Medical alert systems may have come to prominence with a series of commercials featuring the line, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up,” but the security and peace of mind the systems offer is not a joke. A fall or injury can be devastating to an elderly person.

It can be difficult to talk to your loved one about getting a medical alert device, but the ConsumerAffairs community offers insight on how to start this conversation. Medical alert systems can help them get faster treatment and could mean the difference between a full recovery and a long-term disability.

Top 12 Best Rated Medical Alert Systems

Life Alert is a provider of medical alerts that is endorsed by former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop. They were founded in 1987 and employ over 600 people in the United States.
Medical Alert offers personal emergency alarm systems focused on providing personal emergency monitoring and home alarm services to older adults with medical ailments who wish to live at home.
Since 1976, state-of-the-art equipment, consumer friendly policies and caring service focus LifeFone on one purpose: providing subscribers and their loved ones with security peace of mind. Protection at home & on-the-go.
Bay Alarm Medical has been in business for over 60 years and has live operators on staff 24 hours a day who help to ensure customers are taken care of.
Lifeline Systems was founded in 1972 and became Philips Lifeline in 2006. It is the #1 medical alert service in the United States and has served over 7 million subscribers.
BlueStar HonorCare is veteran-owned and provides medical alert systems starting at $24.95/month. Our 60-day, 100% money-back guarantee make us the preferred choice among seniors. Mention ConsumerAffairs for a special offer!
Lively systems are designed to be durable, portable and easy to use. As part of the GreatCall line of health products, Lively can integrate with GreatCall’s app to help consumers stay connected to a team of care professionals.
The Jitterbug Flip is a medical alert system that is built into cellphone technology, so wearers can make phone calls, take pictures, and also push an emergency alert button in case they are in need of assistance.
Jitterbug Smart uses medical alert technology built into a cell phone. It's great for everyday cell phone use, taking pictures, internet access and emergency medical help at the push of a button.
Alert 1 works with healthcare professionals to provide medical alert systems to their patients. They have over 27 years of experience and over 250,000 families in their network.
Medical Guardian offers a range of medical alert systems and devices, which range from in-home telephone devices to mobile devices that are connected to GPS.
Medical Care Alert is a multi-award winning medical alert service offered by American Response Technologies, Inc. Since 2007, it has played a key role in providing subscribers and their loved ones with confidence and security.

Shelley Webb is a registered nurse, geriatric care manager and freelance writer who concentrates on the subjects of eldercare and health.

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What features matter most?

Cost

 

Cost is often a major factor when looking at medical alert systems. Most people who are interested are also on a fixed income.

  • Are prices fixed?: The more stable the pricing, the more likely a system is to be useful to those who need it most; if a senior buys the hardware and pays for monitoring, he may not be able to afford any price increases at the end of the year.
  • Can customers pay in installments?: A monthly fee may be much more affordable than a lump sum, annual payment.
  • Is there a contract term?: If the cost becomes too high, is there a contract with an early cancellation fee? Some companies have both month-to-month service and contract periods.
  • Is there a cost for installation?: Some companies have these costs attached to their product.

Effectiveness

 

Medical alert systems can function in a variety of ways, although the most effective tend to include two-way communication.

  • Is there monitoring?: If something happens, is there a dispatcher at the other end of the device to talk with the injured person and determine the best course of action?
  • Will an ambulance come automatically?: If the panic button is hit, will an ambulance be sent automatically or will the provider first try to make contact via phone or another communication method?
  • Is the system only for falls?: What if there is a fire? Can a medical alert system help with that?

Independence and aging in place

 

The risk of injury is one of the major factors when seniors and their families decide it is no longer safe for seniors to stay at home, particularly when they live alone. Efficient medical alert systems can help extend that time and keep seniors out of nursing homes for as long as possible.

