A Complete Guide to Medical Alert Systems35 minute read

35 minute read

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Updated for December, 2018

We’ve all heard the line from the commercial – “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.” While it’s become a bit of a joke or a cliché for many, it’s a very real concern for seniors. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), falls send three million senior citizens to the emergency room every year. Depending on where or how you fall, you may end up lying there for quite a while before help finds you. That’s why medical alert systems may be worth your consideration.

Medical Alert Devices

Falls send three million senior citizens to the emergency room every year. Depending on where or how you fall, you may end up lying there for quite a while before help finds you. That’s why medical alert systems may be worth your consideration.

Medical alert systems are also referred to as personal emergency response systems (PERS), medical emergency response systems (MERS) or fall monitors. Whatever you call it, it can be a significant help in allowing you to stay independent for longer and giving peace of mind to your family members or caregivers.

Medical alert systems are devices such as necklaces, bracelets or watches and wristbands that you wear. There are two types – monitored and non-monitored. Generally, for both systems, a medical alarm base is set up in your home that connects to your medical alert service provider. If, for any reason, you need help, you push the button on the device you are wearing, and a signal is sent to the base in your home, which triggers the system.

Monitored

Monitored medical alert systems connect you to a live person when you push your alert button. Trained employees can talk to you through a two-way intercom, assess the situation, and call for or send the appropriate help. You have to be in range of the base in your home for two-way communication to be available. Depending on your need, a neighbor or loved one may be contacted and show up to help you, or an ambulance, fire truck, or police officer will be dispatched.

There are some newer models that don’t require a home base unit but work through cellular service instead. The wearable device has integrated microphones and speakers for communication and many of them are mobile and can be taken wherever you go.

Some monitored medical alert systems come with a fall alert. That means the system is designed to automatically detect if you should fall. If a fall is severe enough that you aren’t able to push the button to trigger the alarm, the system will notify the monitoring company which will attempt to contact you before calling emergency personnel.

Non-Monitored

Non-monitored medical alert systems are set up in a similar manner. If the button is pushed on your wearable device, a signal is sent to the base set up inside your home. Instead of contacting a live person for help, the system will typically call through a series of pre-programmed phone numbers you selected until someone answers for you. The phone numbers are ones you choose and can be anyone from your next-door neighbor to 911. Some systems will allow you to speak with the person who has been called. Other systems will play a pre-recorded message to the person on the other end of the line letting them know there’s a medical emergency at your address.

Man Holding Personal Alarm

There are non-monitored systems that have fall detection. As soon as it detects that you have fallen, it will trigger a signal and call through your contact list.

Anyone who wants to feel more comfortable in their home is a candidate for a medical alert system. A medical alert system can give you peace of mind.

Anyone who wants to feel more comfortable in their home is a candidate for a medical alert system. If you live alone, and want to continue to do so, it’s definitely something worth considering. A medical alert system can give you peace of mind. It won’t prevent you from falling, but it can certainly allow you to get help quickly in a desperate moment of need.

As we age, we aren’t as steady or strong as we once were. Our balance and lower limb muscle strength naturally decrease, causing our risk of falling to increase. The CDC says one out of every five falls causes a serious bone break or head injury in senior citizens. The fear of a traumatic brain injury or a hip fracture can be great. And for good reason, falls are the most common cause of brain injuries and more than 95 percent of broken hips are caused by falling. What’s more if you’ve fallen once, your chance of falling again doubles.

The fear of falling is enough, but if you live alone and you’re worried about falling and not being able to call for help or that someone won’t find you for a significant amount of time, a medical alert system may be a good option. Another reason to consider a medical alert system is if you don’t have friends or family members nearby that check on or are in contact with you regularly.

Getting older can also mean more medication to take. Some of the side effects of many common medicines can cause dizziness, drowsiness or other impairments that trigger balance issues and lead to falls. So, for instance, if your high blood pressure medication causes you to get dizzy when you stand up, in addition to your general carefulness, a medical alert system may add an extra safety net for you.

Unfortunately, as we age, our memories aren’t as good as they used to be. It’s easy to walk into the kitchen and forget why you went in the first place. If you find your memory lacking or you become disoriented, a medical alert device is something you should strongly consider.

Some mobile devices come with GPS location detection and tracking built-in. If you are still independent enough to drive or frequently get out and about, this feature will allow someone to find you should get lost, get hurt, or need medical assistance.

