Best Medical Alert Systems

The 13 Best Medical Alert Systems 2021

By Courtney Schmidt, PharmD
Updated June 28, 2021
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

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No one wants to imagine a scenario where they or a loved one have a medical emergency and are unable to call for help. That's why many older Americans, especially those who live alone or have chronic health conditions, choose medical alert systems. Our expert review will provide you with everything you need to know to find the right medical alert system for you.

Our top picks for medical alert systems 

Health researched dozens of companies to find the best providers of medical alert systems. Here are the best medical alert systems according to our editors.

  1. Editor's choice: Medical Guardian
  2. Best customer service: MobileHelp
  3. Best mobile devices: Bay Alarm Medical
  4. Best warranty: Medical Alert
  5. Best hands-free: GetSafe
  6. Fastest response: Lifestation
  7. Best range: LifeFone
  8. Best for tech-savvy seniors: WellBe from HandsFree Health
  9. Best for compliance monitoring: QMedic
  10. Best for expert monitoring: Medical Care Alert
  11. Best caregiver features: Aloe Care Health
  12. Best for multilingual operators: Philips Lifeline
  13. Best for multiple pricing plans: Alert1

Why trust our expert review?

Hours of research

Experts consulted

Brands considered

Brands selected

1,700

4

32

13

Our experts independently research and recommend products we believe provide value in the lives of our readers. We've spent collectively more than 1,700 hours conducting in-depth research on medical alert systems. To make our picks, here's what we did:

  • Engaged in ongoing independent research
  • Consulted with geriatric physicians
  • Consulted with geriatricians and adult caregivers
  • Mystery shopped the brands
  • Surveyed medical alert system users
  • Tested various medical alert systems
  • Interviewed experts in the field
  • Read hundreds of verified customer reviews from trusted third parties such as Better Business Bureau and Consumer Reports.

Expert reviews of medical alert systems

Related Items

Medical Guardian

VISIT SITE

  • Free activation and free installation 
  • Free spouse monitoring with purchase of second pendant

Medical Guardian offers a top-quality service that is highly valued by its customers. With a monitoring center that is TMA Five Diamond Certified and a wide range of products to suit many different needs and lifestyles, Medical Guardian will provide the protection you need and the service you want.

At-home options include the Classic and Home models, for landlines and cell service connections, respectively. The Mobile Guardian offers help on the go with a wearable button and a mobile device that must be within 350 feet of the button for full functionality. 

The Active Guardian is an all-in-one wearable device that has both GPS and Wi-Fi capability along with a two-way speaker to speak with an operator. 

  • Price: $29.95-$49.95 per month
  • Monitoring center: TMA Five Diamond Certification, UL-listed 
  • Services: In-home and on-the-go
  • Equipment: Landline or cell signal via AT&T cell service
  • In-home range: 600 feet (Home model), 1,300 feet (Classic model)
  • Activation fee: None
  • Equipment fee: None (except the Mini Guardian which is a one-time fee of $124.95)
  • Battery life: Mobile pendant battery lasts up to five days. In-home station offers 32-hour backup battery in case of power outage
  • Contract required: None
  • Automatic fall detection: $10 per month
  • Special features: Wearable wrist button, automatic fall detection, wall-mounted buttons, voice-activated wall-mounted buttons, mobile app for family members

Right now, you can get a free month of service, free lockbox, and free shipping ($150 value). To find out more, see our in-depth review of Medical Guardian.

TO BUY: medicalguardian.com or call 1-800-485-2218

MobileHelp

VISIT SITE

  • Risk-free trial for 30 days
  • Free quote

MobileHelp and One Call Alert are two companies under the same ownership, and both provide great products to meet your monitoring needs. The equipment and services offered are the same, but pricing may differ slightly. The monitoring center for both is managed by Rapid Response and while it does not carry the TMA Five Diamond designation, it sets high standards for excellence. You can read more about the monitoring center on MobileHelp's site.

The element that sets both MobileHelp and One Call Alert apart from the competition is customer satisfaction. Both companies receive some of the highest customer reviews in the industry, and their customer service is second to none.

  • Price: $19.95-$44.95 per month
  • Monitoring center: UL-listed, Security Industry Association Certification
  • Services: In-home and on-the-go
  • Equipment: Landline or cell signal via AT&T cell service
  • In-home range: 1,300 ft (Classic); 1,400 ft (Wired Home)
  • Activation fee: None
  • Equipment fee: None
  • Battery life: At-home base station has 24-hour battery life in case of power outage. Mobile battery lasts up to three days
  • Contract required: None
  • Automatic fall detection: $10 per month
  • Special features: MobileHelp Connect app for notification and tracking for family members

TO BUY: mobilehelp.com or call 1-800-808-5956

Bay Alarm Medical

VISIT SITE

  • Risk-free trial for 30 days,
  • Free spouse coverage

Bay Alarm Medical is one of our top picks for its combination of high-quality service at an excellent price point with innovative features you won't find with the competition. The company offers an array of reliable in-home and on-the-go devices that can be used via landline or cell signal, and its emergency monitoring center is certified with the best quality ratings. Customer reviews indicate a high degree of satisfaction with the company and its service.

