by Dr. Nikola Djordjevic, MD

The Best Medical Alert System 2020 (Expert Guide & Reviews)

Best Medical Alert System

Are you looking for the best medical alert system for yourself or your loved one? You’ve come to the right place!

Our team of experts tested all the top systems and prepared detailed medical alert reviews to help you find the right one for your needs. The evaluations and rankings are based on a methodology that tests the equipment and the medical alert services from multiple angles. Plus, our extensive buyer’s guide will help you learn everything you need to know about medical alert devices.

Although these are extremely simple devices—they connect you to a help agent by the push of a single button, they come with a variety of features you need to consider. Do you need an in-home or a GPS-enabled mobile system? What about automatic fall detection or spouse monitoring? And there are plenty of very similar offers from different providers.

You may have a lot of questions, but don’t worry, we’ll help you out!

The Best Medical Alert Systems of 2020

GreatCall Reviews - Featured

1. GreatCall

Best Mobile System

LifeFone Reviews - Featured

2. LifeFone

Best In-Home System

Bay Alarm Medical Review - Featured

3. Bay Alarm Medical

Most Affordable

Top Picks in Specific Categories

Medical Alert Reviews

The Top 3 Medical Alert Systems Overall

1. GreatCall Review – Best Mobile System

GreatCall Reviews - Featured

Overall Score: 9.4

Range & Battery Life: 9/10
Monitoring Services: 10/10
Contracts & Fees: 10/10
Help & Support: 9/10
Additional Features: 9/10

GreatCall stands out from other systems we tested since it offers everything we were looking for and more at a low price. Besides the popular Jitterbug smartphone and cell phone, GreatCall boasts two mobile medical alert devices. Both Lively Mobile Plus and Lively Wearable are waterproof, small and light, and highly wearable.

The major difference is that Lively Mobile Plus has integrated cellular technology, while Lively Wearable is an urgent response button that works with your smartphone. Since GreatCall allows you to get help from anywhere, it is one of the best rated medical alerts for seniors who still lead an active life.

GreatCall offers three Health & Safety packages, so you can choose one of them depending on the features you need or your budget. For example, with the Basic package, which is the cheapest option, you won’t be able to call a live nurse or doctor 24/7. Also, only the Ultimate package includes fall detection, which is one of the most useful features of medical alert systems—reviews written by many customers prove this.

When it comes to response times, the call center needed just 15 seconds to pick up, which is faster than the competition. There are simply no better mobile systems out there today, and since we value the freedom they offer, GreatCall is our overall champion!

For more information, read our full GreatCall Lively Mobile review and check our review of GreatCall’s entire product line.

✔ Pros:

  • Small, all-encompassing system
  • Affordable
  • Fastest response time
  • Ability to dial a call center or directly call 911
  • Waterproof
  • Support in 190 languages
  • No long-term contracts
  • No cancellation fees

✖ Cons:

  • Relatively short battery life
  • Additional fee for fall detection
  • Activation fee

2. LifeFone Review – Best In-Home System

LifeFone Reviews - Featured

Overall Score: 9.2

Range & Battery Life: 9/10
Monitoring Services: 9/10
Contracts & Fees: 9/10
Help & Support: 9/10
Additional Features: 10/10

Although there aren’t any medical alert systems covered by Medicare, there are plenty of affordable options out there, like LifeFone. This company offers four different med-alert products—two at-home and two on-the-go. At-Home Landline and At-Home Cellular devices come with a wrist or neck help pendant that have large ranges and even allow you to answer phone calls with them.

While one of them works with your landline, the other uses AT&T’s cellular network. On the other hand, mobile devices (At-Home & On-the-Go GPS and At-Home & On-the-Go GPS, Voice in Necklace) are designed to provide you safety both indoors and outdoors.

Considering a wide selection of additional features and their affordable prices, this company definitely offers some of the most attractive medical alerts for seniors. On top of low monthly fees, you can add fall detection at the lowest price on the market! Plus, you’ll get spouse monitoring for free! Their 24/7 monitoring service is willing to help you in any in-home emergency.

Taking all of this into account, we consider LifeFone the best provider of in-home systems and our runner up overall!

For more information, read our full LifeFone At Home review and check our review of LifeFone’s entire product line.

