Taken from an article on care.com
At a Glance: The Best Medical Alert Systems
- Bay Alarm Medical – Best for Customer Service
- MobileHelp – Editor’s Choice
- Medical Guardian – Best for Premium Features
- Medical Alert – Best for Low Startup Costs
- LifeFone – Best Standalone Mobile App
- GetSafe – Best Hands-Free System
- Medical Care Alert – Best for EMT/EMD Certified Monitoring
- QMedic – Best for Compliance and Activity Monitoring
- RescueTouch – Best for Two-Way Communication
Expert Reviews of the Best Medical Alert Systems
Bay Alarm Medical currently offers four medical alert systems. All Bay Alarm Medical devices are priced competitively, and customers who have a landline can take advantage of one of the lowest monthly monitoring costs among the top companies we’ve reviewed. Emergency monitoring with Bay Alarm Medical starts at just $19.95 a month with no activation, equipment, or installation fees.
The company is committed to providing excellent customer service, and has a LiveChat box on its website so prospective and existing customers can receive immediate assistance and support. Its U.S.-based customer service team is also available to assist customers via phone seven days a week. Bay Alarm Medical’s Customer Care Consultants undergo rigorous training to ensure that customer experience is positive, pleasant, and consistent.
- Geofencing available
- Monitoring service is available in 170 languages
- On the Road provides excellent coverage for seniors who drive
- Change or cancel plans at any time
- Limited accessories compared to other companies
- Most plans include basic coverage and will cost more as features are added on
Bay Alarm Medical offers four devices, which cost between $21.95 for a basic in-home system and $24.95 a month for a fully mobile unit. All devices are paid for on a month-to-month basis; there are no long-term payment options. There is a 30-day cancellation window during which new customers may cancel their service and receive a full refund, minus shipping costs.
MobileHelp offers a large selection of reliable personal emergency response systems, ranging from basic in-home units to high-tech portable devices. Its prices for both in-home and portable systems are some of the most affordable, and unlike many other medical alert providers, MobileHelp doesn’t charge extra for its cellular in-home systems. As a result, its classic plan with a cellular connection is the least expensive among the top companies we reviewed. And, the company’s online web portal and mobile app, MobileHelp Connect, and partnership with telehealth provider MDLIVE provide additional benefits for users and their caregivers.
MobileHelp also has excellent customer service, a robust and informative website, and its monitoring center is staffed with well-trained operators and offers quick response times. Users may also add on a medication scheduling feature that can help them manage complicated medication regimens. Overall, MobileHelp is a top option to consider for those looking for quality service and devices at a reasonable price.
- No need for a landline with any device
- No extra charge for cellular connection
- Range of premium features
- Some customers will need to pay an activation fee
- Fall detection not available for all devices
MobileHelp’s systems range in price from $19.95 to $59.45 a month, and can be paid for monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually. However, the Touch only offers semi-annual and annual payment. Free shipping is included with quarterly, semi-annual, and annual payments. The longer payment periods also are slightly less expensive on a month-to-month basis. Customers who pay for their device on a monthly basis must pay $15 for shipping. All customers are eligible for MobileHelp’s 30-day free trial period for all of its devices.
Medical Guardian stands out for its wide variety of premium features and diverse device offerings. Several of its devices include features that go beyond standard emergency monitoring, such as a caregiver portal, location and activity tracking, and voice-to-text messaging. This makes it a good choice for those who want added peace of mind or don’t like traditional medical alert options. On top of these extra features, Medical Guardian offers six device options, which is more than any other company on our list.
- Large selection of systems with prices starting as low as $1/day
- Availability of premium features
- Lightweight and waterproof devices
- Mobile systems are pricier than the industry average
- Some customers must pay for shipping
Medical Guardian has six different plans to choose from, ranging from $29.95 a month to $79.95 a month. The company doesn’t charge device activation fees or installation fees for most of its devices. However, the MGMove (the smartwatch-style device) requires a one-time payment of $199. Currently, Medical Guardian doesn’t provide free shipping, but no cancellation fees are ever charged. Those who choose to pay for their service on an annual basis will receive a discount from the base monthly cost.
Medical Alert is one of the United States’ largest providers of medical alert devices, serving hundreds of thousands of users. It offers three high-quality devices, none of which carry any extra fees, and the company does not charge any activation, installation, or equipment fees for any of its devices.
Medical Alert makes our list of the top medical alert companies because of the excellent value it provides customers. All three Medical Alert systems offer around-the-clock protection and reliable equipment and services at a very reasonable cost, helping seniors stay safe and stick to their budget.
- Free lockbox provided with annual subscription plans for in-home systems
- International coverage (U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands)
- No extra one-time fees
- No long-term contracts or cancellation fees, and offers prorated refunds
- Limited extra features and accessories
- Fall detection not included in monthly cost for any devices
Medical Alert’s devices range in price from $22.95 to $37.95 a month when paid for on a monthly basis. Semi-annual and annual payment options are also available and lower the cost by several dollars per month.