Bay Alarm Medical's mobile devices, the SOS Smartwatch, the On the Go Help Button, and the Splitsecnd® In-Car Alert­, are what set this company apart from the rest. The SOS Smartwatch offers a convenient, easy-to-wear solution for older adults who are still active. When you compare the real-life experience of wearing this watch versus other clunky mobile devices that often have to hang around your neck, there is no comparison. 

Some mobile monitoring services require a user not only to carry a mobile button but also to bring a mobile base wherever they go, and they must remain within a few hundred feet of the base for full functionality. Bay Alarm Medical's On the Go Help button is smaller and easier to use than its competitors and doesn't require any other hardware to go along with you.

The Splitsecnd® In-Car Alert­ is a feature that isn't offered by the other companies on our list. You can place this device in your car and forget about it, but you get 24/7 in-car monitoring with location tracking and automatic crash detection that will send help within seconds of an accident. Bay Alarm Medicals's state-of-the-art devices make it easier and more convenient to stay protected no matter where you are.

  • Price: $19.95-$39.95 per month
  • Monitoring center: TMA Five Diamond Certification, UL-listed
  • Services: In-home and on-the-go
  • Equipment: Landline or cell signal via AT&T cell service
  • In-home range: 1,000 feet
  • Activation fee: None
  • Equipment fee:  
    • At-home service: None
    • Mobile service: One-time charge of $79 for GPS Help button; one-time charge of $179 for SOS Smartwatch
  • Battery life: Pendants have five-year battery life with no recharging. In-home station offers 32-hour backup battery in case of power outage. Fall detection pendants have 12- to 24-month battery life
  • Contract required: None
  • Automatic fall detection: $10 per month
  • Special features: automatic fall detection, location tracking, caregiver tracking, automatic crash detection, personalized fashion necklaces to cover pendants, savings for bundled services

Read our full Bay Alarm Medical review.

TO BUY: bayalarmmedical.com or call 877-695-0058

Medical Alert

VISIT SITE
  • 30-day money-back guarantee,
  • Lifetime warranty on equipment

Medical Alert provides everything you need in an emergency alert system. With an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and excellent customer reviews, you can be sure you're getting a quality product. The company earns the highest certifications for their 24/7 emergency monitoring center and offers Home and Mobile systems with long battery life and lifetime equipment warranties. A free mobile app for caregivers provides peace of mind for those wanting to ensure safety and security for their loved ones. Starting at $19.95 per month, Medical Alert offers excellent quality at a price point lower than many competitors. 

  • Price: $19.95-$42.95
  • Monitoring center: TMA Five Diamond Certification, UL-listed
  • Services: In-home and on-the-go
  • Equipment: Landline or cell signal via AT&T cell service
  • In-home range: up to 800 feet
  • Activation fee: None
  • Equipment fee: None
  • Battery life: 
    • At-home device: 36-hour backup battery in case of power outages 
    • Mobile devices: battery life up to five days 
  • Contract required: None
  • Automatic fall detection: $10 per month
  • Special features: Mobile app for caregivers, automatic fall alert detection, wearable wrist button

TO BUY: medicalalert.com or call 1-800-320-0586; Special offer for our readers

GetSafe

VISIT SITE

  • 30-day money-back guarantee

GetSafe is the only provider on our list that offers voice-activated at-home emergency monitoring; it doesn't require you or a loved one to wear a device. You'll have voice-activated wall buttons and standard wall buttons placed throughout your home for easy access. This is a great option for those who cannot or choose not to wear a device, but you can still use a wearable pendant if you choose. Bay Alarm Medical owns GetSafe, so customers can expect the same quality customer service that Bay Alarm is known for.

  • Price: $24.95 per month
  • Monitoring center: TMA Five Diamond Certification, UL-listed
  • Services: In-home
  • Equipment: Landline or cell signal via AT&T cell service
  • Activation fee: None
  • Equipment fee: One-time fee:
    • $79 (zero to one bedroom)
    • $149 (two to three bedrooms or multilevel living)
    • $229 (four to five bedrooms)
  • Battery life: Pendant: Five years
  • Contract required: None
  • Special features: Hands-free use of emergency system without wearing a button, automatic fall detection

TO BUY: getsafe.com

LifeStation

VISIT SITE

  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Lifetime warranty on equipment

LifeStation combines quality service with strategic partnerships to offer special features for caregivers that aren't available with other companies. With Amazon's Echo dot, caregivers can ask Alexa to check on a loved one and find their location in real-time. Caregivers can also check on a location with a simple text message. 