  • Is the system safe?: For many seniors, one major danger in remaining at home is being alone. In the event of an emergency, the phone might be out of reach, or seniors may be non responsive. Can the medical alert system detect problems without someone pushing the button?
  • What situations are dispatchers trained to handle?: The elderly can face a variety of health issues, and dispatchers need to be able to quickly get critical information from confused customers.
  • How many falls does the system detect?: Medical alert systems, when used properly, can detect up to 95 percent of falls.

Additional needed equipment

 

Although most medical alert systems are not much larger than a key ring, some systems may need additional (and often larger) equipment in order to operate.

  • Does it need a landline telephone?: Many alert systems require a landline telephone.
  • Will the service offer all needed equipment?: With a monitoring service, most companies install any proprietary equipment needed.
  • Who takes care of installation?: Many seniors are either not physically up to the task of installing the equipment or do not have the necessary technical skills. The service provider should take care of any installation requirements.

System maintenance

 

If something happens to the equipment provided, it is important to know who is responsible for repairs or replacement.

  • Does the system need batteries?: Changing out batteries might be a necessity, in which case the system should provide a notification when the batteries are running low.
  • Who is responsible for repairs?: Over time, equipment gets damaged and needs repair or replacement. Customers should check to see if the company offers free maintenance services.
  • Are lines covered?: Much like phone companies, monitoring services may need to run lines throughout homes. If this is the case, customers need to find out if lines are insured or if damage is the responsibility of homeowners.

Portability

 

A system that only works inside the home has value but not as much as one that can go anywhere. The more portable the medical alert system, the more safety it provides.

  • Will it work outside the home?: While the home is often the most dangerous place for an accident to happen, a more-mobile system helps ensure safety during shopping trips or while a senior is out visiting.
  • Is there an app?: If the system only works in the home, some companies have an app that offers the same services via a smartphone.
  • What is the coverage limit?: If the service does not travel, it is important to know how far one can go from the unit. For example, will the system cover the backyard, or would those areas be off limits when the senior is alone?

What are different types of medical alert systems?

Monitored

Like alarm systems designed to protect the home, a monitored medical alert system has a live person tracking activity on the other end. Monitoring helps ensure that there are minimal false alarms and 911 calls.

Unmonitored

Unmonitored systems have a series of numbers pre-programmed to call when the alarm is triggered. Instead of getting a guaranteed answer, the system just calls through the list until it reaches the final number, which may be 911.

Monitored with fall alert

This system is just as described; it is a monitored system that automatically detects falls. If the wearer falls and doesn’t manually trigger the alert, the system will still notify the monitoring company which will then try to contact the customer before notifying emergency services.

Unmonitored with fall alert

This type of system starts calling as soon as a fall is detected. The immediacy removes the necessity of pressing the trigger and can get help to a senior faster in the event of an emergency.

Who's it for?

Seniors living alone or who may be left alone at times

A senior may be used to living alone and values their independence. Since no one lives with the senior, a fall or other simple injury could have dramatic consequences.

Persons who have recently retired

Although recent retirees are in generally good health, they may spend too much time alone at home. Many retirees have some difficulty adapting to a life that doesn’t revolve around work. They might spend weeks with very little contact to the outside world and their mobility may become decreased.

Persons with newly diagnosed or severe epilepsy

People with epilepsy generally respond very well to medication, but children and adult-onset patients may not be seizure-free until doctors find workable medication.

Persons with uncontrolled diabetes

Diabetics can fall into comas or have seizures when their blood sugar goes too far outside the normal range. They may not be able to dial 911 to summon help.

Persons who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease (or another dementia)

There is a 60 per cent chance that a person with Alzheimer’s disease will wander at least once in their life. Wandering can meet with tragic results as the person may not know where they are, how to get back home or how to find help.

Caregivers

Caregivers of aging parents or loved ones who are ill may find great relief to know that if an accident occurs, their loved one will be able to receive help quickly.

Company reviews

  • Philips Lifeline

    With more than 7 million subscribers and 40 years of experience, Philips Lifeline is an industry leader in monitored medical alert systems.

