Best Medical Alert Systems of 2024

We compared 23 companies and chose the top medical alert systems

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What do you prioritize most?

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What do you prioritize most?

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Medical alert devices make it easy to contact emergency services when you need help. But it can be hard to find the perfect system for your needs — especially with so many options available.

Our research team compared 23 national medical alert companies and chose our top six based on equipment options, safety features, costs, trial periods, customer reviews and other factors. Read our full methodology for more detail on how we select these. Our picks may be Authorized Partners that compensate us — this does not impact our recommendations or evaluations but may affect the order in which companies appear.

Note about equipment costs: When you get free equipment with no activation fee, the company typically keeps ownership of the system. It works like a lease agreement — you must return the equipment when your contract ends, or the company will charge you for the cost of the system.

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Compare our top 6 medical alert picks

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More details about our top 6 medical alert picks

Good fall detection

ADT Medical Alert

Monthly fees
$31.99 to $41.99 per month
Equipment costs
$0
Trial period
No

ADT is a giant in the professional monitoring industry, so it makes sense it has top-notch medical alerts alongside home security systems — both connect to the same certified monitoring centers, where responders undergo senior sensitivity training to better communicate with older adults during an emergency.

Monthly fees start between $31.99 and $41.99, not including fall detection, which costs $11 extra per month. Check out the On-The-Go package if you have a more active style; the battery lasts up to 40 hours and comes with GPS capabilities.

ADT monitoring centers have earned several endorsements: TMA Certified Five Diamond Central Station, New York City Fire Monitoring Rated, FM Approved and UL-certified. More features we like include:

  • GPS available
  • Waterproof equipment
  • Month-to-month contract
  • 15 seconds or less average response time
  • Home temperature monitoring
  • No equipment cost or activation fee
  • Reasonable cancellation policy

No fall detection is 100% accurate — and you have to wear it correctly, a reviewer in New Jersey confirms: “My brother-in-law has fallen a number of times, and it hasn't been detected because he didn't have that second piece with him.”

It’s also worth noting that you need a strong AT&T cellular connection, as a reviewer in Ohio found out: “Very nice product. Well thought out. Problem I have is that I live in an area where AT&T signals are very marginal. … System does not work and I am returning it. Getting a different brand that uses Verizon.”

ADT offers three medical alert system packages. There are no equipment charges.

  • ADT’s Medical Alert Basic ($31.99 per month): ADT’s Medical Alert Basic is the least expensive plan the company offers. It runs on a landline connection, and you can choose between a wearable pendant or a wristband device that can function as far as 300 feet from the base. The backup battery lasts up to 20 hours.
  • Medical Alert Plus ($39.99 per month): The Medical Alert Plus has a larger range (600 feet), a better backup battery (up to 30 hours) and sleeker equipment than the Basic system. It comes with a wristband or pendant, and the base has a digital screen that displays the temperature, date, time and battery level. This equipment runs on a cellular connection, so you don’t need a landline.
  • On-The-Go ($41.99 per month): ADT’s On-The-Go device is an excellent option for active users who want the support of a monitored medical alert system without being tethered to their homes. The system has a portable base unit about the size of a pager, which lets users get the help they need pretty much wherever they are.

“Quick delivery, easy setup, great customer service,” a reviewer in Georgia said. “Our main issue is fall detection, and this system has it. The cost fits into our budget without much pain. I would recommend this system for peace of mind if you have a loved one home alone.”

A reviewer in Michigan said ADT’s “response team is really good. I've talked to them many times because I have fallen several times, sometimes where the fall detector kicks in, sometimes where I pressed the button, and other times in testing the device. They usually respond in a couple of minutes which is a reasonable amount of time. It has never taken forever.”

“I fell twice and I had to call ADT to come get me out of the floor. They came very quickly,” a ConsumerAffairs reviewer in Texas said, adding, “It makes my children happy that I have it and they feel safer with it. I do, too.”

Great for location tracking

Medical Guardian

Monthly fees
$29.95 to $44.95 per month
Equipment costs
$0 to $199.95
Trial period
No

Medical Guardian has lots of equipment options, a straightforward purchase process and 24/7 professional monitoring. On-the-go systems come with GPS location tracking, which helps older adults stay independent and reassures family members that — if something goes wrong — help is on the way at the touch of a button.

Check out the Mini Guardian (starting at $44.95 per month) if you want a lightweight device with a good battery; it lasts up to five days. The newer smartwatch design, MGMove, has some unique features, but the battery only lasts up to 24 hours, so you have to charge it daily.