In partnership with Uber Health, Lifestation will coordinate your loved one's transportation to and from medical appointments and even stay on the line to ensure everything goes as planned. Lifestation's monitoring center earns the highest quality designations, and the company offers competitive monthly pricing with no up-front costs or contracts. The company boasts that it's the fastest emergency response time in the industry; however, the at-home range of 500 feet is lower than many competitors.  

  • Price: $21.95-$37.95 per month
  • Monitoring center: TMA Five Diamond Certification, UL-listed
  • Services: In-home and on-the-go
  • Equipment: Landline or cell signal via AT&T cell service
  • In-home range: 500 feet
  • Activation fee: None
  • Equipment fee: None
  • Battery life: Five days for mobile system
  • Contract required: None
  • Automatic fall detection: $5 per month
  • Special features: Full integration with Amazon's Alexa, Find My Loved One feature, automatic alerts to caregiver, coordination with Uber Health, extra loud speakers to enable hearing throughout home, wearable wrist button

TO BUY: lifestation.com

LifeFone

VISIT SITE
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Free monitoring for spouse
  • Lifetime guarantee

LifeFone has been a trusted provider of emergency monitoring devices for more than 30 years. The company offers an array of options for at-home and on-the-go service, and customers routinely report a high degree of satisfaction. The company does not provide detailed information about its monitoring center or certifications. However, LifeFone is endorsed by Harvard Medical School, TrustPilot, and the Better Business Bureau.

  • Price: $24.95-$39.95 per month
  • Monitoring center: Certifications unknown
  • Services: In-home and on-the-go
  • Equipment: Landline or cell signal via Verizon or AT&T cell service
  • In-home range: 1,300 feet
  • Activation fee: Free   
  • Equipment fee: Free
  • Battery life: Mobile pendant: 5 days
  • Contract required: None
  • Automatic fall detection: $5 per month
  • Special features: Wearable wrist button, Mobile Alert app for individuals, Family Guard app for loved ones, fire, smoke and carbon monoxide monitoring, medication alerts

TO BUY: lifefone.com

WellBe- HandsFree Health

  • 30-day return policy 
  • Uses a smartwatch and smart speaker

Innovation meets tech-forward thinking in the WellBe Medical Alert Plus from HandsFree Health. This at-home and on-the-go system also serves as an entertainment center and virtual health assistant. Included in the WellBe PLUS package are a voice-enabled virtual health assistant Smart Speaker and Smartwatch. Both devices are 4G enabled, allowing you to speak directly with the monitoring center 24/7. 

In addition to 24/7 medical monitoring, the WellBe Smart Speaker can act as a virtual health assistant providing prescription refill reminders, family caregiver notifications, appointment reminders, medication reminders, and more. It also plays your favorite music, news channels, audiobooks, and controls other smart home devices. And the Smartwatch can act as an activity monitor, tracking your steps, heart rate, and activity. Plus, WellBe uses voice recognition and different colored lights to customize reminders and alerts for up to six family members.

With all the perks that make WellBe an innovative device, it does not come with fall detection. It's also a bit more involved to set up since you can't just plug in and go. 

HandsFree Health provides a one-year limited warranty that covers defects in materials and workmanship under normal use. 

Price: $34.95 to $44.95 per month 

Monitoring center: US-based monitoring center

Services: In-home and on-the-go

Equipment: Cellular 

In-home range: Not available 

Activation fee: None

Equipment fee: $199.95 for WellBe Medical Alert PLUS; $179.95 for WellBe Smart Speaker; 99.95 for WellBe Smartwatch

Battery life: 48-hour speaker; 24-hour watch 

Contract required: None

Automatic fall detection: None

Special features: Smartwatch, health notifications, appointment reminders, voice-recognition for up to six family members 

TO BUY: handsfreehealth.com

QMedic

  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Compliance monitoring

QMedic is known for its compliance monitoring feature, which detects if the user is wearing the medical alert device. Another unique feature of this device is a real-time activity monitoring that tracks sleep and activity patterns. The alert system also comes with a caregiver dashboard that provides family and loved ones with device history, movements, wearing compliance, sleep patterns, and more. 

In-home use consists of two systems: landline medical alert and cellular medical alert. The on-the-go GPS medical alert system. The cellular medical alert system comes with a choice between the wrist bracelet or neck pendant. Both help buttons are waterproof and come with a two-year battery life. If you want protection when you leave home, consider the GPS system, which comes with a neck pendant. 

