A medical alert system, also referred to as a personal emergency response system (PERS) or medical emergency response system (MERS), is a wearable device that come in all shapes and sizes and be in the form of a pendant, necklace, or bracelet, a motion detector in a room, even an app on a smartphone. The system is designed to signal that help is needed for the wearer. When a fall or accident occurs, the system is activated at the push of a button, allowing the user to contact a dispatcher, the alarm company, signal family member or caregiver in an assisted living facility, and dispatch emergency services. While the elderly or those who live alone are the most common users, medical alert systems can be used by anyone. They can be used outside the home as well.
When considering a system for yourself or a loved one, there are a variety of features and service options to consider. Ask yourself these questions when trying to decide which system is right for your lifestyle:
- Home or Mobile – Do you want a home or mobile based system? When medical alert systems were first developed, they were designed to work only in the home, with a landline telephone. With the advent of technology, this has all changed. Though systems still work with home based systems, noe the option to go mobile is offered by many companies, allowing a person to alert emergency services when they are out. Mobile alert systems achieve this with GPS.
- Monitored System – A monitored system means that dispatchers can be contacted 24/7. An unmonitored system operates via a call button that alerts a friend or family member. The other major difference between these two systems is their pricing. Monitored systems have a monthly fee, activation fees, and usually a contract in addition to the price of the system itself.
- Fall Detection – For a fee, some companies can activate fall detection. In practice, the device will sense a fall and alert emergency services, similar to a call button. The issue arrives as to whether or not the fall detection will work every time. For someone that is high risk for falls, the extra cost may be worth it.
- Landline required – Does the system you chose require a landline? The radius for a landline based system is 600 – 1200 feet from the landline base.
- Range – Does the range for a landline based system fulfill your needs? For bigger homes, 1200 feet may not be a large enough range.
- Installation – Typically the consumer sets up their own medical alert system. In some cases, if the system is purchased by a local company, they may send an someone to the home to install the unit.
- Call Centers – Where is the emergency call center the unit is connected to located? Some companies do outsource their call centers outside of the U.S.
- Waterproof – Is the system waterproof, or water resistant? This distinction is important. Since most falls and emergencies happen in the bathroom; a medic alert pendant/ call button should be worn while bathing.
- Return Policy – This is where signing a contract may not be in your best interest. If the alert system ends up not working as you intended, a legally binding, long term agreement would not allow it to be returned. More reputable companies permit a return of the equipment and discontinue service if unsatisfied with the product.
- Pricing – Many companies offer monthly packages when purchasing a system; for example, buying a 6 month package would cost less than paying for three months at a time. Some companies offer quarterly packages as well, and of course a month to month option.
Best Systems Available
A valuable investment for any senior, a medical alert system offers peace of mind and independence. Whichever system is chosen, it should be reliable and easy to install and have great customer service.
MobileHelp offers FDA compliant cellular based systems; no landline is required for use.
In addition to their regular pendant with a call button, MobileHelp has a duo system designed for couples. The company also offers a smartwatch medical alert system.The monthly fee starts at an affordable $20 a month, and there is no contract to sign. The various other plans offered range in prices and are broken up into monthly/ quarterly/ annual/ semi annual choices. There is a cellular in home option, a GPS option, and the alarm has a water resistant button. You can cancel at any time and receive a prorated refund once the equipment is returned.
The MobileHelp system has automatic fall detection, along with reminders for medication, an activity tracker, and monitors vital signs. The fall detection is not available for the cellular unit. The battery life for the in home system is 30 hours, and 24 hours for the mobile. The range for the in home system is 600 ft, and no land line is required.
- FDA approved
- Low cost
- Optional pricing plans
- No landline required
- Smartwatch option
- Two pendants included with every system
- No long-term contracts
- Duo system available for couples
- Fall detection and cellular systems are separate
Bay Alarm Medical
A company that has been around since the late 1940’s, Bay Alarm Medical offers both in home systems and mobile handheld alert systems. Both systems have no long term contract required, and there is no penalty to cancel. The monthly fee is less than $20, but you can try the company out for 30 days risk free, with a money back guarantee. There is no equipment fee, only for the service itself, unless the equipment is faulty, then there is a replacement fee charged, one that is quite high.
Your personal medical information can be put on file within their system, which will in turn be related to any medical services in case of an emergency. The system has an automatic fall detection feature. The in home waterproof pendant has a backup battery life of 32 hours, and the mobile system 72 hours. The in home system has a 1,000 foot range in addition to a wireless base unit that can be transported when you leave the house. The customer service at Bay Alarm has been reported as excellent with quick response times, even when equipment is reported as being faulty.
