The Best Medical Alert Systems Of 2020

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For seniors and those who suffer from disabilities or other severe medical problems, a loss of freedom can be one of the most difficult things to overcome. This is especially true for seniors facing the possibility of moving into residential care.

Medical alert systems are a popular way for seniors to reclaim their independence and remain comfortable in their own homes. These systems can give families peace of mind by allowing users to go about their business knowing their loved one can access help when they need it.

Medical alert devices work in two key ways: by giving the user on-demand access to help when they need it, and by connecting them directly to the people who can help.

In this guide, we look at how medical alert systems work and how to choose the right one for you. We also give you our top picks for the best medical alert systems currently available.

Our Top Picks: Summary

The Best Medical Alert Systems: Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Medical Guardian

Medical Guardian

A flexible model to suit a wide range of users.Check Price

Why We Picked It

Medical Guardian offers three at-home subscription packages. Each package contains a different set of devices. The affordable Classic Guardian package includes a waterproof medical alert button with a 1,300-foot range and a base station with two-way communication and a 32-hour battery backup.

The Home Guardian package includes landline-free protection with two-way communication. The base station is more advanced than the Classic, including an LED display screen with home monitoring functionality. The package comes with a choice of wearable products.

The Family Guardian package upgrades the service with activity monitoring via home safety sensors, providing advanced services like detecting deviations from the user’s expected routine. The Family Guardian app allows users to fine-tune the devices to their needs and monitor their activity.

Keep in Mind

The available options, plus the ability to customize packages, makes the system easy to personalize but potentially overwhelming.

In a Nutshell

  • Range of packages offering various levels of complexity
  • Activity monitoring available
  • Customizable packages

Best Value: Bay Alarm Medical

Bay Alarm Medical

Peace of mind at an affordable price point.Check Price

Why We Picked It

Bay Alarm Medical offers a range of affordable options for seniors who are working with a limited budget.

There are three subscription levels available for the at-home solution, all at affordable price points for properties of various sizes, with the larger subscriptions including wall buttons.

The system consists of a personal help button that can be worn around the neck or as a wristband, a base unit, and wall buttons (larger subscriptions only). The personal help button is waterproof, has a 1000-foot range, and 5 years of battery life, and is available with fall detection.

The base unit has built-in two communication with an ultra-sensitive microphone, and can also be used to answer incoming calls. It has a 32-hour battery backup and can be disconnected and reconnected to a landline when traveling.

There’s a risk-free, 30-day trial, so you’ll have the chance to test the system before committing to it, saving you money if you do change your mind.

Keep in Mind

While affordable, Bay Alarm Medical lacks advanced features like behavioral monitoring.

In a Nutshell

  • Three subscription levels
  • Long battery life
  • 30-day trial

Easiest to Use: Life Alert

Life Alert

Keeps things simple for users without compromising quality.Check Price

Why We Picked It

A medical alert system can only be as effective as it is easy to use, so many seniors prefer a straightforward service like Life Alert.

Life Alert offers a 24/7 service with devices for both general medical protection and shower/bathroom emergencies. The medical system features a main unit and a small device that can be worn as a pendant or wristband, and is fully waterproof with a battery that may last as long as 7 years. It has a second, back-up battery with 72 hours of life. The main unit can work with either a cellular or landline connection.

The bathroom HELP button can be placed anywhere where help might be needed and features a 10-year battery.

Life Alert also offers an easy-to-use mobile GPS device for on-the-go use. This features a simple push-button and a 10-year battery.

Keep in Mind

As a simple system, Life Alert does the job but lacks the advanced features of some competitors.

In a Nutshell

  • A simple, easy-to-understand system
  • Bathroom-specific option available
  • Long battery life

Best Tech: QMedic

QMedic

Smart technology for total support.Check Price

Why We Picked It

QMedic tracks the activity, sleep habits, and wear compliance of the wearer, which it uses to establish behavioral patterns. If these behaviors undergo a sudden change, it will trigger a wellness check from the QMedic team. QMedic considers this to be more effective than the fall detection offered by competitors, citing a reduced risk of false positives, which in turn promotes higher wear compliance.