Medical Alert offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on all of its systems. If a user is unsatisfied with their Medical Alert device, they can return it within the first 30 days for a full refund. Outside of the initial 30-day window, customers can cancel their service plan at any time without penalty and receive a prorated refund.
LifeFone offers five high-quality medical alert device options and 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. It can also be used as a “virtual escort service” if users are ever in a situation that makes them feel unsafe.
As a completely standalone app, Mobile Alert sets LifeFone apart from other medical alert companies and makes medical alert services more accessible to all.
- Large range on in-home devices
- Variety of services help users feel protected in every situation
- No long-term service contract or extraneous startup fees
- Free monitoring for a second family member/person who lives in the same household
- Additional fees apply for add-ons that some other companies offer for free
- Shorter than average battery life
LifeFone offers five different medical alert systems. All of the devices may be paid for on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis and 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. LifeFone does not charge any shipping, equipment, or activation fees.
GetSafe takes a modern approach to emergency monitoring with its voice-activated medical alert systems. Touting its devices as “the medical alert system you don’t have to wear,” GetSafe provides in-home protection without requiring that users wear a personal emergency button. Founded by home security industry experts, the company strives to provide customers with both the best user experience and the best protection and security. This passive approach to medical alert monitoring eliminates the compliance element and ensures that users are protected even if they’re resistant to wearing a medical alert device.
- No need to wear personal emergency alert button
- Easy self-installation means no installation fees
- Low monthly monitoring fees
- 30-day free trial period
- Larger packages have high startup costs
- No on-the-go coverage is available
GetSafe offers three service plans, the Starter, Standard, and Select. All use the same GetSafe equipment, but the Standard and Select plans include more equipment to cover larger homes. All plans include one base unit, at least one voice-activated alert system, and one complimentary personal help pendant. The standard and select plans also include at least one wall-mounted button. You can read more about the plan types and equipment below.
All GetSafe plans are paid for on a month-to-month basis, and all cost $24.95 per month. All plans have a one-time equipment purchase fee, which is higher for the Standard and Select plans because they include more equipment. There are no installation or activation fees, but users do need to pay for shipping. All customers are eligible for a 30-day trial period during which they can return their GetSafe system for a full refund.
Medical Care Alert stands out for its unparalleled medical alert monitoring. While all medical alert centers train their agents, Medical Care Alert operators all hold EMT/EMD certification. They all have first-hand experience responding to emergency situations, providing incomparable knowledge. All operators also undergo a Security Industry Association-certified training program for extra assurance.
Upon dispatch, the monitoring center always sends a text message alert to users’ preferred contacts. This may include family, friends, caregivers, and even a doctor. This provides peace of mind and may even allow for nearby family or friends to provide help before EMTs arrive.
The prices for 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.
Customers can choose to pay for an annual, semi-annual, or quarterly subscription. The semi-annual and annual subscriptions save 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.
QMedic devices are more than just emergency call buttons. The devices track users’ activity levels, sleep patterns, and compliance to give caregivers and family a clear picture of their loved one’s wellness. The unique compliance monitoring feature detects whether the user is actually wearing the device, giving caregivers peace of mind that their loved one us actually using their device.
All QMedic devices come with these advanced features, and caregivers of all users can easily check on their loved one’s stats on the Caregiver Dashboard.
- Compliance monitoring
- Simple and quick to install
- Caregiver dashboard provides easy access to valuable information
- Activity and sleep tracking provides valuable health insights
- Limited accessories
- No medication reminders available
QMedic offers monthly and annual payment options. The annual payment plans save customers $60 per year with the in-home devices and an impressive $140 of savings per year for the mobile device. Free ground shipping is included with both monthly and annual plans.
There are no long-term contracts required, and customers may cancel their rental at any time. However, customers who paid for an annual plan will not receive a refund for the remaining months if they cancel before the year is over. There is also a 30-day money back guarantee on all systems.
RescueTouch was founded by a former EMT, Scott A. Lepper, who saw the importance of swift emergency response first-hand throughout his career. RescueTouch devices were created with the intention of keeping seniors safe while also improving their quality of life. As such, the devices come with unique features that are uncommon in the industry, such as two-way voice communication and guaranteed new equipment. The complete portability of the RescueTouch mobile SOS pendant and the ease of two-way calling makes this company a good option for active seniors and their loved ones who want to keep up with them.
- Both monitored and unmonitored plans available
- Unique two-way communication
- Lifetime price-lock, so users’ rates will never increase
- Fall detection and location tracking available with most plans
- No in-home device options
- All users must pay one-time equipment purchase fee
RescueTouch customers have the choice of paying for their device on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. The six plans range in price from $30 to $75 a month, plus a one-time device purchase cost of $99 for single devices and $178 for the twin packs. Other than the purchase cost, there are no additional startup fees.
All of the payment options include free shipping and a 30-day money back guarantee. Customers may also cancel at any time without penalty. There is also a lifetime price-lock, so the monthly cost will remain the same over time.