    • They offer two-way communication: Technicians initiate contact when the help button is depressed, offering prompt assessment of the situation and dispatching help as needed.
    • Pricing is affordable for most: The monthly subscription fee is one of the least expensive among medical alert systems at less than $30 per month.
    • No phone is needed: Many systems require the use of a landline in order to call the operator. Lifeline does not need home phone service, making the system even more affordable.
    • Unmonitored service is not available: Not every wearer needs the level of service offered by monitoring. An unmonitored option is typically less expensive and preferable for the recently retired.
    • Best for Seniors living alone, persons with newly diagnosed or severe epilepsy, persons with uncontrolled diabetes and caregivers.
  • Life Alert Emergency Response

    Life Alert is far more than a medical alert system. It offers protection against carbon monoxide poisoning, home invasion, fire and smoke, and much more. It is an all-inclusive security package.

    • Service is available nationwide: Call centers handle a variety of areas, with 200 percent more emergency staff per member than a traditional security company.
    • The service is comprehensive: This monitored service can notify police, fire departments and hospitals in the event of an emergency.
    • On-the-go coverage is available: Life Alert offers emergency services away from home using a cellphone emergency button.
    • Price: Life Alert is more expensive than most traditional medical alert systems, but it does offer substantially more service.
    • Best for Seniors living alone, persons who have recently retired, persons with newly diagnosed or severe epilepsy, persons with uncontrolled diabetes, persons with Alzheimer’s Disease and caregivers.
  • Alert1

    Twenty-five years of experience come to the fore to assist more than 200,000 annual customers. Alert1 is the recommended service from 10,000 healthcare professionals, making it one of the industry’s best options.

    • Pricing: While subscription service is a little higher than the deep discount services, Alert1 does come with two free months of monitoring.
    • The company has a good reputation: Customers express high satisfaction levels with Alert1, and it has a high positive feedback rating on one of the largest review sites on the web.
    • They offer free shipping: Not only is shipping free, but rush shipping is free. This allows new customers to get set up as quickly as possible.
    • They offer monitoring only: Monitoring is only necessary for people with health issues that might prevent them from contacting emergency services, or for the elderly. Monitoring comes with a higher price tag, so when it isn’t necessary, some people may prefer to avoid it.
    • Best for Seniors living alone, persons with newly diagnosed epilepsy, persons with uncontrolled diabetes and caregivers.
  • Bay Alarm Medical

    Sixty years in the business of protecting families has given Bay Alarm Medical critical insight into the needs of their customers. As a result, the company has won multiple awards for best provider in the medical alert system category.

    • They offer a free trial period: Customers can try the service for 14 days before making a decision. As long as everything is returned within the trial period, customers will get a full refund.
    • Their free spouse coverage may be a bonus: Essentially, Bay Alarm Medical offers a buy one, get one free special. Customers who sign up can include their spouses free.
    • Pricing: Bay Alarm Medical offers deep discounts when service is paid in a single annual installment.
    • There are equipment costs: Many companies offer medical alert system equipment free with the installation, but this provider has a one-time device fee, depending on the level of service chosen.
    • Best for Seniors living alone, persons with newly diagnosed or severe epilepsy, persons with uncontrolled diabetes and caregivers.
  • BlueStar HonorCare (formerly Blue Star Veterans Network)

    BlueStar HonorCare is a security and medical device company that focuses on the needs of seniors living in the United States. While BlueStar HonorCare is primarily concerned about the well being of senior veterans, it also provides a wide range of devices and services for those who did not serve in the military.

