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Best Medical Alert Systems

Profile picture of Shelley Webb
by Shelley Webb Senior Products Contributing Editor

The security that medical alert systems offer is very serious—a fall can be devastating to a person. Every year, about 19,000 people die because of unintentional falls. All people can face health issues while at home, but the elderly are most vulnerable. In fact, the leading cause of death for people over 65 is an injury that resulted from a fall, and it’s estimated that this year more than 25 percent of seniors will fall. The risk of injury is one of the major factors families consider when they decide it is no longer safe for their parents to stay home, particularly when they live alone.

Efficient medical alert systems can help keep seniors out of nursing homes for as long as possible. The ConsumerAffairs community offers insight on how to talk to your loved one about getting a medical alert device. The bottom line is medical alert systems can mean the difference between a full recovery and a long-term disability, thanks to the accelerated emergency response times these devices ensure.

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Best for active lifestyles Visit website
  • Starting at $29.95/month
  • Water-resistant pendants
  • 24–32 hour battery life
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Best for fixed incomes Visit website
  • Starting at $19.95/month
  • Waterproof pendants and buttons
  • 24–30 hour battery life
LabelCompany nameLogoContactSummary
Best for customer service Visit website
  • Starting at $25.95/month
  • Waterproof help button
  • 5-day battery life

What is a medical alert system?

A medical alert system is a wearable electronic device—usually a clip, bracelet, lanyard or necklace—that detects harm and hazard, including up to 95 percent of falls when used properly. Most medical alert devices are not much larger than a key ring. The device will connect you to an emergency responder if you have a sudden accident. Since the device is already on your person, you don’t have to worry about reaching for and dialing a phone to call for help.

How do medical alert systems work?

The device wirelessly communicates with the systems provider through a small radio transmitter and console that’s connected to your cellular or landline telephone. These devices connect to what’s called a “personal emergency response service” or a “medical emergency response system.”

There are passive and active devices. An active device will require you to press a button to call for help, while a passive system monitors movements or lack of movements to determine an emergency.

The most effective medical alert systems include two-way communication. When a medical emergency occurs, a dispatcher will advise the best course of action and contact emergency services, an emergency contact of your choosing, or both, for you. Most devices include a panic button or emergency button. With some devices, when you hit the emergency button an ambulance is sent automatically. The provider may first try to make contact via phone or another communication method, depending on your plan’s monitoring services.

Much like phone companies, monitoring services may need to run lines throughout homes. If this is the case, you’ll need to find out if lines are insured or if the damage is the responsibility of the homeowner.

Compare Top Medical Alert System Reviews

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Medical Guardian
Read 332 Reviews

Offers both in-home and on-the-go medical monitoring devices from $29.95–$79.95/month. Systems work with either landline or cellular connectivity. They have a range of 600–1,300 feet and 24–32-hour battery backup.

LifeStation
Read 1308 Reviews

Offers 4 plans with rates starting at $19.95/month. In-home plans work with or without a traditional landline and have a range of 500 feet. Fall detection and access to help via mobile with GPS technology available.

MobileHelp
Read 162 Reviews

In-home and mobile options. Pricing ranges between $19.95–$41.95/month. No landline required. Home base range of 600 feet from base. Optional fall detection. MobileHelp Smart powered by Samsung cellular technology.

Philips Lifeline
Read 3509 Reviews

Provides HomeSafe plans starting at $29.95/month and GoSafe starting at $54.95/month, plus $50 activation fee. GoSafe is equipped with GPS technology.

Bay Alarm Medical
Read 3198 Reviews

Choose from 4 medical alerts from $19.95–$39.95/month. In-home plans come with a portable base station that includes a HELP button with a range up to 1,000 feet, battery backup and 24/7 emergency access.

Medical Alert
Read 763 Reviews

Choose from 3 plans, starting at $18.29/month with flexible payment plans. The At Home plans work with or without a landline. The On-the-Go plan uses GPS and cellular technology to track location outside the home.

Medical Care Alert
Read 11 Reviews

Choose from 3 plans for protection at home and away from home. Pricing starts at $27.45/month for the Home Medical Alert that includes a base unit and emergency button with a range of 1,000 feet.

LifeFone
Read 717 Reviews

Offers 4 alert plans starting at $24.95 a month: At-Home, At-Home with Landline, At-Home with Cellular and On-the-Go. Fall detection is optional. Battery reserve is 30–32 hours, and range is 300–1,300 feet.

Lively Mobile
Read 1322 Reviews

Offers a mobile medical alert device with GPS capability. Uses cellular technology and has unlimited range and 36 hours of battery reserve. The device costs $49.99 plus a monthly plan payment of $19.99.

Jitterbug Smart
Read 932 Reviews

A simplified smartphone with pre-installed urgent care apps for $149.99. It can switch to the standard Android platform and integrate with GreatCall’s 5Star Urgent Response to send medical alerts. $19.99–$34.99 monthly fee.

Life Alert Emergency Response
Read 4571 Reviews

24/7 monitoring for medical emergencies, shower emergencies and home intrusion. Mobile app available. Prices vary depending on Protection Services plan.