RescueTouch also offers three professionally monitored plans:
- 9-1-1 Caller: This is the most basic and least expensive RescueTouch plan, at $30 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.
- “The Whole Shabang”: 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 $50 also includes GPS services, fall detection, and the option for friends and family to initiate contact.
- Chit Chat Monitored Twin Pack: This plan is identical to “The Whole Shabang”, with the addition of the chit-chat feature between the two included devices. The plan costs $75 a month including both devices, fall detection, and GPS.
Understanding Additional Medical Alert System Features
In addition to those we highlighted above, some medical alert companies may offer supplementary features and devices including:
- Medication Dispensers: Some medical alert companies offer medication dispensers, a separate device that automatically dispenses one’s medications at pre-scheduled times. Doses can be pre-set so that the user receives the correct dosage at the correct time. This can help seniors who struggle with remembering if they’ve taken their medication.
- Wall-Mounted Buttons: Some seniors or caregivers may want the added security of a wall-mounted button. The buttons serve as a backup means of contacting the emergency monitoring center in high-risk areas (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 a very large home or like to spend time in their yard can use a voice extender. The device extends the range of the microphone and speaker of the in-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 base stations can be used to answer phone calls made to a user’s landline without them having to pick up a phone. So, the in-home base station essentially functions as a speakerphone.
- Two-Way Communication: Some medical alert devices allow users’ loved ones to initiate communication with the user via their device. Typically these medical alert devices are assigned a phone number, like a cell phone, that caregivers can call to reach their loved one’s medical alert device directly.
How to Find the Right Medical Alert System for You
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every four older adults falls every year. Of those falls, 20 percent are serious, resulting in a broken bone, head trauma, or a similar injury. And, falling once doubles one’s chance of experiencing another fall in the future. There’s no way to completely prevent falls, so it’s crucial to provide immediate help when a fall does happen. This is where home medical alert systems can be invaluable.
Christopher Norman, GNP, explains that there are a variety of factors that contribute to seniors’ fall risk, including “changes in sensoria (vision/hearing/sensation), increased likelihood of weakness related to more sitting / less walking, too many medications, changes in center of gravity due to bone loss and height, improper footwear, and hazards in the home.”
There’s no way to completely prevent falls, but there are things seniors and their families can do to make one safer at home. Christopher suggests home modifications like installing grab-bars in bathrooms, as well as simpler changes such as removing throw rugs, rearranging furniture, and decluttering. “The long-term success of aging at home can be highly influenced with proactive steps,” he says.
One such action families can take is purchasing a medical alert system. The devices allow seniors to stay independent while making sure help is available when needed and can help prevent further injury or death after a fall or other emergency.
And medical alert systems don’t just provide security for seniors who are prone to falls- they have many other uses as well. Below, we offer examples 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 life alert devices to maintain that freedom as long as possible. Mobile medical alert devices ensure that help is always available and that emergency personnel can find a user’s location.
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.
- Mobile GPS 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.
Seniors Who Wish to Age in Place
Aging in place is becoming more and more popular, with 75% of older adults saying that they plan to stay in their current home for the rest of their lives. But, not having the constant presence of a caregiver creates a risk of falling and not receiving the necessary care. 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.
Life alert systems can make aging in place safer for those with mobility difficulties 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 who plan to age in place should look for the following features in a medical alert system:
- 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: Following a fall, seniors may struggle to reach their personal help button. Voice-activated systems provide an alternative option for contacting the monitoring center and getting help when needed. It can also be extremely beneficial when seniors forget to wear their device in the home.
- Medication Reminders and Automated Dispensers: 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 medication reminders for those who often forget when to take their medications.
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. Medical alert devices can help caregivers locate their loved ones if they become lost.
Seniors with memory impairment should look for the following features:
- Mobile and Home Device Combination: Seniors who may wander or otherwise become lost can benefit from a mobile device that allows their loved ones to track their location. But, a home life alert system that won’t stop working if they forget to charge their mobile device is also very useful. 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.
- Geofencing: Geofencing can be invaluable for seniors who wander and ensures families are aware if their loved one leaves the set location.
- Battery Monitoring: A battery monitoring feature that notifies the medical alert wearer and/or their caregivers when it’s time to charge the device or the battery reaches a critical level is very helpful for seniors who tend to forget to charge their devices.
- Medication Reminders: Medication reminders help seniors who may forget to take important prescriptions stay on top of their regimen.
Seniors with High-Risk Medical Conditions
Almost 70% of older adults with diabetes will develop 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. Consider the following 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. 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: This premium feature uses extra motion sensors to detect a sudden change in activity level or lack of activity. If these situations occur, the system sends an alert to a loved one that something may be wrong.
- Caregiver Portal: An online portal that allows multiple loved ones and caregivers to have access and share notes makes collaboration between caregivers easier, ensuring seniors with high-risk conditions stay safe and their care is being properly managed. If there is an emergency, injury, or illness, all caregivers who have access to the portal will be in the loop.