    • Health monitoring devices: BlueStar HonorCare sells a wide range of health monitor devices that can help seniors track their weight, blood sugar and blood pressure.
    • Brain training software: Since seniors can experience declines in mental functioning, BlueStar HonorCare provides brain training software developed by neuroscientists to improve brain function over time.
    • Medical alert devices: Medical alert devices from BlueStar HonorCare let customers contact professionals whenever they experience medical or security emergencies, whether they are at home or out in the world.
    • Personalized calls: BlueStar HonorCare customers can choose to have a staff member contact them once a day via phone, text or email to make sure they do not need any assistance.
    • Monthly payments: Customers of BlueStar HonorCare make monthly payments for their devices and services so they can avoid the high upfront cost of ownership.
    • Best for Seniors living alone, persons with newly diagnosed or severe epilepsy, persons with uncontrolled diabetes and caregivers that want to give seniors more security.
  • Jitterbug Smart

    The Jitterbug Smart from GreatCall takes mobile alert technology to the next level by combining smartphone and medical alert technology. It is designed to create an all-in-one solution for those who need medical monitoring and their families.​

    • Affordable plans: Users pay one affordable monthly fee for data, texting, phone minutes and health and safety applications. Choose the plan that works for you, and adapt it as needed since you aren’t locked into a contract.
    • Easy to use and intuitive design: Smartphones can be intimidating, but the simple and intuitive design of the Jitterbug Smart incorporates large keys and an easy-to-read menu, allowing for easy adaptation.
    • 5Star app: The 5Star app makes it easy to get help in an emergency. Simply press a button for immediate emergency response.
    • Caregiver support: Caregivers can check in on their loved ones without intruding thanks to the GreatCall Link app. This GPS-enabled app allows caregivers to keep track of their loved ones, and it automatically alerts caregivers when the 5Star button has been pressed so they can react quickly.
    • Resources: Learn how to make the most of your smartphone with GreatCall’s Learning Center. Their video library, how-to cards and interactive online courses help users and their caregivers understand the full capabilities of their Jitterbug Smart.
    • Best for Seniors living alone, persons who have recently retired, persons with newly diagnosed or uncontrolled epilepsy, persons with uncontrolled diabetes and caregivers.
  • LifeFone

    As part of its commitment to providing emergency services, LifeFone includes a price lock, so the first price charged is the only price a customer will ever pay.

    • The equipment is waterproof: Help buttons are waterproof so they can be worn in the shower, one of the most likely places for people to fall.
    • There is a lifetime warranty on the equipment: Equipment costs can rapidly drive up the price on a medical alert system. Having a warranty ensures equipment maintenance and replacement when needed.
    • There are no activation or equipment fees: LifeFone requires no activation or equipment fees for their annual, quarterly or monthly pricing options. Each billing option also includes a 30-day money back guarantee.
    • Best for Seniors living alone, persons with newly diagnosed or severe epilepsy, persons with uncontrolled diabetes and caregivers.
  • Medical Alert

    Connect America, Medical Alert and/or Alarm Company (Connect America) provides emergency monitoring and home alarm services to aging adults across the United States who have medical conditions but want to live independently at home. Choose from an annual, semi-annual or monthly plan.

    • On-the-go option: Enjoy the security Connect America offers even when you aren’t inside your home with their convenient on-the-go option. This mobile device comes with a lanyard and belt clip and is GPS enabled.
    • Easy in-home installation: Your Medical Alert system is easy to set up. Simply plug the base into any wall outlet, connect your phone cord and turn it on.
    • Emergency alert bracelet or pendant: Wear your emergency alert bracelet or pendant at all times to have quick and easy access to help. Simply push the button and get connected through your base.
    • Free brochure: Send away for a free brochure to learn more about MedicalAlert’s system.
    • Wireless system available: Homes that do not have a landline can still enjoy the peace of mind that comes from Medical Alert thanks to their wireless emergency response system. This includes a base unit and an emergency pendant or bracelet.
    • Best for GreatCall devices are best for caregivers and aging adults living alone.
  • Jitterbug Flip

    The Jitterbug Flip from GreatCall is a flip phone that is easy for anyone to use. It has bigger buttons, a louder speaker and a brighter screen than traditional cell phones, and consumers can add health and safety features for a minimal cost.