The fear of falling is certainly a big reason, but not the only reason to consider getting a medical alert system. While most companies use this as a motivator in their marketing to seniors, being able to call someone if you do take a tumble is certainly not the only protection the devices offer.

Medical alert systems will allow you to call for other types of emergency help, as well. If a fire breaks out inside your home, you can use your device to contact the fire department. Some systems even monitor for fire, smoke or carbon monoxide inside your home. If your home is broken into or there is something suspicious going on in or around your property, a push of the button will help you get in touch with the police.

Some mobile devices come with GPS location detection and tracking built-in. If you are still independent enough to drive or frequently get out and about, this feature will allow someone to find you should get lost, get hurt, or need medical assistance. Some medical alerts can also track your activity when you’re at home through motion detectors and beacons. This would allow someone to know something is wrong if you’ve been in one place for an unusual amount of time.

Close-up Of Senior Woman Holding Alarm Button For Emergency

Depending on the type you choose, some systems will monitor your vital signs and give you reminders to take your medications when you’re supposed to, or even keep track of your steps and your fitness. There are also systems that offer a daily wellness check-in service either electronically or with a live representative call from the monitoring company.

You’ll have to find the best service to fit your needs and your budget. Fortunately, there are plenty of companies out there, and the chances of finding one that you can afford is very likely.

If you decide a medical alert system is something you’re interested in, the cost is probably your first concern. You’ll have to find the best service to fit your needs and your budget. Fortunately, there are plenty of companies out there, and the chances of finding one that you can afford is very likely.

You’ll also want to look for a system that you feel is easy to use and easy to request the help you need when you need it. Learning new things is not always easy. So, you want to make sure you find a system that isn’t complicated to understand or operate. If it isn’t easy to use, you may not use it. And that ends up being a waste of money and puts you at risk.

There are very few things in life you wear every day. But in order for your medical alert system to work effectively, you will have to wear your wearable all the time. You can choose a device that you feel most comfortable with. The choices are typically a pendant or necklace, a watch, bracelet or wristband and most of them don’t look like a medical alert device. They blend in well and look more like accessories than a way to call for help. So, don’t let the concern over drawing attention to your device hold you back from getting one.

Some companies combine medical alert services with fire, smoke and carbon monoxide detection.

When choosing your device, there are some features you will want to look for and consider. You’ll find differences from company to company, but most reputable brands of medical alert systems will have these.

Risk-Free Trial

Medical alert devices are significant safety features, so you want to make sure you like what you purchase, and it works best for your needs. A risk-free trial will allow you to test one or more devices at home and choose the one you’re most comfortable with. The risk-free trial will often come with a money-back guarantee, if you decide that particular device isn’t right for you.

Water-Resistant or Waterproof

The combination of tile or linoleum and water in a bathroom can create a place ripe for falls and injuries. It’s best to look for a device that is 100 percent waterproof or at the very least, water-resistant so, you can wear it in the shower or bath.

Long Battery Life

The last thing you want is to be in need of help and have a dead battery on your device. Most systems and devices have a battery life that will last a week up to a month before needing to be recharged. But the batteries on some systems don’t last that long and need daily charging. Be sure to do your research to find out the average battery life of the system(s) you’re interested in.

Medical Alert Wristband

Signal Range

Medical alert systems either operate through a landline or cellular service. A landline service operates through your traditional telephone line covering a range anywhere between 400 and 1,000 feet. That may work for most homes, but if you live in a large house, the system may not cover all your square footage, or it may not cover your yard or garage. If you choose cellular coverage, it should work anywhere there is cell service.

Around the Clock Live Assistance

It does you no good if you have a monitored medical alert and no one answers when you call. Look for a monitored service who has medically trained representatives available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Fall Detection

As mentioned, many monitored and non-monitored systems come with fall detection. Technology allows the device to automatically detect if you fall. It will call for help without you having to do anything. Manufacturers of medical alert systems say fall detection on the devices has an accuracy rate of 95 percent.

GPS Tracking

GPS tracking is a great technological advance that is offered on many medical alert systems. It can pinpoint your location and make it easier for someone to find you, should you need help. It’s a great feature if you’re mobile, independent and on the go a lot or if you find yourself being a little more forgetful than you used to be.

Not all companies will let you add spouses on the same plan and in some cases fall alert is usually not included.

