Need help picking a medical alert? This page walks you through three crucial steps you must take to purchase the right medical alert system.
Most sites about medical alerts are so focused on getting you to click through to a system that gives them a commission that they don’t want to educate you on your purchase. As one visitor to this site has told me after visiting other sites, “I’m trying to decide and my head is spinning.”
I hope this page helps, regardless of your final decision.
The three steps:
- Decide who you’re going to notify in an emergency
- Decide what range (real conversation range) you need
- Compare prices.
Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find recommended systems.
Step 1: Pick who you want to call
You can find no-fee systems that
- Just call 911
- Call friends & family (you program the numbers) or
- Call friends & family plus 911
And monitored systems that
- Dial a professionally-staffed monitoring center
On the no-fee side, there’s a case to be made for having a medical alert that just dials 911. This is certainly the most affordable option, with lower equipment costs and no ongoing fees.
But what if you’re not sure how bad your emergency is is and you don’t activate the system because you’re nervous about making a big fuss out of nothing? This could have a bad outcome. Also, 911 operators are trained to send help, but they won’t know how to contact family members or other people you rely on in an emergency.
The units that dial friends and family are appealing to some people. This keeps your emergency “all in the family.” If most of your calls are the kind that can be handled by having a neighbor come over to help you up from the floor, then this might work out for you. But in a situation where seconds count, as in a stroke or heart attack, I would rather have a professional on my side.
See below for recommended no-fee systems
Professional medical alarm monitoring is the way most people go when they get a medical alert. When you have an emergency your call goes to someone whose only job is to respond. They know who you are and have key medical and personal information in their computers so they can respond appropriately. If all you need is a neighbor to check on you, they can call the neighbor while you stay on the line. If you’re having a medical emergency, they’ll activate 911 and also have a co-worker notify your list of family contacts. This kind of service is usually about $1 a day, and I think it’s the best for most people.
Step 2: Pick your range
Your three choices are
- limited range
- virtually unlimited range in your house and garden or
- coverage anywhere you can get a cell signal.
By limited range, I’m referring to the “base station speakerphone” units you usually see advertised on TV. This is a tried and true technology, but it has its drawbacks. Chiefly, although you activate the unit with the wearable panic button, you have to talk with the monitoring center through the base station’s speakerphone. If you’re far from the speakerphone, this becomes an exercise in shouting. Or if you’re behind a door with the water running, you might not be able to communicate at all. Now, it’s true that the monitoring company will send help if you activate the system and they can’t hear you, but this might not be an ideal situation for various reasons.
Note: there are also “no-fee” alerts built on the speakerphone model. I don’t think this is a viable solution because if an untrained person gets a call and can’t hear you, they might not respond the way you need them to.
By unlimited range in your house and garden I’m thinking of a unit like the MediPendant that allows you to have a “regular voice” conversation anywhere within 600 feet of the base station. The MediPendant has a small speakerphone integrated right into the pendant you carry around. This means you don’t have to feel trapped in your living room. If you have chores to do or garbage to carry out, you can do it confidently knowing that you can still call for help and be able to explain your problem to the monitoring staff.
Cellular alerts work anywhere you can get a cell signal. If you’re active enough to want this kind of help, a cellular alert is probably right for you. Be aware that the batteries in these kinds of alerts need recharging frequently (just like a cell phone), so it’ll probably be on the charger each night. This isn’t good news if you have a fall on the way to the bathroom in the night. The other thing to keep in mind is that when you’re out and about there are usually people around who will see that you’re in trouble and help you. Or you’ll be carrying your cell phone and can call for help yourself.
Step 3: Pick your budget
I put this last because, honestly, I don’t think your decision should be made on budget alone. Even the cost of a rip-off monitored alert (some companies charge as much as $49 for the same service you can get for $20) is much cheaper than the cost of a single hospital admission that could have been avoided by quicker response.
My favorite medical alert, the MediPendant, comes in at about $30.00 per month, which is about the same as the price for many units that don’t give you anything near the same effective range.
You can save money with a unit from Bay Alarm Medical, but only if your house is set up for this to be an effective choice.
Finally, cellular alerts have pricing that’s all over the map. I’ve seen what look like barely functional units with pricing over $40 a month. But there’s a top-notch unit on the market for about $15 a month.
What follows are my opinions about good systems. There are many others to pick from, but many of them are indistinguishable from each other except by the amount of money they spend on advertising and the color schemes on their websites.
My top system:
The MediPendant by Medical Alarm Concepts. I like it first because it’s a monitored alert with talk-through-the-pendant functionality, which means that it provides great protection throughout your house (even in the shower) and also protects you when you’re in the yard or other areas within 600 feet. But more than that, the company has really thought through the needs of its customers. They’ve got a completely no-pressure sales process. They replace the batteries in the pendant free of charge for as long as you own the unit (and the batteries last over a year in normal use). Plus they not only don’t hold you to a contract, but they’ll refund any unused portion of your payment if you choose the annual plan and then have to cancel before the year is up.
Standard Monitored Alert (speakerphone):
If you want a standard speakerphone medical alert you’ve got a lot of choices, and the different companies are basically indistinguishable from each other.
I like Bay Alarm Medical for a couple of reasons. First, their pricing is great. Also, they have multilingual responders and can respond to emergencies in up to 170 languages (details on their website). They are top rated by “TopTenReviews” and have a stellar rating on ConsumerAffairs.com
My pick here is the Splash by GreatCall. This is a small GPS transponder with an integrated speakerphone. It’s got just one button. You press it to call the monitoring center or press and hold for 5 seconds to be connected directly to the 911 operator. You can use it for medical emergencies or just when you need a helpful voice on the other end of the phone. A key advantage is that the monitoring center knows where you are when you press the button, so if you can’t speak they can still send help to your location.
As mentioned above, I think monitored alerts have advantages over no-fee alerts, but there are certainly cases where a no-fee alert is a good idea. Your two best options are the LogicMark Guardian Alert 911, which just calls 911, and the LogicMark Freedom Alert, which dials a pre-programmed list of your friends & family and/or 911.
Do you have more questions or concerns? This website is full of detailed information about buying the right medical alert. Or you can leave a comment below. I always respond.