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Medical Alert System Options

A crucial service that can not only provide peace of mind but potentially save someone’s life are home medical alert systems. 

Medical alert systems are an umbrella term to describe a number of in-home and personal devices that both monitor how a user is doing and enable them to call for help if they need it. With constant advancements in modern technology, there are different options that can be catered to a homeowners’ needs. 

The devices can be selected based on priorities, concerns and personal health. For instance, some medical alert systems include fall-censors, some require communication with a call center while others do not. 

As noted by AARP, medical alert systems are an integral element in any home with seniors or anyone who may need a fast acting system for medical emergencies, not only because of their added security but for the independence they provide. 

Installing a medical alert system can help anyone who lives alone and may need to call for help if a health related issue arises or an accident occurs. Medical alert systems, which range in necessary equipment depending on the individual can help reassure loved ones that living independently remains a safe and viable option for those who desire to do so. 

How Do Medical Alert Systems Work

Medical alert systems range in performance and abilities based on the model and purpose prioritized by a homeowner or their loved ones.

Bracelets and pendants 

The most basic medical alert system consists of a wearable signaling device, such as a bracelet or pendant, that has a button the wearer triggers in an emergency situation. The device sends a signal to a base station in your home, a portable cellular base unit, or an in-vehicle system depending on which system you choose.

When activated, the base unit or console connects to a monitoring center that is staffed day and night with local medical professionals. Help can be dispatched as necessary and ambulances can be on their way to your home in minutes.

Speakers and microphones

Some base units also include speakers and microphones to allow two-way communication. Call center operators can summon first responders or designated family members to your residence as well as stay in touch with you until help arrives.

Additional helpful features

Medical alert devices vary from location data technology equipped with GPS accessibility to live monitoring systems. There is also voice-activated, text, and push button enabled medical alert systems.

One popular feature is the fall button, typically available as a wearable device to help in case of a medical emergency involving a fall, the system will recognize a fall instantly and ask the person if assistance is needed, if there is no reply they will automatically send for help. 

medical alert systems

Medical Alert Bracelets

Wearable medical alert bracelet devices provide on-the-go protection 24/7, including fall detection sensors and GPS data in case the person wearing it is unable to communicate their injury on their own. GPS data also allows families to keep track of a loved one and their status. Medical alert devices come in the form of bracelets, necklaces, keychains and watches, allowing discreet, yet secure options for any situation.

Here is the basic chain of events regarding how a medical alert system works and relays the need for help

  • A button or similar mechanism is triggered, signifying the need for help
  • The individual in need’s personal data — including their current location — is sent to the particular emergency operators
  • The emergency operator determines what’s needed in the situation (does an ambulance need to be dispatched? Should a loved one be called?) 
  • Emergency contacts are reached and/or dispatched, depending on the situation 

As we have mentioned, the options for home medical alert systems are practically limitless and can vary depending on the primary user and their loved one’s needs. What may be ideal for a person living alone with no family nearby, might be different from a family with an elderly family member living under the same roof. 

Likewise, the device costs can also vary, with systems and surveillance starting at as low as around $20 per month. Typically a monitored device (which is connected to round the clock dispatch personnel) will have a monthly service fee but a free device, while un-monitored devices will start at a higher fixed price for the device itself, but no monthly fee. Read on for more details on the differences between monitored and un-monitored devices. 

Types of Medical Alert Systems

Here’s an overview of the basic types of medical alert systems and features available: 

1. Home-based medical alert systems:

These medical alert systems are specifically designed to work within the range of your home and connect to a landline or cell phone network. Typically, these systems feature a wearable device and an intercom-like base unit within the home that allows a person to speak to the system’s emergency operator base. These systems are ideal for older adults who don’t leave home often.

2. Mobile alert medical devices:

Similar to the home-based system, the only difference a mobile system offers is its flexibility for someone who has a more active lifestyle and does leave the house. These systems typically have their own independent connectivity and do not have to rely on a user’s cell phone network. They use features including GPS technology to help monitoring services locate you, even if you’re lost.

3. Monitored versus un-monitored medical alert systems:

These are terms you’ll likely hear a lot while shopping around for a medical alert system. The key difference is if you are paying for a service to be on call or not. Un-monitored medical alert systems are very basic. They typically consist of a wearable device or fixed button that when triggered, calls pre-set emergency contacts, like a family member or loved one. They can often be set up to call emergency services if the designated emergency contact doesn’t answer. Conversely, a monitored alert system connects the person in need to a service or dispatches emergency services for them. This service comes with a monthly cost, but adds the security that a 24/7 call center is at your call when necessary.

4. Fall detection medical alert services:

While not automatically included in every medical alert system — some require an add-on option or extra fee — fall detection technology is an added assurance, especially for those living alone, that someone will know if you or a loved one loses their balance. The technology usually includes a sensor that can pick up if a person falls and will automatically call for help. This is particularly crucial for situations where a fall leaves the the subject out of arm’s reach from a button to push for help or unconscious.

While there are tons of different medical alert system options out there, some elements should be non-negotiable. Regardless of what option you choose, there are some features that can be very handy incase of an emergency: 

5. Monitored medical alert systems:

A monitored system from the get-go can be very helpful in any situation, but it may not be necessary depending on the living situation. Still, to avoid having to buy a new system if there’s ever a desire to switch from an un-monitored to monitored, it is better to look at a system that offer a monitored medical alert system either way. 

6. Waterproof medical alert bracelets:

Slips and falls can often happen in scenarios where a phone isn’t handy, like the bathroom or in a shower or tub. A waterproof medical alert bracelet can be very useful should a medical emergency happen while in that particular situation. 

7. Medical alert systems with GPS technology:

Particularly for mobile systems and subjects who may wander or get lost, having GPS data will help emergency responders or family quickly locate a person, even if they don’t know where they are themselves. GPS medical alert systems are a great resource should location information be needed.

How Much Do Medical Alert Systems Cost?

Medical alert monitoring service providers typically charge a one-time fee for equipment and setup, and recurring fees that can potentially range between $20 and $90 a month depending on the features you choose — and there are many different options available that could potentially help you during an emergency event.

Choosing a Medical Alert System

A medical alert system can empower you to live in your home happily and independently.  Modernize can help you find a medical alert system, as well as the best provider for your needs. Our professionals connect you with trusted medical alert system providers in your area.


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Homeowner Resources

Here are the top articles that homeowners found useful when looking for medical alert systems and other helpful resources.

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