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As we get older, we want to maintain a sense of independence. It's only natural. And while we might not get around like we used to, the freedom that comes with living on our own and staying mobile has never been more important.
So if you or your loved one wants to continue living at home, a medical alert system provides the peace of mind and confidence you deserve. Medical alert systems can also be used in retirement communities and assisted living facilities to keep patients safe in the unfortunate event of a fall or other emergency.
These devices certainly save lives and restore confidence and freedom. But there's one problem. There are just SO many options on the market that it can be overwhelming. Narrowing down your choices to find the right alert system can be an uphill battle.
That's why we created this trusty guide on medical alert systems. We share everything you need to know about these life-saving devices, as well as how you can find the right system to suit your budget and lifestyle.
Whether you’re looking for an on-the-go cellular system, medical alert smartwatch, or a system with a smartphone app, we’ve got you covered. We’ve compared the industry’s best medical alert systems for every need.
We’ve reviewed the best medical alert systems on the market to help you find the provider and system that’s right for your lifestyle.
Want to learn more about the cost of medical alert systems and how to get the best deal? Our team has compiled everything you need to know before purchasing a system from any of our top providers in these pricing pages.
Choosing the right medical alert system can be tough with so many great providers on the market. If you’re stuck between two providers or you just want to compare and contrast the best brands, visit our comparison pages for a side-by-side look.
Before going into our deep dive of medical alert systems, why not check out our video on the topic from our YouTube channel? Here, we go over the different types of medical alert systems, how they work, and what the setup process involves. After watching the video, come back here to get all the in-depth intricacies about medical alert systems to help you in your search for the right device.
Medical alert systems are incredibly easy to use, and, thankfully, they all function pretty much the same way. You or your loved one wears a discreet pendant with a help button built into it. You'll also have a base unit with a two-way speaker that connects to your pendant during an emergency for in-home systems. This base unit will be built into your pendant for mobile systems, or it will be a small device that can fit in your pocket. Your medical alert system works with four easy steps:
If you happen to be at home during an emergency, the friendly emergency personnel can speak with you through the base station's microphone. If you're away from home, rest assured that many mobile medical alert systems offer two-way voice built right into the device itself. Mobile systems also offer GPS tracking technology so that responders can find you no matter where you are. Medical alert systems come in many different styles, each with various features. Some systems even come with automatic fall detection, which can detect a fall and call for help when you're unable to press your help button.
The type of medical alert system you choose for yourself or your loved one will depend on the level of independence you desire.
We understand that many seniors can be intimidated and overwhelmed by new technology. And really, who isn't? But rest assured that most medical alert systems are quite easy to use. In fact, most alerts offer simple plug-and-play setup. Just plug your landline-based system into a phone jack and follow a few easy setup steps.
If you have a cellular system, just charge the device, turn it on, and you're basically ready to go. There is some configuration, but it's never been easier to get set up with quality emergency alert coverage.
Today's best medical alert companies are competing to make their products more accessible and easy to use. So if you're considering a medical alert system for yourself or a loved one, you'll be glad to know that today's DIY systems are a breeze to set up and use.
Seniors and caretakers are often curious about what's included with the average alert system package. And we understand, you want to know exactly what you're signing up for. So here's a basic rundown of medical alert system equipment:
Other add-on equipment includes accessories like a lockbox key holder, a medication reminder or organizer, wall-mounted emergency buttons, voice extenders, and more.
Are you an active senior always on-the-go? Or do you stay at home most of the time? You'll want to consider your pace of life, as it will influence whether you get an in-home or mobile medical alert system.
In-home systems are ideal for less active seniors who live alone. These alert systems are usually landline-based (requires a phone line), but cellular in-home systems are also available. The range on in-home devices extend from just a few hundred feet to 1,600 feet or more (from the base station). If you or your loved one enjoys spending time in the garden out back or chatting in the front yard with friends, a long-range in-home medical alert system is the way to go. Almost every company offers an in-home alert setup.
On the other hand, mobile alert systems use a cellular signal to connect you to the monitoring center should an emergency arise. Mobile on-the-go medical alert systems are a wise choice for seniors who enjoy trips to the grocery store, the mall, to church, walking nearby trails, and really anywhere away from home. These systems will work pretty much anywhere with a decent cell signal (via cell tower). And mobile medical alert systems are also ideal for seniors who sometimes travel to different states. The best medical alert companies now offer mobile alert solutions.
So which is best for you? Should you get an in-home or mobile alert system? Well, that's a choice you or your caretaker must make. But if you take an honest look at your lifestyle, the decision should be easy!
It's important that you or your loved one enjoys all the right features at your fingertips. Thankfully, today's alert systems offer outstanding features that are easy to use. These features include:
Other upgrades and add-ons include: medication reminders; medication dispensers; activity tracking; daily fitness reminders; vital signs monitoring (blood pressure, weight, blood oxygen saturation levels, etc.); price-lock guarantee; caregiver tools; and more.
You might be the type of person who cares about new technology that can make your life easier and safer. If that's you, you'll be happy to know that medical alert companies have come a long way with technology in the past couple of decades. With this in mind, the latest medical alert technology includes:
There has been a lot of talk about fall detection among the senior and caregiver communities. What exactly is fall detection? Does it really work? And is it worth it? We're going to share it all, good and bad, and let you make the judgment call on whether or not it's right for you.
