Senior man sitting and smiling with a medical device alert lanyard

Many doctors may encourage seniors to wear portable monitors to check on their blood pressure, heart rate or other medical conditions. These devices can come in smartwatches, blood pressure cuffs and glucose monitors.

Using this method, sometimes called “automated hovering,” doctors are able to monitor patients from a distance. This helps to fill a gap estimated at 5,000 hours when patients are away from traditional health care settings, according to a study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine.

But there’s another danger that seniors face: falling. About 36 million falls are reported among older adults each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 20% of these falls cause broken bones, head injuries or other trauma.

Using personal medical alert systems, seniors can quickly contact authorities when accidents or injuries, including falls, occur. In fact, more than 3 million people already own wearable medical-alert devices, according to the Washington Post.

Find out more about senior medical alert systems, what is the best medical alert for seniors, and how you might be able to get one for free.

Why Seniors Should Consider Medical Alert Systems

For seniors who still live alone, having a fall or medical emergency can quickly turn tragic if they can’t reach the phone or find help quickly. Alert systems can provide security, safety, comfort and peace of mind.

Here are a few reasons seniors should think about medical alert systems:

They Are Convenient and Easy to Use

Medical alert systems are usually easy to wear, on pendants or bracelets, or in the style of a smartwatch. They’re less bulky or obvious, and the discreet designs are intended to make them more convenient and less embarrassing. They provide a quick alternative to reaching a phone, remembering phone numbers or to pressing more than one button.

They Install Easily

Most senior medical alert devices have a main home unit that looks similar to an answering machine or smart speaker. They also include two-way speakers to allow communication with companies that monitor them. Most are ready to go as soon as they are connected to a phone line and power source.

They Monitor Your Living Space

Some systems also include environmental sensors, which will alert you to fire or high carbon monoxide levels. Depending on the system you choose, they may also automatically alert monitoring centers or first responders.

They Offer a Variety of Options

Though once bulky and obvious, monitoring systems are available now in many configurations. Current models can look like fitness or activity monitors, making them less obvious. They can also have GPS, which will help family and other loved ones track seniors prone to wander.

They Provide Loved Ones Peace of Mind

Knowing their loved ones are being monitored constantly can help ease family members’ minds. Some systems can also text or email family members when, for example, the front door opens, or other events take place.

They Promote Independence

Since seniors can trigger the alarms when they need to, they’re in charge. Feel free to shower, sleep, or work in the yard knowing help is a quick button press away. Seniors can continue to live in their own homes knowing they are being overseen safely.

They Will Get Help Immediately

Medical alert systems are monitored 24/7 and can dispatch family or first responders as needed. You can get the assistance you want and need, even if it won’t require medical treatment.

What Should You Look for in a Senior Monitoring System?

There are some features you should make sure are available in your monitoring system. According to AARP, here are some of the key features that should be included:

  • Can it pair with a home security system? Check with your home security provider, and ask if there is an additional fee.
  • Can others connect via the device? Some devices allow families to access the system, through a monitoring app on a smartphone or computer.
  • Does it include a lockbox? Some companies offer a lockbox for emergency medical personnel to be able to access the home if seniors are incapacitated.
  • How’s the battery life? Be clear on how to charge the device and how you will know whether the battery is low.
  • How do you set it up? If there’s a base unit or console, will you need more than one to cover the entire home and yard? Explore whether landlines are required or whether it can use cellular data.
  • Is it fully waterproof? Falls happen in the shower and bath, so this feature is vital.
  • Is it wearable? You’ll want a device you find comfortable and unobtrusive enough to encourage its use.
  • Is the speaker loud enough? Hearing loss can be a barrier, so make sure anyone trying to contact you from the response center can be heard.
  • Is the system movable? Not all medical-alert providers offer nationwide service. Check to see if the system can move with you.
  • What’s the range? With an in-home system, find out how far the wearable help button can be from the base unit and still operate. You’ll want one that can reach across their entire living space, and the nearby outdoors, too.
  • Will it need updates? If so, ask if the updates download automatically or manually, and make sure you can manage them.

What Is the Best Medical Alert System for Seniors?

There are many systems out there, each with their own benefits and features. Here is a list of some of the most common alert systems that don’t charge equipment fees. Contact each for up-to-date pricing and to find out about any additional fees.

CompanyPrice per month (basic)Connection
Bay Alarm Medical$19.95cellular, landline
LifeFone$29.95cellular, landline
LifeStation$22.95cellular, landline
Medical Alert$19.95cellular
Medical Guardian$25.95cellular, Wi-Fi
MobileHelp$19.95cellular
One Call Alert$22.95cellular, landline
Philips Lifeline$29.95cellular, landline

Despite these costs, there may still be opportunities to obtain free medical alert systems for seniors.

  • Area Agencies on Aging – The Area Agencies on Aging may help you with a free medical alert system.
  • Insurance – Some insurance companies provide coverage for medical alert systems. Contact your insurer for information.
  • Medicaid – in some states, Medicaid may cover all or part of the cost of an alert system.
  • Medicare – Medicare Part C may provide reimbursement for a system.
  • Veterans Affairs – The Department of Veterans Affairs also may cover some of the costs from approved providers.

By Senior Lifestyle / March 08, 2022