed for emergency response.

Anytime a senior expects to be alone or at an increased risk of experiencing a delay in receiving immediate attention during a medical emergency, they should consider wearing a medical alert bracelet.

Do Medical Alert Bracelets Need to Be Worn at All Times?

Most makers of medical alert bracelets understand their wrist devices need to be comfortable and durable enough that a senior can wear it over the course of a day that may involve many different activities and tasks. The National Institute on Aging estimates 80% of falls occur while seniors are in the bathroom, which is why many companies provide water-resistant devices that can be worn while in the shower or bath.

Some seniors may prefer to combine their wrist-worn medical alert device with base units or wall buttons so they can stay safe without needing to wear their device all the time. This flexibility helps seniors and their families feel confident that help can be reached no matter where a fall or medical emergency occurs.

Do Medical Alert Bracelets Cost More Than Other Medical Alert Systems?

In our review of the best medical alert systems, we provide a detailed analysis that includes a cost comparison between the most popular brand names for medical alert systems. This includes systems that may offer several different packaged options for wrist devices. Alert systems that offer a small base unit with a wearable device are typically more affordable than systems that offer multiple device types, such as wall buttons or two-way communication speakers.

Some medical alert bracelets may offer month-to-month subscriptions for certain tracking services to be used outside of the home. Wrist devices that do not require an additional base unit to operate may be heavier than those that work with a separate, portable base unit. Many companies provide seniors or their caregivers with several options to choose from when deciding what price point works best for their needs.

What Changes Indicate a Senior Needs a Medical Alert Bracelet?

Choosing when to purchase a medical alert system with a bracelet device is appropriate at any point in a senior’s life where they want more comfort and security. Certain health or lifestyle factors may also play an important role in when a senior or their caregiver thinks a medical alert bracelet will be necessary and helpful.

Symptoms related to many chronic illnesses can be managed with appropriate care or medication, but there is an increased risk of experiencing a medical emergency with the diagnosis of some chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or heart disease. If a physician determines that you or, if you’re a caregiver, your loved one may be susceptible to strokes, seizures or an acute onset of serious symptoms, a medical alert bracelet can be a life-saving device.

With age can come additional mobility challenges that impair a seniors ability to maintain their balance. This may be due to diminished eyesight, trouble with depth perception, inner ear infections or a limited range of motion in certain joints. Because falls are such a common cause of injuries, every senior should consider using a medical alert bracelet if they feel they are at risk of falling in their home. This can help them maintain independence while also enjoying an enhanced sense of safety and security when they’re home alone.

What Features Are Most Important for a Medical Alert Bracelet?

Although every medical alert bracelet should provide the basic convenience of letting a senior in need press a button and alert a caregiver or response team that they need help, other factors can impact how a family determines which system offers the best set of features at an affordable price.

1. Battery Life and Signal Range

Many medical alert systems work by connecting a handheld or wearable device with a base unit that must be centrally located within the home. While the base unit typically requires being plugged in for power, the wearable device is usually powered by a rechargeable or replaceable battery. Some base units may also be battery-operated if they are designed to be portable alongside the wearable device.

Families should consider how large a home is or how likely their loved one may be to leave the home when deciding what type of base and device combination will work best for them. Some medical alert bracelets do not require a base unit and depend on cellular signals to transmit location data or allow two-way communication.

2. Two-Way Communication

Medical alert devices that offer two-way communication capabilities can help first responders understand the details of a senior’s medical emergency, such as where in the home they may be or the extent of any injury they’ve suffered. It can also help seniors prevent major medical emergencies by calling for help before the onset of certain symptoms renders them unresponsive.

Certain systems may offer advanced two-way communication features, such as buttons assigned to personally selected contact numbers for quick connection with loved ones or the ability to work with a base unit or secondary wrist device so members of the same household can easily communicate with each other from different rooms.

3. Tracking and Detection Services

GPS tracking with a medical alert device can come as a standard feature or may be offered as an upgrade with an additional monthly charge. Fall detection is also a common add-on feature with many medical alert systems. If you or your loved one is considered at risk for falling or becoming disoriented, you should strongly consider finding a medical alert bracelet that makes integrating tracking and fall detection services easy and affordable.

Tracking services can also include providing caregivers with important information, such as the current battery status on their loved one’s device or alert them when a senior wearing the device enters or exits a monitored space. These details help create comprehensive safety measures that can be used to help seniors prevent complications when they need help the most.

4. Medication Reminders

Making sure seniors adhere to any necessary medication regimen is an incredibly important step in preventing medical emergencies and accidental falls. Missing doses or mixing up when certain medications should be taken can lead to multiple health complications, including fainting, mental fog or seizures. Medical alert systems that offer a bracelet with a medication reminder feature are a convenient way to make sure a dose schedule is easy to follow.

Tips for Choosing a Medical Alert Bracelet

When you’re ready to enhance the quality of life and sense of security for you or your loved one with a medical alert bracelet, carefully consider which common factors are most important to you. When weighing the most affordable options, you may find that companies with high-end equipment can offer discounts and savings opportunities when you subscribe to their services on a quarterly or semi-annual basis. This helps put their price point on the same level as month-to-month services that, while affordable, may lack certain features you want the most.

Annual subscriptions can also come with a number of extra benefits, such as waived starting fees or additional devices at no additional charge. Be sure to review the contracts associated with any bundled services to verify a refund policy in case you find the device doesn’t provide you with everything you or your loved one needs. Some companies may require non-refundable starting fees but offer full refunds of any prepaid monthly subscriptions, while others offer only partial or no refund for prepaid services.

To make sure you understand all your options, review our comprehensive guide to choosing the best medical alert system.