QMedic does not provide fall detection for any of its devices. According to the company, fall detection systems are prone to false alarms. To help monitor health, safety, and wellbeing, the devices track activity, sleep, and wear compliance. 

Price: $300 to $400 annually

Monitoring center: UL and TMA certified 

Services: In-home and on-the-go

Equipment: Landline, cell signal, or 4G network AT&T (In-home cellular and mobile) or Verizon (mobile GPS unit)

In-home range: Up to 1,000 feet 

Activation fee: None

Equipment fee: None

Battery life: 24-hour backup for in-home; 14 days for GPS pendant 

Contract required: None, other than prepaid plan 

Automatic fall detection: Not available 

Special features: Compliance monitoring, custom alerts and reports for caregivers, activity, and sleep patterns

TO BUY: qmedichealth.com or 877-241-2244 

Medical Care Alert

  • 14-day money-back guarantee
  • All operators EMT/EMD certified

Response time is critical during emergencies. With Medical Care Alert, you get quick action and assistance 24/7 from EMT- and EMD-certified operators who understand what to do in a medical emergency. The company offers three types of medical alert systems: Home System, Home and Yard System, and Home and Away System. 

The Home system gives you coverage up to 1,000 feet from the base unit, and it comes with a fall detection option. If you need coverage outdoors, consider the Home and Yard system, which has an extended range. All you need to do is speak directly through the two-way voice pendant. The coverage is equivalent to two football fields. 

For maximum safety when away from home, opt for the Home and Away Ultra System, which provides protection at home and on the go. When away from home, the system uses a Verizon or AT&T wireless cellular plan. Plus, the help button is about the size of a Tic-Tac box. You can wear it on a lanyard around your neck or on your hip with the belt clip. 

Medical Alert Care customers can add devices like a lockbox, wall-mounted button, or extra help buttons to their plans.

Price: $27.45 to $39.95 per month (quarterly, semiannual, or annual plan subscription required)

Monitoring center: EMT/EMD medical alert monitoring center 

Services: In-home and on-the-go

Equipment: Landline or cell signal AT&T cellular

In-home range: 600 to 1,000 feet

Activation fee: None

Equipment fee: None

Battery life: 24- to 72-hour backup 

Contract required: None

Automatic fall detection: $10 per month

Special features: EMT- EDT-certified call center, price lock guarantee, calls or texts to emergency contact upon dispatch, Remote Care app 

TO BUY: medicalcarealert.com or 855-661-3731 

Aloe Care Health

  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Free caregiver app

Aloe Health Care is a newcomer to the medical alert system market. Like its competitors, Aloe Care sells in-home and on-the-go systems, but it's the Caregiver App that has people raving about this new system. 

The Aloe app gives caregivers the freedom to check in remotely through the care hub with real-time updates. Plus, the check-in system allows you to contact a primary caregiver or all of your caregivers, which can help minimize emergency calls and still give you control to check in for non-emergency situations. 

Aloe Care offers three plans: Essentials, Essentials Plus, and Total Care. The Essentials is a basic at-home system that comes with one help button you can wear on your wrist or around your neck. If you need at-home and on-the-go coverage, consider the Essentials Plus. Total Care comes with the same features as the Essentials Plus system along with auto fall detection and two help buttons. Since Aloe Care systems use 4G networks to contact its emergency response teams, it does not require WiFi or a landline.  

Price: $24.99 to $49.99 per month

Monitoring center: TMA Five Diamond Certification 

Services: In-home and on-the-go

Equipment: Landline or cell signal AT&T LTE Network 

In-home range: 200 feet

Activation fee: None

Equipment fee: One-time hardware cost of $149.99 Essentials; $249.99 Essentials Plus; $299.99 Total Care

Battery life: Five days 

Contract required: None

Automatic fall detection: Included in monthly cost for Mobile Companion, Essentials Plus, and Total Care; not available for Essentials plan

Special features: Mobile app, free caregiver app, built-in temperature and air quality sensors 

TO BUY: get.aloecare.com or 888-256-3227  

Philips Lifeline

  • 30-day money-back guarantee 
  • Multilingual response team

Philips Lifeline is one of the first companies to offer a medical alert system. The Philips Response Centers, which are based in the US and Canada, quote an impressive average answer time of 12 seconds. Also, the response center is staffed with multilingual operators that can support more than 200 languages. 

You can choose from the HomeSafe Standard, HomeSafe with AutoAlert, or the GoSafe 2 system. All three systems require an activation fee, with the GoSafe 2 the most expensive. The HomeSafe systems come with a pendant-style button or wristband button. The AutoAlert version has fall detection, which automatically sends a signal to the response center if it detects a fall. You can use a landline or wireless connection for both HomeSafe systems. 