There are plenty of brands of medical alert systems on the market, but there are only a handful of companies that have a long or significant history in the industry and are more often, the companies you see advertise their products regularly. They offer monitored services that require you to pay a monthly fee and operate via a wearable device. If the button is pushed on the device, it sends a signal to the base and a live representative from one of the companies will speak to you through the intercom system.

If price is a concern for you, Bay Alarm Medical may be your best choice, with high-quality home-based and portable options at a number of affordable price tiers. For that reason, we’ve selected Bay Alarm Medical as the Most Affordable Medical Alert System for 2018.

Bay Alarm Medical

Bay Alarm Medical is a subsidiary of Bay Alarm, a home security company that’s been in business for more than 70 years. They offer in-home systems, mobile GPS devices and in-car medical alerts.

They do not require a commitment or a contract from you, and don’t charge an activation fee. Bay Alarm Medical offers a risk-free trial of 30 days and a full refund, minus the shipping costs, if you cancel during the trial period. They have a landline system and a cellular system that works through AT&T. If you don’t have AT&T service, don’t worry. The cost and coverage will be added into your plan.

In-home systems

In-home systems can be operated through either a landline or cellular service. The system offers two-way communication with its speaker and microphone on the system base. You can also use the system to answer a phone call, so you don’t have to rush to the phone.

The systems have battery backup that will last up to 32 hours, in the event of a power outage. If you’re using a landline with the system, it becomes portable – meaning you can take it wherever you go and plug it into a standard landline and it will still work for you, should you need it.

The device is waterproof and works up to 1,000 feet. It also comes with a lifetime warranty. The buttons are expected to last five years without needing to be recharged. But if the battery starts running low, the button sends a signal to the monitoring station, and Bay Alarm Medical will send you a brand-new button for free.

The system offers wall buttons for the times when you aren’t wearing your device. They are waterproof and are typically installed in bathrooms but can be used in any room of the house.

Mobile GPS Device

The mobile device works through AT&T and is designed to be used anytime you leave the house. The device has GPS location tracking and the battery lasts for up to 72 hours on a single charge.

For five dollars more, your family members can access your location or location history through the GPS tracking portal. The system can also be set up to send loved one’s notifications when you leave your home.

In-Car Medical Device

The in-car medical device works in any vehicle. It has automatic crash detection, response and real-time vehicle monitoring, and trip history. Like the other devices, it offers 24/7 assistance from live, trained Bay Alarm Medical representatives.

For those who can easily operate a smartphone or flip phone GreatCall is worth a look. They combine the convenience and portability of cell phones with some ingenious innovations, including phones and apps specially designed to be used by seniors. Because they offer such lightweight, easy-to-use, and highly portable equipment to seniors anxious to maintain a more mobile lifestyle, we’ve chosen GreatCall as the Best Medical Alert System for Active Users for 2018.

Great Call Lively Mobile

Great Call Lively Mobile is owned by the electronics company, Best Buy and sold in their stores. They offer only mobile or cellular products and don’t have a landline option. Their products work like cellular phones but have a built-in “Urgent Response” button that allows you to call their monitoring system for help, should you need it.

Great Call doesn’t require a contract or a commitment, so you can cancel anytime. If you return the equipment within the first month of service, you’ll receive a refund, minus shipping costs and a 10 dollar restocking fee. Unlike most medical alert services, the cellular coverage is through Verizon. The products include the Jitterbug Flip, Jitterbug Smart2, Lively Mobile and Lively Wearable.

Jitterbug Flip

The Jitterbug Flip works like a traditional flip phone. It has bigger buttons and a brighter screen to make it easier to use. It has a voice dial option that allows you to make the calls you need without using your fingers. The price of the phone starts around 75 dollars, plus a 35 dollar activation fee. Your monthly fee will cost you around 25 dollars. The battery life can last up to 24 hours.

Jitterbug Smart 2

The Jitterbug Smart 2 works much like any other smartphone whereas you can access the internet from the device. It has a large screen, which makes it easier to see and a long battery life. Instead of using your fingers, you can say what you want to communicate, and the text can be typed out for you. The price for the phone is around 150 dollars, plus the activation and monthly fee.

