Home and away medical alerts are medical alerts that have two separate systems, one to provide coverage at home and another to provide the benefits of a mobile medical alert.
(Links to reviews are at the bottom of this page.)
Here’s how these systems work.
At home you use a system that has a wrist or pendant panic button. This button activates a base station that calls the monitoring center.
When you’re on the go, you grab the mobile unit and carry it with you. It also works inside the house, but it’s bulkier than the basic panic button. The mobile unit has a cellular unit inside it and a speakerphone, and often has GPS.
The mobile units vary in size, but are generally around the size of a pack of cards. Because they are meant to be used only on the go, not 24/7, they aren’t always as small or sophisticated as units meant for 24/7 mobile use.
In an emergency in your house, you press your panic button. It activates the base station, which calls the monitoring center. If you’re far away from the base station, you might have trouble communicating.
If you’re away from home, you press the button on the mobile unit. It dials the monitoring center through the built-in cell phone. If you have a unit with GPS, it gets its location and sends that data along, too. When the monitoring center answers the call, you talk to them through the speakerphone in the unit. Just as if you were using a regular cell phone in speakerphone mode.
Protection everywhere. The hybrid home and away system protects you everywhere you go. At home you always have the panic button on. And as long as you carry it the mobile unit and it’s charged, you’re protected in the yard, or on your trip to town.
Set-it-and-forget-it protection at home. Statistically, most accidents and falls happen at home, so these systems provide easy coverage at home, as long as you never take off and forget the panic button. This is an advantage over regular mobile systems that require you to remember to keep the unit charged and carry it all the time.
Protection in the yard. As compared to a standard speakerphone model, you get a lot more protection in the yard, garage, or other place far from your speakerphone location, as long as you carry the mobile unit.
GPS. Units with GPS can share your approximate location even if you can’t talk.
Limited battery life. While the battery in the at home panic button lasts year, the battery life of the mobile medical alarm is limited. Expect 24-36 hours between charges. This means you need to remember to charge it every night, or leave it on the charger except when you go out.
Bulky. The mobile units are a lot bulkier than the lightweight wrist or pendant panic buttons. But you’re only carrying it when you’re away from home.
Watch out for
Incomplete systems. As I mentioned in my ultimate guide to finding the right medical alert for your situation, there’s an important “gotcha” you have to watch out for. Some companies are selling just part of the system, and it creates a vulnerability. They don’t include the big base station, but instead rely on the mobile communicator to act as the base station and speakerphone. The theory is that you will leave it in the charger in a central location, and when you activate the panic button it will connect wirelessly to the monitoring center. But the big flaw is that if you forget to put the mobile unit on the charger after you come back from a trip, you’ll have ZERO coverage once the battery runs out. And worse, you won’t know that you’re not covered until too late.
Long term contracts. I actually don’t know of any companies selling home and away systems with a multi-year contract, but you still want to watch out for this.
Bad return policies. Some companies offer very good monthly rates, but the trade-off is that if you pre-pay to get those good rates and then cancel, you lose any unused pre-paid months. If you’re saving $5 a month by prepaying for a full year but might lose $200 if you have to cancel three months in, that might not be worth the risk (but it’s up to you). Other companies offer good rates and also refund unused pre-paid months.
Initial purchase term. Some companies have a 30-day money back guarantee. Others require an initial 3-month commitment.
Emergencies only or concierge service. Companies vary as to whether they expect the system to be used for emergencies only or if they welcome non-emergency calls as well. I don’t include this in the reviews, but it’s worth asking about if it’s important to you.
About the ratings
Systems are grouped by “star rating” but are not in any particular order within each star grouping.
Reviews were deemed accurate at the time I wrote them, but things may have changed in the meantime. Please verify information for yourself.
Home and Away Medical Alert Systems