For many seniors, retaining independence as much as possible is a top priority. But living alone into old age can put seniors at risk of accidents and injuries. According to the CDC, 25% of adults fall each year, and 1 out of 5 of those falls cause serious injuries like a broken bone or head trauma. If you have an aging loved one who lives alone, you’ve probably experienced anxiety and concern that a fall or other accident may occur and they will have no one there to help them.
While there is no way to entirely prevent serious incidents or emergencies, there are things you can do to make sure that your loved one will get the help that they need when an emergency does occur.
Medical alert systems are great for those who want the security of assistance being available at all times for yourself or an aging loved one who lives independently. They allow seniors to maintain their independence and live at home, without the major risk of them being without help if something happens that requires medical attention.
Choosing between the many companies that sell medical alert systems and the different styles of devices they offer can be overwhelming. It’s often hard to determine which companies are genuine and reliable and which ones may be overpriced or trying to surprise customers with hidden fees. This guide will help you learn about medical alert companies and devices so you can make an informed decision and find a medical alert system that is the best fit for yourself or a loved one.
What to Look For in a Home Medical Alert Company
- Transparency: Companies should be upfront about their pricing. Avoid companies with hidden fees or those who use misleading sales tactics.
- No Long Contracts: Some companies have contracts that last up to 3 years. Make sure you can cancel your service at any time.
- Comfortable Devices: If you are purchasing a mobile device, bulky all-in-one units may not be comfortable.
- Protection in the Shower: Look for waterproof pendants or other solutions that ensure you or your loved one will be protected.
- Caregiver Monitoring: Not all caregiver monitoring apps are created equal. Look for services like activity tracking and device location services.
The 14 Best Medical Alert System Companies
|Lowest In-Home Cost||Lowest Mobile Cost||Starting Fees|
|MobileHelp||$19.95||$37.95||$15.00 – $349.95|
|Bay Alarm Medical||$19.95||$29.95||$9.95|
|Medical Guardian||$29.95||$39.95||$9.50 – $108.50|
|Medical Care Alert||$29.95||$39.95||$12|
|Philips Lifeline||$29.95||$44.95||$69.95 – $249|
|ResponseNow||$29.95||$39.95||$14.95 – $49.95|
|GreatCall Lively Mobile||N/A||$24.95||$94.99|
|RescueTouch||N/A||$25||$99 – $178|
|Life Alert||$49||$89||$95 – $198|
Most Affordable In-Home Cellular System
Seniors without a landline in their homes should pay special attention to extra charges for in-home cellular systems. Some companies may seem to offer in-home coverage at a low cost, but many add an extra fee for cellular connection instead of a landline. For those who do not have a landline, this extra monthly fee can take a medical alert system from in-budget to prohibitively expensive.
MobileHelp’s in-home system comes standard with cellular connection – there is no landline option. Unlike many other companies, MobileHelp does not charge an extra fee for in-home cellular systems. That means that the price you see for the in-home system is the price you pay. Given that their in-home system is one of the least expensive options among top medical alert companies, MobileHelp is a great choice for seniors without a landline looking to keep costs low.
Pricing and Plans
MobileHelp customers can choose to pay for their devices on a monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis. The exception is the Smart device, for which users must pay for at least 3 months at a time. The plans range in price from $19.95 a month for the classic device to $41.95 for the duo, which includes an in-home and mobile system. The quarterly, semi-annual, and annual subscriptions include free shipping, but those who opt for the monthly plans will pay $15.00 for ground shipping. Those plans also save customers a few dollars per month compared to the monthly plan.
The Solo and Duo systems do not have activation or shipping fees, but those who pay monthly for the Classic device must pay a one-time fee of $49.95, and the Smart device must be purchased for a one-time cost of $349.95.
There are no long-term contracts, and users may cancel their service at any time and receive a prorated refund on any prepaid months. MobileHelp also offers a 30-day free trial for all new users, during which they can return their device for a full refund.
|Type of Device||In-home system||Mobile system||In-home and mobile system||Smartwatch-style device|
|Battery Life||30-hour backup||24 hours||24 hours; 30-hour backup||48 hours|
|Range||600 feet||N/A||600 feet||N/A|
|Fall Detection||$10 a month||$10 a month||$10 a month||Not Offered|
*3-month minimum payment period
MobileHelp ClassicRead More
MobileHelp Classic is a traditional in-home system that uses a cellular connection, making it ideal for those who spend most of their time in the home but do not have a landline. The device costs $19.95 a month, plus a one-time fee of $49.95, and includes a base station with 600 feet of range, a waterproof personal help button, and cellular service through AT&T. Fall detection can be added for an additional $10 a month.
MobileHelp SoloRead More
This is a portable system that works both in and out of the home using cellular and GPS tracking to locate users when they call for emergency assistance. The mobile device is small enough to fit in a purse or pocket and has a two-way speaker. The system costs $37.95 a month, including a waterproof help button and AT&T cellular service. Customers may also add fall detection for $10 a month.
MobileHelp DuoRead More
MobileHelp Duo combines the services of the Classic and Solo devices. For $41.95 a month, customers receive an in-home base station, a portable device (plus a charging cradle and mobile pouch), and a waterproof help button. Fall detection is an extra $10 a month. This system adds an extra layer of protection in the home with the base station while still offering help for seniors on-the-go with the portable device.
MobileHelp SmartRead More
This smartwatch-style device was developed for MobileHelp by Samsung and provides emergency monitoring service plus a range of other features such as activity monitoring, weather forecasts, and a heart rate monitor. The device looks like a typical smartwatch, and has a built-in two-way speaker so users can speak to the monitoring center directly through the device. However, it is not a fully functional smartwatch, and users cannot send or receive calls (other than to the emergency monitoring center) or text messages with the device. Customers must purchase the device for $349.95, and pay $24.95 a month for monitoring service (users must pay for their service on a quarterly basis; there are no monthly, semi-annual, or annual subscription options).
MobileHelp devices are monitored by Rapid Response, a third-party US-based monitoring company. Rapid Response is a member of The Monitoring Association (TMA), and all of its operators are certified by the Security Industry Association.
Extra accessories that MobileHelp customers can add to their subscription plan include:
- Wall Mounted Help Button: Customers can add this extra button to their subscription plan for an additional $2 a month
- Medication Reminders: Customizable medication reminders can be added for $5 a month. Users can schedule the medication reminders online, and MobileHelp will send reminders through the base station unit.
- Lockbox: MobileHelp currently provides all customers with a lockbox free of charge. The lockbox allows EMS to enter your home during an emergency if you are unable to answer the door.
For more, read our full review of MobileHelp’s medical alert systems
Best for On-the-Road Monitoring
Bay Alarm Medical offers a unique in-car device that is ideal for drivers. The device has a personal help button that connects drivers to the emergency monitoring center, as well as GPS location tracking and crash detection that automatically signals emergency services if a crash occurs. Family members and caregivers of users can also view their loved one’s location and driving routes via a mobile app.
Pricing and Plans
Bay Alarm Medical offers monthly and semi-annual payment options for its five systems. The systems range in price from $19.95 a month for the in-home landline system to $59.95 a month for the most comprehensive, bundle option. There is no discount for paying on a quarterly or semi-annual basis, but those who choose the semi-annual plan receive free shipping. Other than shipping, which costs $9.95, there are no extra fees. Customers can cancel their service at any time without paying penalty, and those who return their devices within 30 days receive a full refund.
|In-Home (Landline)||In-Home (Cellular)||On the Go||On the Road||360° Protection|
|Type of Device||In-home system||In-home system||Mobile system||In-car system||In-home and mobile system|
|Battery Life||32-hour backup||32-hour backup||3 days||N/A||32-hour backup; 3-day mobile battery|
|Water Resistant||Yes||Yes||Yes||N/A||Yes (other than On the Road)|
|Shower-proof||Yes||Yes||Yes||N/A||Yes (other than On the Road)|
|Range||1,000 feet||1,000 feet||N/A||N/A||1,000 feet|
|Fall Detection||$10 a month||$10 a month||$10 a month||N/A*||$10 a month|
*Automatic crash detection is included
There are two in-home systems, one which connects with a landline and one which uses cellular connection. The landline-based system costs $19.95 a month, and the cellular system is an extra $10 a month, bringing the price to $29.95. Both systems include an in-home base station with a range of 1,000 feet and 32-hour backup battery, and a waterproof personal help button that can be worn as a pendant or around the wrist. Fall detection is available for an additional $10 a month.