Cox Homelife Care
Read 46 Reviews

Alert system costs $27.99/month, plus a one-time $199 fee (which can be paid in monthly installments) for a standalone base kit that includes a base station and help button pendant. System includes family app and fall detection.

BlueStar HonorCare
Read 643 Reviews

Offers 7 in-home and mobile alert options. Prices range from $32.95–$99.95/month. Includes a base station and help buttons with 24/7 assistance. Fall detection is optional.

Walgreens Ready Response
Read 13 Reviews

Prices start at $29.99/month for a package that uses a Home Based Unit. It includes an emergency pendant, landline connectivity and a 390-foot range. Separate packages have GPS capability and optional fall detection feature.

Jitterbug Flip
Read 1121 Reviews

Phone with large screen, large text, backlit keypad, big buttons, reading magnifier with LED flashlight and powerful speaker for $99.99. Easy to navigate and has a 5Star button. Monthly fee varies from $19.99–$34.99.

Alert1
Read 1236 Reviews

Offers 5 plans with a price range of $19.95 to $52.95/month. Except for the Home version, all plans require no landline connection and have unlimited ranges. Some are for use outside the home or have optional fall detection.

MediPendant
Read Reviews

Prices range from $29.95 to $34.95/month. The system works with or without a phone line and includes a waterproof pendant through which the user can speak and listen. It has a range of 600 feet.

Better Alerts
Read Expert Review

Prices start at $19.95/month for a standard plan. It includes a GPS locator that connects to a caregiver, 911 or emergency response center. Other plans feature a 1-mile range or optional automatic fall detection.

Qmedic
Read Expert Review

At $30/month, this system includes a base station with a 1000 ft range and a wearable HELP button that detects inactivity and other abnormal activities. It then sends out alerts to the caregiver or other designated persons.

How to choose a medical alert system

Medical alert systems can be monitored or unmonitored and connect to a home-based or mobile system. They’re available with or without fall alerts. All these differences mean it’s important to know which type of medical alert system is best for you. This will require you to be honest with yourself about your medical needs.

1. Choose between a home-based or mobile medical alert system

Traditional medical alert systems were created to work best in your home, while mobile systems were designed with a more active lifestyle in mind. Both systems typically require the user to press a button to alert medical professionals of an emergency.

  • Home-based medical alert system: Sometimes referred to as “traditional medical alert systems,” these in-home systems have not changed much since the 1970s. They come with a wireless pendant that connects to a base within a specific range.
    Home medical alerts typically have lower monthly service fees than mobile medical alert systems. The most common complaints about home-based medical alert systems are that the speakerphone can be difficult to hear and service is not available in all locations.
    • Best for people who are often alone in their homes.
  • Mobile medical alert system: Mobile medical alert systems, also called “on-the-go” systems, hit the market in the early 2000s. These systems don’t require a base since you use your wearable device to speak to an operator on the other line, or directly with 911, no matter where you are. A mobile medical alert system with GPS is another option you should consider when shopping for a medical alert system.
    Mobile medical alert systems have better technology, features and options than home-based medical alert systems, but they also come at a higher cost. You must be sure to regularly charge your device.
    • Best for adults with active lifestyles.

2. Determine if you need a monitored or unmonitored medical alert system

Monitored medical alert systems connect you to a real person when you press the button. Unmonitored medical alert systems dial through pre-programmed contacts when the device is triggered. Monitored medical alert systems typically provide better service and require a monthly service fee. With unmonitored medical alert systems you’ll usually just pay for the device without a monthly fee.

  • Monitored medical alert systems: A monitored medical alert system has a live person tracking activity on the other end. The call button will connect you to a dispatching center, and a trained response professional will talk you through your crisis. The person at the dispatching center will contact a close friend or family member or 911. Monitoring helps ensure that there are minimal false alarms and unnecessary 911 calls.
    • Best for people with limited mobility and those who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease or another form of dementia.
  • Unmonitored medical alert systems: Often referred to as “no-monthly-fee” systems because these systems don’t require a service contract to function, unmonitored systems will connect you to pre-programmed emergency contacts when the device is triggered. Instead of getting a guaranteed answer through an emergency dispatch center, the system calls through its list until it reaches the final number, which may be 911.
    • Best for people who are aging-in-place with relatively good health and mobility.

3. Decide if you should add a fall alert system to your medical alert device

Fall alert systems use accelerometers, barometric sensors and/or an algorithm to track the movement of the device. These are often located in a fall detection bracelet or in a fall detection sensor around the neck. If the fall detection sensor detects a sudden movement that seems like a fall, the device is triggered to send out a signal to a control center. This feature can be life-saving for seniors after a fall that renders them unconscious or immobile.

Traditional medical alert systems may seem adequate, but they typically require the user to press a button in order to alert medical professionals of an emergency. Fall alert systems can trigger a fall alarm, eliminating the need to press a button to alert emergency personnel after an accident.