Philips mobile option-the GoSafe 2-provides coverage at home and on the go. Although it's the most expensive system, it's a good option if you leave the house a lot. It comes with AutoAlert fall detection, waterproof help button, and a rechargeable battery that lasts two to three days.

Price: $29.95 to $49.95 per month

Monitoring center: Certification unknown 

Services: In-home and on-the-go

Equipment: Landline or AT&T cellular 

In-home range: 400 to 800 feet 

Activation fee: $50 to $99.95

Equipment fee: One-time device fee of $99.95 GoSafe 2 $49.95 per month

Battery life: 48- to 72-hour single charge for on the go

Contract required: None

Automatic fall detection: Included in monthly price

Special features: Call center staffed with operators who speak multiple languages, fast response time, free caregiving platform 

TO BUY: lifeline.philips.com or 855-332-7799 

Alert1

  • Multilingual response team 
  • Multiple pricing plans

Alert1 medical alert system features multiple plans and pricing options, which gives you the freedom to buy exactly what you need. Subscription plans include monthly or 10-month plans, with the prices for monthly plans ranging from $28.95 to $58.95 or $19.95 to $49.95 if you prepay for 10 months. 

The five product plans and monthly fee include:

  • At-home $19.95/$28.95
  • At-home + fall detection $29.95/$38.95
  • On-the-go $29.95/$38.95
  • On-the-go + fall detection $39.95/$48.95
  • At-home + on-the-go + fall detection $49.95/$58.95

All plans come with a help button you wear around your neck or wrist. Plus, you get a discounted price on a second unit or button to cover another person in your home.

The average response time once you alert the monitoring center is 20 to 45 seconds. Also, the Alert1 operators speak 190 different languages. When you activate the help button, a command center operator will answer and get an interpreter for you so you can speak in your preferred language.  

Price: $28.95 to $58.95 per month (discounted if you pay for several months in advance)

Monitoring center: TMA Five Diamond Certification 

Services: In-home and on-the-go

Equipment: Landline or AT&T or Verizon network 

In-home range: 400 to 600 feet

Activation fee: None

Equipment fee: None

Battery life: 24-hour backup; 30-day battery life

Contract required: None

Automatic fall detection: Included with three systems and $10 additional with two systems 

Special features: Several pricing plans, multilingual operators, discounted price for prepayment, automatic fall detection, two-way voice in pendant 

TO BUY: alert-1.com or 866-581-9506

How we chose the best medical alert systems

In determining our top picks, the criteria we considered most important were the quality and reliability of a company's monitoring center. We did not consider any unmonitored alert systems or systems that fail to provide emergency service 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The gold standard in quality assurance of a medical alert system is a company's designation as one of The Monitoring Association's (TMA) Five Diamond Alert Monitoring Centers. You may see companies refer to this on their website as CSAA Five Diamond Alert Monitoring Centers since TMA was formerly known as Central Station Alarm Association (CSSA).

Of the thousands of alarm companies in operation in the United States, roughly 200 earn TMA's Five Diamond designation, a hallmark of quality emergency service.

You'll also see companies advertise that they are "UL-listed," which is another quality indicator. UL stands for Underwriter's Laboratory, and UL-listed products have been tested by this independent, nationally recognized laboratory and determined to meet specific safety requirements.

After analyzing the quality of a company's call centers, we considered these additional variables:

  • Comfort and wearability of mobile devices
  • In-home range of equipment
  • Water resistance of wearable devices
  • Battery life and recharging requirements
  • Ease of installation and use
  • Cost of installation and monthly service
  • Customer service accessibility and performance
  • Customer satisfaction reviews
  • Expert opinion
  • Special features such as automatic fall detection, smartphone apps for family members, and location tracking 

What is a medical alert system?

A medical alert system is an emergency response device you can wear or place in your home that allows you to contact emergency services or caregivers with the push of a button. Many medical alert devices have a fall detection feature, which automatically calls for help if the user falls.

Such features can be life-savers, as falls are a serious threat to older adults. More than 1 out of 4 older people falls each year, and 1 out of 5 falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones, like a hip fracture or a head injury, according to the CDC. Medical alert systems offer an added layer of protection for older people who live alone or have serious medical conditions but prefer to maintain their independence by staying at home.

"Most older adults want to age in place," says Lakelyn Hogan, PhD, gerontologist and caregiver advocate at Home Instead Senior Care. "Many say they would be heartbroken if they could no longer live at home. But, as time goes on, the same place where we've created a lifetime of memories can naturally become more challenging to navigate."