On the GoRead More
On the Go is a mobile GPS device that works both inside and outside of the home. It uses 4G-LTE, so users are covered everywhere with cellular service. The system has a two-way speaker, so users can talk to emergency operators directly through the portable device. The battery lasts 72-hours between charges, and the device is waterproof and can be worn in the shower. The monthly cost is $29.95, and fall detection is an additional $10 a month.
On the RoadRead More
This in-car device plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter, and does not require other charging (it is only designed for use in the car, and is not a standard mobile device). On the Road has a personal help button that users can press during an emergency to contact the monitoring center like the other Bay Alarm Medical devices. It also has automatic crash detection, which automatically signals emergency services in the event of an auto accident. On the Road costs $29.95 a month on its own, but it can also be added to one of the other systems for just $20 a month.
360 ProtectionRead More
This plan is a bundle package of Bay Alarm Medical’s in-home, On the Go, and On the Road devices. The plan starts at $59.95 a month when choosing the landline option for the in-home system; a cellular in-home system costs an extra $10 a month, as does fall detection.
Bay Alarm Medical partners with a US-based monitoring center with locations in Utah and Idaho. Both centers are CSAA Five Diamond Certified.
Bay Alarm Medical offers several extra features, including:
- Lockbox: Lockboxes provide EMS with an easy way to enter users’ homes during an emergency. One can be added to a monthly plan for $1.95 a month
- Wall Buttons: This is an additional help button that can be wall mounted around the home for extra protection. The button costs $2.95 a month, or $10 for a pack of four.
- Extra Wearable Buttons: Each plan comes with one wearable hep button, but additional wearable buttons can be purchased for $1.95 a month. This allows spouses or other family members who live in the same home to access Bay Alarm Medical’s monitoring service under the same service plan.
For more, read our full review of Bay Alarm Medical’s medical alert systems
Best for Premium Device Options
Medical Guardian’s devices do more than just provide emergency monitoring services. Several of their systems come with activity tracking and a caregiver mobile app, and they are the only company to offer voice-activated wall buttons for extra in-home protection. Their smartwatch-style device, the Freedom Guardian, is the only medical alert smartwatch on the market that allows users to send and receive SMS messages directly through the device. Plus, many of these premium features are included with the devices’ monthly monitoring costs.
Pricing and Plans
Medical Guardian’s offerings include six different devices, all which can be paid for on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. The plans in range price from $29.95 a month to $79.95 a month. The smartwatch-style device also comes with a one-time equipment cost of $99, but no other Medical Guardian devices have an activation or device fee.
Those who opt for the annual plans save a few dollars per month. Annual customers also receive free shipping when they order the device; other customers have to pay $9.50 for standard shipping. While free shipping is not included, there are no cancellation fees, and Medical Guardian will provide prorated refunds for any months that were prepaid at the time of cancellation. There are no long-term contracts, even for those who pay for their service quarterly or annually.
|Classic Guardian||Home Guardian||Family Guardian||Mobile Guardian||Active Guardian||Freedom Guardian|
|Type of Device||In-Home Only||In-Home Only||In-Home Only||Mobile||Mobile||Smartwatch-style device|
|Battery Life||32-hour backup||30-hour backup||32-hour backup||24 hours||5 days||2 days|
|Range||1,300 feet||600 feet||1,300 feet||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Fall Detection||$10 a month||$10 a month||$10 a month||Not Available||$10 a month||Not Available|
Classic GuardianRead More
The Classic Guardian is a basic, in-home system that connects via a landline. It is the least expensive of Medical Guardian’s offerings at $29.95 a month, including the base station and one waterproof neck pendant or wristband. The device has a range of 1,300 feet from the base station and a 32-hour backup battery. Fall detection is available for an additional $10 a month.
Home GuardianRead More
Home Guardian is an in-home system that connects via a cellular network rather than a landline. It is slightly more expensive than the Classic Guardian at $34.95 a month (fall detection is an additional $10 a month), but that price includes AT&T cellular connection, a base station, and one waterproof pendant or wristband. The device has a range of 600 feet and a 30-hour backup battery.
Family GuardianRead More
The Family Guardian system includes a base station, a waterproof neck pendant or wristband, two motion sensors, and one door sensor for $79.95 a month. The motion and door sensors are connected to a mobile app that the user’s family members and/or caregivers can use to monitor their loved one’s activity throughout the day. The device uses an AT&T cellular connection and has a range of 1,300 feet. Customers may opt to purchase fall detection for an additional $10 a month.
Mobile GuardianRead More
The Mobile Guardian is the least expensive of Medical Guardian’s mobile devices at $39.95 a month. The monthly cost includes a portable medical alert device and, AT&T cellular connection, and one waterproof pendant or wristband with a personal help button. This device does not connect to WiFi, but rather uses GPS signals to locate users when they call for emergency services.
Active GuardianRead More
The Active Guardian is a portable, waterproof device with a two-way speaker, so users can communicate with the monitoring center directly through the wearable device. The device utilizes both GPS signals and WiFi location services, and must be worn around the neck. The monthly cost for the Active Guardian is $49.95. Fall detection costs an additional $10 a month.
Freedom GuardianRead More
This is a smartwatch-style device, and it includes extra features such as a touch screen, speech-to-text messaging, and medication reminders. It also connects with a companion mobile app so a user’s loved ones can track their location, send and receive SMS messages, and more. There is not a large personal help button on the device, but customers can contact the emergency monitoring center by holding down a side button for 3 seconds. The Freedom Guardian costs $44.95 a month, plus a one-time device fee of $99. The device is not waterproof and fall detection is not available.
Medical Guardian devices are monitored by a third-party service. The 100% US-based monitoring service is UL listed, certified by The Monitoring Association (TMA), and a member of the Electronic Security Association. Additionally, many users have noted the fast response times for Medical Guardian devices.
Medical Guardian customers have the option of adding several extra features to their monthly plan:
- Mounted Wall Button: The mounted wall button can be placed anywhere in the home and adds extra protection in high-risk areas. If a senior needs help and they aren’t wearing their pendant, they can signal the monitoring center via the wall-mounted button instead. The button costs an extra $2 a month and is available with in-home and mobile device options.
- Voice Activated Wall Button: Like the wall-mounted button, the voice-activated button provides extra protection anywhere in the home. Rather than pressing the button, the user simply has to say “call Medical Guardian” twice to trigger a call to the monitoring center. This add-on costs an additional $5 a month, and is only available with the Classic Guardian and Family Guardian plans.
- Lockbox: All customers have the option of adding a lockbox for $2 a month (those who sign up for an annual subscription receive a lockbox free of charge). A lockbox allows emergency services to easily enter your home without causing damage if you are unable to answer the door.
For more, read our full review of Medical Guardian’s medical alert systems
Best for Experienced Monitoring Centers
Medical Care Alert’s monitoring centers are staffed by some of the most experienced operators in the industry. All operators are EMT/EMD certified, and undergo a six-week training program certified by the Security Industry Association.
When users call the emergency monitoring center, it triggers an automatic SMS alert to the user’s list of preferred contacts such as family, friends, or a caregiver to let them know that there is an emergency. This ensures users’ loved ones know right away if their loved one needs assistance.
Pricing and Plans
Medical Care Alert customers have five different devices to choose from, ranging in price from $29.95 to $39.95 a month. New customers can choose between paying for their system on a quarterly, semi-annual, or annual subscription. All customers must complete one initial subscription period (i.e., one quarter) before they can switch to month-to-month pricing. If they choose to do so, the monthly cost is the same as the quarterly plan. The annual subscription saves customers a few dollars per month.
There are no initial one-time fees, but shipping is not included and typically costs about $12. There is a 14-day trial period during which new customers can try any of the systems free of cost. Users may cancel their service at any time without a penalty, and will receive a prorated refund for any prepaid months.
|HOME System||HOME-3G System (Cellular)||HOME & YARD System||HOME & AWAY ELITE (GPS)||HOME & AWAY PRIMO (GPS & Wi-Fi)|
|Type of Device||In-home system||In-home system||In-home system||Mobile system||Mobile system|
|Battery Life||72-hour backup||72-hour backup||24-hour backup||36 hours||4 days|
|Range||1,000 feet||1,000 feet||600 feet||N/A||N/A|
|Fall Detection||$10 a month||$10 a month||Not available||$10 a month||Not available|
HOME SystemRead More
This basic in-home system is the least expensive Medical Care Alert device at $29.95 a month. The monthly cost includes a base station that connects with a landline phone jack and two waterproof personal help buttons that can be worn as a pendant or wristband. The system has a range of 1,000 feet and a 72-hour backup battery. Fall detection is available for an additional $10 a month.
