How to Choose a Medical Alert System

An older man with glasses, concentrating as he writes something on a piece of paper. A mug and his computer are in front of him.

Looking to purchase a medical alert device for you or your loved one? Here’s what to keep in mind.

Summary

  • There are two main types of medical alert systems: in-home and mobile medical alert systems.
  • Medical alert devices are mainly used by aging adults or those with certain medical conditions. But they can be worn by anyone looking for extra peace of mind.
  • Accessories such as belt clips, lanyards, and wrist straps make it easier to wear medical alert devices.
  • Some basic features of medical alert systems include two-way communication and water resistance, but there are also advanced features, like GPS tracking.
  • Consider your personal requirements and preferences before purchasing a medical alert system — and only pay for features you’ll use. The best medical alert systems are those that will meet your individual needs.

Aging adults can be stubborn when it comes to their safety. They are often unwilling to make changes, even when their health and age require them to — and there are studies that show this.

Research suggests that most aging people in the U.S. are reluctant to move and would prefer to age at home. In addition, a recent survey found that 73% of aging adults don’t think they need a medical device at all.

However, with 36 million falls reported each year in the U.S., and around 300,000 older people being hospitalized for hip fractures, it’s easy to see the value of a medical alert system.

There are nearly 56 million people older than 65 living in the U.S., but it’s estimated that only 3 million Americans own medical alert devices — even though statistics show that over 80% of people who use medical alert systems have been saved from potentially serious incidents.

Most people won’t purchase a medical alert system until they’ve found themselves — or a loved one — in a dangerous predicament that could have been avoided with the help of a personal emergency response device.

Don’t wait until something happens before you invest in technology that could keep you and your aging loved ones safe.

In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about medical alert systems, including what to consider before purchasing one. 

What is a Medical Alert System?

Medical alert systems — which are sometimes referred to as personal emergency response systems (PERS) — are devices that are used to protect adults and those with certain health conditions in the event of a medical emergency.

These systems may have several different features and come in various forms to accommodate personal preferences and requirements.

Some features of medical alert systems include:

  • Fall detection 
  • Two-way communication with family members and emergency responders
  • Real-time monitoring of loved ones

Who Needs a Medical Alert System?

Medical alert systems are typically aimed at older people, but they can be used by anyone who requires peace of mind, values their independence, or needs a direct line to an emergency contact.

It differs from a smartphone because a medical alert device is much simpler to operate — most have only one button that can be pressed during an emergency. 

Some people who can benefit from a medical alert system include:

  • Adults who are getting on in years and choose to age in place
  • Aging adults who have illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, that affect their cognitive functions
  • People with physical and mental impairments that affect their ability to carry out daily tasks
  • Anyone with food, drug, or insect allergies
  • Anyone with life-threatening medical conditions, such as blood disorders or epilepsy
  • Anyone who lives alone and feels more at ease having a quick, direct link to a friend or family member
  • Anyone who travels alone and may require medical treatment if an emergency arises
  • Any aging adult who still enjoys a relatively active lifestyle and participates in events outside of the home

If you’re unsure about whether you or your loved one needs a medical care alert system, you can speak to your healthcare provider.

When Should I Buy a Medical Alert System?

Most people only realize the need for a medical alert system after something has happened to them or a loved one. 

Medical emergencies, like heart attacks and strokes, can cause permanent damage, so it’s best to be proactive by purchasing a medical alert system.

You may want to purchase a medical alert system if you or a loved one:

  • Have health conditions that may require emergency medical treatment
  • Live alone or far away from family
  • Struggle to complete daily tasks without assistance
  • Have decided to age in place
  • Are getting older and require peace of mind
  • Find it difficult to use a mobile phone

What Types of Medical Alert Systems Are There?

The kind of medical alert system you decide to purchase will depend on your individual requirements. 

Here are some things you should keep in mind to ensure you choose the right medical alert system:

  • Who will use it? For example, your mother who’s prone to fainting, or your father who goes on errands multiple times a week?
  • When will it be used? For example, will the wearer use it all the time, or only when they go out?
  • Where will it be used? For example, will it be used in the house or during outings?

