Many seniors choose to remain in their own homes as they age. Staying close to family and friends and living independently is good for both physical and mental well-being. There are some challenges surrounding living at home, however. One in four American seniors falls each year, and the risk of sustaining a serious injury from falls is huge. Every 19 minutes, an older adult dies after injuries caused by falling.
Medical alert systems help to reduce this risk by allowing seniors to access emergency help at the push of a button. The most common style of medical alert system is a pendant that can be worn around the neck. Many pendants include automatic fall detection to provide greater peace of mind and minimize wait times if someone becomes incapacitated due to a fall.
Bracelet medical alert systems are also popular due to their convenience, discreet appearance and smartwatch-like features. Most of the manufacturers we’ve included on our list of the best medical alert systems offer a bracelet-style wearable. Some of the best systems in terms of value for money, reliability and features are listed here.
GreatCall: Best No-Contract Device
GreatCall’s medical alert systems are slightly different from most providers. Instead of communicating with a base station or having a built-in SIM card, their basic alert systems connect to ordinary smartphones to turn a standard mobile phone into a life-saving medical alert system.
The GreatCall Lively Wearable is more expensive than their basic products but has some nice extra features. This waterproof wristband is available in several different colors. The wearable is reliable, easy to use and has built-in GPS and cellular. This means that seniors can use it even if they aren’t carrying a smartphone. It has built-in fall detection, and users can take advantage of a number of other GreatCall services, such as check-in or wellness calls, prescription refills and medication reminders.
There’s an up-front activation fee but no minimum contract term. The company has a generous replacement policy for lost or damaged devices.
LifeStation: Best for Ease of Use
Founded in 1977, LifeStation is one of the oldest medical alert system providers. Its response center is CSAA certified, and it offers flexible pricing. Like GreatCall, there’s no minimum monthly contract. Pricing is transparent, and subscribers benefit from a price-lock guarantee. Fall detection costs extra, which gives seniors the option to choose the best plan for their needs or their budget.
LifeStation stands out for its landline and cellular options as well as its low-maintenance devices that are incredibly easy to use. Their help buttons have a four-year battery life, and an automated feature tests the device on a weekly basis. This means seniors don’t have to worry about charging or programming the device. They just carry it with them and push the button when they need help.
Additionally, the company boasts an average response time of 20 seconds, one of the fastest on the market. They also offer the option of adding a second user to the subscription for a nominal fee, which makes the company an affordable choice for couples who live together.
Medical Guardian: Best Range on Base Station
Medical Guardian offers a selection of devices, including pendants, wristbands and a smartwatch. Users can choose from cellular or landline devices that provide monitoring both at home and on the go.
Medical Guardian’s biggest selling point is the range of its at-home base station. Where many rivals have a range of just 500 to 600 feet, Medical Guardian’s base unit has a range of 1,300 feet. This makes it a great choice for seniors who enjoy gardening or love to work in their shed or garage. They can leave the house and relax outside or do yard work without the fear of going out of range of the base station.
Fall detection costs extra with Medical Guardian’s services and is offered in the form of a pendant. There are several other options, including lock boxes, a wall-mounted help button and a device protection plan.
Choosing a Bracelet Medical Alert System
The above manufacturers offer robust and reliable systems. When choosing a carrier, it’s important to take into account extra features, pricing and usability. Consider the following:
- For cellular systems, does the provider have good coverage in the local area?
- Does the company offer caregiver monitoring or spouse packages?
- What are the cancellation terms?
- Is there a minimum contract?
- How often does the device need charging?
- Is the device easy enough for the senior to use?
- Does the intended user like the appearance/features of the device?
Some tech-savvy seniors may prefer a device with a smartwatch and features such as a calendar, medication reminders and even steps tracking. Other seniors may simply want a pendant or belt buckle device that they can set and forget unless they need help. Taking the user’s preferences into consideration is essential because a help button is only of value if the user carries it with them at all times.