For seniors who spend a lot of time at home alone or live with another older adult, medical alert systems can provide some much-needed peace of mind. Every year, one in four seniors experiences a fall, and 3 million seniors are treated in emergency rooms across the United States for fall-related injuries. Prompt treatment is essential to reduce the risk of complications from such injuries, and medical alert devices, especially those with automatic fall detection systems, allow older adults to get the help they need in a timely fashion.
Choosing the best medical alert system isn’t easy. Each company has its own hardware options, monthly fees, up-front costs and contract terms. The wide range of these terms makes it hard for consumers to make like-for-like comparisons. Our brand comparison series helps would-be buyers decide which system is best-suited to their needs.
MobileHelp and Medical Guardian are two trusted brands in the medical alert industry. We found that, overall, MobileHelp has the best pricing, but the difference between the two brands is minimal. MobileHelp’s in-home landline system is far more affordable than the equivalent from Medical Guardian, and its caregiver app is a nice bonus. Medical Guardian may appeal to those who are willing to pay a little more for higher-tech features — the company offers voice-activated help buttons and in-home motion sensors, adding an extra layer of reassurance for those who need it.
MobileHelp vs. Medical Guardian Comparison Table
|Lowest Monthly Cost||$19.95||$29.95|
|Highest Monthly Cost||$59.45||$44.95|
|Up-Front Costs||$19.95 to $41.95 depending on device||None|
|Fall Detection||$10 per month optional extra||$10 per month optional extra|
|Optional Extras||Medication reminders for $5 per month||
Voice-activated help buttons for $2 per month
In-home motion sensors for $5 per month
Lockbox for $2 per month (free with annual plan)
Overview of MobileHelp
MobileHelp is unusual in the medical alert device industry because it relies entirely on cellular services and doesn’t have a landline option. It has affordable packages with U.S.-based monitoring centers staffed by agents trained by the Security Industry Association. The company aims to answer calls within 17 seconds, which is a competitive response time.
Seniors and their caregivers can take advantage of the Caregiver Connect app, which is included with all plans. This app offers activity and location monitoring for trusted caregivers, allowing them to keep track of the device user’s location and monitor their well-being at all times. A selection of wearables is available, including a smartwatch-style device, which may appeal to tech-savvy seniors who find normal smartwatch screens difficult to see. The up-front costs of the smartwatch-style app are higher than the basic plans, but the hardware is well-made and flexible.
Medication reminders are available as an optional add-on, as is fall detection. While these features increase the monthly fee substantially, it’s not unusual for mobile alert system manufacturers to charge extra for fall detection, so the company’s range is still competitively priced, even with that additional fee factored in.
Overview of Medical Guardian
Medical Guardian provides a selection of high-tech devices for seniors who want more than just basic monitoring. Its packages are more expensive than those offered by MobileHelp, but there are far more sophisticated devices available. Seniors can purchase voice-activated wall buttons to call for aid even if they’ve forgotten to put on their medical alert pendant. The Family Guardian package includes in-home sensors for activity monitoring, allowing caregivers to keep track of a senior’s day-to-day activity and be alerted of any issues.
The Freedom Guardian package includes a smartwatch wearable with voice-to-text messaging. The watch is high-quality and offers most of the features seniors are likely to expect from such a device. Fall detection is an optional extra, and while it’s common practice for companies to charge for this service, monthly fees quickly mount up if a household opts for additional buttons, fall detection and senors.
Families that are happy with basic features will find most other providers offer better value for money. The Family Guardian plan, however, is a good choice for those who are very worried about leaving a senior at home alone during the day. The motion sensors and voice-activated buttons are something rarely seen on other plans.
For value for money, MobileHelp is the logical choice. The company offers almost everything a family could want from a monitoring device, including a selection of wearables, medication reminders and fall detection. The fees are affordable, and the monitoring center answers calls quickly. It’s hard for most families to justify paying higher fees unless they want a specific service that MobileHelp doesn’t have.
Families who require higher levels of monitoring may feel Medical Guardian’s services are worth the additional cost, and seniors who want a sophisticated smartwatch wearable might see the value in the Freedom Guardian service. However, for younger, active seniors who aren’t at a high risk of falling, there’s little reason to pay the extra fees every month.