Users can configure the contact options of the QMedic device, so it can be configured to direct to a caregiver or to QMedic’s services. The device also pairs with a base station, which features a two-way speakerphone.

The device is available as either a wristband or pendant. It is completely waterproof, so users won’t need to take it off to shower or bathe, and QMedic monitors the device battery remotely. When the battery runs low, QMedic sends a new device, so there’s no need for service interruption due to charging. The battery has a 2-year lifespan.

Keep in Mind

Some seniors may find the smart data monitoring too intrusive, despite the benefits it offers.

In a Nutshell

  • Top-grade behavioral monitoring
  • Pro-active contact when anomalies are detected
  • Designed to reduce false-positives

Best Without a Landline: LifeFone

LifeFone

The perfect product for both at-home and on-the-go protection.Check Price

Why We Picked It

LifeFone offers an at-home and on-the-go GPS necklace, which allows seniors to remain connected to their medical system without a landline connection. The device is a wearable, 7-ounce pendant with two-way voice functionality and GPS, which works via Verizon or AT&T cellular service. It can also be worn on a belt or strap thanks to the belt clip. Users can activate the device with the large help button.

The device has 30 days of battery life, is water-resistant and, for an additional $5, users can add fall detection. As it works on LifeFone’s cellular service, you don’t need any other connection to use the device, so it can be used in a landline-free home or on the go.

The device is covered by a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can see if it works for you.

Keep in Mind

While you can add fall detection, it’s priced as an optional extra.

In a Nutshell

  • Landline-free GPS functionality
  • 30-day battery life
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Best Non-Wearable: Get Safe

Get Safe

Offering freedom from wearable devices.Check Price

Why We Picked It

GetSafe specializes in medical systems that don’t have to be worn on the person. The main products consist of a base unit with a 2-way microphone and high fidelity speaker, along with a button that will connect users to a 24/7 live service. The unit doesn’t need a landline connection and includes a battery back-up for outage protection.

GetSafe’s voice-activated mini-consoles can be placed anywhere in the home and triggered with a simple wake-up command. They also feature a pull-cord for manual operation. GetSafe also offers wireless wall buttons, which are durable and compact, featuring a recessed button to avoid false alarms.

GetSafe offers 3 packages for homes from 0-5 bedrooms, along with an option to build your own.

Customers can opt for a risk-free 30-day trial to find out if GetSafe works for them.

Keep in Mind

Customers who want the additional peace of mind of wearables will need to get these as an extra.

In a Nutshell

  • Main console combines with mini consoles and wireless buttons for full home coverage
  • Completely non-wearable
  • 3 packages for various home sizes

How We Chose the Best Medical Alert Systems

To choose the best medical alert systems, we looked at several key areas to assess the devices on offer and the subscription model of the manufacturer. With these, we could build a complete picture of the user experience.

Price 

Medical alert systems aren’t currently covered by most types of insurance, including Medicare and private health insurance. This means that price remains a limiting factor for many seniors, particularly those who are retired. We looked at the subscription models offered by each supplier, including the different levels on offer, to establish what kind of value each provided.

High-Quality Response System

It’s vital that an alert system offers a high-quality response at all stages. This means it has to be easy to activate, respond well to user input (using ultra-sensitive microphones, for instance) and connect the user with help when they need it. The chain of events from asking for help to receiving it needs to be user-friendly and reliable.

Quality Customer service

If you ever have to use your medical alert system, it’s likely to be in a trying time, which means responsive and professional customer service on the part of your service provider is essential. We look at how customers describe their service experience with the supplier to assess how they’re likely to perform when needed.

Contracts 

While contracts can help users understand the terms of their agreement with the supplier, they can prove a nuisance if they run too long or apply extra fees on cancellation. We looked for products that kept things simple and didn’t sneak anti-consumer clauses into their contracts.