HOME-3G SystemRead More
This in-home system connects via a cellular network rather than a landline. Otherwise, it has the same features as the HOME System. HOME-3G costs $34.95 a month including AT&T cellular connection.
HOME & YARD SystemRead More
HOME & YARD is designed for seniors who spend most of their time at home, but enjoy gardening or frequently spend time in their yard. The personal help button has a two-way voice speaker, so users can speak to the monitoring center directly through the portable device rather than the in-home base station. The device has a range of 600 feet and is waterproof. HOME & YARD costs $34.95 a month. The base station must connect to a landline, and fall detection is not available with this system.
HOME & AWAY ELITE (GPS)Read More
This mobile system works anywhere with a cellular connection. It is ideal for seniors who frequently travel or spend a lot of time outside of the home. The monthly cost of $39.95 includes AT&T cellular, GPS location services, and a portable device with a two-way speaker. Fall detection is an extra $10 a month. The portable device can be worn in the shower, and its battery lasts for up to 36 hours between charges.
HOME & AWAY PRIMO (GPS & WiFi)Read More
This system is very similar to the HOME & AWAY ELITE (and is the same price, at $39.95 a month). The main difference is that this device uses WiFi for upgraded location service. It also has a longer battery life and can last for 4 days between charges, and is not compatible with fall detection.
Medical Care Alert operates its own monitoring centers with locations in New York and California. The centers are fully staffed by EMT/EMD certified operators, and is Security Industry Association certified. Spanish-speaking operators are on duty at all times.
Customers can choose to purchase additional accessories, including:
- Lockbox: Lockboxes are available for purchase for $29.95. They are included free of charge with all annual plans, and certain semi-annual and quarterly plans.
- Wall Mounted Button: These buttons can be placed anywhere around the home where users want extra protection. They have a range of 1,000 feet from the base station and function as an extra help button. HOME and HOME-3G users can opt to have one of their two included personal help buttons replaced with a wall mounted button. Otherwise, they can be purchased for $29.95.
For more, read our full review of Medical Care Alert’s medical alert systems
Best for Clear, Upfront Pricing
LifeStation’s prices are based on service packages. For each of their three devices, customers choose between a Standard, Select, or Supreme package. The Standard is a basic monitoring package, the Select includes either fall detection or a device protection plan, and the Supreme includes both fall detection and device protection. The plans are the same for all three devices, and all plans include free shipping. The package system keeps things simple for customers, and prevents any surprise expenses when it comes time to pay the bill.
Pricing and Plans
LifeStation offers three devices that range in price from $19.95 a month to $26.95 a month with a Standard service plan. Customers may also choose a Select or Supreme package, which are more expensive but come with added features. Select plans come with either fall detection or a device protection plan, and Supreme packages include both.
Free shipping is included with all devices, and there are no one-time costs other than a $50 activation fee for the Mobile with GPS Standard package. All customers have a 30-day trial window during which they can return the equipment for a full refund, although they may have to pay return shipping.
|In-Home Traditional||In-Home Plus||Mobile with GPS|
|Type of Device||In-home system||In-home system||Mobile system|
|Battery Life||48-hour backup||48-hour backup||5 days|
|Range||650 feet||650 feet||N/A|
|Fall Detection||$5 a month||$5 a month||$5 a month|
*$50 device fee only applies to the Standard service package
In-Home TraditionalRead More
This basic in-home system is LifeStation’s least expensive option at $19.95 a month with a Standard plan. It must connect to a landline, so it is not an option for those who do not have an active landline in their home. The base station has a range of 650 feet and a 48-hour backup battery, and the personal help button is waterproof and can be worn in the shower. Fall detection is available with the Select plan for an additional $5 a month.
In-Home PlusRead More
The In-Home Plus has all of the same features as the in-home traditional system, the only difference being that it connects via a cellular network rather than a landline. It’s a good option if you are looking for an in-home system but do not have a landline. It costs an extra $7 a month compared to the landline system, bringing the monthly cost to $26.95.
Mobile with GPSRead More
LifeStation also offers one mobile device for $24.95 a month with the Standard plan. Customers who choose the Standard package must also pay a $50 activation fee; there is no activation fee with the Select and Supreme packages. This portable system is best for seniors who spend a lot of time outside of the home, and includes GPS services. The device battery lasts for 5 days in between charges and can be worn in the shower. The system is compatible with fall detection, which can be purchased for an additional $5 a month with the Select package.
LifeStation uses its own monitoring centers with locations in New Jersey and Texas. The centers are UL-listed and CSAA Five Diamond certified
LifeStation offers the following accessories for purchase:
- A lockbox is available for $2.99 a month. The lockbox makes it easy for EMS to enter users’ homes during an emergency if they are unable to answer the door.
- Mountable help buttons to provide extra protection around the home are available for $2.49 a month.
- Customers can purchase an additional personal help button that allows another user to use the system for $3.99 a month.
For more, read our full review of LifeStation’s medical alert systems
Best Medication Management System
Philips Lifeline helps simplify complex medication regimens with their automatic medication dispenser. The dispenser allows users to program their medication schedules, so they receive an alert when it is time to take their medication and can automatically dispense the proper medication and dose with the press of a button. It can hold up to 60 cups of medicine, and also alerts the user and/or their loved ones or caregiver when a dose is missed or it’s time to refill the device.
Pricing and Plans
Philips Lifeline offers four devices that range in price from $29.95 to $54.95 a month. There are no quarterly, semi-annual, or annual payment discounts. All of the devices have a one-time fee, ranging from $50 for the HomeSafe systems to $149 for the GoSafe. Shipping is not included and costs $19.95. If customers wish to have a technician come to their home and install the device, they must pay $100 (this replaces the shipping cost).
There is no trial period, but customers who return their device within 30 days are eligible for a refund. However, the one-time activation and equipment fees are not refundable.
|HomeSafe||HomeSafe with AutoAlert||GoSafe 2||GoSafe|
|Type of Device||In-home system||In-home system||Mobile system||In-home and mobile system|
|Connection||Landline or Cellular||Landline or Cellular||Cellular||Landline or Cellular|
|Battery Life||48-hour backup||48-hour backup||2-3 days||7 days; 48-hour backup|
|Range||500 feet||500 feet||N/A||N/A|
|Fall Detection||Not available||Included||Included||Included|
*The cellular model costs an extra $12 a month
**The cellular model costs an extra $10 a month
HomeSafe is an in-home device. It costs $29.95 a month when used with a landline, and $41.95 when used with a cellular connection. Both options include a base station and waterproof personal help button that can be worn as a pendant or wristband. The base station has a 48-hour backup battery and a range of 500 feet.
Fall detection is not available with the standard HomeSafe system. But, it is included with the HomeSafe with Auto Alert option. This system costs $44.95 when used with a landline (the cellular option is an extra $12).
This system includes both an in-home communicator and mobile device. For $54.95 a month, users receive an in-home communicator and portable all-in-one device with a two-way speaker. Fall detection is included, but a separate personal help button is not, so the mobile device must be worn even in the home. Those without a landline will have to pay an extra $10 a month for cellular connection for the in-home system. There is also a one-time device fee of $149.
GoSafe 2Read More
The GoSafe 2 is a mobile-only system, and works anywhere there is a cellular connection. The portable device is the same as the GoSafe, but this option does not include the in-home communicator. The mobile device has a battery life of 2-3 days and can be worn in the shower. It costs $44.95 a month, plus a one-time device fee of $99.95. Fall detection is included.
Philips Lifeline has its own in-house monitoring center, referred to as the Response Center. There are Response Centers located in the U.S. and Canada. The associates undergo 80 hours of training, and can support users in over 140 languages.
Philips Lifeline offers a unique automated medication dispensing system for $59.95 a month (plus a one-time installation fee of $99). The system allows seniors to program their medication schedules so the system plays a reminder when it is time for a dose, and dispenses the appropriate medication with the push of a button. This helps reduce the risk of missing a dose or taking the wrong medication, which can cause serious medical problems.
Other features that Philips Lifeline offers include:
- A voice extension base that expands the range of in-home systems. The base is an additional $10 a month.
- A lockbox can be purchased for a one-time fee of $29.95.