At 1,400 feet, Medical Guardian has one of the longest ranges we’ve seen on a home-based system. More top features include:

  • Waterproof equipment
  • Endorsement from the Electronic Security Association
  • Multiple colors and designs
  • Optional fall detection
  • Caregiver app
  • Transparent pricing
  • Month-to-month contracts available

A reviewer in Michigan, who got a system for their mother, appreciates that Medical Guardian always calls to let them know when the device has been activated. Others highlight the company’s customer service: “The Medical Guardian team has been very cooperative and very easy to deal with,” according to a reviewer in Virginia.

Medical Guardian doesn’t offer a trial period, and it can be difficult to cancel — especially if you’re doing so on behalf of a loved one.

A few other customers told us about issues around charging devices.

“My only complaint is I can not tell when it is fully charged. When I put it on (the) charger, it says charging but needs to say fully charged when it is ready,” a reviewer in Indiana told us.

As of publishing, Medical Guardian systems start between $29.95 and $44.95 per month. If you want fall detection, it costs $10 more per month.

  • MGClassic ($0 for equipment, $29.95 per month): The MGClassic system connects to your landline telephone and syncs with the necklace or wristband. It includes access to the MyGuardian portal and app.
  • MGHome Cellular ($149.95 for equipment, $37.95 per month): The MGHome Cellular features a sleek design plus a voice assist button, a 1,400-foot range and 32 hours of battery backup.
  • Mini Guardian ($0 for equipment, $39.95 per month): Mini Guardian is a portable, wearable GPS device. It has unlimited range and a battery that lasts up to five days.
  • MGMove ($199.95 for equipment, $39.95 per month): MG Move is a smartwatch that connects you to help at the press of a button and features options to chat with loved ones, keep track of your steps, check the weather, and set medication and event reminders.
  • Mobile 2.0 ($0 for equipment, $44.95 per month): Mobile 2.0 is a lightweight device that easily clips to clothing and can sync with the included pendant or wristband. It’s water-resistant and has five days of battery life.

Happy customers often highlight that equipment is small, simple and reliable. A reviewer in New Hampshire said their device is “lightweight and doesn't interfere with everyday activities.”

“I am amazed at the quality of the sound of my Mini Guardian and the speed the operator makes contact with me after I push the button for a test,” a reviewer in Iowa said.

Low starting costs

MobileHelp

Monthly fees
$19.95-$54.95
Equipment costs
$0
Trial period
30 days

Consider MobileHelp if you want a simple, low-maintenance system. All packages come with professional monitoring services, two-way voice communication and waterproof equipment. The battery on the pendant or wrist button can last more than five years.

MobileHelp’s Classic medical alert, starting at $19.95 per month, has a long range — 1,400 feet — making it a great option if you have a larger house or spend a lot of time in your yard. It's the same as Medical Guardian, but it’s $10 cheaper per month.

For a lightweight device that you can take anywhere, check out the MobileHelp Micro, starting at $39.95 per month.

MobileHelp’s most expensive system, the Touch Duo, starts at $54.95 per month. It has enough technology to be functional but not overly complicated. The higher price could be worth it if you use all the advanced features.

It doesn’t cost very much to start with a basic package. Some of MobileHelp's more robust features include:

  • Medication reminders
  • Online tools for caregivers
  • Great in-home battery life 
  • Waterproof pendants, wrist buttons and fall buttons
  • Mobile GPS capabilities
  • Great in-home range
  • No equipment cost or activation fee
  • 30-day risk-free trial

According to a reviewer in Florida who has fallen twice since buying a system, the fall detection can be a bit hit or miss: “The alarm went off neither time. The second fall was in the bathroom. I bruised a rib and went to the emergency room. It would’ve been nice if the alarm had gone off.”

Another reviewer in Texas complained about too many false alarms: “I had a false alarm almost every day. All the people in the company tried to help and were very kind, even sent me an older model, which might be less sensitive.”

Add fall detection to plans for an extra $11 per month. You can add Connect Premium, which covers the cost to repair or replace equipment, for an extra $6 per month ($72 per year).

In-home systems (starting at $19.95 per month)

  • Classic: Basic cellular-based system costs $19.95 per month ($359.40 per year when you pay annually). System button options include a neck pendant, waterproof wall button and black or white wrist button.
  • Wired Home: MobileHelp’s landline-based medical alert system costs $26.95 per month ($299.40 per year when you pay annually). There’s a one-time upfront $49.95 processing fee.
  • Touch Classic: Includes sleek tablet interface with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities for $54.95 per month ($599.40 per year when you pay annually).