✔ Pros:

  • Free spouse monitoring
  • Affordable additional features
  • Cheapest fall detection
  • Remote phone answering
  • Waterproof
  • Mobile and at-home options
  • High-quality equipment

✖ Cons:

  • Average response times
  • Customization options may seem overwhelming
  • Speaker quality could be better

3. Bay Alarm Medical Review – Most Affordable

Bay Alarm Medical Review - Featured

Overall Score: 9.2

Range & Battery Life: 9/10
Monitoring Services: 9/10
Contracts & Fees: 10/10
Help & Support: 9/10
Additional Features: 9/10

Bay Alarm Medical offers some of the most affordable elder alert systems, with its monthly fee starting at $19.95. It offers in-the-home, on-the-go, and in-the-car systems, so you can choose one of them or combine them depending on what kind of protection you need.

For each system, Bay Alarm Medical offers three packages, which include various features, such as automatic fall detection. Many customers praise its at-home system, which was even named the best medical alert system by PCMag.

The base unit features reliable technology that allows crystal clear two-way communication from an impressive distance. Its waterproof pendant range of 1000 feet is quite generous. We wish the reset button wasn’t so hard to reach, but this is a fairly minor complaint.

The mobile device is also waterproof and very lightweight, so you won’t even notice it while wearing it. Finally, one of the best things about the in-the-car system is that it can detect a crash automatically. Of course, its use is not limited to seniors—many parents want to track their teenagers who have just become drivers.

Our tests showed that the response time is acceptable, which aligns with other Bay Alarm Medical reviews. However, we’ve also seen much better services than this one. Moreover, it lacks some of the features of our top pick the GreatCall.

Still, all things considered, very few providers are able to rival Bay Alarm Medical when it comes to the value for money they offer. They are, in fact, the most affordable company of the bunch, and our bronze medalist overall.

For more information, read our full Bay Alarm Medical In-Home System review and Bay Alarm Medical GPS alert system review. Also, check our review of Bay Alarm Medical’s entire product line.

✔ Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Easy setup
  • Fast response time
  • Great pendant range
  • Waterproof
  • 30-day trial period

✖ Cons:

  • Hidden reset button
  • Additional fee for the automatic fall detection

Top Picks in Specific Categories

LifeStation Review – Best Help Center

LifeStation Reviews - Featured

Overall Score: 9.0

Range & Battery Life: 8/10
Monitoring Services: 10/10
Contracts & Fees: 9/10
Help & Support: 9/10
Additional Features: 9/10

The LifeStation medical alert system is one of the best Life alert alternatives you can find. It’s reasonably priced, easy to use, and features top-notch help specialists. If you prefer in-home systems, it’s good to know that LifeStation offers both landline and cellular options—in-home traditional and in-home plus, respectively.

While its range is rather limited, it’s great for homebound people or for those who only want to be protected in one place; for instance, the shower. As with every in-home senior monitoring system, you have to be within shouting distance from the base unit. Even though the call center can still send help if you press the help button, they can’t hear your request.

LifeStation also offers a mobile medical alert system with GPS, which is ideal for all those who still have an active lifestyle. Besides affordable monthly rates, LifeStation offers additional features, such as fall detection, lockbox, and an additional user, at a reasonable price.

For more information, read our full LifeStation At Home review and check our review of LifeStation’s entire product line.

✔ Pros:

  • Exceptional help specialists
  • Fast response time
  • Affordable
  • Easy to use
  • Waterproof
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

✖ Cons:

  • Rather limited pendant range
  • Additional fee for cellular options

MobileHelp Review – Best Equipment

MobileHelp Reviews - Featured

Overall Score: 8.4

Range & Battery Life: 8/10
Monitoring Services: 8/10
Contracts & Fees: 9/10
Help & Support: 8/10
Additional Features: 9/10

MobileHelp offers three in-home systems—MobileHelp Classic, MobileHelp Touch, and MobileHelp Wired Home. If you prefer on-the-go options, you can choose between MobileHelp Solo and MobileHelp Smart, which is a smartwatch. Plus, it has a package that combines the two—MobileHelp Duo. Also, if you’re looking for an elderly alert system that will protect both you and your spouse, MobileHelp’s Mobile Duo may be a perfect choice.

Offering both landline and cellular-based systems, it seems they’ve covered all the angles. You can also check out their inexpensive add-ons, such as fall detection. Another thing that makes this alert system for seniors stand out from the crowd is their unique service—MobileHelp Connect, which allows activity tracking of the user. There are no extra charges for the basic version, while some amazing additional features come with a monthly fee.

✔ Pros:

  • FDA-registered company
  • Affordable
  • MobileHelp Connect
  • Fast response time
  • Waterproof
  • Stylish smartwatch option available

✖ Cons:

  • Modest pendant range
  • Only manual equipment testing available

Medical Guardian Review – Most Versatile Offer

Medical Guardian Reviews - Featured

Overall Score: 8.2

Range & Battery Life: 9/10
Monitoring Services: 8/10
Contracts & Fees: 8/10
Help & Support: 8/10
Additional Features: 8/10

Medical Guardian is definitely one of the top rated medical alert systems, offering a wide range of solutions, both in-home and mobile. Its cheapest option is the Classic Guardian, which protects you at home via a landline connection for a price of less than $1 per day. There’s also a cellular in-home option, the Home Guardian, and a senior monitor system, the Family Guardian. It combines a medical alert system with activity detection and door sensors, to help the family or caregivers track the senior’s activity levels.