For more, read our full review of Philips Lifeline’s medical alert systems
Best Device Repair and Protection Plan
All ResponseNow customers may add the Care(+) Protection Plan to their subscription for $3.95 a month. The protection plan offers extra coverage for equipment repairs or damage, and covers the cost of any necessary service. This includes accidental damage from dropping the device or spilling a beverage on the base unit, as well as theft and even loss. For those who do not opt to purchase the Care(+) Protection, ResponseNow still covers repairs for faulty equipment and provides services like battery replacement free of charge.
Pricing and Plans
ResponseNow offers three devices ranging in price from $29.95 to $49.95 a month. All devices may be paid for on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. Choosing the quarterly or monthly option reduces the cost by a few dollars per month, and includes free shipping. Those who choose the monthly plan must pay $14.95 for ground shipping.
The Belle and Belle+ devices have a one-time fee of $35. There are no one-time fees for the in-home device. All devices come with a 30-day trial period during which customers can return their device for a full refund. There are no cancellation fees.
|In the Home||Belle||Belle+|
|Type of Device||In-home||Mobile||Mobile|
|Battery Life||24-hour backup||30 days||5 days|
|Fall Detection||$11.95 a month||Not available||Included in monthly cost|
In the HomeRead More
This landline-connected system is ResponeNow’s only in-home device – there is no in-home option for those without a landline. The system costs $29.95 a month and includes a base station with 500 feet of range and one shower-proof emergency button that can be worn as a pendant or wristband (extra personal help buttons may be purchased for $2.95 a month per button). Fall detection is available for an additional $11.95 a month.
Belle is a mobile device with AT&T cellular connection, so it works throughout the United States. The portable device is shower-proof and has an impressive battery life of 30 days. The Belle does not include GPS location tracking and is not compatible with fall detection. It costs $39.95 a month plus a one-time device fee of $35.
The Belle+ is another mobile device with some additional features compared to the Belle. The device has GPS location capabilities for device tracking, and can detect falls. The battery lasts for 5 days between charges and the device can be worn in the shower. The Belle+ costs $49.95 a month (including fall detection), plus a one-time fee of $35.
ResponseNow’s devices are monitored by several US-based centers. Upon signing up for ResponseNow, users will submit a list of contacts such as friends, family, or caregivers. When they call the monitoring center, they have the choice of having the center call their listed contacts or emergency services. If the operator cannot communicate with the user, they will automatically dispatch emergency services.
ResponseNow customers have several options for add-on features, including:
- Lockbox: Lockboxes ensure that emergency services will be able to enter users’ homes if they are unable to answer the door during the emergency. ResponseNow users can rent a lockbox for $3.95 a month.
- Care(+) Protection Plan: Users can add this protection plan to their service for an additional $3.95 a month. The plan covers any repairs from accidental damage or replacement of lost or stolen devices.
For more, read our full review of ResponseNow’s medical alert systems
Best for Health and Medical Information On-Demand
Two of the GreatCall Lively Mobile Health & Safety Packages include a feature called “Urgent Care.” With this feature, users can speak with a nurse or doctor at any time for medical advice or answers to their questions. The nurse or doctor can even send some prescriptions to the user’s pharmacy over the phone. This feature can save GreatCall Lively Mobile customers trips to urgent care or the doctor’s office and clear up any questions they have quickly and easily.
Pricing and Plans
GreatCall requires that customers purchase their devices, rather than rent the equipment. The Lively Mobile costs $49.99, and then users choose between three service plans, referred to as Health & Safety Packages, which range in price from $24.99 to $39.99 a month.
In addition to the purchase cost, users must pay a $35 activation fee, and a $10 shipping fee. There is a 30-day trial period during which customers can return their device for a full refund (including the purchase and activation fees), but a $10 restocking fee is charged. Users can cancel their service at any time, and will receive a prorated refund for any prepaid months of monitoring service.
|One-time fees||$49.99 purchase, $35 activation||$49.99 purchase, $35 activation||$49.99 purchase, $35 activation|
|Type of Device||Mobile||Mobile||Mobile|
|Battery Life||24 hours||24 hours||24 hours|
|Fall Detection||Not Available||Not Available||Included in Monthly Cost|
GreatCall’s portable medical alert device, the Lively Mobile, is an all-in-one device that uses Verizon’s cellular network, so it works anywhere with cellular service. It also has GPS location services which help emergency services locate a caller during an emergency. The device is waterproof and can be worn in the shower or bath, and has a battery life of 24 hours between charges.
All customers must purchase a Lively Mobile for $49.99, then select a service plan.
Basic PlanRead More
This is the least expensive plan at $24.99 a month, but also the most bare-bones in terms of features. The plan only covers 5Star Urgent Response Service emergency monitoring; no other features are included. Fall detection is not available.
Preferred PlanRead More
This plan costs $24.99 a month and includes enhanced features including Urgent Care. It also connects the device with GreatCall Link, a mobile app for caregivers that allows them to view the user’s call history with the monitoring center and the battery life of their device. Fall detection is not available.
Ultimate PlanRead More
The Ultimate Plan is the most comprehensive option, and the most expensive at $39.99 a month. It includes the same features of the preferred plan, plus fall detection and device replacement.
All emergency calls made on the GreatCall Lively Mobile connect with the IAED-certified 5Star Urgent Response Service center. Operators have access to users’ Personal Profile including their medical history and emergency contacts, and their locatioExtra Featuresn through the GPS in the device so they can quickly send emergency services when necessary.
There are no accessories for customers to purchase. But, if they choose certain Health & Safety Packages they will have access to extra features including:
- Urgent Care: Urgent Care is a 24/7 service that allows customers to get in touch with a registered nurse or doctor using their Lively Mobile device. They can ask medical and health-related questions, seek advice, or have prescriptions sent to their pharmacy. Urgent Care is included with Preferred and Ultimate plans.
- GreatCall Link: GreatCall Link is a mobile app that caregivers can use to view the user’s activity. The app shows a user’s call history with the monitoring center, as well as the battery life of their device. The feature is included with Preferred and Ultimate plans.
- Device Replacement: This gives users replacement coverage for broken, damaged, lost, or stolen devices. It is included with the Ultimate plan, and can be added to the other plans for $3 a month.
For more, read our full review of GreatCall’s medical alert systems
Best for New Equipment
Most medical alert companies lease you equipment, and require that you return the equipment when you end your service. There is no way to know how old the equipment is, or how many people have previously used it. RescueTouch is different. Users actually purchase their devices, so it is guaranteed to always be new. It also saves users time after they cancel their service, as they do not have to send the equipment back or risk paying a huge fine if they forget or are unable to return the equipment during the given time frame.
Pricing and Fees
RescueTouch devices range in price from $25 to $69 a month, plus the device purchase cost of $99 for single devices and $178 for twin packs. Customers may choose to pay for their device on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis, but no matter which one they choose there are no long-term contracts. The quarterly and annual plans save users a few dollars a month compared to the monthly plan.
There are no additional one-time costs other than the device purchase fee, and shipping is included. There is a 30-day money back guarantee, and customers can cancel their service at any time without penalty.
|EMS Response- 9-1-1 Caller||Family Response -Care Caller||Family Response- Fall Caller||EMS Response- Maximum Monitored Caller||Family Response- Chit Chat Twin Pack||EMS Response- Chit Chat Max. Monitored Twin Pack|
|Type of Device||Mobile||Mobile||Mobile||Mobile||Mobile||Mobile|
|Battery Life||5 days||2.5 days (5 days with GPS off)||2.5 days (5 days with GPS off)||2.5 days (5 days with GPS off)||2.5 days (5 days with GPS off)||2.5 days (5 days with GPS off)|
|Fall Detection||Not available||Not available||Included in monthly cost||Included in monthly cost||Included in monthly cost||Included in monthly cost|
RescueTouch only offers one device, the mobile SOS pendant. Customers select the plan that best meets their needs, and the mobile SOS pendant is programmed accordingly before being shipped to the customer. The device is waterproof and has a two-way speaker, and a user’s pre-programmed contacts can actually call them via the device- each pendant is given a phone number, like a cell phone.
Both monitored and unmonitored plans are available. Unmonitored means that when they press their emergency help button, users will connect with a preprogrammed list of friends and family rather than an emergency monitoring center. Other features also vary based on which plan customers choose.
9-1-1 CallerRead More
This is the least expensive of RescueTouch’s plans at $25 a month. This is the only plan that does not include GPS capabilities, two-way communication, or the option of connecting with friends and family during an emergency. It connects users directly with 9-1-1 rather than a monitoring center, which is rare. Fall detection is not available with this plan.
Family Response- Care CallerRead More
This unmonitored plan allows users to add up to five personal contacts to be notified when they press their personal help button. The contacts may also initiate contact with their loved one or track the location of their loved one’s device via GPS. The Family Response-Care Caller plan costs $35 a month. Fall detection is not available with this plan.