Mobile systems (starting at $39.95 per month)

  • Micro: MobileHelp’s smallest, lightest device comes with GPS for $39.95 per month ($395.40 per year when you pay annually).
  • Solo: Comes with a waterproof help button and a mobile unit that can be used on the go for $41.95 ($419.40 when you pay annually).

Duo systems (starting at $46.95 per month)

  • Duo: Comes with a waterproof help button and a mobile unit that can be used in the home and on the go for $46.95 ($461.45 when you pay annually).
  • Mobile Duo: MobileHelp’s two-for-the-price-of-one GPS medical alert system costs $49.95 per month ($494.45 per year when you pay annually).
  • Touch Duo: Combines in-home Touch Classic equipment with mobile help button technology for $54.95 per month ($599.40 per year when you pay annually).

Some reviewers said MobileHelp’s systems are “very easy to set up” and “accurate and easy to use.” Others report problems with false alarms.

A reviewer in Illinois highlighted the company’s customer service, especially if you’re shopping on behalf of a parent: “MobileHelp was really kind and supportive about a situation we were facing involving my mom's dementia. Everyone I communicated with was very kind, and I really appreciate that.”

Free caregiver tools

Medical Alert

Monthly fees
$29.95 - $47.95 monthly
Equipment costs
$0
Trial period
30 days

Medical Alert offers highly rated emergency equipment. Both packages — Home System and Mobile System — come with 24/7 professional monitoring and waterproof buttons.

Medical Alert also provides free access to the Mobile Alert Connect app — many competitors charge an additional fee for similar services. Through the free app, a caregiver can keep an eye on their medical alert device’s status, update the contact lists, test their system and more.

On the downside, upfront costs are higher than our other picks. Expect to pay a $79 programming fee to get started. It might still be worth it if you take advantage of the caregiver app. Other companies charge extra for similar mobile features, so the costs could even out.

Medical Alert’s Five Diamond, UL-certified monitoring center provides translation services for 140 languages. More features include:

  • Waterproof buttons
  • Compatibility with fall detection
  • Optional GPS tracking
  • Five-day mobile battery
  • 800-foot button range
  • No long-term contracts
  • Caregiver app
  • 30-day trial period

The device is “comfortable” but “could be a little smaller.” At least one reviewer said the device is uncomfortable to wear while driving. Another didn’t like the noise the alarm made.

Additionally, the cost increased by $5 after the first year, according to a reviewer in Wisconsin, “but other than that, everything is okay with Medical Alert and the service has been good.”

With Medical Alert, your cost per month is lower if you pay annually instead of monthly.

Both packages require a one-time $79 programming fee.

You can add fall detection to either type of system for an extra $10 per month. A protection plan to cover up to $350 in case your system is lost, damaged or stolen is available for an extra $1 per month.

  • Medical Alert Mobile System ($39.95 to $47.95 per month): Monthly fees are $39.95 per month when you pay annually. This system comes with a button pendant or bracelet, a two-way speaker device, GPS location services and Connect app access.
  • Medical Alert Home System ($27.95 to $37.95 per month): Depending on the device’s connectivity, this model starts at either $27.95 per month (landline) or $37.95 per month (cellular). It comes with a two-way speaker and a lightweight button worn around the neck or wrist.

People appreciate Medical Alert’s fast responses, even when they accidentally trigger the device.

“A couple of times I hit the button by mistake, I had an immediate response and that's what I expect,” a reviewer in Arizona said. “When my husband fell down, I used the button to get the help rather than calling 911. I figured Medical Alert was faster. They came right away and had good help with it. I'm satisfied.”

Help arrived minutes after a customer in Nebraska fell in the middle of the night: “[Without Medical Alert,] I would have laid here for a long time before I could have gotten ahold of anybody because I broke my hip. So, it's the convenience of having that around your neck, to be able to punch it in. I was very happy with it. The response was great.”

Another reviewer in Texas highlighted that systems are transferable: “My Medical Alert was my mother's. When she passed away, I had it transferred to my name. So far, so good.”

Good equipment options

LifeStation

Monthly fees
$32.95-$51.95
Equipment costs
$0
Trial period
30 days

LifeStation’s medical alert packages include a waterproof help button as well as a powerful speaker and sensitive microphone for two-way communication.

For awesome bonus features, check out LifeStation’s new smartwatch, the Sidekick Smart, featured above. Starting at around $45 per month, it comes with a pedometer, heart rate monitor and weather forecaster. Potential drawbacks are that it's a little bulky and must be charged daily.