Lively Mobile

This device works more like a traditional, wearable medical alert. You can clip it to a belt or pocket, wear it on your wrist or around your neck. It’s waterproof and has GPS tracking. It offers you “Urgent Response” which connects to the monitoring company, and “Urgent Care” which gives you access to nurses and board-certified doctors. This device also has a feature called “Great Link” which alerts your loved ones if an emergency call is made from your device and helps them know where you are through its GPS.

Lively Wearable

This wearable device looks like a watch and can work through your smartphone, as long as you have an Android 4.4, iPhone iOS 8.0, or a newer model. With the push of a button it will contact the Great Lively monitoring center who will determine the help you need. It’s waterproof, so you can wear it in the shower or swimming, comes with built-in fall detection, and will measure your daily step count. Pricing starts around 50 dollars for the device, plus the activation and monthly service fee.

Whether you require medical monitoring in-home, away from home, or both, LifeStation provides a user-friendly experience at a relatively low cost.  LifeStation’s suite of devices comes with service that doesn’t require any long-term contracts, allowing customers to be at ease in the event they suddenly have no use for a LifeStation product. 

LifeStation

LifeStation won’t charge you for the equipment, activation, or the shipping. The company doesn’t require a contract, so you cancel any time and it offers a 30-day trial with a money back guarantee. The medical alert systems from LifeStation fall into three categories: in-home, mobile with GPS, and in home no landline.

In-Home

The in-home system works like many others. It operates off a landline that’s attached to the system’s base. The battery for the button can last up to five years before it needs to be replaced. The standard plan which comes with 24/7 monitoring starts at 20 dollars a month, but for another 15 dollars a month, you can get fall detection with it.

In-Home No Landline

This system works off AT&T’s cellular network, so you don’t need a traditional landline for it to work. This system will cost about 27 dollars a month for the standard plan but runs around 42 dollars a month if you add in fall detection.

Mobile With GPS

This device can go wherever you do. The small, lightweight pendant can attach to your clothing or be worn, and the built in GPS can track your movements and help find you, should you get lost or disoriented. The battery can last up to five days, so it doesn’t need daily recharging. The standard plan for the mobile with GPS plan is around 25 dollars and does require an activation fee. The plan that offers fall detection will cost 35 dollars a month and the activation fee is waived.

Medical Alert offers many of the standard configurations for medical alert systems, including wearable signaling devices that go through a base station to reach an emergency call center, and an attractively designed mobile option that will contact the call center directly from anywhere with mobile service. 

Medical Alert

With Medical Alert, you’ll receive the basic monitoring equipment at no cost. The company doesn’t charge an activation fee and doesn’t require a long-term contract. Medical Alert offers a 30-day trial and a full refund within that period. Unlike some companies, they won’t even charge you the return shipping. They provide you with prepaid shipping labels when you order. The medical alerts come in standard systems that work off landlines, cellular base stations and mobile units with GPS.

In-Home

The in-home system works like many others. It operates off a landline that’s attached to the system’s base. The battery for the button can last up to five years before it needs to be replaced. The standard plan which comes with 24/7 monitoring starts at 20 dollars a month, but for another 15 dollars a month, you can get fall detection with it.

In-Home No Landline

This system works off AT&T’s cellular network, so you don’t need a traditional landline for it to work. This system will cost about 27 dollars a month for the standard plan but runs around 42 dollars a month if you add in fall detection.

At Home Landline

This type works off a landline from a base unit and functions like most others. You wear a device, push the button if you need help and a Medical Alert representative will assess your situation and call for the help you need. It has a 32 hour battery backup to make sure you’re covered in the event of a power outage. The call button battery lasts more than five years. Pricing starts at 22 dollars a month.

At Home No Landline

This system works off AT&T’s cellular network and provides coverage similar to the system that works off a landline. Pricing starts at 33 dollars a month.

On The Go

The mobile device with GPS, called MobileElite, allows you to go wherever you want and still gives you the protection you desire. It comes with an interchangeable, wearable neck and wrist button that has a battery life of 36 hours. Pricing starts at 38 dollars a month, and you can add fall detection for a little more.

Medical Guardian’s systems range from the basic pendant-and-base-station combos offered by other medical alert systems to the high-tech but still easy-to-use Active Guardian unit that allows a senior on the go to rely on GPS-targeted help in an emergency, with a wide range of features and price points in between. Medical Guardian is a slightly more expensive option than some of its competitors, but its combination of quality and flexibility has earned it our recognition as best all-round medical alert system for 2018.