Family Response- Fall CallerRead More
This plan includes all of the same features as the Care Caller, plus fall detection. It costs $41 a month.
Family Response- Chit Chat Twin PackRead More
The twin pack includes two mobile SOS pendants, and the two users can use them as “walkie-talkies.” Otherwise, the features are the same as the Fall Caller plan. The Family Response- Chit Chat Twin Pack costs $69 a month, including both devices. It is important to note that the one-time device fee for the twin pack is $178 rather than $99 for single devices.
EMS Response- Maximum Monitored CallerRead More
This monitored device connects users to the emergency monitoring center when they press their personal help button. Once they are speaking to an operator, they can tell them whether to call their personal contacts or emergency services (if the operator cannot communicate with the caller, they will automatically dispatch emergency services). This plan costs $51 a month, including fall detection.
EMS Response- Chit Chat Max. Monitored Twin PackRead More
This plan includes two mobile SOS pendants, so users can use them as “walkie-talkies.” The features are the same as the EMS Response- Maximum Monitored Caller plan. This is the most expensive plan at $69 a month, plus the $178 device fee.
RescueTouch uses a US-based monitoring center located in Utah. All operators must undergo a training program to handle medical emergency situations, as well as fire and security emergencies.
RescueTouch does not offer any extra features at this time. The mobile SOS pendant is an all-in-one device, and features like two-way communication and location services are included in most plans.
For more, read our full review of Rescue Touch’s medical alert systems
Best for Dual-User System
LifeFone allows users to add a second person to their service plan for no additional fee. This is ideal for spouses or other family members who live in the same home who both want protection, and makes medical alert systems much more affordable for two people living in the same household.
Pricing and Plans
LifeFone offers four different systems that range in price from $29.95 to $46.95. All of the devices may be paid for on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. The quarterly and annual plans are slightly less expensive than the monthly plan when broken down month-to-month. There are no activation or equipment fees, and shipping is included.
All of the systems come with a 30-day free trial. If customers are unsatisfied with their equipment or service during those 30 days, they can return the device for a full refund. Outside of the trial period, customers can cancel their service at any time and will receive a prorated refund for any prepaid months.
|At-Home||At-Home Cellular||At-Home & On-the-Go GPS||At Home & On-the-Go GPS, Voice-in-Necklace|
|Type of Device||In-home system||In-home system||In-home and mobile system||Mobile system|
|Battery Life||32-hour backup||32-hour backup||24 hours; 30-hour backup||36 hours|
|Range||1,300 feet||1,300 feet||600 feet in-home, 350 feet mobile||N/A|
|Fall Detection||$5 a month||$5 a month||$10 a month||$5 a month|
At-Home LandlineRead More
This basic in-home system is Life Fone’s least expensive option at $29.95 a month, including a base station and waterproof wearable help button. The system must be connected to a landline. It has a range of 1,300 feet and 32-hour backup battery. Fall detection is available for an additional $5 a month.
At-Home CellularRead More
This is a cellular in-home system that uses the AT&T network. It includes all of the same features as the At-Home Landline, but provides an alternative for those who do not have a working landline in their home. The system costs $34.95 a month, and fall detection is available for $5 a month.
At-Home & On-the-Go GPSRead More
This option includes both an in-home system and a mobile device for $39.95 a month (fall detection is an additional $10). It includes an in-home base station with a range of 600 feet as well as a waterproof portable device with GPS capabilities. The in-home system uses AT&T cellular, so no landline is required.
At-Home & On-the-Go GPS, Voice-in-NecklaceRead More
This is an all-in-one system, and the only LifeFone device that does not require an in-home base. The monthly cost of $46.95 a month includes a portable, water-resistant device that can be worn as a necklace or pendant, and a charging dock. The pendant has a two-way speaker and GPS location services, and a 36-hour battery life. Fall detection is an additional $5 a month.
LifeFone operates its own call center in New York, with backup monitoring centers in New York and California. LifeFone customers set their own Emergency Care Instructions, so operators can follow this plan when a user calls for assistance.
LifeFone has a smartphone app, Mobile Alert, that customers can use to contact the monitoring center if they are not wearing their device or if they prefer to use their smartphone. In addition to using the app to contact the monitoring center during an emergency, customers can use it as a “virtual escort service” if they ever feel unsafe. Existing LifeFone users can download the app for $5.95 a month, and non-LifeFone customers can use the app for $7.95 a month.
Other features and accessories available for LifeFone customers include:
- Lockbox: LifeFone offers three different styles of lockboxes for customers to purchase. A hanging Master Lockbox and wall-mounted Master Lock Box are both available for $39.95, and a basic hanging lockbox is available for $29.95.
- Wall-Mounted Button: Customers can add a wall-mounted button to their home for extra protection in high-risk areas. The buttons can be purchased for $39.95 each.
- Activity Assurance: This feature is designed to give caregivers, friends, and family members of LifeFone users peace of mind about their loved one. At a set time each day, a beeping alarm will go off on the base station until the user presses a button. If the user does not press the button within 15 minutes, their emergency care plan is put into place. This feature is only available with in-home devices, and costs $6 a month.
For more, read our full review of LifeFone’s medical alert systems
Best for Included Optional Devices
While some companies offer free accessories for annual or quarterly subscribers, it is rare for all payment plans- including monthly plans- to include accessories. All Rescue Alert customers receive either a lockbox or second personal help button free of charge, regardless of which plan they choose. This saves users several dollars a month, which can help reduce overall yearly medical expenses.
Pricing and Plans
Rescue Alert devices range in price from $32.95 to $44.95 a month. All of the devices may be paid for on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. The quarterly and annual plans save users a few dollars per month. All plans come with a free lockbox or second personal help button. There are no device, activation, or shipping fees for any of the devices.
All customers are eligible for a 30-day trial at the start of their service, during which they may return their device for a full refund. Outside of the 30-day window, customers may cancel their service at any time without paying a penalty.
|MXD||MXD3G||Rescue Alert GPS|
|Type of Device||In-home||In-home||Mobile|
|Battery Life||80-hour backup||60-hour backup||48+ hours|
|Range||600 feet||600 feet||N/A|
|Fall Detection||$10 a month||$10 a month||Not available|
The MXD is a basic in-home system. It connects with a landline, and has a range of 600 feet. It costs $32.95 to rent the MXD (fall detection is available for an additional $10 a month), or it can be purchased for a one-time cost of $845, or an initial payment of $199 plus $15.95 per month for monitoring services.
This in-home system connects via cellular service rather than a landline. The device has a range of 600 feet and a 60-hour backup battery. It is a bit more expensive than the landline system at $42.95 a month, which includes AT&T cellular service. Fall detection is an additional $10 a month. Customers also have the option to purchase the device for $299, plus $25.95 per month for monitoring services.
Rescue Alert GPSRead More
This is Rescue Alert’s mobile device offering, and it is the most expensive device at $44.95 a month. The device uses AT&T cellular service and GPS to check the user’s location every 15 minutes. The battery lasts for 48+ hours between charges. There is no option to purchase this device, and fall detection is not available.
Rescue Alert has two Response Centers, both located in Utah. Both of the centers are certified by ETL.
All customers receive a free accessory with their device. If they would like additional accessories, their options include:
- myActive Alert Fall Detection: This is a fall detection pendant that automatically signals the monitoring center if it senses a fall. It is a separate pendant that users must wear in addition to their personal help button. The water-resistant device costs an additional $10 a month, and is only compatible with the MXD and MXD3 systems.
- Wall Button: This standalone button can be placed anywhere in the home where users would like a bit of extra protection. The button has a range of 600 feet from the base station, and costs an extra $5 a month. It is only compatible with the MXD and MXD3 systems.
- Lockbox: Lockboxes provide emergency personnel with an easy way to enter users’ homes during an emergency if the caller is unable to answer the door. All Rescue Alert customers have the option of receiving a free rental lockbox with their device, or they can purchase a lockbox for $39.99.
For more, read our full review of Rescue Alert’s medical alert systems
Best for Easy Installation
All Alert1 devices are preprogrammed prior to being shipped to customers. When the system arrives, customers simply need to plug it in. That means no professional installation is required, and no installation fee. If customers do need help, they can call Alert1 customer support for assistance.