Comfort 

Medical alert devices can be intrusive, so we looked for options that were comfortable, lightweight, and low maintenance. Most wearables are now small and light enough to be unintrusive, and features like waterproofing make them easy to use in an everyday environment.

Ease of Use

Medical alert systems can mean the difference between life and death, and their users are often old or may have physical inabilities. This means it’s essential that a medical alert system is easy to use. We look for voice activation, large, accessible buttons, and other features that make the system easy to access when it’s needed most.

Consumer Reviews

It’s vital that users of a medical alert system can feel confident in the user experience, in everything from how simple it is to use to how well it works. Customer reviews give an overall benchmark from dozens or hundreds of users, which we can use to create a complete picture of the product.

What is a Medical Alert System?

A medical alert system is a detection and alarm solution installed in a home or worn by a vulnerable person, usually a senior. Medical alert systems usually feature multiple modes of activation, including passive detection like fall detection, and active detection like a button press.

Medical alert systems can connect a senior to immediate help, either from friends and family or a dedicated team of responders.

The overall purpose of a medical alert system is to provide peace of mind for vulnerable people and their families, which allows a senior to retain independence while reducing the risk of a dangerous medical episode.

Who Should Consider a Medical Alert System

Medical alert systems help seniors and their relatives enjoy a higher quality of life and better peace of mind, by ensuring they can access help in an emergency. Examples of people who might consider a medical alert system include:

Active seniors

Many seniors remain active for decades into old age and retirement. As we age, however, our bodies become less reliable, which affects even the most active seniors. For instance, an active senior may go for a morning jog, only to find themselves unable to get up after a fall. While less likely to experience an incident overall, active seniors are sometimes caught off-guard by old age. For these users, the medical alert system acts as a safety net to help them enjoy an active life for longer.

Seniors with Memory Loss

Seniors with memory loss can become confused easily, which can lead to feelings of extreme anxiety and distress. This also makes them more prone to accidents in the home, or bouts of wandering. Medical alert devices can pick up on these problems or respond to a senior’s request for help. Unlike asking for help in the street, trying to operate a cell phone, or recall what to do in a crisis, medical systems offer a simple, straightforward way to obtain help instantly.

Seniors with Medical Conditions

Medical conditions in seniors take a huge range of forms, but their common link is the way they inhibit ordinary, day to day activities. Most seniors experience at least some loss of mobility, but others may have chronic mobility problems. Medical alert systems can detect when there’s a problem or be there if a senior with a medical condition needs help urgently.

If you’re a relative and you stop feeling comfortable about leaving your loved one alone, this is a sure sign that a medical alert system could be right for their home. While some seniors may be reluctant to accept a medical alert system into their everyday life, the best way to navigate the issue is to talk openly and honestly about your concerns and the potential benefits of the system. Speaking with healthcare professionals can help to bring all parties on the same wavelength.

Types of Medical Alert Systems

Medical alert systems come in many varieties, but most can be categorized as either on-the-go or at home. Each solution has its pros and cons.

Home

Home systems usually consist of a single main or base unit which acts as the central hub for a combination of wearable devices and, if needed, other wall units placed around the home. Home systems provide a robust, always-accessible alert system, but they have the drawback of only covering the home. When combined with wearable devices, home systems can cover an area around the home, too. Some at-home devices need a landline to function.

On-the-Go

On-the-go systems consist of devices worn on the person. Though they can’t pack as many features into the device, they provide the same essentials. On-the-go devices are often GPS-enabled and will work so long as there’s a suitable cell network in place, even if you don’t have a network plan of your own. This makes them suitable for people who spend a lot of time out and about.

What to Consider When Choosing a Medical Alert System

When choosing a medical alert system, shoppers will need to find a solution that offers both the desired level of coverage and which suits their personal circumstances. Here are a several things to consider when shopping around.