Medical Guardian

Founded in 2006, Medical Guardian is relatively new to the medical alert system industry. It offers two types of systems – an in-home option or an on-the-go option. The company says you can wear the devices in the shower, although they call them water resistant instead of waterproof. Medical Guardian doesn’t require a commitment, contract or activation fee. You’ll receive a full refund, including shipping, if you cancel in the first 30 days.

In-Home

Medical Guardian offers three types of in-home systems. The Classic Guardian, The Home Guardian and The Family Guardian.

The Classic Guardian

This system works through a landline phone and has a range of up to 1,300 feet. Prices start at 30 dollars a month.

The Home Guardian

This alert system operates wirelessly through AT&T, so you can take it with you when you travel. The range is up to 600 feet and it will cost you 35 dollars a month.

The Family Guardian

This medical alert uses three, in-home safety sensors which allows friends and family members to help know your health and activity each day. This system has a smartphone app that sends instant email or text notifications to your loved ones if the safety sensors detect that you aren’t going about your normal routine. It has range of up 1,300 feet and a 32 hour battery backup. Pricing starts around 80 dollars.

On The Go

Medical Guardian offers three mobile options: Mobile Guardian, Active Guardian and Freedom Guardian.

Mobile Guardian

This system has a 24 hour battery life and works through AT&T’s cellular network. It has GPS location detection and starts at around 40 dollars a month.

Active Guardian

This device has GPS location and WiFi detection features and will cost you around 50 dollars a month.

Freedom Guardian

This device is like a watch and has advanced GPS and WiFi capabilities. It will send you reminders and alerts and is set up to send and receive text messages. Pricing starts around 45 dollars a month.

With 10 years of experience and a customer base numbering in the tens of thousands, MobileHelp has a solid track record of effective, quality service. In addition, the company offers a full menu of medical alert packages, including landline, cellular, and mobile options. Finally, MobileHelp stands out for its MobileHelp Connect suite of online services, providing automated medication reminder and activity tracking functions that can prolong a senior’s independence and boost relatives’ confidence that they’re maintaining a high quality of life. 

MobileHelp

As you might expect from the name, MobileHelp doesn’t offer a landline system. It has four plans that work off the AT&T cellular network options: MobileHelp Duo, MobileHelp Classic, MobileHelp Solo and MobileHelp Smart. It doesn’t require a contract, activation or cancellation fee. The in-home battery life for the button is five years, and the mobile devices can last up to 24 hours.

MobileHelp Duo

This system comes with a base that will also give you the time, date, and temperature, as well as medication and other reminders. You receive either a pendant or watch, and a mobile, portable device. The devices are waterproof and work inside and outside of your home. Pricing starts at around 42 dollars a month. Fall detection can be added for about 10 dollars more.

MobileHelp Classic

This system works just like the MobileHelp Duo, it just doesn’t come with an extra portable device. It will cost you around 25 dollars a month.

MobileHelp Solo

This device works wherever you go with its mobile GPS tracking system. Pricing starts at 38 dollars a month.

MobileHelp Smart

This device is a smart watch that will cost you about 350 dollars plus the 25 dollar monthly fee. In addition to being a medical alert, it has a built-in Samsung Health app that will measure your fitness activity and your heart rate. You can set fitness and diet goals, as well as check the weather.

Like its competitors, Alert1 offers easy-to-use devices that will put you in touch with a call center, but it stands out in the industry by offering a wide range of extras on an à la carte basis, and by offering some of the most economical packages in the industry while offering flexible terms and maintaining a solid record of customer satisfaction.

Alert1

Alert1 has been in business since 1988 and offers five different systems to be used at home or on the go. They don’t charge you for shipping or activation and will give you a free month of service.

Home Medical Alert Device

This works on a landline only and the wearable is completely waterproof. The range is only 600 feet, so it’s less than many other devices. It works like most other medical alert devices and offers similar features, but it comes with a free lockbox that helps medical personnel gain entry into your home, should you need help. It will cost you around 20 bucks a month.

Home Fall Detection Medical Alert

This device has automatic fall detection, but its range is only 400 feet. It’s waterproof and can work off of a landline or T-Mobile network services. Pricing starts at 30 dollars a month.

On-the-Go Medical Alert

This system starts at around 30 dollars a month. It’s waterproof and works off of either the AT&T network or T-Mobile. It’s worn around the neck and can be taken with you wherever you go.

