Personal emergency response systems or commonly known as medical alert systems are wearable devices with a button for calling emergency. They are handy for older adults that need to have available help at any time but don’t always have someone. When a person wears it, he or she can tap the button and alert a live dispatcher that a dangerous situation has happened. Of course, the dispatchers work 24/7 in their call center so that you can call them anytime. When you contact them, they will get your location and level of injury that they will forward to the emergency services. Both the caregivers and seniors will have a peace of mind knowing that the person carrying the device can notify the caregiver and emergency services immediately. The prices for these systems depend on the features and subscription type. The most common case is that you pay a certain price upfront to activate the device, and then you have a subscription fee you pay either monthly or annually. To help you get the best medical alert system, we’ve gathered a list of our top models and a guide to find out more about these devices and help you choose the one most suitable for your needs.
Top Medical Alert Systems
Before reviewing the essential information, take a look at our top choices. The first is our Editor’s pick – Medical Guardian, that offers an unlimited range with a fall detection upgrade. For the best combination system we have chosen the Bay Alarm Medical 360 Protection, and for the best landline, we have picked Lifestation. The best for active sensors model is the GreatCall Lively Mobile, while the choice for the best value is the MobileHelp Duo.
- Medical Guardian
- Bay Alarm Medical 360 Protection
- GreatCall Lively Mobile
- MobileHelp Duo
Medical Guardian Active Guardian
- GPS and WiFi technology
- Advanced protection
- AT&T is the cellular provider
- Unlimited range.
- Battery life lasts 5 days
- Fall detection upgrade available for $10
- One year warranty
- Portable unit: Pendant button
The Medical Guardian Active Guardian is considered to be a brand leader in medical response systems. The company has a series of home-based and mobile options available at a competitive price and has an excellent reputation in customer service. It is our Editor’s choice because it has the best performance among other devices. Additionally, it is also the only medical response device that has both GPS and WiFi. This way, you will always know your loved one’s current location.
The device is designed to look like a pendant with clear status buttons, which battery life, WiFii, GPS signal, and the speakerphone. It is also waterproof, which makes it useful when the person is taking a shower.
The fall detection is available for $10 per month. One of its helpful features is its long-lasting battery life that usually lasts up to 5 days and is recharged in just 3 hours. With the long battery life, it is a perfect option for your loved one to have independence. However, annual discounted pricing is not available. When you wish to receive a refund, you need to return all the equipment, and you will get a fine of $350 fine if you don’t. Also, cancellation of orders takes around 30 days to process. However, the pendant structure that is worn around the neck is large and visible, which is something that is not recommended for seniors to wear.
Bay Alarm Medical 360 Protection
- Combination of In-house and Mobile system
- GPS technology
- Cellular Provider is AT&T
- Unlimited Range
- Battery life lasts for 72 hours for the portable units and 5 years for the wall button
- Fall Detection Upgrade for $10
- Warranty for any purchase
- Portable unit is pendant-like
Bay Alarm Medical has been a part of the industry for over 70 years. Today it has become one of the leading medical product companies. The company is also famous for its responsive customer service. They offer both home-based or mobile medical alert systems, which allows you to choose the model, depending on what you need. However, they also have a 360 Protection Bundle that includes both the home-based and mobile system, with added features, for $59.95 per month.
The device’s base unit is simple and clear since it only has a bright red button with the word “HELP” written on it. The waterproof Wall Unit matches the base unit’s design with an extra strong sticky tape one can place in any humid place like the bathroom or dry areas like the bedroom. It also has an in-car medical alert device and the two-way voice call option on all units. The Bay Alarm Medical dispatchers work in two separate emergency response centers; one is in Utah and the other in Idaho. With two available centers, you can be sure that whenever the other center experience malfunctions or outage, the remaining one will continue working. You also have the option to add a spouse or an additional user in your account. The company offers a free trial for 30 days, and customers who have purchased the item can receive a refund for the unused months with smaller return shipping fees.