Liron Sinvani, MD, is director of the geriatrics hospitalist service at Northwell Health and associate professor of medicine at Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell in the New York City area. "Older people are at an increased risk of medical emergencies such as falls," says Dr. Sinvani.

"Medical alert services can help reduce the risk of living alone-increasing independence for older adults and providing peace of mind for their caregivers," says Hogan. "In the event of a fall or medical emergency, an alert system makes help available at the push of a button."

How to choose a medical alert device

There are lots of things to consider when choosing the best medical alert device, and sorting through all the information can feel overwhelming. As you begin your search to find the system that best fits your (or a loved one's) needs, start by asking yourself a few key questions. 

1. Do I need protection at home, on the go, or both?

Most companies offer an at-home and a mobile device, with the possibility of bundling both of these services together. At-home systems can either use a landline or cell service, and they are very easy to install and use. You'll have a base station that plugs into the wall (and a telephone jack if you have a landline) which functions as a speaker. You can press a button on the base station and you'll be automatically connected to a live emergency operator. You'll also have a pendant or button you can wear while you're at home that connects you to an operator immediately when the button is activated. These buttons should be water-resistant for you to wear in the bath or shower, where many emergencies take place. An at-home system is ideal for those who don't leave the house often or aren't able to leave their home alone, since the device only works within a certain radius of the base station. 

For more active folks, a mobile system provides more comprehensive coverage inside and outside the home. Mobile devices use cellular networks and GPS technology to provide emergency access wherever you go. Even if you have a medical emergency and cannot provide your location, the monitoring service can locate you and provide this information to emergency responders. 

2. Do I need automatic fall detection?

Many medical alert companies offer an added feature known as automatic fall detection. Automatic fall detection is a capability built into a wearable medical alert device that can detect when the wearer falls down. The technology uses sensors called accelerometers (these same sensors cause your screen to flip when you turn your smartphone sideways), and these sensors detect your relative location and the speed at which your location changes. If the device senses movement that indicates a fall, your monitoring company will be contacted immediately, even if you never have the chance to press a help button. 

You may remember a popular commercial from the nineties where an elderly woman has fallen and she utters the now-famous line, "Help! I've fallen, and I can't get up." This was an advertisement from the company Life Call, and although many have made light of this commercial, the message is very important. Falls can be devastating to older people, and they are incredibly common. In a worst case scenario in which someone falls and hits their head or has a medical emergency that renders them incapacitated, a fall detection device could save a life. 

Consider fall detection devices if you, or your loved one, are frail and have limited mobility, if you have previously experienced a fall, if you have medical conditions that make it likely to experience a fall such as diabetes, seizures, and low blood pressure when standing. Also, consider the safety of your home and surroundings. Do you have to navigate stairs? Do you have to step into a bathtub or navigate various trip hazards in the home? Are your floors uneven? If you aren't sure whether your home environment meets your needs, consult this home safety checklist for seniors.

Most companies charge an added fee for fall detection, usually around $10 per month. It should be noted, though, that fall detection devices are not fool-proof. It's possible you'll get false alarms that will require you to communicate with the monitoring company, and these devices don't detect 100% of falls. However, medical alert devices with fall detection offer an added layer of security for those at risk of falls and peace of mind knowing that help is available when you need it. 

3. How much does my budget allow for monthly expenses?

Nearly all monitored medical alert systems charge a monthly fee, but most don't require you to purchase equipment. Prices range from $19.99 per month to $49.95 per month for most services. While some companies require a contract, the companies that topped our list do not, so you can cancel your service at any time. When on a fixed income, however, an added monthly expense can be a hardship. Know what you can afford, then find the service that best meets your needs within that budget. 

4. Which device can I commit to using every day?

A wearable medical alert device is only helpful when you actually wear it. What happens when your emergency button is resting on your nightstand while you take a shower, and you experience a fall while in the bathroom? It can't help you. This unfortunate situation happens to many people-they have a device but they weren't wearing it when an emergency occurred. 

Look closely at the size and weight of wearable devices. Determine whether the company offers a risk-free trial period for you to try it out in person before making a commitment. When you do choose a device, commit to wearing it everywhere every day for the best protection. 

There are a few in-home options for those who don't want to wear a device (see GetSafe's voice-activated system), so if you're not going to wear the pendant, choose a different option that you're more likely to use.

The best fall detection medical alert system for seniors

There are a number of companies that offer a reliable fall detection feature. Medical Guardian, MobileHelp, Bay Alarm Medical, Medical Alert, Lifestation, and Lifefone all offer fall detection services at the cost of around $10 per month or less.