If you like to be on-the-go, Medical Guardian offers two mobile elderly alert units and a smartwatch with a number of useful features. The Active Guardian is a great mobile system packed with advanced location technologies, although a bit chunkier than our top pick, which is probably due to its outstanding battery.

On the other hand, the Mobile Guardian is a bit confusing. It seems that this system is designed to be a solution that’s halfway between an in-home medical system and a mobile system. It’s a cellular in-home system, but the base unit is smaller and mobile. You also get a pendant with a very small range. So you need to carry both devices with you, which is rather unconventional and perhaps impractical.

Finally, the Freedom Guardian is a great medical alert for seniors who like to stay active. However, you’ll have to pay a one-time $99 upfront fee for this sleek and functional smartwatch.

For more information, read our full Medical Guardian Active Guardian review and Medical Guardian Classic Guardian review. Also, check our review of Medical Guardian’s entire product line.

✔ Pros:

  • Excellent battery life
  • Accurate location tech
  • Wi-Fi radio
  • Fast response time
  • Waterproof
  • Fall detection available

✖ Cons:

  • Premium packages are pricey
  • Limited distance range of some pendants

Alert1 Review – Best Additional Features

Alert 1 Reviews - Featured

Overall Score: 8.2

Range & Battery Life: 7/10
Monitoring Services: 8/10
Contracts & Fees: 8/10
Help & Support: 8/10
Additional Features: 10/10

Alert1 has a great call center, providing support in nearly 200 languages, which isn’t so common among medical alert systems for seniors. We were disappointed that they require a minimum of three months of commitment. However, they are the only company to offer every single additional feature we looked for, including free spouse monitoring!

If you’re looking for an in-home system, there are two options, with and without fall detection. We particularly like that the waterproof pendant of this elder alert system has a very visible and large red button—there’s no way you can miss it in an emergency. Unfortunately, the pendant range is rather short and the 24-hour battery backup of the base unit is quite modest. 

Alert1 also offers two on-the-go devices. They’re small and compact, and can be worn around the neck or in the protective case clipped to a belt. You can choose between a basic mobile medical alert protection or the one which includes fall detection and GPS.

For more information, read our full Alert1 Home Medical Alert review and check our review of Alert1’s entire product line.

✔ Pros:

  • They offer all available additional features
  • A more visible alert button on the in-home device
  • Waterproof
  • Support in 190 languages
  • Affordable prices

✖ Cons:

  • Short pendant range
  • One of the shortest-lasting base unit batteries

Philips Lifeline Review – An Industry Pioneer

Philips Lifeline Reviews - Featured

Overall Score: 7.8

Range & Battery Life: 8/10
Monitoring Services: 9/10
Contracts & Fees: 7/10
Help & Support: 8/10
Additional Features: 7/10

Philips makes excellent mobile and in-home alert systems, but they are pricier than some rival options. Lifeline was the first alert system in the US. After acquiring them, Philips kept all the good things about the service, which took decades to perfect. Considering that this is a super-reliable service provider, it doesn’t come as a surprise that you’ll need to pay a little extra for their systems.

The main difference between the two in-home options is that HomeSafe with AutoAlert offers automatic fall detection, unlike HomeSafe Standard. However, opting for this handy feature drives the monthly costs by 50%. To get a better deal, you might want to check out retailers, such as Walmart, which offer medical alert systems at more appealing prices.

When it comes to the on-the-go devices, GoSafe 2 gives you much more freedom since, unlike GoSafe, it doesn’t need a base station. This is a high-quality, sleek, waterproof device packed with advanced features. Moreover, thanks to Philips Lifeline’s advanced technologies, it might be the best medical alert system with fall detection

For more information, read our full Philips Lifeline GoSafe 2 review and Philips Lifeline HomeSafe Review. Also, check our review of Philips Lifeline’s entire product line.

✔ Pros:

  • Most experienced medical alert system company
  • Premium quality
  • Reliable equipment and services
  • Excellent response center
  • Sleek, good-quality devices
  • Waterproof

✖ Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Device fee
  • Activation fee

Rescue Alert Review – Best Payment Options

Rescue Alert Reviews - Featured

Overall Score: 7.6

Range & Battery Life: 8/10
Monitoring Services: 8/10
Contracts & Fees: 8/10
Help & Support: 8/10
Additional Features: 6/10

Even though Rescue Alert doesn’t offer many additional features, they offer good and reliable service. Their help personnel is EMD-certified and capable of providing service in up to 150 languages.