Pros

  • Gives peace of mind to caregivers
  • Provides extra security for the wearer
  • Works when the wearer is unconscious

Cons

  • Expensive monthly fees
  • Can trigger false alarms
  • Cannot detect 100 percent of falls

Cost of medical alert systems

Cost is often a major factor when looking at medical alert systems, especially if you’re on a fixed income. The more stable the pricing, the more likely a system is to remain affordable to those who need it most; if a senior buys the hardware and pays for monitoring, they may not be able to afford any price increases at the end of the year.

How much does a medical alert cost per month?

The average monthly cost for a monitored medical alert system is between $30 and $90 per month, and some unmonitored medical alert systems don’t require monthly fees at all. Many companies offer both month-to-month service and contract periods. A monthly fee may be much more affordable than a lump-sum annual payment.

 medical guardianmobilehelplifestationbay alarm medical
In-home monthly service feeStarting at $29.95Starting at $19.95Starting at $19.95Starting at $19.95
Mobile monthly service feeStarting at $39.95Starting at $37.95Starting at $25.95Starting at $29.95
Additional fall protection+$5+$10+$7+$10
Customer serviceRead reviewsRead reviewsRead reviewsRead reviews
 In-home monthly service feeMobile monthly service feeAdditional fall protectionCustomer service
Starting at $29.95Starting at $39.95+$5Read reviews
Starting at $19.95Starting at $37.95+$10Read reviews
Starting at $19.95Starting at $25.95+$7Read reviews
Starting at $19.95Starting at $29.95+$10Read reviews

 

Are medical alert systems covered by Medicare or Medicaid?

Medicare does not cover the costs associated with medical alert systems. Depending on where you live, Medicaid might cover part of the cost. However, you could qualify for reimbursement from your Long-Term Care Insurance provider.

Are medical alert systems tax deductible?

The Internal Revenue Service doesn’t specifically itemize medical alert systems as eligible for tax deductions. However, many medical expenses are tax deductible, and a tax professional can help you figure out if you can deduct a medical alert system on your tax filings.

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How to talk to your loved one

Expert reviews for medical alert systems

Medical Guardian

Get 24/7 access to a committed, personal emergency response system to fit any lifestyle. In-home rates start at $29.95 per month; on-the-go rates start at $39.95.

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MobileHelp

At-Home Help service from $19.95/month, On-the-Go Help from $37.95/month and Wearable Help from $24.95/month. Combination packages available.

Read More
LifeStation

Pay as little as $1 per day for a traditional, in-home medical alert system or a mobile with GPS option. All plans come with 24/7 monitoring and customer service to ensure quick response times.

Read More
Philips Lifeline

Get emergency help at home or on the go. HomeSafe plans start at $29.95/month and GoSafe (on-the-go) plans start at $54.95/month. Fall detection and water resistance technology included in some plans.

Read More
Medical Alert

Be protected anytime, anywhere, even if you can’t push your button. Automatic fall detection and water-resistant technology allow wearers and their loved ones to have peace of mind in any situation.

Read More
Bay Alarm Medical

Protect your health and independence for as low as $19.95–$59.95/month. 24/7 emergency operators contact family, friends, neighbors and your local 911 emergency services in the case of an emergency.

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LifeFone

Ensure independence and safety for any lifestyle with in-home and on-the-go options. Round-the-clock U.S. coverage has provided over 40 years of reliable service that’s recognized and recommended by doctors and hospitals.

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Lively Mobile

Packages start at $24.99. Waterproof medical alert devices are available in wearable button, wrist and lanyard options. No annual contracts or cancellation fees. Fall detection available.

Read More
Jitterbug Smart

Receive award-winning health and safety services conveniently on your phone, along with wearable button and wristband options for easy-to-access emergency care.

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Jitterbug Flip

Starting at $99 plus monthly plan and activation fee, this flip-style cell phone comes with easy-to-read buttons and an extra large screen, backlit keypad and powerful speaker. Just press the 5Star Button to instantly connect to GreatCall’s award-winning customer service in times of emergency.

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Cox Homelife Care

Stay independent and connected with a professionally monitored medical alert system. Designed to provide immediate help in emergencies, devices and plans start at as little as $27.99 per month.

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Life Alert Emergency Response

The 24/7 emergency response team sends fast help in the event of a fall or home invasion with the push of a button. Monthly service fees range $49.95. Mobile battery unit can last up to 10 years.

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Medical Care Alert

Prices start at $27.45/month with no long-term contract. U.S.-based operators stay on the line until help arrives to ensure independence, safety and peace of mind for the whole family.

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MediPendant

Pay as little as $1 per day for the first medical alert system that lets you speak and listen directly through the pendant. Wearers can remain independent with access to emergency care 24/7.

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Walgreens Ready Response

Trained emergency response technicians are online 24/7. Monthly service fees start at $24.99 for home-based units and $34.99 for mobile safety devices with a $14.99 one-time activation fee.

Read More
Alert1

Choose between multiple home and on-the-go options to find a medical alert system that suits your lifestyle. Affordable pricing and 30-day refund policy make choosing a response system even easier.

Read More
BlueStar HonorCare

A variety of home health and safety products. With mobile, in-home and fall detection options, users can stay connected and safe in a way that suits their lifestyle and needs.

Read More
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.
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.
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Profile picture of Shelley Webb
Shelley Webb Senior Products Contributing Editor

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