First off, fall detection is normally sold as an upgrade for an extra $10/mo. or so. The technology is built into your pendant device, smartwatch, or another wearable. If you fall, the accelerometer technology detects it immediately, and the device signals the monitoring center. This technology helps to alleviate the fear of a potentially devastating slip or fall. And seeing that many falls happen in the shower, the technology is usually 100% water-resistant and meant to be taken into high-risk fall zones like the bathroom.
Sure, fall detection can (and does!) save lives. It can also deliver peace of mind just knowing that you or your loved one has the feature ready to go. But it's far from perfect. In fact, sometimes the fall detection will send a signal when any type of fast movement is detected. Other times, when a real fall occurs, it might not sense it as a true fall, and therefore won't alert the monitoring center.
However, while the technology is not yet 100% accurate, it's safe to say that having an imperfect fall detection device is still better than having no fall detection at all.
So if you want to feel more confident in your home, or when you're out and about, then fall detection might make sense for you. Or if you feel that your loved one or the senior you're caring for is at risk of falling, you should seriously consider this affordable upgrade. But if you or your loved one is relatively active and not prone to sudden falls, you can probably pass on this upgrade.
When searching for a medical alert system for yourself or a loved one, you will want to consider response times and overall reliability. After all, an alert system is only as effective as the monitoring personnel behind it.
Thankfully, the top companies are outfitted with TMA (CSAA) Five Diamond Certified monitoring centers that deliver surprisingly fast response times. To give you a better sense of response times, this is the time it takes for an agent to contact you or your loved one after the help button is pressed. This normally happens in a matter of seconds (typically 15-45 seconds), and these seconds can save a life.
Also, today's monitoring centers are highly reliable. It's their one job, to process an emergency alert as fast and accurate as humanly possible. So rest assured you will likely have a professional, friendly agent on the line if/when you experience a medical emergency. They will then follow the protocol to decide the best course of action. This might mean contacting a caretaker or family member, or it could mean dispatching police, fire, or EMS for more serious emergencies.
When considering the costs of medical alert systems, you have to consider your monthly budget. But you should also ask yourself what your safety or the safety of your loved one is worth to you. You will quickly come to realize that $25-$35 per month is money well spent, especially when it can save a life.
Medical alert systems cost anywhere between $20 to $50 per month or more. But it’s entirely possible to find a quality alert system in the $20-$30 range. This price includes the equipment and the required monthly monitoring. Then, if you so desire, you can purchase fall detection for approximately $10 more per month, along with other add-ons to suit your needs. When all is said and done, you can get full-service 24/7 coverage for well under $50 per month.
Buyer's Tip: Worried about the cost of a medical alert system? Visit our guide to the best medical alert systems without a monthly fee.
It is important to note that mobile alert systems are generally more expensive than in-home systems. You can expect to pay about $10-$15 more per month for a GPS system with on-the-go coverage. But the benefits of mobile alerts certainly outweigh the costs.
There are certain alert systems that require a long-term contract of 12 months or more. But the majority of systems offer 100% contract-free, cancel-anytime coverage. While signing a contract can make the monthly monitoring fee cheaper, we always recommend going with a no-contract medical alert system. After all, you don't want to be on the hook for $30 or more every month if you no longer need or use the alert system.
In order to choose the medical alert system that's right for you or your loved one, you should ask the following questions before pulling out your pocketbook or purse:
Unfortunately, Medicare generally doesn’t cover medical alert systems. However, there are some Medicare Advantage plans that may cover them, so it's always worth asking. In some states, Medicaid might cover the cost. Since coverage is on a state-by-state basis, check the rules where you live. You may also want to check with your private insurance provider about medical alert coverage, if applicable. If you are paying out of pocket, ask about discounts for Veterans or other groups that you may belong to. Also ask to see if the cost is tax deductible.
Sometimes purchasing the medical alert system itself is not the most significant hurdle. Rather, your loved one may not want one in their home due to fears about the implication of such a system, misconceptions surrounding the service, or other objections. To address these feelings about a medical alert system, we put together the following video on the Senior Living YouTube channel to teach you how to approach the topic of getting a medical alert device with your loved one. Using our guidance, you can show empathy for their situation while simultaneously demonstrating the value of medical alert systems for their safety. Check it out below before choosing your preferred medical alert device setup.
As we age, safety becomes all the more important for ourselves and our loved ones. Since medical emergencies like slips or falls can happen without warning, it's important to wear a medical alert device that delivers fast and reliable coverage.
The good news is that there are loads of affordable options on the market. It's now possible for every senior to live with peace of mind and confidence in their alert system. So if you're a caretaker or a senior who's looking for all-around peace of mind, look no further than a quality medical alert system.
Most alert systems offer 24/7 in-home coverage for as low as $20 per month. And if you're an active senior who enjoys spending time away from home, you can find a cellular system in the $30-$40 range. Then, for added protection, consider upgrading to get automatic fall detection.
Overall, your lifestyle is the most important thing to consider when purchasing an alert system. When you sit down and ask yourself what makes sense for you or your loved one, you'll find that the right alert system is well within reach.
Linda’s Acclaimed Career in Senior Care Linda Schlenker is a comforting voice for seniors and caregivers across the U.S. For nearly three decades, Linda has helped seniors remain safe in their own homes, while helping them to regain priceless independence and peace… Learn More About Linda Schlenker
Since graduating from Harvard with an honors degree in Statistics, Jeff has been creating content in print, online, and on television. Much of his work has been dedicated to informing seniors on how to live better lives. As Editor-in-Chief of the personal… Learn More About Jeff Hoyt