- Home-based system
- Cellular Provider is AT&T
- Range is up to 500 feet
- Battery life lasts for 5 days for the portable unit, with a 32-hour backup battery for the base unit
- Fall Detection Upgrade for $7
- Lifetime warranty
- Pendant and wristband as Portable Units
Lifestation has the best landline mobile system without any unnecessary extras. The home-based and mobile system has options that are easy to understand. It is available for homes with or without a landline. This device is excellent for caregivers who want an affordable and reliable way of keeping an eye on their seniors so that they can monitor their health easier. The range for the portable unit is 500 feet away from the base unit, which makes it a suitable option for homes. However, this can also be a flaw, because it only works at home, which means as soon as the person leaves their home, the device is useless.
The shipping for this product is free. The bills are paid annually, but the company does offer a price-lock guarantee of $25.95 per month without a long term contract – which is less than $1 per day. There is also a 30-day free trial and a lifetime warranty for those who purchase the item. The company has fall detection upgrades available on all devices for $7.
- Mobile system
- GPS technology
- Cellular Provider is AT&T
- Unlimited range for the mobile device, while the pendant has a range of 600 feet from the base unit or 350 feet away from the mobile device.
- Battery life is 30 hours for the unit base, 5 years for pendant and wristband, and 24 hours for the device held.
- Fall Detection Upgrade for $10
- Lifetime warranty
- Portable Unit comes in two designs, as a pendant and a wristband
The MobileHelp Duo includes a base station, a mobile device with a pouch and a cradle charger, wristband, and a pendant. The device also has recognizable medical reminders through the base unit. With $41.95 a month, this device is our choice for the best value. It has an unnoticeable style, but people have reported difficulties when using the device.
The mobile device works as a station base away from home, which allows you to continue monitoring when you leave the house and take the device with you, and your loved one wears on their neck as a pendant or on their wrists as a band. The company also offers multiple ways of payment – monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis, with a discount based on the subscription’s length. The best thing is that you don’t have to pay for its activation or the shipping fee. The product comes with a free trial of 30 days and a lifetime warranty. However, a price lock guarantee is not available, so there will be instances where your subscription rates go higher than expected after buying. Fortunately, the company will give you a 10-day extension if you decide to cancel the service due to an increase in pricing without any penalties.
Great Call Lively Mobile
- Mobile system
- GPS technology
- Verizon is the cellular provider
- Unlimited Range
- Battery lasts up to 24 hours
- Fall Detection Upgrade costs $39.99
- One year warranty
- Portable Unit consists of a pendant, wristband, keychain clip, and a belt clip
GreatCall, a company known for the Jitterbug cellular phones, created a Medical Alert System named “Lively Mobile.” This system is a waterproof device that allows the seniors to be able to use even in the shower. It also has a two-way voice feature, and the person using it can talk to the dispatcher, and it has cellular and GPS technology. The Lively Mobile has a small portable device that is available in either silver or gold. It can be used as a pendant on a necklace, like a wrist band, belt clip, or a keychain attached to your pocket or purse.
GreatCall’s plans are unique in terms of pricing. The device itself has a one-time price of $49.99 with $24.99 to $39.99 for three monthly plans of pricing. There are three plans to choose from. The first is the Basic plan that has 24/7 service monitoring, and a dispatch agent included. The Preferred plan includes 24/7 connections to medical personnel like nurses or doctors who are all available for any medical consultation without an appointment. The Ultimate plan includes everything stated above, with an added fall detection feature. Regardless of the plan you choose, the product comes with a free trial of 30 days, which allows refunds if it doesn’t meet your needs or is damaged within the given time frame. The return shipping fee is smaller, with $10 for restocking and shipping.
The Lively Mobile has won numerous awards for having the fastest response time of agents by the Good Housekeeping Research Institute. The only aspect where the Lively Mobile falls short is its short battery life, which lasts for only a day. However, it is still great for active seniors, who can recharge devices immediately at night, but it is probably not suitable for seniors who have dementia.