If you’re looking for something more comfortable (and cheaper), the original Sidekick, starting at $32.95 per month, is much lighter and easier to wear. LifeStation also offers more discreet luxury medical alert pendants that look more like jewelry.

LifeStation’s monitoring center is TMA Five Diamond Certified and FM Approved. The company also works with other businesses to protect “lone workers” — workers in the hospitality, health care and real estate industries who work in solitary environments — to reduce risk and improve employee well-being.

  • Optional fall detection
  • GPS available
  • Waterproof devices
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Reliable cellular network
  • No equipment fees
  • Partners with the American Legion, Association of Mature American Citizens and Aetna

Some customers say the device is a little heavy and could be more cosmetic. A reviewer in Wisconsin said the “device is annoying because the one I was given had a rubber band like a watch. I wash my hands a lot and the rubber band wristband and dampness did not mix well at all. It irritated my skin. … But the equipment itself didn't have the problem, the person wearing it had the problem.”

“They're oversized,” according to a reviewer in California who bought the Sidekick Smart for their mother. “Old people are frail as well as their skin and yet they send these ginormous watches that look like it's for Shaq or a necklace that weighs a ton.”

Monthly costs are higher if you opt for fall detection or the protection plan. With the protection plan, LifeStation will replace your device if it stops working due to technical problems. You can also add help buttons for $3.95 each and a lockbox for an extra $2.95 per month. Shipping costs $12.50 when you order online.

  • Sidekick Mobile ($37.95 to $51.95 per month): At 1.4 ounces, the Sidekick is lightweight, water resistant and reliable. It comes with GPS and a battery that lasts up to five days when fully charged. There’s a $99.95 activation fee.
  • Sidekick Smart ($44.95 per month): LifeStation’s Sidekick Smart is a smartwatch designed for seniors. It can call for emergency help, track steps and monitor your heart rate. There’s a $99.95 activation fee.
  • Sidekick Home ($32.95 to $46.95 per month): The Sidekick Home comes with optional fall detection and a help button necklace or wristband. It has a 600-foot range and a backup battery that lasts up to 32 hours. There’s no activation fee.

Overall, people seem happy with their LifeStation devices. A reviewer in South Carolina always keeps their device nearby: “I keep my device right next to me, even when I get in the shower. I hang it on the shower door.

“It's great because it's a GPS thing. No matter what, LifeStation can find me, and that's what I need,” they added, also highlighting that it’s quick to charge.

Another reviewer in Ohio said the pendant is comfortable and reliable: “I have the medical necklace and the experience has been wonderful. I had an accidental activation on my button, and they were very prompt and courteous. There was no delay in the response on attempting to get me help.”

Helpful tech support
Monthly fees
$24.95-$37.95
Equipment costs
$0-$255
Trial period
30 days

Unlike many companies, Bay Alarm Medical has options to lease or purchase equipment, making it a good pick if you prefer to own your system.

SOS Mobile is lightweight and has a great battery life (lasts up to six days under usual conditions). Monthly monitoring fees start around $30, plus an extra $10 if you want fall detection.

Bay Alarm still leases systems designed for in-home use, so there’s no upfront equipment cost. SOS Home systems — cellular or landline — start under $30 per month.

Bay Alarm has one of our favorite medical alert apps. Additional features include:

  • GPS & Wi-Fi technologies
  • Caregiver tracking features
  • Long mobile device battery life
  • No activation fee
  • 30-day risk-free trial
  • Waterproof equipment
  • Available on AT&T and Verizon networks

The SOS Mobile battery is impressive, but the smartwatch only lasts for 6 to 18 hours on a charge. Check out Medical Guardian for a smartwatch option with batteries that last up to 24 hours.

Additionally, upgrades can get expensive. A reviewer in California, who added automatic fall detection for an extra $10 per month, pointed out that “if you are able to pay for the entire year, you get one month free.”

Fall detection is optional on SOS Mobile, SOS All-In-One and cellular SOS Home packages for an extra $10 per month (plus a one-time $30 equipment fee for the device). Bundle packages, which come with mobile fall detection plus wireless wall buttons, are available starting at $39.95.

