COVID-19 Update: Medical Alerts are considered essential devices during the COVID crisis, so monitoring and customer service centers are still open and ready to help. To learn more about how these and other essential products can keep older adults safe and connected during this crisis, take a look at our list of 10 essential products.
Medical alert systems keep seniors safe by keeping them connected to help in an emergency. These systems come with a wearable unit that sends a signal to a call center when the user presses a button. Landline systems have a base unit that’s joined to a phone line, while cellular units either use an in-home base unit connected to a cellular network or a wearable device with cellular connectivity built-in for use outside the home.
Cellular medical alert systems give families and caregivers peace of mind knowing that their loved one can call for help 24/7. Mobile units let seniors continue their normal activities in or out of the home while adding an extra layer of protection in case of an emergency.
Reasons Why Seniors Need a Cellular Medical Alert System
Seniors without a landline at home can’t use a system that connects to a phone line, so cellular systems are the only option for these users. Mobile units, which can be used in or outside the home, are cellular systems. These come in handy for seniors who spend a lot of time outside the home visiting with friends, attending events or running errands.
Some cellular alert systems include an in-home base that connects to a cellular network and a separate full-service portable unit, which sends out cellular signals directly without passing through the base unit. The advantage of this type of cellular medical alert system is that you can use the lighter pendant-style wearable devices along with a base unit at home and save the bulkier mobile unit for use when you’re heading out for the day. Some mobile cellular systems also offer extra features available through the cellular network, such as activity tracking and two-way voice communications.
The Three Best Cellular Medical Alert Systems
LifeFone At-Home & On-the-Go GPS plans
LifeFone has cellular plans designed for in-home use and mobile use. The LifeFone At-Home & On-the-Go GPS plan includes an at-home base unit with a range of 600 feet as well as a mobile pendant with a small base unit that has a 350-foot range and can be put in a bag or pocket. This system uses the AT&T cellular network and the battery goes for 24 hours before needing a recharge.
The LifeFone At-Home & On-the-Go GPS, Voice in Necklace system uses an all-in-one wearable unit, so there’s no separate portable base to carry. A built-in two-way speaker lets the user communicate directly with someone at the call center. This device has a battery life of 36 hours, so seniors with this system might want to get into the habit of overnight recharging.
The LifeFone At-Home & On-the-Go GPS plan plan costs $39.95 per month with fall detection available for an additional $10 per month. The At-Home & On-the-Go GPS, Voice in Necklace system costs $46.95 per month with fall detection as a $5 per month add-on feature. Both plans also offer add-on caregiver features, such as tracking via a mobile app and daily check-in calls.
Medical Care Alert Home & Away Primo
Medical Care Alert has a few different cellular systems, including an in-home base unit and a mobile wearable pendant, but the company’s Home & Away Primo plan is one of the best options available. This system operates through AT&T cellular service but also uses Wi-Fi hot spots and built-in GPS capability to pinpoint exactly where the user is at all times. Caregivers can track the senior wearing the device and determine whether everything is fine, and the highly accurate tracking makes it easier for emergency responders to get there if summoned through the alert button on the wearable device.
The Medical Care Alert Home & Away Primo system costs $39.95 per month with discounts if you sign up and pay for a yearly plan. The wearable unit is waterproof and has a battery life of four days to work with an active senior’s lifestyle. Fall detection isn’t available with this system, so it works best for active seniors who aren’t prone to falls and spend a lot of time engaged in activities outside the home.
Medical Guardian Active Guardian
Medical Guardian has an Active Guardian plan that offers another option for seniors looking for a cellular medical alert system. Active Guardian uses AT&T’s cellular network and has highly reliable tracking based on internal GPS coordinates and local Wi-Fi signals. The all-in-one wearable device is waterproof, so you can wear it in the shower or in a rainstorm without causing damage.
The Medical Guardian Active Guardian plan costs $49.95 per month with a $10 optional add-on for fall detection. Buying an annual plan gives you a discount on the overall rate. The Active Guardian wearable pendant has a battery life of five days and resists water for convenient use in the shower or bath.
What Seniors Should Consider in a Cellular Medical Alert System
One major consideration when deciding on a cellular medical alert system is how accurate the location tracking is for the device. Mobile cellular systems that use both GPS and Wi-Fi hot spots along with the cellular connection are the most accurate at determining exactly where you are. Knowing your exact location helps emergency personnel find you in the event of an accident. A system with good location tracking can also be used by caregivers to stay aware of where the senior with the device is at any given moment, which is especially important for families of seniors with memory loss or occasional episodes of confusion.
Battery life is another important consideration when picking out a cellular medical alert system. Your system only efficiently protects you when the battery is charged, so units with a longer battery life reduce the risk of being left without a way to call for help.
Water-resistant units withstand showers, baths and sudden thunderstorms, so you don’t have to worry about getting the wearable device wet and can keep it on while you’re washing up.
Finding the Best Cellular Medical Alert System
The effectiveness of the location tracking and the reliability of the system to perform in everyday conditions are the two most important factors when choosing a cellular medical alert system. Accurate location tracking can make a difference in how long it takes emergency services to reach you, and a long battery life ensures that you don’t have to frequently take off the device to recharge it.
The cost of the cellular service should be included in the monthly fee for your system, so you shouldn’t need to get separate service for your device. Avoid systems that require you to get your own cellular service for the device to work. Most plans operate through a specific carrier, which may be different from the cellular phone service you use. Your medical alert system is designed only to operate with the designated cellular provider, which means that you can’t switch carriers once you decide on a specific system.
Before you choose a cellular medical alert system, make an accurate assessment of how active you are and how often you spend time outside the home. Seniors who frequently participate in social activities may need an all-in-one mobile unit that is easy to carry and use, while seniors who spend most of their time at home might prefer a cellular medical alert system with a reliable home base and smaller wearable.