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.
As middle-aged adults become senior citizens, they may experience decreased mobility from arthritis, osteoporosis or other conditions. Vision or hearing impairments can also make it difficult to navigate familiar environments as can illnesses or chronic medical conditions. These factors all increase the risk of falls, which can result in serious injuries or even be life-threatening for a mature adult.
Approximately 3 million seniors receive emergency room treatment for falls each year, and more than nine out of 10 hip fractures stem from unexpected falls. They can also cause traumatic brain injuries or broken bones. It’s crucial that injured seniors receive prompt medical care to prevent injuries from worsening, which is why many elderly adults rely on medical alert systems.
Reasons for Getting a Medical Alert System
Medical alert systems encourage seniors to explore their surroundings without sacrificing their safety. Some elderly adults only use medical alert systems when they run errands or attend appointments, while others protect their health with in-home units. Combination plans, which can include a mobile unit and an in-home base, are also available to help keep seniors safe no matter where they are
Caretakers, including spouses and friends, also appreciate the peace of mind that medical alert systems provide. Medical alert devices contact medical professionals when an injury occurs, but you can also select an alert system that has a caregiver app that provides around-the-clock access to data about your loved one.
Choosing the right medical device can get confusing as you attempt to interpret industry jargon and compare prices or features. We’ve helped make the buying process less stressful by compiling a list of the top three most affordable medical alert systems below.
The 3 Most Affordable Medical Alert Systems for Seniors on a Budget
MobileHelp began selling medical alert systems in 2006 and provides monitoring services through Rapid Response, a company that works with businesses in the security industry. MobileHelp is known for providing low-cost services across the nation, and prices start at $19.95 per month for a basic in-home unit. If you choose a mobile device along with an in-home unit, expect to pay $41.95 per month before adding special features.
Seniors can try medical alert systems from MobileHelp during a 30-day trial period. The company also has a generous cancellation policy when compared with similar providers. You can request a refund for unused monthly subscription costs, and you aren’t locked into a long-term contract. Subscriptions are billed on a monthly, quarterly, semiannual or annual schedule.
Several special features are available, but remember, these may increase your monthly subscription cost. Fall detection costs $10 per month, but it’s not available for the company’s smartwatch. Medication reminders are $5 per month, and a help button for the wall costs $2 per month. If you decide to get the smartwatch, remember that the monthly fee doesn’t include the watch’s one-time purchase price of $349.95.
Bay Alarm Medical
Bay Alarm Medical has prices that rival MobileHelp’s monthly plans. Expect to pay anywhere from $19.95-$59.95 per month. There are no activation fees, and you can choose units that use a cellular or landline connection. No contract is required, and customers are billed monthly for services.
Special features are optional and typically cost $3-$10 per month, but you can get some of them for free, such as spouse or roommate monitoring. Subscribers can add fall detection to in-home units and mobile devices for $10 per month. Bay Alarm Medical is currently the only medical alert system provider that automatically detects crashes with a plug-in vehicle device. This makes it a good option for mobile seniors who drive themselves to appointments, errands or other outings.
If English is not your loved one’s first language, you may find comfort knowing that Bay Alarm Medical offers service in 170 languages. You can change plans at any time, so there’s no pressure to commit to the first plan you choose. This gives subscribers a chance to explore different features to learn what works for them.
LifeFone offers mobile devices and in-home units. Monthly subscription costs range from $20.79-$43.95 before add-ons. Fall protection costs $5-$10 per month depending on which device you choose, with the most affordable option being the $5 add-on for the $29.95 monthly plan.
Seniors who dislike wearing pendants or wristbands may enjoy LifeFone’s app. The app functions as a virtual attendant service, giving seniors the option to chat with someone during situations when they feel scared. The monthly app cost is $5.95 for current members, and new members pay $7.95.
LifeFone doesn’t charge shipping, activation or equipment fees. Seniors can try all products risk free for up to 30 days, and there are no cancellation fees. Services are billed monthly, quarterly or annually.
What Affects Medical Alert System Fees and Why Price Matters
Medical alert system fees range from around $20 to more than $100 per month. Price varies due to numerous factors, including:
- Whether you choose an in-home unit or a mobile device
- Whether the system relies on a landline or cellular connection
- Adding special features, such as fall detection or medication monitoring
- Range, which generally falls somewhere between 600-1,000 feet
- Shipping and activation fees
- Whether you rent a device or purchase it outright
While many people say they’re willing to pay any price to keep their loved ones safe, the reality is that medical alert systems can quickly get expensive. This is especially true if you tack on multiple features, such as activity monitoring or fall detection. You may find yourself locked into an expensive contract even if your loved one breaks or loses the device. Some companies also require a 3-year commitment, and it can be difficult to cancel services.
Before you agree to a monthly subscription, make sure it truly fits your budget. Consider other expenses, such as the cost of an assisted living facility or in-home health services, that aren’t likely to decrease in the immediate future. Ask the company about cancellation policies and refunds for defective products, and find out whether coverage is guaranteed in your area. A company that relies on a cellular connection may not work in remote areas, so you may want to go with a landline-based unit instead.
If you’re unsure about which services your senior needs, start with the basics, such as fall detection and a PIN-protected lockbox. Once your senior gets comfortable with the medical alert system, you can add additional features if needed.
How to Choose an Affordable Medical Alert System
Accidents can happen to anyone, but you may be shopping for a senior who has an increased risk of falling due to their health. In this situation, it’s important that you purchase a system with automatic fall detection. You may also have concerns that a loved one with dementia may wander away from home, so you want a device with GPS monitoring. Consider factors like these when shopping for a medical alert system so you can choose features tailored toward your needs.
You should also consider your short- and long-term budget when you shop for medical alert systems. You may find that some devices initially seem affordable until you realize they require long-term contracts ranging from one to three years. Consider a unit with a monthly contract, or compare options from companies that offer refunds for cancelled subscriptions. You may also find it helpful to test drive a medical alert unit during a free trial to make sure it works well for your senior.
Protection plans are important if your senior often misplaces things or is rough on devices. You may also want other features, such as medication management or heart rate monitoring, so you can help keep your loved one on point with their health. However, these special features may drive up the monthly cost of a medical alert system, so keep that in mind when you budget device fees.
With so many medical alert systems available, it’s possible to find one for your budget. Keep your loved one safe without sacrificing other essentials when you choose an affordable medical alert system.