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How to choose the right medical alert system for your loved one

Are you concerned about your aging loved one’s safety while living alone? You should be. While most aging adults want to remain independent as long as possible, it can be dangerous without the right tools in place.

According to NCOA, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall every 11 seconds. Every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall. Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury among older adults as well.

The best way to handle that concern is to help your loved one find a balance between independence and safety. A medical alert system will help. And it will give you the peace of mind you need. So, if you’re concerned about an aging loved one, it’s time to invest in this type of system. Here’s why.

Related: Caring for an aging relative? Guide to tech that can help

Medical alert systems: What they are and how they work

If you have a loved one who’s getting older, you may be looking for a way to help them maintain their independence while ensuring they’re safe. That can be tough to do, but a medical alert system can help.

You know those old, “Help! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” commercials? They were advertising a medical alert system. They’re systems that monitor your loved one while at home or out and about. If a medical emergency triggers the system, it’s used to summon help via operators on the other end, who can call either an ambulance or a loved one.

A medical alert system will most of the time consist of a wearable pendant and a base station that connects to a phone line. The pendant is pressed if there’s an emergency or a fall and your loved one needs help. Calls to monitoring agents are placed through the connected phone line.

These systems can also be used to monitor for falls or other accidents. Most systems offer additional fall detection and GPS tracking on top of basic services to ensure your loved one is covered no matter where they are.

You aren’t limited to just a pendant system, either; there are tons of different options out there. Some offer mobile device integration or even smartwatches that can help keep your loved one safe. Newer devices may even be able to monitor your loved one’s vitals and call for help if there’s a health emergency on the horizon.

But with so many options, how can you choose? We’re breaking it down for you below.

Life Alert

Life Alert is one of the most popular medical alert systems on the market, and so is the trusted service you’ll get with it. Contract and activation fees aren’t great, though.

It also doesn’t offer fall detection, which could be a deal-breaker if you’re concerned about slips and falls. This system won’t detect a fall that knocks them unconscious or renders them unable to summon help via the button. That’s important to keep in mind if you’re concerned about those types of accidents.

  • Activation fee: $0 to $95
  • Monthly costs: $49 for in-home landline service; $49 for in-home cellular service; $19 for mobile GPS tracking
  • Fall detection: Not offered
  • Contract required: Yes, 36 months. Void if there are extenuating circumstances (managed care, death, etc.)
  • Cancellation fee: Varies

GreatCall Lively Mobile Plus

If you’re looking for a medical alert system that offers fall detection and in-home monitoring at an affordable price, you may want to check out GreatCall Lively Mobile Plus. This wearable alert system offers all of those services at a price that’s well below some of the competition, and the activation fee is pretty low, too.

You won’t have to sign up for an ongoing contract, either. This home alert service doesn’t offer landline in-home monitoring, though. If your loved one only has a landline, this plan isn’t the best option.

  • Activation fee: $25 to $35
  • Monthly costs: $25 to $50 for in-home cellular service; $25 to $50 for the mobile GPS tracking service
  • Fall detection: Yes; $15 extra per month
  • Contract required: No contracts
  • Cancellation fee: None

Bay Alarm Medical

Bay Alarm Medical offers all of the monitoring services you could want in a medical alert system: in-home landline service, in-home cellular service, GPS mobile tracking, and fall detection.

The downside to this option is that the mobile unit battery life has pretty short battery life. It only lasts for four days without needing a recharge. If you’re buying this for a patient with memory issues, they may struggle to remember to charge the unit. That could leave them in a lurch while out and about.

  • Activation fee: $25 to $35
  • Monthly costs: $20 for in-home landline service; $30 for in-home cellular service; $25 to $30 for GPS mobile tracking
  • Fall detection: Yes; $10 extra per month
  • Contract required: No contracts
  • Cancellation fee: None

Life Station

Life Station offers everything you’d need for comprehensive monitoring. It has fall detection, in-home cellular and landline services, and GPS mobile tracking. However, the monthly cost for GPS mobile tracking is expensive compared to other options. Whether that’s enough to make you opt-out of Life Station is up to you, but it is something to consider.

  • Activation fee: None
  • Monthly costs: $22 for in-home landline service; $31 for in-home cellular service; $38 for GPS mobile tracking
  • Fall detection: Yes; $10 extra per month
  • Contract required: No contracts
  • Cancellation fee: None

Related: Taking care of aging parents? Do this to prepare their home

Medical Alert

Medical Alert offers several different wearable options to help keep your loved ones safe. It also offers comprehensive options, including fall detection. GPS tracking costs on this one are pretty steep, though. The mobile unit battery life is pretty low on this option, too. Keep that in mind if you know your loved one will struggle to remember to charge the unit.

  • Activation fee: None
  • Monthly costs: $20 for in-home landline service; $30 for in-home cellular service; $38 for GPS mobile tracking
  • Fall detection: Yes; $10 extra per month
  • Contract required: No contracts
  • Cancellation fee: None

MobileHelp

MobileHelp offers several different options for monitoring, and it comes at an affordable price. The in-home cellular service monitoring charges are much lower than the competition, and the GPS tracking charges are, too. You won’t compromise on safety for affordability, either — this is a respected medical alert system.

  • Activation fee: None
  • Monthly costs: $20 for in-home landline service; $20 for in-home cellular service; $25 for GPS mobile tracking
  • Fall detection: Yes; $7.50 to $10 extra per month
  • Contract required: No contracts
  • Cancellation fee: None

Medical Guardian

If you’re looking for top-notch medical alert monitoring devices, Medical Guardian offers them. The wearable alert systems are easily hidden when out and about, which could be a relief for your loved one — no bulky pendants to contend with. However, this service’s monthly costs are steep compared to others, which isn’t ideal.

  • Activation fee: None
  • Monthly costs: $30 for in-home landline service; $35 for in-home cellular service; $40 to $45 for GPS mobile tracking
  • Fall detection: Yes; $7.50 to $10 extra per month
  • Contract required: No contracts
  • Cancellation fee: None

Philips Lifeline

Philips Lifeline system is a solid option if you’re concerned about falls because it has automatic fall detection built-in. Overall, monthly monitoring costs are sky-high compared to the competition. You’ll even be charged an extra $100 fee for the GPS device if you opt for mobile tracking.

  • Activation fee: None
  • Monthly costs: $30 to $45 for in-home landline service; $44 to $59 for in-home cellular service; $50 for GPS mobile tracking
  • Extra fees: $100 one-time charge for GPS device fee
  • Fall detection: Yes; $0 to $15 extra per month
  • Contract required: No contracts
  • Cancellation fee: None

There’s nothing more important than your family’s health and safety. Incorporating one of these medical alert systems into their daily lives will give you peace of mind and ensure help is on the way in case of an emergency.

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