On-the-Go Fall Detection

This device is designed to be worn around the neck and works much like the On-the-Go Medical Alert, but has fall detection added. Pricing starts at 42 dollars a month. It uses the AT&T network for coverage and is GPS and WiFi enabled.

Despite their newcomer status, ADT offers a solid base of features and lower than average pricing on its three systems—the basic, plus, and on-the-go–with fall detection available for an additional fee on the higher-tier options. While their poor customer service reviews may discourage some seniors from signing up, existing ADT customers who would like to stay in the same company family may appreciate this inexpensive option.

ADT

You may think of ADT as a home security system, but they have medical alert products as well.

Medical Alert Basic

This system works on a landline and has a 300 foot range. It comes with a wearable pendant or wristband that is waterproof and works like most other medical alert systems. It will cost around 28 dollars a month.

Medical Alert Plus

You’ll get an extended range with this device. It works up to 600 feet, so you will most likely be in coverage range outside. It runs about 34 dollars a month.

On-the-Go Emergency Response System

For about 38 dollars a month, this system will allow you protection wherever you go. It comes with a mobile unit and a pendant or wristband that work on a cellular network.

LifeFone stands out for its thoughtful extra features. Their systems nail the basics—like attractive hardware and a wide coverage range—and then go above and beyond with their additional services. These include medication reminders and daily check-ins, plus an online portal for caregivers to change or update their care instructions. More than the other brands, their products are geared toward making life easier for seniors and their caregivers. 

LifeFone

LifeFone doesn’t charge activation or equipment fees. They have a 30 day money back guarantee and a lifetime customer equipment guarantee. They also have a lifetime customer price guarantee – meaning whatever you begin paying is what you will always pay. With the basic service, your spouse is protected for free.

At-Home Landline

Much like many other medical alerts, this one works on a landline. Pricing starts at 25 dollars a month and has a signal range up to 1,300 feet. The wearable is waterproof and has a 32 hour battery backup.

At-Home Cellular

For 31 dollars a month, you can have this system that works off AT&T’s cellular network. It also has a range of 1,300 feet and a battery backup of 32 hours.

At-Home and On-the-GO GPS

For 37 dollars a month, you can have all the features of the At-Home system, but with an on-the-go wearable that’s GPS-enabled. The system runs off of AT&T’s cellular network.

At-Home, On-the-Go GPS & Voice-in-Necklace

This system has the features of the other options but adds in a voice-in-necklace. That allows you to communicate with the monitoring center wherever you are from the necklace you are wearing, and the GPS allows the representative to get you help where you need it. Pricing starts at 43 dollars a month.

Non-Monitored Medical Alert System Options

Not all medical alerts require a monthly fee. The fee is charged for monitored alerts to cover the service of 24/7 live representatives who can speak to you directly, assess your need, and determine what kind of help you require and who is the best person to call. Non-monitored alerts work differently. They don’t have a live representative waiting if you push your emergency button. Instead it goes through a pre-programmed list of four or five telephone numbers and plays a recorded message to let the person on the other end of the line know you need help.

There are several options available, you will just need to determine the best choice to fit your needs. Most can be purchased online, from Amazon or at a big box retailer.

The Future Call 2-Way Talking SOS Pendant Phone is the best overall home medical alert system. It runs about 100 dollars. But for 80 or 90 dollars more, you can get the device with the “Man Down” function, that provides fall detection.

The LogicMark Freedom Alert Emergency System allows you to call up to four people, including 911, should need them and speak with them directly. The person you call can also call 911 for you through the system. The pricing begins at around 240 dollars.

For around 110 dollars, you can purchase the Assistive Technology Services Personal Assistance Voice Dialer II. It’s the best option for a basic non-monitored medical alert device.

If you want a good alert system for the lowest price, Life Link Response LLR-110 is a good choice. Pricing begins around 85 dollars.

If you’re an active senior and a mobile help button is what you’re in the market for, Mace Alert 911 should be your top consideration. The basic device starts at around 100 dollars.

V.ALRT/HelpNowAlert is a non-monitored medical alert that uses Bluetooth technology to trigger your mobile phone to call for help. It will cost you around 40 dollars.

Wolf-Guard IPC316AX-2SOS costs around 50 dollars and connects through WiFi to get you the help you need in an emergency.