If you’re homebound or prefer to stay at home, you’ll be happy to hear that both MXD (landline base unit) and MXD3G (cellular base unit) feature the longest base-unit backup battery life. Moreover, the pendant range of this emergency button for seniors is even better than specified. For more active seniors, there’s also Rescue Alert GPS—an on-the-go system with GPS tracking. 

It’s great that Rescue Alert allows you to test its system for a month risk-free and return it if it doesn’t suit you. The cost of the services and the monthly rental of the equipment is average. However, what makes them stand out from the competition is their unique offer—you can make a one-time payment to buy the equipment and get lifetime service! Plus, you get a free lockbox or a secondary pendant with free monitoring making this company rank quite high in our medical alert reviews list!

For more information, read our full Rescue Alert Medical Alert System review and check our review of Rescue Alert’s entire product line.

✔ Pros:

  • Option to make a one-time payment for lifetime service
  • Free lockbox or second pendant with free monitoring
  • Pendant range longer than specified
  • Extremely long backup battery life
  • Support in 150 languages
  • Waterproof

✖ Cons:

  • Only a few additional features
  • Hidden reset button on in-home devices

ADT Medical Alert Review – Most Complete Security Offering

ADT Medical Alert Reviews - Featured

Overall Score: 7.6

Range & Battery Life: 7/10
Monitoring Services: 8/10
Contracts & Fees: 8/10
Help & Support: 8/10
Additional Features: 7/10

ADT is a leading home security company. When it comes to their in-home senior medical alert systems, we prefer the cellular option over the basic setup for several reasons. The landline system, the Medical Alert Basic, doesn’t have an option for a fall detection pendant. In addition, it has an extremely short range, only 300 feet.

While the price of the basic option is a bit below average, the ADT Medical Alert Plus gives you affordable fall detection and multiperson monitoring. You pay for the first additional person, but there’s no added monthly charge if you want to add up to two more people.

This home alert system is a great option for large households because everyone can get fall detection pendants at a flat price. Since we like this option, we are willing to overlook short pendant ranges and the lowest battery life out of all the systems we tested. 

ADT also offers an on-the-go system with GPS technology, which is ideal for elderly people who spend lots of time outside. You can also add a fall detection pendant for an additional fee, but otherwise, ADT offers a very limited range of additional features.

For more information, read our full ADT Medical Alert Plus review and check our review of ADT’s entire product line.

✔ Pros:

  • Leading home security company
  • Flat rate for additional accessories
  • Temperature monitoring sensor
  • No activation fee
  • Waterproof

✖ Cons:

  • Short base unit battery life
  • Only a few additional features

LogicMark Review – Best No Monthly Fee Solutions

LogicMark Reviews - Featured

Overall Score: 6.6

Range & Battery Life: 8/10
Monitoring Services: 1/10
Contracts & Fees: 9/10
Help & Support: 8/10
Additional Features: 7/10

If you’re looking for a standard monitored medical system, LogicMark offers two in-home (LifeSentry and CaretakerSentry) and one mobile (SentryPal). However, what sets LogicMark apart from the competition is that it has medical alert systems for seniors free of monthly fees. 

Notifi911+ and Guardian Alert 911 PLUS are mobile while Guardian Alert 911 and FreedomAlert are in-home medical alert systems that don’t require you to pay any monthly fees. However, this also means that they are non-monitored medical alert systems.

When you press the help button, you can reach 911 directly with all of them. However, with the Freedom Alert, you can also add up to four personal contact numbers. Unfortunately, the pendant device is not completely waterproof, and the systems lack some basic features such as fall detection. Moreover, they don’t sell their own devices online. Instead, you’ll have to get them through other retailers.

For more information, read our full LogicMark Freedom Alert review and check our review of LogicMark’s entire product line.

✔ Pros:

  • Affordable
  • One of the rare medical alert systems with no monthly fee
  • Ability to talk through the help pendant
  • Can reach up to four contacts or 911 directly (only with Freedom Alert)

✖ Cons:

  • Pendant is splash-proof, but not waterproof
  • Can’t shop directly from LogicMark

Life Alert Review – Most Famous Brand

Life Alert Reviews - Featured

Overall Score: 6.0

Range & Battery Life: 8/10
Monitoring Services: 8/10
Contracts & Fees: 4/10
Help & Support: 4/10
Additional Features: 6/10

The catchphrase “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” made Life Alert systems widely recognized back in the early ‘90s. Even though this is the most famous medical alert system company, we decided to place it at the bottom of our list. Why? Because customers need to sign a 36-month contract that they can only get out of if they permanently go into a 24/7 care facility or if they pass away.