Although medical alert devices come in different shapes and sizes — with features that serve different people’s needs — there are two main types of medical alert systems: the in-home system and the mobile system.

In-home medical alert systems

These medical alert systems typically comprise a base station and a wall button or a device that can be worn around the neck, wrist, or waist.

The base station can be mounted inside the house and may be plugged into an existing landline or connected to a cellular network.

These devices typically operate within a specified range around the base station, making them ideal for people who spend the majority of their time at home.

In-home systems typically have loudspeakers attached to the devices and allow for communication with family members, caregivers, and emergency services.

Mobile medical alert systems

A mobile medical alert device is a portable system with an emergency button. 

They are ideal for aging adults who travel or spend a lot of time outside of their homes or reside in assisted living facilities.

These lightweight, wearable devices can be used as pendants or wristbands, and some can even be clipped onto a belt.

There is no base station required for mobile medical alert systems. These devices use mobile networks and will keep working as long as there’s cell phone coverage in the area.

Mobile medical alert systems have sleek, modern designs — they won’t get in the way or prevent someone from carrying out their day-to-day tasks. 

An older man, standing outside. He's wearing a light pink polo shirt and jeans and is smiling widely at someone off the camera.

How Does a Medical Alert System Work?

Irrespective of which type of medical alert system you’ve purchased, all of them work on the same basis—some may just have extra features.

A medical alert system—whether it’s an in-house system or a mobile alert device—allows the wearer to press a button and contact 911, a family member, a caregiver, or a friend for help.

Some medical alert systems will notify a monitoring center, and an agent will reach out to emergency services or primary caregivers on their behalf.

Medical alert devices with features such as fall detection use motion sensors to monitor the wearer. 

In the event of a fall, the device will automatically dial out to a monitoring center, emergency services, or a friend or family member.

What Are the Most Important Features of a Medical Alert System?

When it comes to medical alert systems, different features may appeal to different people, depending on their requirements.

Some key features to look for in a medical alert system include:

  • Two-way voice communication
  • Water-resistance
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Fall detection or activity monitoring
  • Medication reminders

How to Choose a Medical Alert System

Many people will purchase a medical alert system only after an incident has already happened. 

Often medical alert devices are purchased quickly, without too much consideration. Sometimes you just don’t have a choice. 

Imagine your 80-year-old mother who lives in another state has had a fall and does not have access to around-the-clock care. 

The first thing you’re probably going to do is place an online order for a medical alert system and ship it to her.

However, it is important to keep in mind that a medical alert system is an investment in safety. 

Even during a crisis, there are some important things to consider when purchasing one for yourself or someone you love.

Before you click “Add to cart,” consider why you need it and what features are important to you.

What are my requirements?

Make a list of the reasons why you’re buying a medical alert device. You can put everything in a checklist to help you make your decision.

Some questions you might want to ask yourself include:

  • Who will be using the device?
  • Where will the device be used—in the house, or outside?
  • Will it need to be mounted or worn in the shower?
  • Do I want a monitored or unmonitored medical alert system?
  • Do I need an in-home or mobile medical alert system?
  • Do I want extra features, such as automatic fall detection and location tracking, or will a standard two-way communication device be enough?
  • Am I prepared to pay a monthly fee, or is a basic system that connects directly to 911 or a family member sufficient?

Key Point: Monitored Medical Alert System vs. Unmonitored Medical Alert System

A monitored medical alert system provides constant support for aging adults. These systems usually have monthly subscription fees.

Monitored devices are linked to monitoring centers where agents oversee emergency calls and make assessments before dialing 911, or connecting to friends and family to inform them of what has happened.

Unmonitored medical alert systems have no monthly costs and they connect directly to pre-programmed numbers, including emergency responders and/or family members, caregivers, and friends.

The type of system you choose depends largely on the cost and the needs of the person who will be wearing the device.

An older woman with an off-white sweater and a pearl necklace, gently smiling at someone off the camea.

Factors to consider when buying a medical alert system

Listed below are some important things you should keep in mind before you decide which medical alert device is right for you or your loved one.

Is the company reputable and transparent?