When utilizing a fall detection wearable, you'll want to test the device when you receive it to be sure it is sensitive enough to detect a fall, but not overly sensitive to give frequent false alarms. For the best fall detection, it is recommended to wear the device at your waist or around your neck. A fall detection device worn on your wrist isn't as helpful because movement of your arms could produce false alarms. 

In the end, the best fall detection medical alert device is the one you're willing to wear every day, everywhere you go.

The pro tips you need to know

As you're making a final decision about which medical alert device best fits your needs, consider the following:

  • Before you commit, ask for a better price from your company of choice over the phone; you're likely to get a better deal this way.
  • If you're an AARP member, check to see if you can get a discount on your system.
  • If English is not your primary language, be sure to choose an alert system that offers emergency service in the language you're most comfortable speaking.
  • Automatic fall detection is usually going to add to your monthly costs. Most companies on our list charge an additional $10 per month for this service so be sure to factor that into your decision.

Once you've chosen the medical alert system that fits your needs, remember:

  • Let your monitoring company know if you plan to travel, especially if you have a mobile device. Check coverage for the area you plan to visit.
  • Test your system monthly to be sure your equipment is in working order.
  • Be sure you follow the company's guidelines for your device when used in water.

Most importantly, once you have a medical alert system, make a commitment to wear it. 

"Since emergencies such as falls occur when we least expect them, it is important to remember that medical alert systems need to be worn at all times," says Dr. Sinvani. "I have often had patients take off their medical alert device before taking a shower or when going to sleep, and then the device was not helpful." 

With the right medical alert system in place to meet your needs, you and your loved ones will feel a sense of safety and security knowing that help is available anytime you need it.  

Frequently asked questions

How much does a medical alert system cost?

Most medical alert companies offering live 24/7 emergency monitoring charge a monthly fee for service that may range from $19.99 per month to $49.99 per month. Many companies will offer free activation with no extra charges for equipment or additional start-up costs. Some companies may require a contract, but none of our top picks require one. Additional features such as automatic fall detection (usually around $10 per month) can add to your monthly cost. 

Brand Monthly Cost Range

$29.95 - $49.95

600ft (Home)
1,300 ft (Classic)

$19.95 - $44.95

1,400 ft (Classic)
1,300 ft (Wired)

$19.95 - $42.95

up to 800ft

$19.95 - $39.95

1,000ft

$24.95

N/A

Lifestation

$21.95 - $37.95

500ft

LifeFone

$24.95 - $39.95

1,300ft

How do medical alert systems work?

You can choose a medical alert system for your home or a mobile system that you'll take with you wherever you go. Your at-home system can be used with a telephone landline or with cellular service. Both are easy to install and activate. 

Your at-home system consists of a base station that acts as a speaker to connect you with an emergency operator and a wearable button that you can also press for assistance. Some systems also have emergency buttons installed throughout your house and can respond to your voice instead of utilizing a wearable button. 

Your mobile system will use cellular technology to provide coverage wherever there is cell service, usually through AT&T and sometimes Verizon. You'll take a mobile device with you and also have a device to wear (usually around your neck). These mobile devices vary in size and weight, so you'll want to be sure the device is something you're comfortable wearing. A mobile device can track your location with GPS technology, and in the event of an emergency, the operator can provide first responders with your exact location. Several companies offer mobile apps to provide tracking or updates to family members.

What are the most important medical alert system features?

Some important features to consider when choosing a medical alert device include:

  • Live 24/7 emergency monitoring
  • Battery life of at-home and mobile devices
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Range of at-home system
  • Fall detection capability and cost
  • GPS tracking capability and cost
  • Water resistance of wearable devices
  • Monthly fees, activation fees, and equipment costs
  • Contract requirements
  • Multiple languages available
  • Network providers for cellular service

What is the best medical alert system for seniors?

There are many reputable companies that provide an excellent medical alert product and monitoring service. The best medical alert systems provide live 24/7 emergency monitoring, quick and reliable response times, and excellent customer service. Look for the TMA Five Diamond Certification and UL-listed designations, which are a hallmark of quality for the product and service. 

What type of phone service do I need?

For at-home medical alerts, you can use a landline if you already have one or connect through a cellular service. If you use cellular service, you won't need to obtain your own line; it's included along with the medical alert system. Most companies utilize AT&T wireless services, but some also use Verizon cellular service. 

How difficult is it to install and set up a medical alert device?

Installation is very simple. For most devices, it's as easy as plugging in the device according to the user manual and placing a call to customer service to complete activation.

Are medical alert systems a good idea for seniors with memory impairment?

Medical alert systems are an excellent way for family and friends to provide care for an older adult who is suffering from memory loss. Since at-home devices only work within a 500-1,000 ft radius from the base station, you may want to consider a mobile system for those with memory problems who are still active, in case they wander away from home. 