Since you can’t know if a system is good for you until you test it, this was almost a dealbreaker for us. You can’t return your Life Alert bracelet if it doesn’t meet your expectations. In addition, you can’t get much useful information from their website or customer service.

Ultimately, their offer looks outdated in comparison to many newer and better services that emerged over the years. However, the Life Alert price has remained quite high.

For more information, read our full Life Alert Medical Alert System review and check our review of Life Alert’s entire product line.

✔ Pros:

  • The most famous medical alert company
  • Proven protection in medical and shower emergencies
  • Home intrusion protection
  • Waterproof

✖ Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Mandatory three-year contract
  • Can’t return the device if it doesn’t suit you

What We Tested in Our Medical Alert Reviews

Ranking Methodology

1. Compliance

A medical alert system only works if you wear it or keep it close to you at all times. That’s why the willingness to use it is the most important aspect of an alert system. Well-designed, light, and unobtrusive medical alert devices are much more likely to be used day-to-day. Ease of setup and use also helped systems score higher on our list. Truthfully, all of the items on our list are easy to use.

2. Monitoring Center Evaluation

In any emergency situation, response time is essential. Therefore, while we were doing this extensive medical alert comparison, we spent a lot of time test calling and talking to the live agents at each monitoring center. Besides evaluating their response time, we also assessed their competence in helping us in every imaginable scenario.

These findings massively influenced our medical alert systems ratings. Furthermore, we awarded bonus points to call centers that provide help in languages other than English. The best ones could communicate in over 200 languages.

3. Pendant Range/GPS Accuracy

Next, we diligently tested the real-life indoor and outdoor ranges of in-home systems. They mostly proved to be as advertised or better than expected. As for on-the-go systems, we focussed on testing their GPS accuracy. Anyone who has ever used GPS in the Maps app on their phone knows that its accuracy can vary greatly. Unfortunately, that was also the case with the accuracy of the GPS in the devices we tested in our medical alert system reviews.

4. Battery Life

Depending on the model, the battery life of mobile systems ranged from a single day to over a week. Even though this is an important feature, it did not sway our decision as much because we recommend you to charge your device every day.

When it comes to the base units of in-home systems, short battery life definitely shouldn’t be a dealbreaker since its whole purpose is to serve as a backup source of energy. Considering that the average battery life of a home-based senior emergency alert is over 24 hours, you shouldn’t worry about being unprotected during a typical power outage.

5. Contract & Fees

In the end, when you compare medical alert systems and find that most of them offer similar features and services, the only thing that sets them apart might be their price. You definitely shouldn’t overlook the expenses since they accumulate easily through monthly fees and the additional features you opt for. And although you don’t want to save money on such an important issue, you also don’t need to pay unnecessarily large amounts of money on things like cancellation fees.

We were also adamant about long-term contracts. Since aging is so unpredictable, we tried to avoid companies that require multiyear contracts and have strict cancellation and refund policies. Fortunately, most companies are not so prohibitive, which is important if you want to try out various systems to figure out which one is the best medical alert system for you.

In fact, one of the oldest and most famous companies, Life Alert, finished last on our list because it requires a minimum of three years of commitment. Customers can cancel their contracts only by permanently moving into a nursing home or if they pass away.

On top of that, they additionally charge some services that Life Alert competitors offer for free. For example, there’s a fee for a technician to set up the device in your home. Because of all of this, the company otherwise synonymous with medical alerts scored so poorly on our list.

How to Pick the Best Medical Alert System

Buyer’s Guide

1. Who Should Buy a Medical Alert?

Medical alert systems are generally designed for seniors, especially those who live alone. So if you want to keep your independence and not go to a nursing home, you can greatly benefit from these handy devices. Unfortunately, old age comes with an increased risk of illnesses and emergencies, such as heart attacks and strokes, that require urgent medical attention. Every second counts in those situations!

Also, most elderly people dread falls since this nasty incident can leave an old person lying on the floor helpless for a long time. A med alert for seniors is a great solution because knowing that help is one press of a button away can give them peace of mind.

However, old people are not the only ones suffering from serious illnesses. An alert system can be just as life-saving for younger people who live alone. In addition, if you are extra concerned with safety, you can get one to use it in case of a fire or burglary.

As you can see, a med alert can come in handy in numerous situations. The most important thing to keep in mind is that they are only helpful if you wear them at all times.

