Standard speakerphone medical alerts are the classic systems you’ve probably seen advertised on TV and in magazines.
(Links to reviews are at the bottom of this page.)
Classic systems consist of two parts.
The first is a base station that connects to a monitoring center in case of emergency. This can be through your land-line or through a dedicated cellular connection.
The second part is a wrist button or neck pendant that acts as your panic button. When you press this button, the base station calls the monitoring center.
When the monitoring center answers the call, you talk to them through the speakerphone in the base station.
As discussed on my main page explaining how to buy a medical alert, these systems are best for homebound people.
Monitored systems have advantages over non-monitored (“no fee”) medical alerts in that you get a trained professional on the other end, and they can send the right kind of help to you, whether that is an ambulance or simply your neighbor (to help you back into your chair, for example).
Simple operation. All you have to do in an emergency is remember to press the button.
Not bulky. The wrist pendant is lighter than a watch. You can keep it on all the time. The pendant is almost weightless; it won’t get in your way.
Batteries don’t need recharging. The battery in the panic button lasts for years, and it will notify the monitoring center if it runs down. You don’t have to think about keeping it charged.
Durable. The wrist button or pendant is durable plastic, with very little inside that can break. The base station contains the more complicated electronics.
Limited communications range. In an emergency you are limited in your ability to talk to the monitoring center by the range of the speakerphone. Although the system is loud and the microphone is powerful, if you are far away or there is a lot of other noise, communication is tough or impossible.
Ugly. Sorry, but most of these systems are ugly. There is no attempt to make them fashionable or attractive. This matters, because any system only works if you have it available. Everybody cares what they look like, so the risk with an ugly system is that the person will put it down out of embarrassment and not pick it up again.
Watch out for
Long term contracts. There are dozens of companies selling these units without a long term monitoring contract. There is no reason to sign a three year contract.
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.
Standard Speakerphone Medical Alert Systems