Pricing and Plans
Alert1 customers may choose to pay for their devices quarterly, semi-annually, or annually. There is no month-to-month option, but no long-term contracts are required. The devices range in price from $25.95 to $58.95 when paid for quarterly; the semi-annual and annual plans save customers a few dollars a month. These plans also include a 30 day trial period, during which customers can return their device for a refund within the first 30 days (the refund does not include the $50 activation fee). There is no risk-free trial period for quarterly subscribers. Customers may cancel their service at any time without paying a penalty.
There is a one-time activation fee of $50, but there are no other one-time costs. All plans include free ground shipping.
|Home||Home Fall Detection||On-the-Go||On-the-Go Fall Detection||On-the-Go + Home Fall Detection|
|Type of Device||In-home system||In-home system||Mobile system||Mobile system||Mobile system|
|Connection||Landline||Landline or cellular||Cellular||Cellular||Cellular|
|Battery Life||24-hour backup||24-hour backup||30 days||5 days||24 hours|
|Range||600 feet||400 feet||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Fall Detection||Not available||Included in monthly cost||Not available||Included in monthly cost||Included in monthly cost|
Home Medical AlertRead More
This is a basic in-home system, and is the least expensive Alert1 device at $25.95 a month. The system must be connected to a landline. The base station has a range of 600 feet and a 24-hour backup battery. The waterproof personal help button is included in the monthly price, and may be worn as a pendant or wristband. Fall detection is not available with this system.
Home Fall Detection Medical AlertRead More
Customers who choose this in-home system have the option of using a landline or cellular connection. The base station has a range of 400 feet and a 24-hour backup battery. It is more pricey than the other in-home system at $36.95, but that price includes T-Mobile cellular service and fall detection.
On-the-Go Medical AlertRead More
This mobile medical device may be used with either T-Mobile or AT&T networks, so customers can choose the network with better connectivity in their area. The monthly cost of $36.95 includes cellular coverage and a water-resistant portable device that can be worn as a pendant or on the hip, and has a battery life of up to 30 days. Fall detection is not available with this device.
On-the-Go Fall DetectionRead More
On-the-Go Fall Detection costs $47.95 a month, including fall detection. The device uses AT&T’s cellular network as well as GPS and Wi-Fi to locate users when they call the monitoring center. The portable system is waterproof and can be worn in the shower, and has a battery that lasts 5 days between charges.
On-the-Go + Home Fall DetectionRead More
This bundled plan includes a mobile device with fall detection, an in-home fall detection pendant, and an in-home personal help button on a wristband. All of the components are waterproof and can be worn in the shower, and they all use AT&T cellular connection. The total monthly cost for this system is $58.95, including fall detection.
Alert1 operates its own US-based Command Center. The center is UL-listed and undergoes random certification checks. All operators must complete a thorough training program certified by The Monitoring Association. An interpreter service is available at all times to provide support in 190 languages.
Alert1 offers several extra features and accessories, including:
- Lockbox: Lockboxes are included with annual subscriptions. Other customers can purchase a lockbox for $39.95
- Wall-Mounted Emergency Button: Customers who want extra protection in high-risk areas in their homes can purchase a wall-mounted emergency button for $39.95. The wall-mounted buttons are only compatible with the in-home systems, not the mobile devices.
- Automatic Medication Dispenser and Organizer: The automatic medication dispenser and organizer helps users adhere to their medication regimens. The device can be programmed for up to 4 medication reminders per day, and includes a locked dispenser for extra safety. At the preprogrammed times, an alarm will sound and will continue until the pills are removed from the dispenser. This accessory can be purchased for $149.95.
For more, read our full review of Alert1’s medical alert systems
Best for Forgetful Seniors
All QMedic devices come equipped with a unique compliance monitoring feature which detects whether the user is actually wearing their device. This information is uploaded to the Caregiver Dashboard so caregivers and family members of the user can make sure their loved one is using the device – this is especially useful for seniors who often forget to wear their devices. Loved ones can also use the Caregiver Dashboard to view activity monitoring data such as their loved one’s sleep patterns and activity levels.
Pricing and Plans
QMedic offers three devices, all of which can be paid for monthly or annually. The two in-home devices cost $30 a month, and the mobile device costs $45 a month. If paid annually, the cost is reduced by a few dollars a month.
There are no equipment or activation fees, and ground shipping throughout the United States is included in the monthly price. There are also no long-term contracts. Customers may cancel their rental at any time, and there is an initial 30-day money back trial period on all systems.
|Type of Device||In-home||In-home||Mobile|
|Battery Life||24-hour backup||24-hour backup||14 days|
|Range||800-1,000 feet||800-1,000 feet||N/A|
|Fall Detection||Not available||Not available||Not available|
This in-home landline system costs $30 a month and includes a waterproof and shower-proof personal help button that can be worn as a pendant or wristband. It also includes activity and compliance monitoring and access to the Caregiver Dashboard for the user’s loved ones and/or caregiver. The system has an 800-1,000 foot range. Fall detection is not available for this system, or any of QMedic’s devices.
The cellular device is an in-home system for those without a landline. Other than the cellular connection, it is the same as the in-home landline system. It also costs $30 a month, so customers do not have to pay extra for cellular coverage.
Mobile GPSRead More
QMedic’s mobile device costs $45 a month including the portable device, charging cradle, cellular coverage, and GPS location services. Unlike the wearable component of the in-home devices, the mobile device is water-resistant, not waterproof. It cannot be worn in the shower, but it can get wet in the rain. The battery on the portable device lasts 14 days between charges.
The QMedic monitoring center is UL-listed and US-based. There are two branches, one in Utah and one in Idaho.
QMedic devices include free access to the Caregiver Dashboard. All activity and compliance monitoring data is uploaded onto the dashboard, so family, friends, and caregivers can check if their loved one is wearing the device or if they are showing any unusual behavioral patterns. They can also see their loved one’s call history with the monitoring center.
For more, read our full review of QMedic’s medical alert systems
Best for Protection in the Bathroom
Life Alert offers an “In the Bathroom” device, a wall-mounted button specifically for bathroom use. The device has both a speaker and a microphone, and is completely waterproof so it can be placed in the tub where falls are common. Life Alert also offers a standard in-home system as well as a mobile device.
Pricing and Plans
Life Alert’s three devices are referred to as three levels of protection: In the Home, In the Bath, or On the Go. One cannot use the In the Bath without In the Home, or On the Go without the other two devices.
The pricing is tiered:
- The first tier is just In the Home, and costs $49 a month plus a one-time fee of $95
- The second tier is In the Home and In the Bath, and costs $69 a month plus a one-time fee of $96
- The third tier is all three devices, and costs $89 a month plus a one-time fee of $198
The one-time fee covers shipping, installation, and activation.
There is a 3-year contract that can only be broken for qualifying circumstances, such as moving into a nursing home. If a customer chooses to end their contract without a qualifying reason, they may be responsible for paying for the remaining months of the contract.
|In the Home||In the Bathroom||On the Go|
|Type of Device||In-home||In-home||Mobile|
|Battery Life||72-hour backup||72-hour backup||Up to 10 years|
|Range||800 feet||800 feet||N/A|
|Fall Detection||Not available||Not available||Not available|
Life Alert manufacturers its own equipment, and all of the systems come with a lifetime warranty. Fall detection is not available with any of the systems.
In the HomeRead More
This in-home system may be connected to a landline, or be used with cellular connection for no extra charge. The $49 monthly cost includes a base station with a range of 800 feet and 72-hour backup battery, and a waterproof pendant that can be worn in the shower.
In the BathroomRead More
This is referred to as the “second level of protection.” In the Bathroom is a wall-mounted button with a speaker and microphone. It is waterproof so it can be placed in the tub, but it can also go anywhere in the home- it does not have to be placed in the bathroom. This tier costs $69 a month, and includes In the Bathroom and In the Home.
On the GoRead More
This mobile device is the “third level of protection.” It is a portable unit that uses cellular connection and GPS to locate users when they call the monitoring center for emergency assistance. The device has a battery that lasts up to 10 years; it does not require regular charing. This tier costs $89 a month, and includes all three Life Alert devices.
Life Alert operates their own US-based, UL-listed monitoring center. All dispatchers spend up to one year in training, and keep all Life Alert users’ medical history on file to give to paramedics during an emergency. They also notify users’ family members when their loved one places an emergency call.
Life Alert offers a mobile app that users can download to their smartphone. Customers can use the app to contact the monitoring center if they are not wearing their device or find it easier to use their phone rather than their personal help button. In addition to emergency assistance, users can use the app to contact the monitoring center if they simply feel unsafe and want to have an operator on the line. Life Alert users without a smartphone have the option of dialing the monitoring center on a normal cell phone.
