Medical Alert Devices

With an increasingly ageing population, society is faced with the need to address how best to deal with the needs of the elderly. It is generally accepted that the best thing for all is to keep elderly people out of hospital and in their own homes if at all possible.

Everyone wants to maintain their independence but at the same time be safe. It can be a worrying time for a relative knowing that an elderly relative is living alone with age-related medical issues.

We have all heard horror stories of elderly people falling in their own homes and being left overnight or longer before emergency services are called.

Medical alert services and devices give elderly people the freedom to live independently whilst feeling safe that help is quickly on hand when they request assistance by simply pressing a panic button. These devices vary and it is best to consider the individual’s mobility and health issues before going ahead and purchasing a system.

To begin deciding which device is most suitable, an evaluation of the individual’s current and future needs is best. For example, a person who has had a stroke may not be able to communicate and a person with dementia may lose the ability to understand how to operate some systems over time.

Free trials may be available with some services that you can try out to see if the individual is happy and able to use the system effectively.

What Are Medical Alert Devices Exactly?

A medical alert system generally consists of a base unit and either a bracelet or pendant. It is sometimes referred to as a personal emergency response system (PERS) or a medical emergency response system (MERS).

When the wearer needs help, they simply press the button on their pendant or bracelet. This distress call is then sent wirelessly to the base unit and a monitoring center will then answer. The user can then communicate their emergency if possible to the help center through sensitive microphones and loud speakers.

It is imperative that wireless signal is reliable as otherwise the wireless distress signal may not reach the base unit and help will not arrive.

How To Choose Medical Alert Devices

First of all, it is important to recognize that a medical alert system is NOT the solution for everyone. When deciding on getting a system put in to place for a loved one, you must take advice from the health professionals dealing with your relatives’ medical needs.

In some circumstances, such as severe dementia, sadly the home may no longer be a safe environment. There comes a time that some elderly people need 24-hour care provided in nursing homes.

However, if health professionals agree that living independently at home with the addition of an alert system is the best option for a relative, then there are lots of things you need to consider.

The choice of devices varies greatly from a basic device that will alert an emergency response team at the touch of a button to more advanced devices that include a host of features, such as movement sensors, fall detection, well-being monitors, and even fitness trackers!

Things To Consider

Contract & Fees

A consideration to bear in mind when deciding on a system is the contract and fees associated with the service. Many of the actual devices are exactly the same from service to service and are manufactured by the same people. In addition to which, most services outsource the monitoring centers rather than having their own centres. Thus, the only difference from one provider to the next may be the terms and conditions as well as the price.

Some services will offer cheaper deals for services paid for longer periods of time such as annually or bi-annually. You may also want to look into terms and conditions such as ease of cancellation. Unfortunately, with aging, any further deterioration in health may mean that the individual is no longer able to stay at home and cancellation and refund policies should be a consideration.

Also, some policies may incur fees if a certain number of false alarms are received by the monitoring centre. It is, therefore, best to check out the fine print before you sign up. While most providers offer ethical cancellation policies, it is best to review the terms before you sign up. The last thing you need at an upsetting time due to bereavement or a parent’s declining health is to deal with an aggressive company.

What Type of Device Is Best?

One of the key things to consider when getting a device is that if your elderly relative is not wearing the device then it is essentially useless! Devices are essentially either bracelets that look like a watch or a pendant worn around the neck. It might be that a male relative may not want to wear a pendant or a wristband may be painful for fragile skin.

Another consideration is if the individual is able to easily remove the device or if it is best the device stays on at all times. If the individual is likely to find removing the device difficult or simply forget to replace it, then a waterproof device should be what you are looking for.

In any eventuality, a waterproof device is a good choice. With one in three of all people over 65 years of age experiencing a fall every year, the bathroom is one of the most dangerous places in the home—and not just for the elderly! It makes sense to have help on hand when bathing and showering.