  • SOS Mobile (starting at $29.95 per month): Bay Alarm Medical has frequent sales, but its SOS mobile devices are regularly priced at $159. It’s lightweight — only 1.3 ounces — and has a battery life of up to six days.
  • SOS Smartwatch (starting at $34.95 per month): The new SOS Smartwatch is a bit more expensive, regularly priced at $255. It’s water resistant and comes with GPS location tracking capabilities.
  • SOS All-In-One (starting at $37.95 per month): The SOS All-In-One package is regularly priced at $159. It’s water resistant and lightweight — 1.8 ounces — and comes with a battery life of up to 72 hours.
  • SOS Home (starting at $24.95 per month): Equipment is leased at no cost, so there’s no upfront charge for the device. It comes with a 100% waterproof help button and optional fall detection.

Satisfied Bay Alarm customers who left reviews on our site often talk about the company’s helpful technical support. Reps make it easy to get devices running and take time to make sure new customers understand everything.

“The few times it was used, the service was very prompt and given in a very kind and calm way. And when we tested the system on occasion, it was always an easy process,” a reviewer in Pennsylvania told us.

Another reviewer highlighted the ongoing support, saying the rep was “extremely kind, helpful and thorough. He walked me through the complete process of setting up and testing my new alert system.”

“The service is well worth the money since they are all so kind and helpful,” a reviewer in Georgia said, adding that “you can tell they are compassionate people and want to help the person that has fallen.”

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What do you prioritize most?

Who should consider a medical alert system?

If you or someone you love has an increased risk of needing emergency help, getting a medical alert system (sometimes called a personal emergency response system) may be worth the cost.

Medical alert devices are often used by those at risk of serious falls (such as older people and those with injuries) or with medical conditions that can leave them unable to call for help when it’s needed.

Medical alert systems aren’t just for older people.

A medical alert system may be especially helpful if the intended user:

  • Lives alone or spends a great deal of time alone (older adults are more isolated than ever)
  • Has difficulty using a telephone
  • Has any form of dementia

About 25% of people age 65 or older fall every year, and roughly 10% of falls result in serious injuries. To determine your or your loved one’s fall risk, try answering a few questions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Many medical alert devices also offer additional health or safety features that many people benefit from, including GPS tracking, medication reminders, weather notifications and caregiver aids. If any of these options appeal to you, be sure to keep them in mind as you shop for a medical alert device.

How to choose a medical alert system

There are many excellent medical alert systems available, so it’s worth taking some time to figure out which system is best for your budget, preferences and lifestyle.

1. Think about who’s going to use the system

As you shop for a medical alert system, make sure it’s functional for the person who will be using it most, whether that’s you or your loved one. Think about:

  • How the intended user behaves during emergencies
  • How familiar they are with technology
  • How likely they are to consistently use the system
  • How appearance-conscious they are
  • Whether they spend most of their time at home or on the go

All of these factors can make a difference as you pick the right medical alert system for your situation. You don’t have to know exactly what you want from your device at this stage, but the point is that you keep the intended user in mind as you shop."

For example, the most common type of medical alert system includes a simple push-button pendant worn around the neck or on the wrist, which many people who aren't tech-savvy find easy to use.

The point is that you keep the intended user in mind as you shop.”

If fashion or an active lifestyle is a priority, a medical alert smartwatch might be the right choice. These watches can offer the same response times as home-based systems while being discreet and easy to wear.

They’re also a good choice for those with dementia because authorized caregivers and first responders can potentially track the wearer via GPS if they wander. However, you should keep in mind that these devices may be more complicated for some people to use.

2. Decide if you want professional monitoring services

Medical alert systems either operate without monitoring or with monitoring. Here’s how they differ:

  • Unmonitored systems: When triggered, an unmonitored system dials a preprogrammed contact — typically a loved one or 911. These systems are sometimes referred to as no-monthly-fee medical alert systems because they don’t require a service contract to function.
  • Monitored systems: A monitored system connects to a live dispatch center when triggered. The operator calls a caregiver, friend, family member or 911, depending on the user’s needs. Many centers provide help in multiple languages, and some include daily wellness checks and activity tracking. Most top companies are UL-certified or part of The Monitoring Association’s Five Diamond Designation program.

Both monitored and unmonitored systems should include a panic button or an emergency call button, and many offer automatic fall detection.

Because monitored medical alert systems can offer tailored responses and additional services, they’re often a better option if you aren’t sure it’s time for assisted living but still want some extra sense of security.

3. Consider your budget and how you want to pay

Total medical alert costs vary based on the system you choose, how you customize that system, what kind of connection you need (landline or cellular) and whether you pay for ongoing monitoring.