For more, read our full review of Life Alert’s medical alert systems
Understanding Medical Alert Systems
Medical alert systems provide seniors with the assistance they need after an accident, injury, or another medical emergency. They make it easy for users to access emergency services quickly, and help make the process as simple as possible. Those looking into purchasing a medical alert system generally have two choices: in-home systems or mobile units.
In the Home
In-home systems always include a base station that remains stationary somewhere in the home and connects to the emergency monitoring center. It has a loudspeaker and a highly sensitive microphone, so users can communicate with the monitoring center through the unit. Most base stations have a range of 600-1,300 feet, covering most areas of users’ homes. Some units must connect to a working landline, while others use cellular service.
In addition to the base station, in-home units include a wearable personal help button. These devices are small and can be worn around the neck or on a wristband. If a user needs emergency services, they press the button to trigger the base station to call the monitoring center. If the operator at the center is unable to communicate for the caller for whatever reason, they will automatically put the user’s emergency care plan in place, which may involve calling emergency services or the caller’s personal contacts.
On the Go
Mobile systems are small, portable devices that rely on cellular service to connect with the emergency monitoring center, so they work anywhere with a cellular connection. Some mobile systems are all-in-one devices with an emergency help button included, while others require users to carry two pieces. The two-piece systems usually include a pocket-sized device that functions as a portable base station, and a wearable personal help button. Unlike in-home units, mobile devices do need to be charged, usually every few days (though it is often recommended to place the device in its charging cradle each night).
In addition to emergency monitoring services, many of these devices have GPS location services so emergency personnel or loved ones of the user can easily locate the caller during an emergency. These services are usually included in the system’s monthly cost.
Who Should Consider a Medical Alert System
It is a common misconception that medical alert systems are only designed for seniors who are prone to falls. In addition to providing emergency support for these individuals, modern medical alert systems have many other uses. Read on for more information about who may benefit from a medical alert device.
A 2017 study shows that 48% of falls happen outdoors, which can be worrisome for active seniors who spend a lot of time outside. A portable medical alert system can help these adults maintain the freedom to enjoy the outdoors as long as possible, without causing themselves or their loved ones anxiety over being without help if a fall or other accident happens while they are outside.
Independent and active seniors looking into a medical alert device should look for the following features:
|Mobile Device||If you or your loved one is active, a mobile device is the way to go. It will work anywhere with cellular service, so seniors can travel or spend time outside of the home without worry.|
|Upgraded Location Tracking||Some devices have upgraded location tracking that uses a combination of cellular signals, WiFi, and GPS to locate callers, rather than just relying on cellular service. These devices are much more precise, and make it easier for emergency personnel to locate users.|
|Wearable Help Button||For active seniors, a two-piece system with a small wearable help button will likely be more comfortable. These wearable components are small, light, and can be worn around the neck, as opposed to all-in-one systems which tend to be a bit bulkier.|
Aging in Place
More and more seniors are choosing to age in place – 75% of older adults plan to live in their current home for the rest of their lives. But, living independently without a caregiver puts seniors at risk of not receiving the care they need after a medical emergency or fall. If a fall does occur, emergency care may be necessary. An older adult is treated for a fall in an emergency room every 11 seconds, and 25% of older adults experience a fall once a year.
Medical alert systems help seniors with mobility issues or those who receive in-home care age in place while still having easy access to emergency services when needed. The systems are especially useful for older adults who do not have a caregiver or loved one with them in the home around-the-clock.
Older adults who have mobility issues or receive in-home care should look for the following features in a medical alert system:
|Reasonable Monthly Monitoring Costs||Seniors who age in place often already have hefty expenses for in-home care, and certainly do not need to add another pricey service to their monthly costs. Those who find themselves in this situation should compare multiple companies before signing up for service, so they can find one that offers the service they need at a reasonable price. Companies like Bay Alarm Medical and MobileHelp offer affordable options so seniors do not need to push their budget to get the protection they need.|
|Fall Detection||Seniors who struggle with mobility are at a higher risk of falls than other older adults, and can benefit from automatic fall detection. This feature may raise the price of the medical alert system a bit, but provides extra protection for at-risk seniors. While the systems are not 100% reliable, they can be a great help for those who are prone to falls.|
|Voice Activated Wall Button||This feature makes it even easier for seniors to contact the monitoring center during an emergency. If they need assistance, they can simply say an activating phrase to trigger a call to the monitoring center- they do not even need to press their personal help button. Currently, this feature is only offered by Medical Guardian, but it may be offered by more companies in the future.|
|Automated Medication Reminders and Dispensers||These devices can provide alerts when it is time to take medication, and sometimes even automatically dispense the dose for the user. This helps prevent seniors who age in place from forgetting to take their medication or taking the wrong one, since they do not have medication assistance like they would in a residential care facility. Philips Lifeline offers an automated medication dispenser, and other companies like MobileHelp will provide medication alerts for users.|
Seniors with Memory Impairment
Wandering is a serious problem for older adults with memory impairment – 60% of those with dementia will wander, and someone with Alzheimer’s is likely to be unable to recall information like their name and address. Medical alert devices help caregivers or family members or seniors with dementia find their loved ones if they do wander and become lost.
The following medical alert system features are particularly beneficial for seniors who have dementia:
|Mobile and Home Device Bundle||Seniors who are prone to wandering should definitely look for a mobile device with location services so their loved ones can locate them if they become lost. But, they may also benefit from a device that does not need to be charged. These units tend to be in-home systems. To avoid having to pay for two systems, look for a bundle package with both a portable, GPS-enabled device as well as an in-home system. MobileHelp offers one of these combination plans for $41.95 a month.|
|Pinpoint Location Tracking||Some mobile systems have upgraded location services that use a combination of cellular signal, WiFi hotspots, and GPS to locate users. These systems are much more reliable than older location tracking services, which only used cellular signal. The newer options can quickly locate a user’s exact location, helping them reconnect with their loved ones or access the care they need.|
|Battery Monitoring||This feature is very useful if the user is likely to forget to charge their device. It allows caregivers and/or family members to monitor the device’s battery level, so they can remind their loved one to charge it when necessary.|
|Geofencing||This feature allows family members or caregivers of a user to set geofencing alerts (usually a text message or email) when their loved one moves outside of a predetermined area. This lets them know that their loved one may be wandering, and can help prevent seniors from getting lost. Bay Alarm Medical currently offers this feature.|
|Wall Buttons||Wall buttons provide extra protection in high-risk areas around the home, such as the bathroom, or serve as a backup if you or your loved one forgets to wear their personal help button.|
Seniors with Chronic or High-Risk Medical Conditions
Older adults with diabetes face severe health risks. Almost 70% of seniors with the condition will die due to some type of heart disease, and approximately 1 in 6 will die due to a stroke. Many of these deaths may potentially be prevented if the senior had access to the medical care they needed in time. Medical alert systems can help seniors in these situations, and be lifesaving for older adults with chronic, high-risk conditions like diabetes or heart disease. Older adults with high-risk conditions should look for the following features, which provide extra protection:
|Activity Monitoring||This feature uses motion-sensing technology to monitor and detect changes in users’ activity levels, or a lack of activity. If abnormal movement or lack of movement is detected, the company alerts a loved one that something may be wrong. Medical Guardian and several other companies offer this feature.|
|Fall Detection||Automatic fall detection provides extra protection for seniors who are at high risk of falling or having a medical emergency. Though not 100% reliable, the systems can be lifesaving if a user is unable to press their personal help button during an emergency situation.|
Guide to Additional Features
Modern medical alert systems can do much more than just contact an emergency monitoring center. The systems often come equipped with a variety of additional features designed to benefit seniors. Sometimes these features are included in the monthly cost, and sometimes customers must pay an extra fee.
This newer feature automatically detects when a user falls down, and triggers an alert to the emergency monitoring center. It can be lifesaving in situations when the user is unable to press their personal help button and helps them get the help they need as quickly as possible. As a newer technology, fall detection is not 100% reliable, but it does provide some added protection for those who are prone to falls. It is typically an add-on feature that costs an extra $5-10 dollars a month.
Caregiver Tracking and Monitoring
Caregiver tracking and monitoring help caregivers and family members of a medical alert system user monitor their loved one’s activity levels and location. It is typically used with mobile devices, and uses a smartphone app or online website where caregivers can log in to check to device’s location, battery levels, or the user’s activity levels. Geofencing, which sends a text message to caregivers if their loved one goes outside of a predetermined area, is another popular aspect of caregiver monitoring.