Plenty of elderly people are still very active but enjoy the peace of mind that a device brings. They may still enjoy gardening or doing DIY in the shed so check the range of the signal to ensure that the person is covered at all times whilst being able to stay active and enjoy pastimes.

Battery Life

Depending on your relative’s competence and frequency of visitors, battery life should be a consideration. With some devices having a battery life of up to 90 hours, you can be assured that your loved one has a working device for days. If, however, your relative has daily checks, this is a less important factor.

Other Considerations

Multi-Person Medical Monitoring

If you have two elderly parents still living at home check out services that will cover two people for a small additional cost.

Check-In Service

The better service providers will provide a check-in service which is a check that the company makes regularly often for no additional cost. The caller will make a check on the individual and check that the system is fully operational.

Fall Detection Add-On

This is a life-saving feature and should definitely be a consideration if your relative has limited mobility and has had previous falls. Often with a fall, the person loses consciousness and is therefore incapable of summoning help. There are pendants on the market for a small additional monthly cost that are designed to detect such common emergencies and inevitably save lives.

Evaluating the Monitoring Center

As mentioned previously, many service providers outsource rather than having their own monitoring center. It is a good idea to test out a typical response time for an emergency.  It is recommended that the time it takes for the call to be answered is less than one minute. Any longer than this, then look elsewhere to find a service that will provide an immediate potentially life-saving response that your loved one deserves.

Tried & Tested

Bearing in mind all of the considerations we have discussed, we have taken a look at some of the services on the market. Here are some of our top picks and what we like:

LifeFone At Home and On-The-Go With Fall Detection

LifeFone offers an On-The-Go or At-Home service both with Fall Detection. This means that more active seniors can get help whilst out and about for any eventuality. We love this On-The-Go GPS tracking feature for more active users. Other great features include:

  • Fall Detection – with many companies, you will pay extra for what we think is a really valuable feature.
  • No Contract – you can cancel at any point, just pay monthly.
  • No Start-Up Fees – no initial fee to sign up.
  • Long Range – reception up to 1500 km away.
  • Full Refund – any unused prepaid service will be fully refunded in unfortunate circumstances, unlike other providers that may require payment.

On the downside, while the GPS feature makes the device fully mobile, there is just 300–600-foot reception from the base unit.

ADT On-The-Go Medical Alert Plus

We think ADT On-The-Go Medical Alert Plus is also a good choice. There are three different monitoring systems to choose from and the middle tier is the option we like. It won’t cover users out and about but it is a good quality at-home medical alert device. It has a feature called FOREVERate™, which means that, once you have signed up, it is guaranteed that the monthly fee will never change. Other features include:

  • No fees – pay monthly.
  • Temperature Sensing to detect fire and freezing conditions.
  • Fall Detection Pendant available for just $14.99.
  • 24/7 Monitoring.

The device does not have GPS monitoring, though, and you need to be within 600 feet of the base.

Mobile Help Duo

The Mobile Help Duo is a top pick and it is a good price. It includes at-home as well as mobile monitoring. You can also get an alert sent to a family member in the event that a call for help is made. Other great features include:

  • Extra Wearables – you can get two pendants or bracelets.
  • No contracts – stop the service whenever you like.
  • Promotions that include no fees.
  • Savings when paid annually.

Fall detection is, however, an additional fee and when a promotion is not running you will need to pay an activation fee.

Medical Guardian

Medical Guardian is a specialist in providing medical alert systems. The device is water-resistant and you can get additional pendants for extra users without paying an add-on fee making it a great choice for elderly couples. Features available with this service include:

  • Long Range – one of the longest ranges on the market.
  • No fees – pay monthly.
  • No contracts – cancellation is free.
  • Annual savings available.

Unfortunately, this device does not have the facility to talk to an operator through the pendant but you can speak to a representative through the base unit.

Medical alert systems are a great way for people to maintain their independence and stay in their own homes whilst remaining safe. If you are caring for an elderly relative then these devices bring safety and peace of mind. We hope you found this guide helpful.

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