  • Unmonitored systems generally cost a few hundred dollars upfront. You own the equipment, and there's no recurring monthly fee.
  • Monitoring systems have a recurring fee, usually between $20 and $60 per month, and some companies offer packages with free equipment if you have an active monitoring subscription. New customers often get a price break if they enroll in a monitoring contract with a yearly payment plan.

Price is a significant factor in comparing medical alert companies, especially if you’re on a fixed budget. (About half of seniors rely on Social Security for the majority of their income, according to recent poverty statistics.) However, price shouldn’t be the only factor you consider. Your medical alert system needs to work reliably and be convenient enough that it’s ready to help when you or your loved one needs it most.

4. Think about where you’ll need it

Before you buy a system, think about whether you want the option to use the device outside your home. Most medical alert systems fall into one of two broad categories:

  • Home-based: Traditional, home-based systems come with a help button that wirelessly connects to a base station. Base stations can run on landline or cellular connections, and help buttons typically have an operating range of 300 to 1,400 feet from the base station. Even if the intended user doesn’t leave home much, it’s a good idea to pick a system with enough range to cover their property, yard included.
  • Mobile: On-the-go medical alert systems are designed for more active lifestyles that take users away from home. They usually come with built-in GPS or geofencing features that help emergency services locate the user if something bad happens while they’re out and about. However, the batteries have to be charged regularly, and mobile devices typically run on a cellular connection, so you should make sure the service is supported where you live.

In general, mobile systems have more impressive technology, but they also come with a higher price tag than traditional home-based systems. The extra cost is often worth it if you spend a lot of time out in the neighborhood, frequently run errands or make trips to visit with friends, though.

5. Compare devices and features

As a general rule — a home-based medical alert system comes with a base unit and a help button that you wear around your neck or on your wrist, but mobile systems and smartwatches are self-contained and work without a base station.

No matter which type of system you choose, it’s good to have a help button that can get wet — many accidents happen in or around the shower. Luckily, most medical alert companies manufacture waterproof or water-resistant devices.

Medical alert systems can offer a variety of features and capabilities beyond their basic functions, though. While you likely won’t need or want all of these features, it’s helpful to know what’s out there so that you don’t miss out on something that you would’ve wanted. Here are some additional features, equipment and factors to consider:

Automatic fall detection
Triggers an alarm when the device senses sudden downward movement, which eliminates the need to press an emergency button to call for help after an accident. It’s an appealing feature, but it’s important to note that the technology isn’t 100% accurate or reliable.
GPS tracking
Makes it possible to pinpoint a person’s exact location even if they don’t know where they are. Global positioning systems (GPS) are popular for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other memory issues, especially if they're prone to wandering and getting lost.
Wellness tools
Available with some monitoring plans. These services provide medication reminders and regular check-in calls as part of their plans.
Caregiver apps
Let users share activity and location updates with friends, family and caregivers. Users can generally manage their accounts and update emergency contact information through the same dashboard.
A lockbox
Securely stores a key to your home for authorized personnel in case of an emergency. This lets responders get into your home without breaking windows or damaging doorways.
Multilingual support
Can be critical if the intended user is more comfortable speaking a language other than English.
Battery lives
Vary between devices, so you should ensure that your equipment can maintain a charge long enough for your needs. This is normally more of a problem with smartwatches and mobile systems, which may need to be recharged daily. Other units may never require charging, and systems that stay plugged in may feature battery backups that can last for days if the power goes out.
Two-way voice communication
Lets the device user talk with the response center about their situation and needs, whether they need immediate assistance or just activated the button accidentally.
Home temperature monitoring
Allows the response center and caregivers to remotely monitor the temperature within the user’s home. Help will be dispatched immediately if a fire is suspected, and caregivers can respond if uncomfortable or unsafe air temperatures are detected.
Wall buttons
Offer additional protection in areas where wearable buttons may not be worn, like in the shower or next to the user’s bed.
Spouse monitoring
Lets you add another user in the household to your medical alert monitoring plan at a discounted rate.

6. Read the fine print

It’s important to read the fine print before opting into any monitoring contract — some companies charge high cancellation fees if you terminate services early. You should also look for a company that offers a price-lock guarantee to ensure the system stays affordable.

Here are some other terms to look for:

  • Contract requirement: Most systems require a monitoring agreement. Keep an eye out for long-term contracts that are hard to cancel. Our top picks have month-to-month options.
  • Free trial period: It’s great if you can try the system out in your home for at least a month before you commit. Otherwise, you might get stuck with a system that doesn’t really work for you.
  • Service network: If you're getting a cellular system, make sure it runs on a network you know to be reliable in your area. For instance, you might live in a neighborhood where AT&T or Verizon is preferable.
  • Warranty: A good manufacturer’s warranty means that you won’t have to pay out of pocket for repairs or replacements.