People with memory impairment may need a caregiver to ensure they are wearing their device at all times, since they may not remember this from day to day. They may also need assistance in remembering to charge their device. With many mobile devices, family members or caregivers can track and locate their loved one at any time. If your loved one is easily frightened or anxious due to their memory loss, having a wearable device that can easily connect them with family or loved ones may be an added benefit. 

Who should consider a medical alert system?

A medical alert system is beneficial for older adults who live alone, have experienced falls or are at risk for a fall, or have certain medical conditions. If you have conditions such as Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis that affect your mobility, diabetes where low blood sugar could cause you to lose consciousness, seizures, heart disease, heart failure, vertigo, dizziness, low blood pressure when standing, dementia or Alzheimer's disease, a medical alert system could provide an extra layer of protection in your home and on the go. 

Do you recommend Life Alert medical alert systems?

Life Alert is one of the most recognizable names among medical alert systems. The company uses as its tagline the well-known phrase from popular commercials of the late 1980s and early 1990s that says, "Help, I've fallen and can't get up." The phrase has made the company so popular that many people use the term "life alert" when referring to medical alert systems. 

Since Life Alert is a well-known name, you may wonder why the company didn't make our list of best medical alert systems. Life Alert utilizes a live 24/7 emergency monitoring service that earns TMA Five Diamond Certification and offers reliable service with dependable equipment. However, there are some significant downsides which prevent us from recommending this service. 

Our top picks for a medical alert system don't lock you into a contract, they have low or no start-up costs, and they cost between $19.95 and $49.99 per month. Life Alert requires a 3-year contract for service, charges installation and activation fees between $100 and $300, and costs upwards of $70 per month. Many customers also complain the company increases the monthly price without notice, and customers must pay when locked into a long-term contract. Despite charging the highest prices for its product, Life Alert doesn't offer automatic fall detection. 

For these reasons coupled with a catalogue of negative customer reviews and complaints, we do not consider Life Alert to be one of the best medical alert systems. 

Does AARP recommend a medical alert system?

AARP recommends that seniors use a medical alert system to help them remain independent and living in their own home, but it doesn't recommend a particular brand over another. However, AARP members enjoy discounts on GreatCall and Phillips Lifeline medical alert systems. 

Does Medicare pay for medical alert systems?

Unfortunately, neither Medicare Part A or Part B (Original Medicare) pays for a medical alert system. However, some Part C plans, also known as Medicare Advantage plans, may offer this benefit. Since Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies, your benefits may vary depending on the plan you've chosen. Check with your insurance provider to determine whether it offers coverage for medical alert devices. 

Will my insurance pay for a medical alert system?

Original Medicare does not cover medical alert systems (see above), but if you have a Medicare Advantage plan you may be able to get reimbursement for the service. Some insurance companies require that you prove medical necessity, and you'd need verification from your doctor of a diagnosis that requires such assistance. Contact your plan for coverage details. 

Are medical alert systems expensive?

The best medical alert systems offer 24/7 live monitored emergency service at a reasonable price, ranging from $19.99 to $49.95 a month. While some companies charge higher monthly fees, expect you to pay an equipment fee or other start-up costs, or require you to sign a long-term contract, you can certainly find a company for a reasonable price with no extra activation fees and no contract. 

Are there medical alert systems without monthly fees?

You may have noticed that each of our "best picks" require the customer to pay a monthly charge for service, and you may wonder whether you can find a medical alert system that doesn't require you to pay each month. There are a few medical alert systems you can buy online or from big-box retailers that don't require monthly fees, but be sure you know the difference in the services you receive. 

All of the medical alert systems we have outlined in this article offer live, 24/7 emergency monitoring services. Whenever your emergency button is activated, you get a trained operator on the line to assess your needs. This operator can call your family if needed, call 9-1-1, and stay on the line with you until help arrives. Unmonitored services may utilize similar equipment, but they will only call 9-1-1 or pre-programmed phone numbers. These devices generally do not offer a fall detection feature, either. You will likely be required to purchase the equipment on your own, and you would be responsible for maintenance and proper functioning of the system. 

What is a medical alert necklace?

Medical alert necklaces are durable necklaces that communicate your critical health information when you cannot speak for yourself. If you invest in a medical alert system, experts recommend that you also purchase a medical alert necklace to ensure first responders are aware of any health issues that may complicate your treatment.

Dr. Courtney Schmidt is a clinical consultant pharmacist and health and wellness writer. Since completing her Pharm.D. at the University of Florida, Dr. Schmidt has worked in multiple clinical settings and has served as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Central Florida.