Medical Alert Device Buying Guide
Medical alert devices allow you to watch the safety of your loved one, and because of that, you need to know all the features they have and the services they can provide. You don’t need all features for certain situations, so having all the information can help you find a suitable product with an affordable price.
Purpose of the Product
Medical alert systems are wearable devices that have a button for emergency calls. These are used and worn by older people. With these devices, they have easier access to emergency personnel in case of certain dangerous situations like falling or heart attacks. A caregiver or a family member gets notified whenever the person wearing the devices requires attention. This provides the caregiver’s or family members peace of mind, knowing their loved ones are safe and can get help if they need it.
These devices consist of a pendant button that is worn around the neck and the base station that connects with the pendant for effective communication. When the person pushes the pendant in any dangerous circumstances, a signal is received by the base station which notifies family members and a live dispatcher (who works 24/7) to assess the situation and provide needed help immediately. The assurance of security makes the lives of those people suffering from any health problems more convenient, allowing them to keep their independence, but also a good night’s rest for the person wearing it and the caregiver or family member.
Types of Medical Alert Systems
You can choose one of two kinds of medical alert devices – home-based and mobile systems. First, home-based devices are plugged in landline and functional inside your home. When the call button is pressed, through the base unit in your home, the person is connected to a dispatcher. However, using the device outside of the house is useless. For protection outside of the house, you have mobile systems that use cellular networks and GPS technology. Caregivers can even find their loved one without them pressing the button.
Apart from choosing the type of system you wish to have, you also need to decide if you want to purchase monitoring services. These services cost more, but they offer an instant connection between your loved one and a dispatcher. Depending on the situation – mobility and health of the person, sometimes they are not necessary.
Monitored systems offer 24/7 access to a dispatch center where the person can get in touch with both emergency contact and services. The biggest benefit of having this service is immediate contact with someone who will make sure emergency service is contacted if needed, which is critical in certain situations. However, it is more expensive, and you’ll need to pay a fee every month.
Unmonitored systems only have the system equipment, so you’ll need to program emergency contacts and set up the device yourself. Additionally, when a senior presses the button on the device, they can contact only people from the list that you created. On some devices, you can program the device to connect to 911 or multiple people at the same time. However, if there is no option to set up a 911 call, there is no guarantee that the device will reach someone, which is the crucial difference between these two systems.
Apart from choosing the type of device, medical alert systems also have some standard features, which we will take a look at now.
The base unit of the device is a small speakerphone that has buttons for making and canceling emergency calls. It is powered through an electrical cord, but it also has a battery backup in case of a power outage.
Apart from the base, there is also a portable unit, usually a pendant that is designed like a watch, necklace, or wristband. If it is a wristband, the material is typically a cloth or velcro.
The range of landline devices is the distance you can put between the pendant and the base unit. It varies from 350 up to 1,500 feet. Mobile systems do not have a range because they work through a cellular service, and you can go anywhere with them.
The wearable call button for home-based systems has a battery life that will indicate when it needs replacement, while with mobile systems, the battery life will show when it needs to be recharged.
Cellular Service Provider
The most common cellular service provides for these devices are AT&T and Verizon. Before buying the system, you need to make sure that the provider has good coverage in your neighborhood and areas where your loved one lives or goes.
Each device should have certain safety standards that will guarantee the quality of the system. Organizations like the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) or Underwriters Laboratories (UL) are in charge of giving these certifications. If a system has one of these, it means that it meets the standards for consistent operation and safety, and it also indicates that the company’s dispatchers are very responsive and trained to respond to all emergencies.
The regular medical alert device will contact the dispatcher and allow the person using it to hear them. However, devices with a two-way voice feature will enable the person to talk back. Even though this feature is not standard, it is beneficial as dispatchers can get valuable information and share with emergency services.
The portable units need to be waterproof so that people can wear them in the shower, where almost 80% of falls and accidents happen.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Purchasing a medical alert device gives you peace of mind since it assures the safety of the person wearing it. Apart from improving your loved one’s safety, it also allows them to live independently despite their medical condition. However, these devices are not perfect, and have their cons and benefits.