In-Home Cellular Devices
These in-home systems utilize cellular service rather than a landline. Otherwise, they have the same functions as standard, landline-based in-home systems. They typically cost slightly more per month than the landline service, but still are far less expensive than adding a landline phone service to your home in order to use a landline-based medical alert system. However, if you have unreliable or weak cellular service in your home, the systems may not be as reliable as a landline system.
Medication Dispensers and Reminders
This feature is designed to help seniors who have complicated medication regimens, struggle to stick to their schedule, or have a hard time remembering whether they have taken their medication or sometimes mistakenly take the wrong one or dosage. The automatic reminders send an alert to the senior when it is time to take their medication. The automatic dispenser is a separate device that releases the correct medication for the user, at the right time and right dose.
Wall-mounted buttons can be placed anywhere in the home for extra protection. They are typically placed in high-risk areas, such as the bathroom, where a senior is most likely to fall. They can come in handy if the user is not wearing their personal help button, or just may be easier for them to use. The wall-mounted button triggers a call to the monitoring center in the same way that the wearable personal help button does.
In-home devices have a limited range that does not always reach a user’s yard or throughout an entire large home. A voice extender is a good option for those who do not want a mobile device, but have areas of their home where the in-home device cannot reach on its own. For example, someone could install a voice extender on the outside of their home so they can communicate with an operator from their backyard. It also helps prevent accidental calls to EMS if you press your personal help button but cannot hear the base station to cancel the call.
Remote Phone Answering
This feature allows users to answer their home phone via their in-home base station rather than picking up a phone, so the base station essentially turns into a speakerphone.
Fire, Smoke, Carbon Monoxide, and Water Monitoring
These devices can be placed in the home and send an alert to the emergency monitoring center if it detects fire, carbon monoxide, or water leaks.
How to Choose a Medical Alert System
Determine Which Type of System is Best for You
Once you decide to purchase a medical alert system for yourself for a loved one, you need to think about which type of system you need. The biggest decision is whether an in-home or mobile system is better for you. Some companies also offer a bundle plan that includes both types of devices.
The main influencing factor in your decision is where you or your loved one spends most of their time. More active seniors benefit from mobile devices, which offer protection on-the-go, while those who spend most of their time at home may be better off with in-home devices that focus on protection in the household and do not require charging.
Compare Different Companies
Today, there are plenty of medical alert device companies to choose from. But, not all products and services are equal. It is important to find a quality company and avoid those that charge high fees for sub-par devices, or those that lack reliable customer service.
Is the company upfront about their pricing, fees, and policies?
Look for companies that are upfront and clear about their pricing and subscription plans, extra fees like shipping or activation, and return policies. Companies that provide this information in clear detail on their website or over an initial phone call generally are more honest and will be easier to work with. Those that do not provide this information upfront, do not provide detail, have confusing pricing structures, or make you feel like you are pulling teeth to get the information are most likely shady and will not provide you with quality services at a fair price.
Are you able to cancel your service at any time?
Be sure to look for a company with a clear and reasonable cancellation and return policy. You should be able to end your service at any time without facing extra charges- some companies even offer a prorated refund for any prepaid months. Many modern companies offer service without a long-term contract, so avoid getting roped into one and look for companies with more consumer-friendly policies. Other than return shipping, you should not have to pay any fees for canceling your service.
Look for Devices That are Comfortable and Convenient
In addition to finding an honest and reliable company, it is important to look for devices that are comfortable and convenient. Medical alert systems are essentially useless if the customer does not wear the device. To ensure that your loved one actually wears the device and gets the protection they need, look for devices that will not interfere with their daily activities or cause them discomfort.
Most home systems come with a lightweight pendant that you can either wear as a pendant around your neck or on a wristband. When purchasing a home system, you can generally expect for the wearable component to be comfortable and convenient. But if you are looking into a mobile system, you need to pay more attention to the specifics of the wearable device. While there are certainly small, comfortable options out there, other mobile devices are bulky and can be a nuisance to carry around. Look for a mobile device that can be worn on a belt clip or placed in a purse, and a small wearable component like those included with in-home systems.
Another aspect of convenience is battery life. In-home devices generally do not need to be charged, but mobile systems do. Battery life on these devices can vary from just one day to up to 30 days, so some require nightly charging. If you are concerned that you or your loved one will not remember to charge the device, look for a system with longer battery life or one with caregiver battery monitoring. This feature allows caregivers or family members of the user to check the battery life of their loved one’s device, and sends an alert to caregivers when the battery gets too low.
Think About Additional Features
Most companies offer optional, add-on features to their monitoring services. Some of the most helpful ones include:
|Lock Box||If EMS is called to a user’s home and the user is unable to answer the door, emergency services have no choice but to break down the door to enter the home. This can cause major damage and require expensive repairs. Lockboxes ensure this does not happen. Users can store a spare key in the lockbox, and set a code that they give to the medical alert company. Then, when the company calls emergency services to the home, they can give EMS the lockbox code so they have an easy way to enter the home without causing any damage.|
|Fall Detection||Automatic fall detection uses motion-sensing technology to determine when a user has fallen down. It then automatically sends an alert to the emergency monitoring center, so the user does not have to press their emergency help button. The technology is not 100% accurate, so it is important not to rely on fall detection completely, but it can be lifesaving for seniors who are prone to falls or have a high-risk medical condition.|
|Caregiver Tracking||This feature allows caregivers to monitor several aspects of their loved one’s device. The details vary between different companies, but it typically includes device battery monitoring and location tracking. Some also include activity monitoring and geofencing|
Choose a Payment Plan
Most companies offer customers several options for paying for their device: month-to-month payment, or a quarterly, semi-annual, or annual subscription. Oftentimes, the longer subscription plans offer a discount on monthly cost, as well as extra perks such as free shipping or free accessories.
The potential downside to choosing a subscription plan is the potential loss if you decide to cancel your service after prepaying for several months. Be sure to check the company’s cancellation policies to see if they offer a prorated refund for prepaid months after cancellation. And, if you plan on paying for several months or a year upfront, be sure to choose a trustworthy and reputable company.
Medical Alert Systems Cost & Payment Assistance for Low-Income Seniors
Typically, when you purchase a medical alert system you are not buying the actual device. Rather, companies rent out the equipment to customers for free, and you pay a monthly fee for monitoring service. How much you’ll pay depends on the type of system you choose, as well as any extra features or services that come with an additional monthly fee. In-home systems tend to be less expensive and cost around $20-$30 a month, while mobile units are a bit pricier and usually range from $30-45 a month. Some systems can cost as much as $60 a month.
This may be out of reach for some low-income seniors, and private insurance and Medicare typically do not cover the cost of a medical alert system. However, there are some payment assistance options that you may be eligible for depending on your income, the state in which you reside, and your personal situation.
Free Systems for Veterans Through the VA
The VA has a program that provides veterans with a device that is very similar to a medical alert system, one of the numerous services designed to help elderly or disabled veterans maintain their independence.
Unlike most medical alert devices on the market, this system is not monitored by a professional emergency monitoring center. Rather, it connects with pre-programmed numbers, such as friends, family, or a caregiver. The main downside of this is that those contacts are not always at their phones or available to answer a call, so it is possible that a message could go hours without someone seeing it.
Still, if you cannot afford a medical alert system, this option is certainly better than nothing. Contact the VA at (844) 698-2311 or visit your local VA for more information about the program and how to apply.
Medicaid offers coverage of medical alert systems as Personal Emergency Response Services (PERS). PERS often qualifies as a service that seniors can use to retain their independence rather than move to a nursing home.
The amount of coverage, and if it is available at all, varies between different states. But, some assistance is available in most states, either through regular Medicaid or a waiver program.
Other State Assistance Programs
In addition to Medicaid assistance, most states offer some sort of non-Medicaid assistance to help seniors access and pay for medical services. The programs vary between different states, but most have some sort of assistance plan in place to help seniors access medical alert systems or find an alternative.
Standard health insurance does not typically cover medical alert systems. But, long-term care insurance may cover the cost of a device. Long-term care insurance policies usually cover durable medical equipment and services or devices that help seniors retain independence rather than move to a residential care facility. Check your policy to see if you have coverage for durable medical equipment or other related services and costs.
Connect with Your Local Area Agency on Aging
Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) are located throughout the country, and provide various services and assistance to seniors. The organization does not directly provide assistance with paying for medical alert systems, but your local AAA can direct you to available programs in your state or city. They can also help you determine which assistance programs you may qualify for.