    • Built-in camera: The Jitterbug Flip has a built-in camera with flash, allowing you to take pictures anytime you want. Store over 1,000 photos on your phone.
    • Phones made for aging adults: The Jitterbug Flip is specifically designed for aging adults, with features such as large buttons, large on-screen display, built-in health and safety features, powerful speakers, a personal operator, weekly or daily check-in calls, brain games and more.
    • Wide availability: Find a Jitterbug flip at major retailers, including Walmart, BestBuy, RiteAid, Sears and Amazon. Search for your local retailer on GreatCall’s website, or shop online.
    • Caregiver solutions: Caregivers can find peace of mind that their loved one is okay by connecting to the GreatCall Link app. If your loved one does need to call 5Star for help, you will be sent an alert with a view of their exact location, making it easy to be available when they need you.
    • No annual contracts: You never sign up for a contract when you join a GreatCall plan with your Jitterbug flip, so you won’t need to worry about early termination fees or fees for changing your plan.
    • Range of plans: Choose the best plan for your needs, and adjust as you go. Health and safety plans start at just $19.99 per month and include talk and text in addition to a variety of additional features.
    • Best for Caregivers and aging adults living alone.
  • Lively

    Lively is a mobile urgent response device for consumers. As part of the GreatCall family of health products, Lively links up to a team of dedicated professionals who believe in helping older adults retain their independence while ensuring they can get the help they need during a medical emergency.

    • Fashion and style options: Consumers can wear Lively around their necks as a necklace or as a wristband. Lively is available in silver and gold.
    • Package options: Lively’s package options include Basic at $19.99, Preferred at $24.99 and Ultimate at $34.99. Each tiered package has different benefits, with the higher-priced packages containing more features.
    • 5Star Urgent Response: Each package option comes with 5Star Urgent Response. A team of dedicated professionals are waiting to help consumers at a moment’s notice.
    • GreatCall Link: Consumers who choose the Preferred and Ultimate packages have access to GreatCall Link. This service allows family members to stay in contact with health updates through the GreatCall Link app.
    • Portable and durable: Lively is a waterproof device, and its light weight keeps it portable and hassle-free. It also works on a large, dependable wireless network to ensure it stays connected wherever it goes.
    • Best for Seniors living alone, persons who have recently retired, persons with newly diagnosed or uncontrolled epilepsy, persons with uncontrolled diabetes and caregivers.
  • Qmedic

    QMedic’s mission is to help families stay connected, healthy and safe.

    • The pendants are waterproof: They can be worn in the bath or shower where many accidents occur.
    • The system monitors sleep patterns and physical activity: If there is a change in sleep patterns, or physical activity, caregivers can be notified.
    • Caregivers can sign up for the automatic alerts and wellness reports: Caregivers can choose to be notified via text message or email. The system also lets caregivers know if the device is not being worn.
    • They offer free battery replacement: Battery levels are constantly monitored and they will send you a new wristband/pendant free of charge when it’s necessary.
    • Best for Seniors living alone, persons with newly diagnosed or uncontrolled epilepsy,, persons with uncontrolled diabetes and caregivers.

  • LifeStation

    To help ensure their customers’ safety, LifeStation sends all operators to a six-week training course designed to improve their handling of remote emergency situations.

    • Best for Seniors living alone, persons with newly diagnosed or severe epilepsy, persons with uncontrolled diabetes and caregivers.
  • MediPendant

    With three years of awards for best customer service and a commitment to using only the most up-to-date equipment, MediPendant has one of the most versatile systems on the market.

    • Best for Seniors living alone, persons who have recently retired, persons with newly diagnosed or severe epilepsy, persons with uncontrolled diabetes and caregivers.
  • Medical Care Alert

    Medical Care Alert provides medical alert systems for seniors and high-risk individuals nationwide. With multiple awards from Angie's List and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, Medical Care Alert is renowned for delivering a high level of customer service through its EMT-certified agents.