7. Compare your options and choose

Once you’ve done your research and you know what you want from a medical alert system, there’s little left to do other than weigh your options and pick one. As with any important purchase, it’s a good idea to read reviews and ask the right questions before buying, though.

Medical alert system costs

We have a more detailed article on medical alert system costs that you might want to read before you buy, but the short version is that costs vary and can include:

A medical alert system can be a smart investment for anyone who lives alone.
  • Equipment fees that usually range up to $300 (if they’re not waived as part of your monitoring contract)
  • Monthly monitoring fees that start at about $20 to $60 per month without add-ons (like fall detection, which usually costs about $10 more per month)
  • Activation fees of up to $200, if applicable
  • Installation fees of up to $100, if applicable

Even though these costs may seem high, a medical alert system is often a smart investment, especially if it can delay a move to a long-term care facility.

Many older people prefer aging in place to other senior living options, and products like medical alerts, walk-in bathtubs, hearing aids, bed rails and other items can make their homes safer and more accessible. The cost of aging in place is also relatively affordable compared with the cost of assisted living, which averages around $4,300 per month.

You can learn more about elder care planning (like the difference between assisted and independent living) by checking out our other buyers guides and resources.

Medical alert system FAQ

What is a medical alert system?

Medical alert systems are devices that contact emergency assistance when activated. They are often made up of a base unit and an emergency help button, which can be worn on a lanyard or bracelet. However, some systems are contained entirely in the wearable device.

When activated, the system can connect you to a trained emergency response operator, relative or friend.

Medical alert systems are designed for use either at home or both at home and on the go. They can be monitored or unmonitored, come with or without fall alert features, and connect to either home-based landline or cellular networks.

How do medical alert systems work?

In a technical sense, medical alert devices generally use small radio transmitters to contact their base stations (if applicable), which use cellular or landline networks to connect with monitoring centers or emergency contacts.

In a more practical sense, here’s what you can expect when using a medical alert device:

  • Users generally wear a help button somewhere on their person at all times so they can signal for help when they need it.
  • If an emergency occurs, the user presses the button to signal for help. (Systems with fall detection may sense that help is needed without any signal.)
  • What happens next depends on whether your system is monitored or unmonitored:
    • Unmonitored systems should automatically reach out to a predetermined number (commonly either emergency services or the user’s emergency contact) to summon help.
    • Monitored systems generally route the user’s signal through a trained emergency operator, who talks to the user (if possible) and determines what type of assistance is required (caregiver, fire, police or medical) before calling for help. These operators usually stay on the line until help arrives, too.
How long do medical alert system batteries last?

Battery lives can vary among systems. For home-based systems that are connected to power, backup batteries are often included, and these can last anywhere from hours to several days. Mobile systems require more regular charging but usually last at least one day.

How long does it take for someone to respond?

Response times for medical alert systems are typically less than one minute, with some monitoring centers responding in as little as 21 seconds.

Does insurance cover medical alert systems?

While most types of health care coverage do not cover medical alert systems, there are some possible exceptions, like long-term care insurance, Medicare Part C and VA health care. Contact your insurance company or coverage provider directly to find out if help is available.

Does Medicare cover medical alert systems?

Medical alert systems are not covered by Medicare parts A or B or Medicare supplemental insurance. Some Medicare Advantage plans (also called Part C) may reimburse certain patient groups for the cost of a wearable device.

It’s also worth mentioning that ConsumerAffairs can’t direct buyers to Medicaid-eligible systems, and any brand you contact will typically refer you to your Medicaid caseworker for further guidance.

Alternatively, long-term care insurance may also provide reimbursement for medical alert systems.

Can you get a discount on a medical alert system for being an AARP member?

It’s common for medical alert companies to offer discounts and promotions, including for AARP members. For example, at the time of publishing, AARP members can get a 15% discount on Lifeline’s monthly service as well as free shipping and activation on a Lifeline medical alert system.

Are medical alert systems tax deductible?

The IRS doesn’t specifically itemize medical alert systems as eligible for tax deductions, but many medical expenses and aging-in-place home modifications are tax deductible. A tax professional can help you determine if you can deduct a medical alert system in your tax filings.

What medical conditions require a medical alert bracelet?

Medical alert bracelets, also called medical ID bracelets, are common for those with severe epilepsy, diabetes, serious drug or food allergies, or dementia. A medical alert bracelet is an identification tag that includes lifesaving information about any medical conditions that require immediate attention should the wearer be in distress and unable to speak.