The ATS Medical Alert Panic Button runs about 109 dollars and is the best option if you’re looking for a non-monitored device that works through an app that you download on your smartphone.

CallToU Wireless Caregiver Pager Smart Call System is a great in-home pager on the market. It’s the best option if your senior lives with you. The system allows them to page you when needed. It cost 30 dollars.

The Daytech Caregiver Pager Wireless Nurse Call Alert System is the best in-home pager system if you need a wide range. It allows a senior to page you when they need help and costs around 67 dollars.

With a monitored or non-monitored system, you will have to choose friends or family members to use as your contacts. One question you will want to ask is how many contacts you are allowed to choose. Many companies allow four or five choices.

When making your choices, think about the person’s proximity to and ability to get to you. You may want a trusted neighbor listed before your son or daughter who lives across town. Whoever you choose, make sure they know. You’ll want to discuss with them how to get in your house and what to do in the event of an emergency.

Many of the monitored medical alert services come with either a free or small cost lockbox.

If you live alone and need emergency personnel but you’re unable to get up to let them in, you may wonder how they are going to provide the help that you need. Many of the monitored medical alert services come with either a free or small cost lockbox. The lockbox is mounted in a safe place outside your home and will have an access code for emergency responders to use. It will be provided to them by your monitoring center. Inside the lockbox, they’ll find a key to unlock the door and get to you as soon as possible.

If you’re using a non-monitored medical alert, part of your pre-programmed recording can tell emergency workers where to find the key. But depending on the situation, they may have to access your home by breaking a window or kicking in your door. If you decide to choose a non-monitored device, you may want to design your own plan on how someone should enter your home and communicate that with them.

Response centers are all based within the U.S., making it easier for you to communicate with the person you are speaking to.

Before you choose a monitored system, you’ll want to find out how the call, response, or monitoring center works. Often, you will find customer service call centers based outside of the United States. That is not the case for the major brands of medical alert systems. The response centers are all based within the U.S., making it easier for you to communicate with the person you are speaking to. You’ll still want to find out if the center is certified and whether they run their own or contract it out.

Senior man talking on phone with tablet

If English isn’t your first language, or the language you are most comfortable with, don’t worry. Many companies offer translation services in several different languages. Chinese, French, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese are the most common ones, but some companies offer services in up to 190 different languages. You will want to double check with the companies you are considering to make sure they offer services in your language.

Most call or response centers have business hours that are usually 12 hour time spans for non-emergency communication. But in the event of an emergency, your call will be received by a monitoring center which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The staff that works in monitoring centers are trained to assess the situation and call the appropriate person – whether it be a family member or emergency help. You may want to ask what the training entails, so you can understand what types of situations they can handle. You’ll also want to find out what their average response time is. If you’re in an emergency situation, every second counts.

You may want to steer clear of any company that wants you to sign a long-term contract.

It’s always important to ask as many questions as you can think of and to check the fine print before you purchase a medical alert system. When it comes to costs, AARP warns you to keep these considerations in mind.

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Fees

Make sure you fully understand the pricing plan. You don’t want to work with a company whose pricing structure is complicated, and you certainly don’t want to be stuck paying any hidden fees. Do business with a company who doesn’t charge extra for things related to equipment, shipping, installation, activation, service or repair.

Contracts

You may want to steer clear of any company that wants you to sign a long-term contract. Pay your fees monthly, but don’t pay for services in advance. You may need to stop the service temporarily because of hospitalization or some other reason, or you may want to cancel it for good. You may not be able to recoup those advance payments.

Guarantee and Cancellation Policies

You want a system that will allow you to cancel at any time without any penalties. Look for services that offer a full money back guarantee if you choose not to keep it after the trial period.

Discounts

It never hurts to ask about the possibility of a discount. If you and your spouse are getting a device, there may be a discount for that. Companies often give veterans discounts. Some organizations you have membership to will help slash the cost. There may also be a sliding fee scale for lower income individuals.

Tax Deduction or Home Insurance Discounts

Your tax professional can tell you if your medical alert system is tax deductible because it can be considered a medically necessary expense. You may also want to check with your home insurance company. The fire or intruder emergency notifications may help you qualify for a lower rate.

If you qualify for Medicaid, there are four programs within the government program that help you pay for a medical alert device.