2. Why Not Just Use a Cell Phone?

You may wonder why you need a medical alert service when you can use a regular cell phone, smartphone, or any other device capable of communicating your problem? Nearly everyone carries them around today. However, senior alert systems have a number of advantages over your phones.

First of all, we have to remember that many older people are not so tech-savvy. They can also suffer from conditions like dementia and other impairments. So it’s best to stick with the simplest solution like an alert button for elderly people. Since they can use them at any given moment, they even beat out regular visits by relatives.

Secondly, phones have some serious drawbacks that medical alert devices for seniors can overcome. Not many phones are water-resistant, so they are not as dependable and reachable when you have to use them in the shower. Furthermore, they can’t detect falls automatically and they don’t share your location by default. Another disadvantage is that their battery life is significantly shorter.

Also, it’s nice to know that help centers are available 24/7. So even in nonemergencies, when you can’t call 911, you can be certain that someone will answer your call and you don’t have to depend on your friend or relative to pick up and be able to help you. Still, if you can’t afford to make monthly payments for one of the best medical alert systems, it’s better to have a phone around than nothing at all.

3. What Equipment Is Required?

  • Base Units

Regardless of how advanced features they offer, most medical alert systems operate similarly. A typical in-home setup consists of a base unit and a help button. A base unit, which looks something like an answering machine, uses your telephone line to establish a connection with an emergency center, while you wear a help button as a pendant or a wristband.

A home alert system for seniors is generally very easy to install. Once you connect the phone and the base unit using a phone cord and plug in the power cord, a green indicator should tell you that you’re good to go. However, we also recommend you to run a test. When a live agent answers your call, just tell them that you’re running a test. They won’t mind since most companies encourage this, too.

All the models that we’ve reviewed have a base unit that also serves as a speakerphone. Usually, there’s an emergency button on it as well and this button has the same purpose as the help button on the pendant. In addition, most base units feature a reset button, which you can press to either cancel the call or silence the beeping sound.

However, to make sure that you haven’t confused the buttons, you’ll have to talk to the agent and explain to them it was an accidental call. All the top medical alert systems also allow you to use them even during power outages since they have a built-in backup battery.

  • Pendants

The help pendant is a small device that you should wear with you all the time since the medical alert button is placed on it. Most of them are waterproof, so you can use them in the shower as well. Also, they may have embedded GPS technology in order to track your location.

Usually, they can also automatically detect falls, but this feature generally comes with additional monthly costs. Depending on your preference, you can wear it as a medical alert necklace, in your pocket, or around your waist. Many companies also install a help button in a medical alert bracelet.

Pendants that are part of a home alert can operate within a limited range away from the base unit. Since they cover distances in and around the house, they are best-suited for homebound people or those who prefer to stay at home. They are also more inconspicuous than mobile systems. On the other hand, you can speak directly through mobile systems because they contain the technology found in base units.

4. Medical Alert System Types

  • In-Home Systems

While the previous paragraph explains all the basics of home medical alert systems, we need to add that you can also opt for a cellular base station. This option is great if you don’t have a landline or if you want to be able to move it around the house. However, cellular options cost more.

As we already said, in-home systems are perfect for people who hardly ever leave their homes. When it comes to the maximum range, even the best medical alert in this aspect can’t cover more than 1500 feet. Keep in mind that a greater range can’t serve you any good because you need to be near the base unit to hear and be heard by the live agents.

  • Mobile Systems

Elderly people who maintain an active lifestyle can greatly benefit from mobile medical alert systems with GPS positioning. Since they work wherever you have a cell signal, they give you complete freedom of movement. While you can’t talk through the help button pendant of an in-home system, mobile systems allow you to talk directly through them.

Mobile alert systems also have a few drawbacks. Even though they are small enough to be carried around, they are heavier and larger than a simple portable help button. Moreover, they have a limited battery life, so you’ll have to charge them regularly. In fact, to make sure you’re protected all the time, it’s best to pick up the habit of charging them every day.

Finally, a mobile system comes with higher monthly fees compared to an in-home senior alert. Their final price depends on your choice of additional features, such as automatic fall detection.

5. How Do Medical Alert Systems Work?

Both in-home and mobile systems connect you to the monitoring center in case of an emergency. However, the way you communicate with live agents differs significantly. As we’ve already explained, they can’t hear you through the help button pendant of an in-home alert for seniors. Other than that, the two types of alert systems function pretty much the same.

In an emergency, you just need to press the emergency call button on the base unit or on your wearable device to call for help. Once the system automatically dials up the response center, it’ll start beeping loudly to indicate that it’s trying to make a connection. The response time can differ greatly, but it’s always under one minute. When we tested monitoring centers for our medical alert system reviews, on average, live agents needed around 20–40 seconds to answer the call.

