The Best Medical Alert Systems

Medical Alert SystemSeptember is Falls Prevention Month and on the blog we will be sharing tips and resources to help you prevent and recover from falls. If you or someone you know is at risk for falling and they live alone, it may be a good idea to consider using a medical alert system. In the excerpt* below, the folks at Reviews.com share their top medical alert systems to help you find the right one for you.

Nearly 90 percent of seniors say they prefer to live in their own homes, and most expect to stay there. It’s called “aging in place” and put simply: no assisted living facilities. Family members want to respect these wishes, but the risks are real. According to the National Council on Aging, one in three adults age 65 and older experience a fall each year, let alone other emergencies. The best medical alert systems address these risks with reliable devices that can connect seniors with help, keeping them safely independent — and giving family members one less thing to worry about. Our top pick, Bay Alarm Medical, goes even further with attentive, personable service. In an emergency, we’d feel comfortable with a loved one in the company’s hands.

LifeCall popularized the personal emergency response system (PERS) with infomercials in the 1980s — “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” — and while the technology has come a long way, their core function hasn’t: Press a button and you’re in touch with someone who can send help.

Best Overall

Bay Alarm Medical is our top pick for its superior customer service and caring bedside manner. 

It started with the little things: Web ordering was painless, and its crisp website has video demonstrations, a weekly blog, and clear pricing and terms. When our unit arrived, it came with a pair of spiffy striped socks, and setup was simple: just flip up its antennae and plug it in.

But where Bay Alarm really shines is the human element. When we talked to the monitoring representatives, there was a genuine warmth and calm — it was like calling your fourth-grade teacher. When we told them we were just testing the device, the rep always said some version of “I’m glad to hear that everything is okay.”

We unplugged the Bay Alarm Medical device to test its backup battery and within 20 minutes, Joseph at Central Station called to notify us that there was a loss of power signal. No other provider did this.

Bay Alarm’s cellular base station doesn’t win for its looks. It’s clunky, with just a big red “Help” button. Other cellular base stations we tested have a screen that displays the time, the strength of your cellular signal, and the status of the backup battery. Bay Alarm tells you your cellular signal by calling out “Two bars” or “Three bars,” sometimes when you aren’t expecting it — not particularly helpful, especially since we don’t know Bay Alarm’s maximum number of bars. And on average, it took 60 seconds to connect us to a monitoring center, which was slightly longer than Medical Guardian and MobileHelp.

However, Bay Alarm had exceptionally high backup battery life during our hands-on testing phase (52 hours compared to 30–36 hours for the competitors we tested). And while the design is very basic, it isn’t difficult to set up or operate, and it passed our range tests. Ultimately, it comes down to substance over style: We felt like Bay Alarm would best see us through an emergency.

Best Technology

MobileHelp is at the top of the industry when it comes to the medical devices themselves. 

Cross-pollination in the PERS community is common: Three of the four brands we tested used MobileHelp-manufactured technology, while MobileHelp actually uses Acadian On Call’s monitoring services. Because they make their own devices, the company makes it easy to grow with its services as needs change, with upgrade options that include automatic fall detection, blood pressure monitors, and wall-mounted buttons.

We liked that MobileHelp provides both a necklace pendant and a watch option, and really liked that they were modern and sporty. Seniors prefer PERS devices to be as discreet as possible. “There’s a stigma about them,” says Novak. “Part of that is due to the media portraying individuals who use them as feeble or senile. But as their design improves — they are smaller or look like jewelry — they are becoming a bit more acceptable.” MobileHelp’s watch band is slick (a lot like the Apple Watch) and its pendant is a small, subtle pellet.

MobileHelp’s only real drawback is that it offers exclusively AT&T cellular service — there are no landline options. If you don’t get good AT&T coverage in your area, MobileHelp isn’t the way to go.

Honorable Mention

Medical Guardian is definitely a big hitter: it even nabbed The Brady Bunch star Florence Henderson as its spokesperson. Medical Guardian’s emergency call response times had a respectable 49-second average (and even hit a record-fast 33 seconds on one test call) and we were satisfied by its reps’ bedside manner. Its biggest drawback is that it doesn’t offer a free trial period and locks you into a minimum 90-day commitment.

The Bottom Line

During at-home emergencies, medical alert devices quickly connect seniors with someone who can help. We recommend Bay Alarm Medical for its straightforward, reliable equipment and call center reps who convinced us they truly cared.

* This excerpt and the article in its entirety was originally featured on Reviews.com.

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