    • Best for Seniors who live alone or are left alone for prolonged periods, persons with medical conditions that could potentially become life-threatening, persons with limited mobility and caregivers requiring peace of mind.
  • Walgreens Ready Response

    Walgreens, one of the largest pharmacy chains in the U.S., knows health. It also knows that redundancy isn’t redundant when it comes to patient health. It backs up phone systems through multiple providers to prevent outages and has two call centers in dramatically different geographic locations, all to ensure the lines are always open.

    • Best for Seniors living alone, persons with newly diagnosed or severe epilepsy, persons with uncontrolled diabetes, persons who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease and caregivers.
  • MobileHelp

    MobileHelp stays on the cutting edge of medical alert technology. It combines GPS tracking and mobile service to create a system that always works and offers peace of mind to loved ones who just want to check in.

    • Best for Seniors living alone, persons who have recently retired, persons with newly diagnosed or severe epilepsy, persons with uncontrolled diabetes, persons who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease and caregivers.
  • Better Alerts

    Combining the established medical alert systems with new, wearable technologies, Better Alert takes this industry to the next level. Partnering with Pebble Watch to create a wearable technology that can give caregivers and seniors peace of mind, Better Alerts offers next-generation technology, today.

    • They partner with the Pebble Smart Watch: By using an existing wearable technology, Better Alerts allows users to minimize their cost when adopting a medical alert system.
    • Their pricing is affordable for most: With two different pricing tiers, users can get as much or as little service as they want, but GPS location and medical alerts are included in either tier.
    • They offer total coverage: Where other medical alert systems only offer emergency response, Better Alerts allows caregivers to track the user’s daily activity, send out medication reminders, and offers fall alert notifications.
    • Their product is quick to set up: Where some medical alerts systems need professional installation, the Better Alerts system sets up in approximately 10 minutes.
    • Best for Seniors living alone, persons who have recently retired, persons with newly diagnosed or uncontrolled epilepsy, persons with uncontrolled diabetes, persons with Alzheimer’s Disease and caregivers.

  • Connect America

    Connect America offers medical alert services for older adults who want to continue to live independently. This service is recommended by Good Housekeeping and has contracted with major pharmacy chains like CVS to sell its system.

    • Best for Seniors living alone, persons who have recently retired, persons with newly diagnosed or uncontrolled epilepsy, persons with uncontrolled diabetes and caregivers.
  • Medical Guardian

    Customer service is the priority for Medical Guardian, and to provide the personal touch, the company offers service 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and a personal safety consultant for customized care solutions.

    • Their operators are medically trained: All operators are medical professionals, making them uniquely suited to assist in the event of an emergency.
    • They are UL-approved: This service is UL (a safety organization) approved and includes 911-trained operators to help dispatch the right emergency service for each and every call.
    • Equipment: Medical Guardian offers a Classic Guardian package that includes an easy-to-install base unit that works in conjunction with a waterproof pendant and/or wristband. Both the pendant and the wristband can access immediate help from up to 400 feet away from the base unit.
    • Pricing: Good service comes at a cost, and Medical Guardian offers good service. It also has some of the higher prices in the industry, with mobile monitoring starting at almost $40 per month.
    • Best for Seniors living alone, persons who have recently retired, persons with newly diagnosed or severe epilepsy, persons with uncontrolled diabetes and caregivers.

Community insight

13 – 19 Best Rated Medical Alert Systems

Connect America offers customers a home-based emergency alert system. They also provides 24 hour a day, 7 day a week monitoring and a choice of pendant and watch devices for wearers.
LifeStation provides medical alert systems that work both at home and on the go. The company offers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week monitoring for wearers of the alert system.
MediPedant is the first maker of a medical alert system that allows a wearer to summon help and communicate directly through the system's wearable device.
Walgreens, the world's largest national drugstore chain, offers a medical alert system with 24 hours per day, 7 days per week monitoring, as well as multilingual monitoring and support services.
MobileHelp is a provider of medical alert devices that work at home or on the go. The devices use GPS locating technology to locate wearers in need.