- Low monthly cost
- Great customer service
- 30 days risk free trial
- No long term contract
- Mobile and in home systems
- Portable wireless unit
- Medical history kept on file with company
- Auto fall detection
- No fees associated with cancellation
- Chances of faulty equipment
- High fee to replace faulty equipment
Medical Guardian is a fairly new company that started in 2006, with in home, landline, cellular with WiFi, and fall detection system options offered. The pendant that can be worn at the neck or wrist is water resistant. There is no equipment to purchase and no contracts, simply a 90 day minimum of usage. The monthly service fee starts a bit higher than the previous two systems, at $30. For the trade off of improved and advanced technology, some are willing to pay the cost. Battery life on the at home system is 32 hours, and 24 on the mobile, and the in home unit has a high range of 1300 feet. A variety of pricing plans are available to fit any needs, along with extra options such as a wall mounted button unit, fall detection, and a mobile GPS detection.
The easy to install systems have no set up fees. Available are the following: the Classic, which comes with a base that plugs into a landline and has the available wall button option and water resistant pendants; the Home unit that can be used without a landline and water resistant pendants, it is plugged into an electrical outlet and has the fall detection option; the Mobile, a water resistant pendant GPS enabling perfect for active people should they face an emergency outside the home; the Active with both GPS, WiFi, and fall detection for an additional fee; and the Freedom system, the company’s version of a smartwatch – a watch that has a 48 charge hold, GPS and WiFi technology, text to speech, reminders, alerts, and weather forecast.
- Variety of systems and flexible pricing plans
- No long term contracts
- Long range
- Water resistant pendants
- WiFi and GPS
- Fall detection
- Watch option system
- No setup or install fees
- Higher priced than competitors
GetSafe is committed to their customers safety; not only do they supply medical alert systems but home security alarms as well. Their medical equipment can be tried for 30 days risk free, and offers in home landline and in home cellular options; easy set up, lightweight waterproof pendants and a number of other add on accessories such as wall buttons, monitored smoke detector and in door security camera.
GetSafe also has the option of fall detection and a wireless, voice activated console – should a person forget to put on their pendant or be near a wall button and need to reach emergency services. The in home system has a 32 hour backup battery and a range of 1300 feet; depending in the size of the home this may encompass the front and back yards too. There are no equipment or set up costs; the monitoring plan itself is $25 a month, regardless of the length – quarterly, semi annual, or annually. Cancel any time and receive a prorated refund.
The ease and straightforwardness of the GetSafe system, even with all their modern extras, still denotes their lack of other options other modern systems have such as a mobile on the go option, medication alerts or activity monitoring.
- Risk free trial
- Straightforward monthly cost
- No equipment or installation fees
- 1300 foot range
- 32 hour battery life
- Numerous add on options; fall detection, wall buttons, smoke detector, security camera
- Waterproof pendants
- Voice activated console
- No mobile option for outside the home
- No medication alerts or activity monitoring
LifeFone has been in business for over 40 years. As with many medical alert companies, they offer an at home system with or without landline, cellular, and GPS enabled mobile systems. The pendant is waterproof can can be worn in the bath or shower. The cellular mobile unit works anywhere in the U.S. that has cell phone coverage.
Fall detection is available for a small additional fee, the lowest on the market. The pricing plans available can be paid out monthly, quarterly, or annually, with no long term contract necessary. Prices begin at $25 for the basic 1300 foot range for the in home base system, and a backup battery life of 32 hours. The option plans are varied and can cost more than competitors.
The mobile in home unit has a backup battery life of 24 hours. Extra options include fire, smoke and carbon monoxide detection. LifeFone offers activity monitoring in home, daily check in calls to their customers for a fee, and unlimited emergency contacts. Users can tailor their emergency care profile with relevant medical information.
In addition to the fall detection option, LifeFone will add a spouse to any of the plans with the exception of the mobile plan at no extra charge. There is a lifetime price guarantee; so there is no worry about price changes to your chosen plan. A lifetime equipment guarantee assures free replacements if needed.
- Price locked lifetime guarantee
- Equipment lifetime guarantee
- Small fee for fall detection
- Free spouse add on
- Cellular and in home options
- Mobile unit
- Waterproof pendant
- 1300 foot range
- Options for daily care checks and activity monitoring
- Emergency care plans
- No contract
- Smoke, fire, and carbon monoxide detection
- Higher costs than competitors
Katherine is a medical sales assistant and focuses on senior products. She is an expert when it comes to mobility for seniors as well as for safety equipment. When she is not counseling seniors or their family members, she enjoys riding the bike and spending time with her two kids.