Checking whether a company is legitimate should be something you do no matter what you buy, but it’s even more crucial to purchase devices from reputable medical alert companies.

Hidden costs and unclear terms of service are red flags you should watch out for when choosing which company you want to purchase your device from. 

Always check online reviews of medical alert companies. Find out what people are saying about their products and customer service.

Can you return the device if you need to?

If the device is something that doesn’t work for you or your loved one — or you’ve simply changed your mind about owning one— you should have peace of mind about returning it.

In the event that you’ve already paid your subscription fees, you should be able to get a refund for any unused part of your subscription.

Do they offer the features you need?

This is a very important consideration. Essentially, will the product do what you need it to do? 

Even though many of the features mentioned below are nice-to-have, ask yourself whether they’re essential for you or your loved one.

Make sure you’re spending money on features you’ll actually use.

Water-resistant or waterproof

There’s a distinction between the two: water-resistant devices are able to repel some water—such as droplets in the shower—but waterproof devices may be entirely submerged in water.

If the wearer will be using a medical alert system in the shower, bath, or during their aqua aerobics class, they’ll need to get a device that can operate under these conditions.

Ease of use

It’s pointless to buy the most sophisticated medical alert device on the planet if the person who’ll wear it cannot actually use it.

Whatever medical alert system you buy should be easy to set up, use, charge, and locate in the case of an emergency.

Fall detection

It’s possible for an aging adult to lose consciousness due to a fall. If this happens, they won’t be able to press a button and call for help. This is where fall detection comes in.

This feature can provide peace of mind to adults who live alone as well as their families. 

However, a recent study has revealed a fall detector success rate of 98.7% — so this feature works well, but it isn’t 100% accurate. 

Good battery life

Your medical alert device should have a good battery life. Getting a device that uses rechargeable batteries may be the most cost-effective option.

Be sure to test how long the battery lasts, especially with a mobile medical alert device that will be used outside of the home, or on long trips where charging it might not be practical.

Most medical alert companies may claim their devices have a good battery life, but they may not last long enough for everyone, depending on their needs.

So test it out as soon as you can and return it if the battery needs to be charged or replaced too often.

24/7 live assistance

Only monitored medical alert devices will have this service. Be sure to find out if the monitoring center is located in the U.S.—many companies tend to outsource their support team as it’s less expensive.

A company with a local monitoring center will likely have faster response times and deliver a more reliable service to keep you and your loved ones safe.

Pricing and special offers

Always be on the lookout for special offers, discounts, and deals for first-time customers. 

Some companies even offer free devices for veterans. LogicMark is one of these companies. Visit our veterans’ portal to see if you qualify.

Smart or discreet designs

This may seem like a superficial factor, but the way a medical alert device looks may have a big effect on if someone actually wears it. 

No one wants to walk around with a bulky piece of equipment around their neck or strapped to their wrist.

Many people might not want to draw attention to their medical alert device, as it could affect their confidence or prompt uncomfortable questions from other people.

Small, lightweight devices that easily go unnoticed are more likely to be worn by adults and those with certain medical conditions.

GPS detection

GPS tracking is another great feature for those who are frequently on the move. 

Being able to locate your loved one or track them in real time provides peace of mind to families—especially when your aging parents live out-of-state and still love to be out and about.

Medication reminders

Anyone can forget to take their medication, but seniors with conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia are even more prone to missing a dose.

A medical alert device that can remind people when it’s time for their meds can help them avoid medical emergencies or health complications that result from skipped doses.

An older man with glasses and a yellow shirt, sitting on a couch and holding a pill bottle.

Where Can I Learn More about Medical Alert Devices?

Are you considering buying a medical alert device? Struggling to choose from all the options out there? LogicMark is here to help.

Our devices can be worn on the wrist, around the neck or waist, or be installed in your home to help keep you and your family safe.

We offer two-way communication, allowing aging adults and people with illnesses that need to be monitored, to connect directly to 911, family, friends, or caregivers. 

We offer unmonitored devices—which means no subscription fees or hidden costs. Our technology protects the people you love by giving them easy, direct access to emergency staff or caregivers. See our full range of products here.