Unfortunately, Medicare Part B does not cover the costs of medical alert systems. But depending on what Medicare Advantage (also known as Medicare Part C) plan you have, it may cover a system needed for health-related issues. It’s important to check with your private insurance company to see what they offer in the way of discounts or referrals to help pay for the system and the service.

If you qualify for Medicaid, there are four programs within the government program that help you pay for a medical alert device. It will often depend on the state you live in and how the program is operated there.

Home and Community Based Services (HCBS)

The HCBS programs offer waivers for medical alert systems. The waiver generally only covers the initial fee and not the monthly payment.

Consumer Directed Services

This program gives money to seniors with only one requirement – that it be used for health-related expenses.

Money Follows the Person

This program is designed for senior citizens who live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. It provides money for services like medical alert systems that help these seniors return to their homes or move in with family members.

Medicaid State Plan Personal Care Attendant Programs

These programs operate much like HCBS programs and may help cover the cost of a system, depending on what state you live in.

Seniors Bills Fraud

Sadly, there are people who try to advantage of senior citizens, and medical alert systems can be something they use as bait. In 2014, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) got a U.S. district court order to temporarily halt and freeze the assets of an Orlando-based business that was using the lure of free medical alert systems to scam seniors out of money.

Be wary of any call you get that offers something free in exchange for information. These telemarketers will often use a pre-recorded message and ask you to press a number to speak to a “live operator.” If you receive a call like this – hang up. They will often tell you a friend, family member, or a doctor ordered the system for you. Chances are, if someone has ordered you a medical alert system, they will let you know.

Here are some tips to keep in mind the next time someone you don’t know calls:

Don’t answer or simply hang up

If you don’t recognize the number that’s on your caller ID, don’t answer the phone. If you have an answering system, they can leave you a message. If you do answer and the person is trying to sell you something, hang up.

Nothing is ever free

If you get a call claiming the medical alert system, or any product for that matter, is being given to you for free – don’t believe it. Through the process of “signing you up,” the scammers will try and get your bank account or credit card information to steal money from you.

Hang up on robocalls

Pre-recorded sales calls are almost always the work of scammers.

Don’t pay for something you didn’t order

Scammers will use all kinds of tactics to try and get your money, including threatening “legal action.” Don’t believe it. If you didn’t order it, don’t pay for it.

If you have concerns about calls you’ve received about medical alert systems, you can call the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Things like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home are not enough for home alert systems

You may think you have enough technology around you that you shouldn’t consider buying a medical alert system. More and more senior citizens are using smartphones these days, and while they are a great tool to have in any situation, it may not give you the protection a medical alert system will.

voice recognition receiver

You may feel like you have your phone with you all the time, but that’s not always the case. It’s easy to get up to go to the bathroom and leave the phone on an end table. If you fall or need help during that time, your phone won’t be close enough to reach. And the shower, where many falls occur, isn’t a place you can take your phone, because they aren’t waterproof. If used and worn correctly, a wearable medical alert device will be with you at all times.

Even things like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home are not enough for these purposes. You can ask Alexa and Google Home to dial landlines or mobile phone numbers, but as of right now, neither one of them can call 911. A medical alert system can do that should you need emergency help.

A medical alert system is a good investment. If offers peace of mind and protection, especially if you live alone and is one more way to help you stay independent for as long as possible.

Sources:

www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html
www.aarp.org/caregiving/home-care/info-2017/medic-alert-systems-options.html
my.consumeraffairs.com/medical-alert-systems/
www.consumersadvocate.org/medical-alerts/monitored-vs-non-monitored-medical-alerts
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3863882/
www.aarp.org/caregiving/home-care/info-2017/medic-alert-systems-options.html
www.retirementliving.com/11-must-have-features-of-medical-alert-systems
www.consumerreports.org/medical-alert-systems/how-to-choose-a-medical-alert-system/
www.medicalalertadvice.com/resources/will-medicare-medicaid-pay-for-a-medical-alert-device/
www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-07-2013/free-medical-alert-device-offers-hurt-more-than-help.html
www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2014/01/robocall-scammers-who-lied-about-free-medical-alert-devices-weve-got-your-number
www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2014/01/ftc-florida-attorney-general-sue-halt-operation-used-robocalls
www.bayalarmmedical.com
brochure.lifestation.com/
medicalalert.com
www.greatcall.com/
www.medicalguardian.com
www.mobilehelp.com
www.lifeline.philips.com/
www.alert-1.com/
www.adt.com
www.lifefone.com