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Also known as personal emergency response systems (PERS), medical alert devices make sure that help can get to you when you need it.

Most medical alert systems are designed to be worn at all times. They may take the form of a pendant that you keep around your neck or resemble a bracelet or watch that you keep on your wrist.

The defining feature of any medical alert system is a button that you press that immediately connects you with medical help or an emergency contact person.

Healthcare professionals believe that medical alert systems reduce hospital admissions and prolong the ability of people who have them to live independent lives.

The greatest benefit of these systems is the peace of mind they can provide to other family members and loved ones.

With so many types of medical alert systems to choose from, it can be hard to shop for one that meets your needs. We put together a list of some of the best out there, along with some tips on how to find your perfect match.

When choosing a medical alert system, prioritize the features you need while keeping your budget in mind. Features to think about include:

  • Waterproof. Shower falls are one of the most common causes of emergency visits for older adults. A medical alert system that can go with you in the shower is a lot more practical than one that can’t.
  • Battery life. Some medical alert systems require daily charging, a task that can be easy to forget. Your system is no good to you with a dead battery, so keep this in mind.
  • Contract. Most, but not all, medical alert systems require a monthly contract. This contract covers the cost of connecting you to an emergency dispatch center. If that’s not in your budget, there are some contract-free options.
  • Automatic fall detection. If you’re unconscious as the result of a fall, you won’t be able to trigger the emergency alert of any medical system. Many medical alert systems now offer automatic fall detection that will dispatch emergency help without any button needed.

Best medical alert system with landline access

Philips Lifeline HomeSafe Standard

Price: $29.95 per month, plus a one-time activation fee of $50

The Philips brand has been in the medical alert business for 40 years. This unit comes with pendant or wristband options, so you can choose what you prefer to wear.

Automatic fall detection is included. If there’s a medical emergency that triggers the system, Philips operators will reach out to your contacts on file as well as a medical provider, if you so choose.

Its app can help you share information and plan care with your contacts.

Some customers find that the self-installation options aren’t as intuitive as they’d like, so you might want to spring for the technical setup at checkout.

You don’t need to remember to recharge the battery, but you will need to replace it eventually.

Note that this device requires a landline phone. There’s also a cellphone version of this device.

Best medical alert system for in the garden

Medical Care Alert Home and Yard

Price: $104.85 quarterly, $209.70 semi-annually, or $384.45 per year; no setup fee

This system is designed to go outdoors with you. It keeps help within reach even two football fields away from your home.

What’s different is the two-way communication system (think of a short-wave radio) that allows you to speak directly into a speaker if you need to call for assistance. The wearable device can be worn on a lanyard, carried in your pocket, or attached to your wrist via a Velcro strap. It’s also waterproof.

This device requires a landline. You can hook it up to your landline phone so that you can answer your calls from anywhere in your home or yard.

There’s also a 14-day trial to decide whether you want to keep the device. Automatic fall detection is not included but can be added for an additional $10 a month.

Most modern-looking design

Aloe Care Health Essentials Plus System

Price: $39.99 per month, plus a one-time hardware cost of $299.99

This system from Aloe Care Health is meant to be unobtrusive and easy to use. The wearable wrist device and pendant come with 4G technology, so you don’t have to worry about Wi-Fi or a landline.

The devices are designed to not have a “medical” look to them and may be easier on the eyes for some people.

The device connects with the Aloe Care app, which is available for Apple and Android.

The Aloe Care Smart Hub can connect you to medical assistance or family members, depending on what you need. Automatic fall protection is included, and there’s even a motion-activated nightlight.

Aloe Care devices have more expensive startup costs than others we saw, and you still need to pay for it every month. To get automatic fall protection, you have to get the Aloe Care Essentials Plus package or higher, which costs slightly more per month.

The system comes with a 30-day trial.

Easiest to use without a landline

Bay Alarm Medical In-HomeCellular System

Price: $29.95 per month; no activation or hardware fee

The Bay Alarm Medical Alert System features four additional “Help” buttons you can place around your living space, which makes it ideal for multilevel homes.

It’s equipped with 4G, so you don’t need a landline to use it. You can choose to wear your device as a wristband or a pendant. There’s a free app and no contract. Automatic fall protection is included, and the device is water resistant.

Bay Alarm is one of the more affordable options that include automatic fall detection. The battery is designed to last for up to 5 years, with no charging required.

Bay Alarm offers a 30-day trial to decide whether this is the system for you.

Best 2-for-1 medical alert system

MobileHelp Duo

Price: $44.95 per month; quarterly, semi-annual, and annual plans also available; no activation fee

Not everyone who needs a personal alert device lives alone. If you’re looking for protection that covers two people in one space, this alert system may fit the bill.

It comes with two GPS-enabled personal alert devices. It’s waterproof and doesn’t require a landline.

It does cost more per month than most other medical alert systems, and that’s without automatic fall detection monitoring, which costs extra. There’s also no guarantee that the cost of the service won’t go up in the future.

You can try the device for 30 days to see whether it’s worth it for you.