These devices typically provide two-way voice communication, which means that apart from contacting the dispatcher, the person will be able to talk back and provide significant information. They can also detect falls and provide immediate response for people during emergencies. When a sense of fall is detected by the device, it automatically contacts live dispatchers. Dispatchers are available 24/7, so they will be able to respond to emergencies at any time during the day or night. When the call button is pressed, the dispatcher is immediately contacted, and can help seniors when necessary. You are also free to choose between having a pendant or a wristband. The typical medical alert system looks like a pendant and can be worn as a necklace, but some are designed as a wristband or a watch. This system allows seniors to be independent despite their age, while still being able to get care if needed. You will have peace of mind knowing the safety of your loved ones is guaranteed with these devices.
Even though these devices offer a range of benefits, they fall short in some aspects. Sometimes, they are not able to detect falls. When relying on medical alert devices, you need to keep in mind that they are not foolproof. If a fall is not detected, it can be dangerous, especially if the fall leaves the person unconscious. Buying a medical alert system requires a contract to ensure that the customers will continue to use the services for a specified period, even if a senior might not need the service for the entire period. This means that you have to continue paying even though your loved one is transferred to homes for seniors, or does not need the device any longer for other reasons. Apart from that, breaking the contract can be very costly. The expenses don’t end there. Purchasing a medical alert system may have expensive monthly fees. This could be one of the major disadvantages medical alert devices can give you. Apart from an activation fee that most medical alert systems have, you are also charged with a subscription fee that is paid monthly from 25$ to 50$ for monitoring.
Important Questions to be Raised Before Purchasing a Medical Alert Device
If you still haven’t quite figured out medical alert devices, we have listed the answers to common questions asked, that could help you with your choice.
How do medical alert systems work?
Devices that depend on cellular technologies allow the person wearing it to connect with a dispatcher 24/7. Just by pushing the button on their pendant or wristband, a senior can call the dispatcher for help, and the dispatcher can contact emergency services or the senior’s loved one for aid. If the senior is unable to respond, the dispatcher will call 911 immediately, along with the contacts found on their emergency list.
The devices that use GPS technology can help locate the senior that is not able to call for help due to unwanted circumstances (knocked unconscious or is experiencing disorientation when wandering). One of the duties of the dispatchers is to relay the exact location of the senior to emergency services.
Is there really a need for a medical alert system?
Many people are questioning whether a medical alert system is necessary. Many believe that the use of smartphones or a smart home hub is enough to accomplish things the same way. Yes, turning on the location on your senior’s smartphones could help, but there are instances when they won’t always have their smartphone. For seniors who are experiencing dementia and are prone to wandering most of the time, they may become too lost or not think well enough to call for help. When their smartphone is left at home, it will be hard to locate them. That’s why you should consider using a medical alert system that has GPS technology.
Does a medical alert system help people sleep well?
The major benefit a medical alert system can provide is a peace of mind. As we all know, anxiety can cause sleep problems. A lot of people find it hard to sleep at night because they worry that something will happen to their loved ones. Even seniors themselves worry about their own safety and can also have trouble sleeping. Many seniors want to continue living in independence, but chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, or stroke prevent it. Whichever condition they are experiencing, even medications prescribed can cause dizziness that can lead to a fall. If a senior uses a cane or wheelchair, the chances of falling are high, and in these situations, using medical alert devices is wise.
Are medical alert systems covered by Medicaid, Medicare, or Insurance?
Among the three, only Medicaid covers medical alert systems. Companies, however, hold promotions throughout the year, and buying the product during these promotions can save you money. You can also save some money by paying up front for several months or choosing an annual or quarterly payment plan.
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Iva is an art historian and an art lover who always had a passion for writing and sleep! When she is not researching and testing new mattresses on the market, you can find her binge-watching TV shows, eating tons of junk food or playing with her dog Bart.