The agent will ask you what your emergency is and whether you need help. Depending on what your crisis situation is, they will call the people on your emergency contact list or 911, and dispatch them to your location. Most of the companies ask you to provide medical information in advance that they keep in your database. This usually includes pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, the medication you take, allergies, your physician contacts, and so on.

6. Pricing

The general rule is: the more freedom you get, the more you’ll have to pay for a monthly subscription. With most companies, you won’t have to sign a multiyear contract. But if you’re ready for this type of commitment, look for companies that offer discounts if you sign it. In addition, the majority of companies don’t require that you pay activation and cancellation fees. You can also find some that offer free equipment delivery.

If you’re looking for the best price of a medical alert system, Consumer Reports and other sources confirm that certain companies are willing to bargain to give you a better deal.

If you don’t want to pay any monthly fees, look for unmonitored medical alert systems. However, they are rarely offered. While basic in-home landline systems cost $25–$35 per month, cellular in-home systems are a bit more expensive and cost $35–$45 per month.

The priciest option is a mobile system, which can cost as much as $65 per month. In addition, you may also need to pay for the device upfront. However, many mobile systems have some of the following additional features included in the price. Keep in mind that additional features can considerably increase your monthly payments.

7. Additional Features

  • Fall Detection

Among a number of useful additional features, we believe that fall detection technology is the most important. Since medical alert systems with fall detection are fairly accurate in detecting falls that can lead to serious consequences, they can be of great help to seniors. National Council for Aging Care reports that 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls. Considering that breaking a hip is a life-threatening condition in old age, the sooner you get help, the better. Medical alert systems with fall detectors will automatically connect you to a monitoring center when they detect a fall—you won’t even have to push the help button.

  • GPS

Typically, mobile systems come with this feature by default because you can’t get help unless your location is known at all times. Some companies also offer an option to combine a GPS-enabled mobile device with an in-home system. If you tend to go too far away from the base unit, this additional feature can come in very handy.

  • Multiperson Monitoring

Many companies offer a multiperson senior emergency alert system. In other words, you can extend the protection of an in-home system to your spouse or another person in the household for a small additional fee. This is an amazing option for senior couples because instead of paying for an entirely new system, they can get an additional help button pendant for only a few dollars a month more.

  • Wall-Mounted Buttons

A wall-mounted button is another type of additional help button that can be of great use to you. Think of the places where you’re likely to take off your pendant, and place them strategically around the house. An elderly medical alert is most needed in the bathroom since studies have shown that serious accidents most often happen there.

  • Voice Extension

If you live in a large house, you should definitely consider adding this handy feature. Even though the base units of alert devices for the elderly have sensitive microphones and loudspeakers, you may be too far away to hear each other. Therefore, it might be a good idea to place a voice extender in your house. This useful device looks like a smaller base unit of a senior alert system and it allows you to communicate with a live agent.

  • Check-In Service

While most companies charge extra for this feature, some offer a wellness check-in service for free. The agents call you periodically to ensure you’re OK and that the equipment is working properly. Similarly, some companies offer the option of calling you every day at a certain time to remind you to take your medication.

  • Fire & Smoke Monitoring

Some base units of the best medical alert systems come with built-in fire and smoke detection technologies, while some companies offer this as an upgrade. One more practical add-on is carbon monoxide monitoring, which you can get for an additional cost. It’s crucial to detect unhealthy levels of this lethal gas since it’s both colorless and odorless, so we are usually unable to detect it until it’s too late.

  • Lockbox

A lockbox is another practical feature, which you can add to your paying plan. If you decide to get it, you should place it outside your front door and keep a spare key there. It’ll be protected with a code that the emergency responders will get from the service when you call them in a crisis situation. So when you need help, but aren’t able to open the door, they can get in without damaging your doors or windows.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a medical alert system?

Medical alerts are the simplest way to get help in an emergency. The equipment that they provide typically consists of a base unit and a wearable emergency alert button. You just need to push the button and the help agent will respond in seconds to assist you and send help.

Who are these systems for?

Med alerts for seniors are primarily meant for older people who live alone. However, these systems are recommended to all those who want to feel safer, either because they are physically fragile or live in unsafe neighborhoods. In addition, they can be very beneficial to people who have serious health problems or who have already experienced falls.

How do medical alert systems work?

Since the whole purpose of medical alerts is to help people in emergencies as fast as possible, they are specially designed to be as simple as possible. Unlike cell phones, there’s no need to dial any numbers. If you need help, you just need to push one button and you’ll get connected to the emergency center. The specially trained agents will then call someone from your emergency list or 911, depending on the situation.