Simplest mobile medical alert system

One Call Alert Mobile On-the-Go

Price: $37.95 per month; no activation fee

This no-frills, GPS-enabled system comes with a wearable help button that you can wear on your wrist or as a pendant. It doesn’t require a landline. It’s enabled with a two-way voice system that lets you speak with someone right away if you need help.

This device is also water resistant. The on-the-go product is meant to work even when you’re not at home.

Fall detection is not included but can be added for an additional monthly fee. Pricing options for plans range from payments every month, quarterly (every 3 months), semiannually (every 6 months), or annually.

One Call Alert is also one of the more readily available medical alert systems you can get. It’s available at many physical stores like Walmart, CVS, and Rite Aid.

Best medical alert system for the price

ADT Medical Alert Plus

Price: $35.99 per month; no activation fee

This is ADT’s “no landline required” option. The pendants are waterproof, and for an additional fee, you can add a waterproof wall mount button that’s ideal for the shower.

ADT also locks you in at the contract rate when you purchase, so you don’t have to worry about the monthly cost going up later.

You can pay for monthly, quarterly, or up to a year of the monitoring subscription for this ADT system. Prices start at $35.99 a month, with some savings when you purchase 3 months or a year of coverage.

The Plus package guarantees 600 feet of range from the wearable pendant or bracelet. You can buy additional pendants or wristbands for around $15 each if you’re interested in switching back and forth between the wearable options.

Fall protection is available for $10 more per month.

Most affordable fall protection

LifeStation At Home

Price: $22.95 to $32.95 per month; no activation fee

The lightweight, waterproof LifeStation emergency button can work as a pendant or a bracelet (though it does appear to be mostly designed as a necklace).

LifeStation emergency support staff stays on the phone with users while dispatching help, offering comfort until assistance arrives. Installation is simple and do-it-yourself.

It’s one of the least expensive medical alert systems on the market, with many of the same features as pricier counterparts.

You do need a landline to use this system. If you don’t have a landline, LifeStation does offer other options that cost a bit more per month.

Fall detection costs extra. You might also want to consider the “Find My Loved One” add-on. It’s available with LifeStation’s GPS-enabled systems and allows contacts to track people who are at risk of getting disoriented.

Best non-wearable medical alert device

GetSafe Standard

Price: $24.95 per month, plus $79 to $229 for equipment

ADT’s GetSafe system doesn’t require a landline and operates off of 4G. The system is meant to function without the need for a wearable device, but it still comes with a lightweight wearable button just in case that’s what you’d prefer.

The Standard package, which the company suggests for homes of two or three bedrooms, comes with two voice-activated wall buttons that you can use to call for emergency help.

The monthly monitoring fee is on the lower end of what’s available, but you’ve got to pay upfront to buy the equipment that comes with the system.

Automatic fall detection is not a feature of this setup. So placement of each button will be important so that they activate by voice or touch.

You can try the system out 30 days and return it if you’re no longer interested.

How do medical alert systems work?

Every medical alert system has three major parts. How the components function varies according to the company:

  • Electronic hardware and medical device. This typically consists of an emergency response button mounted on a wearable device. It’s meant to be within arm’s reach at all times. There may also be mobile or installed sensors and an electronic console that allows you to call for assistance as you would with a landline phone.
  • An emergency response center. This center may be managed by the system’s manufacturer, or it may be outsourced.
  • Dispatch of emergency assistance. This is the component that connects emergency help (like sending an ambulance) to the person who needs it.

Other considerations and important differences for medical alert devices involve what type of device it is and the position or location it can be used. This might involve a sensor device worn on the wrist, neck, or arm, or a device placed in the room or around the home.

Who should consider a medical alert system?

The following groups may benefit the most from medical alert systems:

How much do medical alert systems cost?

Medical alert systems vary in cost. Pricing structures resemble a cellphone contract, where long-term contract commitments can sometimes mean no startup cost for equipment.

The low end is around $25 per month with no startup fees. Higher-end services that include automatic fall detection and app monitoring can be close to $50 per month.

Does insurance cover medical alert systems?

Some insurance plans cover some medical alert systems, but it’s not a standard offering.

You may have to get in touch with your provider and ask them over the phone if they offer any coverage for medical alert systems.

Plans where “long-term care” is included are more likely to provide some type of coverage for this particular need.

Does Medicare cover medical alert systems?

Original Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of a medical monitoring system.

If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you might have some coverage.

Medical alert systems aren’t the only way to keep track of a loved one who is at risk of falls and other medical emergencies.

Smartphones, accessories, and smart wearables

Any cellphone with a wearable option may serve your needs in terms of keeping in touch with an at-risk friend or family member. Apple Watches (Series 4 and later) even have a fall detection option and may be used as a medical monitoring device of sorts.

Home monitors and cameras

Home security or surveillance systems that have a remote video monitor option may also serve to give you peace of mind. Some of these connect to phone apps and can be used independently or integrated if you already have a smart home setup.

You may also want to consider a simple “fall detection” button as opposed to investing in an entire medical monitoring system.

Medical alert systems are designed to facilitate independent living while giving your loved ones peace of mind.

You should know the features that you’re looking for (like fall protection, mobile capability, and whether you have a landline) before you start shopping.