These bracelets are wearable tags and are not to be confused with medical alert systems or devices, which can also be worn around the wrist. They're pieces of jewelry that inform emergency responders and medical professionals of certain medical conditions.

Are medical alert systems worth it?

If you’re concerned about making sure help is on the way when you or a loved one needs it most, a medical alert system is likely worth the cost. Receiving fast assistance in case of an emergency can be critical, and it can even save you money in the long run.

How can I help my loved one use their medical alert system?

While it’s often helpful to handle device and plan decisions for your loved one, it’s also important to keep your loved one informed about what’s going on and what to expect.

Once the system is ready to use, spend some time discussing the use of the system and how it works. Don’t forget to check in regularly to be sure your loved one is utilizing the system appropriately and remembers how and when to use it.

See our video on how to talk to your loved one about a medical alert device at the bottom of this page for more guidance and insights from reviewers that have been through this process.

Why is a medical alert system better than a cell phone?

A medical alert is often safer than a cellphone for seniors. The help button might be more accessible during an emergency, especially in the shower or bath; if the user falls, has a sudden accident or otherwise needs medical assistance, they don’t have to worry about reaching a phone to call for help.

Why is a medical alert system better than a smart speaker?

While some voice assistants and smart speakers are able to dial 911 for you, their safety features generally end there. Unlike many medical alert systems, these devices usually don’t have:

  • Fall detection technology
  • Caregiver apps and benefits
  • Staff who are trained to determine what type of help is needed and dispatch it
  • Battery backups for when the power goes out
medical alert systems faq with shelly webb

Methodology

We believe customer experiences are a crucial indicator when evaluating companies, so reviews are a significant factor when selecting our top picks. But to choose our top medical alert companies for this list, we started by looking at the basics:

  • Reliable emergency response center: One of the most critical aspects we looked at is if the medical alert company has a dependable responsive emergency response center — staffed with trained professionals who can provide immediate assistance 24 hours a day, seven days a week and quick response times.
  • Two-way communication: This enables direct contact with the emergency response center through a wearable mobile device or home base unit. This feature is essential during emergencies, allowing for clear and immediate interaction.
  • Comfortable and waterproof wearable devices: Wearable devices play a vital role in medical alert systems, allowing you to call for help from anywhere. We looked for comfortable, lightweight, waterproof devices that you can wear all the time, including in the shower.
  • Advanced safety features: Because falls are a significant concern, we chose systems that include fall detection technology. We also looked for GPS tracking functionality, which allows emergency responders to pinpoint your location accurately, aiding in faster assistance during emergencies. Additional features include activity monitoring, medication reminders, wellness checks and caregiver tools.
  • Transparent pricing and contracts: We were mindful of each medical alert system's cost and contractual obligations. The pricing structure should be easy to understand, including monthly fees and any long-term contracts. We also favored companies that offer free trial periods and don't charge activation fees. 

ConsumerAffairs research team then analyzed thousands of verified medical alert company reviews over the last two years (May 12, 2021, to May 12, 2023) to ensure we considered experiences from a diverse range of customers.

Focusing on companies with proven track records of above-average service, we established criteria based on the average star rating, percentage of 5-star reviews and percentage of 1-star reviews. To make it onto our top picks, we required:

  • A customer rating of at least 3.9 out of 5 stars on our site
  • At least 50% 5-star reviews from ConsumerAffairs reviewers over the last two years
  • Less than 20% 1-star reviews from ConsumerAffairs reviewers over the same time period

To recap, our picks for the best medical alert systems of 2023, based on all of the above factors: 

  1. ADT Medical Alert
  2. Medical Guardian
  3. LifeStation
  4. MobileHelp
  5. Medical Alert
  6. Bay Alarm Medical

Guide sources
ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “ Keep on Your Feet—Preventing Older Adult Falls .” Accessed Dec. 16, 2022.
  2. International Journal of General Medicine, “ Analyzing the problem of falls among older people .” Accessed Dec. 22, 2022.
  3. Aging and Health Technology Watch, “ The Future of Wearables and Older Adults 2021 .” Accessed Sept. 28, 2021.
  4. National Council on Aging, “ Get the Facts on Fall Prevention .” Accessed Sept. 28, 2021.
  5. Philips Lifeline, “ Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) with Optimized Automatic Fall Detection Shows Greater Effectiveness than PERS Alone .” Accessed Sept. 29, 2021.

Not sure how to choose?

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