Price

Many seniors work have limited sources of income, particularly if they’re retired. In most cases, insurance won’t cover medical alert devices, either. Medical systems can also be expensive due to their subscription-based model, which adds up over time. This is why it’s important to look for a price point that suits your personal circumstances.

Accessory preference

Medical alert systems are available in a range of formats, from wearable devices to wall-mounted monitors. Vulnerable individuals or individuals with severely restricted mobility often opt for wearable devices to ensure peace of mind, while others can find them intrusive and prefer other in-home solutions. You’ll need to assess the individual needs of the user to find the most suitable product.

Battery Life

It’s vital that you can rely on the medical alert device, so battery life is an important consideration, particularly if the batteries aren’t easy to change or recharge. Some medical alert systems include back-up battery solutions, which can provide peace of mind through redundancy.

Features

Medical alert systems offer a range of features that range by model, and may include things like automatic fall protection or advanced behavioral tracking. Take the time to read through the features of any system you consider, and weigh up which features most important to you. More advanced features will generally mean a higher package cost, so you may also need to consider this against your financial situation.

Warranty

Many plans come with a warranty to cover a single replacement, general wear and tear, or a combination of the two. While users don’t normally buy the equipment outright as part of the plan, they remain liable for any equipment damage caused as a result of non-standard use. Read the terms of the warranty carefully to protect the money you’re investing in your system.

Subscription Options

Most medical alert solutions work on a subscription basis, which covers both the devices and the larger service, like 24/7 live coverage. Subscription options usually came in increments determined by the number of devices used (usually with respect to how many rooms a property has) and the coverage needed.

Reputable response system

Users of medical alert systems need to know they have a reliable service behind the subscription, otherwise the system might prove useless when it’s most needed. Examine the testimonials and feedback you can find for each system, and note the kind of coverage offered.

Medical Alert System Payment Options

The costs for a medical alert system can seem complicated initially, but they all follow the same basic pattern. The majority are subscription-based, with your monthly fee covering your leasing of the equipment and the service provided. Some suppliers split this fee up so you can see both components, while others lump it all together.

In most cases, you won’t own the equipment the supplier provides. You’re not buying it, only leasing it from the provider. This does mean that if you have a problem with the equipment, you can usually speak to the supplier to get it replaced at no extra cost. Many suppliers will even send out replacement units when a battery runs low, which means your service continues uninterrupted and you won’t need to charge anything.

As a subscription service, medical alert systems feature a contracted agreement between you and the supplier. Much like a cell phone plan, this lays out the details of who owns what and what your financial obligations are. Some contracts have a minimum term, so you should be aware of this if your circumstances are likely to change for any reason.

The subscription costs for a medical alert system can add up to a significant sum over time, so most people will need to carefully examine their financial situation before entering into a contract.

Medical alert systems can be expensive for low-income seniors, particularly due to their long-term, subscription nature. However, there are a few ways low-income seniors may be able to access medical alert devices, including:

  • Medicaid
  • State Assistance
  • Veteran discounts
  • Long-Term Care Insurance
  • Aging Agency

Tips for Using a Medical Alert System

When using your medical alert system, there are a few things you should keep in mind to help you adjust and to get the most out of it.

  • Set up your contact: Most alert systems can be configured to route emergency messages to a specific person, whether it’s a family member, caregiver, or the supplier’s response team. Discuss the options with the people around you and choose the most appropriate option for your situation.
  • Familiarize yourself: Take some time to learn about the device(s) and how it works. Most are easy to use, but we’re not always the best in a crisis, so learn everything you need to know in a relaxed environment.
  • Don’t think about it: Modern medical alert systems are designed to get out of the way of your daily life. Most are waterproof, have batteries that last for years, and are lightweight, so there shouldn’t be much to think about once you’re wearing it.
  • Keep up your compliance: Compliance is just an elaborate way of saying you’re wearing the device. Many devices are designed to be worn nearly 24/7, so don’t take it off unless there’s a great reason.

Related Resources

If you’re looking for more senior health guides, be sure to check out our other resources.

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