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 are a must-have for seniors who want to remain as independent as possible without compromising on their personal safety or security. Dozens of companies offer at-home help button systems complete with a range of options, such as fall detection, GPS location tracking, daily wellness checks and caregiver apps.
What Is a Home Medical Alert System?
A home medical alert system combines one or more wireless user-activated help buttons with an in-home base unit connected to either a landline or cellular phone service. When the user presses the help button, a call is placed to the 24-hour emergency monitoring center and an operator begins a two-way conversation with the caller over the speakerphone or the base unit. The operator assesses what type of assistance the caller needs and activates the emergency response plan, which may involve calling a caregiver, neighbor, family members or first responders.
Who Needs a Home Medical Alert System?
While everyone could benefit from the added security and peace of mind provided by a home medical alert system, seniors and adults with disabilities are among those who are most likely to need access to urgent assistance at home.
In-home help devices are often recommended for seniors who have either suffered from a fall or are at an increased risk of falling due to a medical condition, such as vision loss, reduced mobility or because they take medications that may cause dizziness or poor coordination. Seniors who live independently or spend a portion of each day on their own may want a medical alert system to ensure they can call for help even if they can’t reach the phone.
The 3 Best Home Medical Alert Systems
GetSafe is an innovative home medical alert system that’s designed for seniors who dislike the idea of wearing an emergency call button or help pendant. It combines a cellular-connected base unit with multiple voice-activated and push buttons that are placed throughout the home. In an emergency, the subscriber simply needs to say “call 911” twice within range of a voice-activated help button or press the help button on one of the wireless wall units to connect with an emergency operator.
GetSafe offers a number of packages designed to fit most apartments and homes. The monthly monitoring cost is $24.95 regardless of the number of help buttons in use, and subscribers must purchase their equipment up-front.
The starter system costs $99 and includes one 4G LTE base unit equipped with a high-sensitivity microphone, speaker and help button along with one push-to-talk help button and one voice-activated wall button to provide coverage in a small studio or one-bedroom apartment. Larger packages are available for homes ranging in size from two to five bedrooms, and clients can create their own custom package by purchasing additional help buttons, a GPS-enabled on-the-go help button, or a PIN-protected lockbox.
For seniors who also want a traditional, wearable medical alert device, GetSafe sells personal help button pendants with optional fall detection for an additional $10 monitoring fee per month.
LifeFone has been in the medical alert business for more than 40 years and during that time the White Plains, New York, company has grown to become one of the most recognized and respected names in the industry.
LifeFone operates three call centers in the U.S. to ensure no call goes unanswered, and service is available in dozens of languages through a translation provider. LifeFone offers a variety of landline and cellular-based devices and medical alert systems starting at $24.95 per month, and automatic fall detection is available on all LifeFone systems.
In order to help seniors feel more comfortable wearing a medical alert pendant, LifeFone has introduced a jewelry-style vanity pendant that includes the same features as the regular help pendant in an attractive, easy-to-wear necklace.
Along with their basic and GPS-enabled mobile medical alert systems, LifeFone stands out for having a number of extra services designed to help seniors stay safe and independent. Subscribers can add regular medication reminders, daily check-in calls from the LifeFone call center, and a fire, smoke and carbon-monoxide detection package to create an all-inclusive medical alert and personal security solution.
Seniors who are looking for a reliable, cost-effective home medical alert system may want to consider Medical Alert, one of the oldest and most recognized names in the industry. Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and owned by Connect America, Medical Alert’s 24/7 emergency response center is UL accredited, and the company maintains an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. Medical Alert’s at-home systems work in all 50 states as well as the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Canada with a compatible phone line.
The basic at-home landline system includes a base unit, which connects to an existing wired landline phone jack. The unit is equipped with a microphone and speaker to enable two-way, hands-free communication with the emergency call center, and there’s a large help button on the unit. Subscribers have their choice of a waterproof pendant-style or wrist-worn emergency help button that comes equipped with a non-rechargeable, maintenance-free battery for ease of use. Pricing for the basic service starts at $18.29 per month when prepaid for 12 months, while the month-to-month cost is $22.95.
Seniors who don’t have an existing landline phone can use Medical Alert’s At-Home No Landline system. This option includes one wearable help button and a cellular-enabled base unit that allows users to speak with an emergency call operator through the integrated speaker and microphone. The annual plan costs $27.45 per month and includes a neck-worn pendant, wrist pendant and free PIN-protected lockbox, while the month-to-month plan costs $32.95.
Why Are Some Medical Alert Systems Better Than Others?
At first glance it can be tough to tell the difference between medical alert systems. All companies offer 24/7 emergency call monitoring along with wearable, wireless devices that subscribers use to call for help, however, there are significant differences in pricing, features and services that consumers should be aware of.
The best medical alert systems all have positive reviews from current customers, particularly with regard to the quality of the emergency call center. Top-rated companies tend to offer a wide range of systems and devices, and their systems are simple and intuitive. Other factors that make the top medical alert companies stand out include industry certification, options, such as fall detection, and consumer-friendly policies that make it easy to understand the monthly costs and cancellation service when it’s no longer needed.
How to Choose the Best Home Medical Alert System
While all home medical alert systems provide subscribers with 24/7 emergency monitoring through a dedicated call center, the devices, costs and optional features vary.
Here are some important questions to ask when selecting a home medical alert system:
- Do you want a landline-based system or a system that uses cellular signals?
- What is the distance between the base station and the furthest room in your home?
- Do you want a system with additional features, such as fall detection, location tracking, wellness checks and/or a caregiver app?
- Are you looking for additional help buttons that can be activated if the subscriber isn’t wearing their medical alert button?
- Do you need a device with a non-rechargeable battery?
- Would you like to add a second user to your home medical alert system?
Also consider whether or not a contract is required, what the return policy is and whether there are added fees for shipping, installation and early service termination. With dozens of home medical alert systems available starting at around $20 per month, with a little research you can find the system that’s perfect for your specific needs and budget.