Who answers the call in emergencies?

Once you push the help button, a trained help agent will answer your call. Medical alert companies have specialized monitoring centers, which are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year. Depending on your situation, help agents can alarm your caregivers or dispatch 911 when necessary.

How long does it take to answer the call?

From the moment you press the help button, the monitoring center typically needs less than one minute to respond. When we were testing and comparing medical alert systems, we noticed that the response times varied greatly from company to company. Some of them even responded in only 15 seconds.

What types of medical alert systems exist?

Medical alerts can be classified into two categories: in-home and mobile systems. The main difference is that the medical alert pendant of in-home systems can be used within a limited range, while mobile or on-the-go systems give you much more freedom. They work wherever there’s cell coverage.

Do I need to have a landline?

If you need an in-home system but don’t have a landline, don’t worry. Most companies offer both landline and cellular options. However, keep in mind that the monthly fee for a cellular senior medical alert is a bit higher.

Will I be protected outside my home?

If you need to feel safe outside your home, you should opt for a mobile system. Typically, you can choose between medical alert bracelets and pendants, which you can use to communicate with the help center. On the other hand, with an in-home system, you need to be within shouting distance from the base unit to be able to communicate. So they can only provide help in your home and your yard.

Should I get automatic fall detection?

You should consider getting automatic fall detection if you or your loved ones are at risk of falling or have experienced a serious fall recently. Most companies offer automatic fall alert systems as an additional feature. Since frail seniors can experience serious consequences due to falls, many people get a medical alert for the sole purpose of helping their loved ones in the event of a fall.

Are alert systems for seniors waterproof?

The bathroom is one of the most dangerous places in the house since most falls happen due to its slippery floor. So it’s very important to have a device that’s suitable to be worn in the shower. Therefore, nearly all of the devices on our list are waterproof.

Can multiple household members use the same system?

While mobile systems can provide help for only one person, multiple people can use in-home systems if you get additional help pendants. Most companies offer this as an affordable additional feature or even for free. While this may add a few dollars to your monthly costs, you won’t have to buy a whole new system.

What is the best medical alert system for hearing impaired people?

Since most med alert systems that we’ve tested are designed for the elderly, they can get pretty loud. Moreover, some of them have large help buttons on the base unit that light up when you call for help. This is a great feature for people with hearing problems because they’ll also get clear visual cues. The senior alert devices with the largest light-up help buttons include Bay Alarm Medical, Rescue Alert, MobileHelp Classic, and ADT Medical Alert Plus.

What happens if I call for help but am unable to communicate?

If you need help, but you aren’t able to speak for whatever reason, just press the help button and the best medical alert devices will contact your caregivers or 911 and dispatch them to your location. They will do the same if you are too far away from the base unit to hear or be heard by the help agents.

What happens if I accidentally press the help button?

Most systems have a reset button that can cancel an accidental call. However, you’ll need to talk to a help agent anyway and explain to them that it was a false alarm. From time to time, you can also test the system by pressing the help button. The agents won’t mind since most companies recommend this as well.

How much is a medical alert per month?

If you need a system with a 24/7 monitoring center, you can expect to pay about a dollar a day, or about $30 a month. However, the cost of the services will vary depending on the company and the type of system you choose. Generally, the cheapest option is a landline in-home system. A cellular in-home system is a bit pricier, while the most expensive solution is a mobile system.

Where to buy medical alert systems?

We always recommend buying med alerts directly from the company which sells them. However, big-box stores, such as Walmart, and online retailers, such as Amazon, occasionally offer exclusive deals. So it’s always best to check all available options before buying.

Does Medicare cover medical alert systems?

Unfortunately, Medicare doesn’t cover medical alert systems. However, there are a bunch of budget-friendly options on the market today which will cost you less than a dollar a day. You can also find a medical alert with no monthly fee, but this type of system doesn’t come with a professional monitoring center.

Does AARP have a medical alert system?

Even though AARP recommends medical alert systems because they help elderly people to maintain an active lifestyle, it doesn’t make these systems. However, it endorses Medical Guardian, Bay Alarm Medical, and Alert1. You can read more about these in our in-depth reviews.

Does Verizon have a medical alert system?

Verizon used to offer the Verizon SureResponse Personal Monitor. However, it discontinued its production at the end of 2014.

Which medical alert system is best?

There’s no simple answer to this question. Your choice should depend on your personal needs and preferences. As you can see in our detailed medical alert reviews, these systems also have many additional features to choose from. All this may seem overwhelming, but don’t worry! We are here to help you with any questions you may have while choosing the best medical alert system for your needs.

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