Quickstart Guide: How to Buy a Medical Alert System

Quick Picks

Some of my favorite systems:

  • MediPendant for great range and an affordable talk-through-the-pendant system.
  • Medical Guardian has a simple, reliable system for small homes, plus a mobile system and a fall detection medical alert.
  • LiveWell carries only medical alerts with two way pendants. Save with coupon code “Found It”.
  • Finally, LogicMark’s “no-fee” alerts are for people who don’t want a monitored alert.

One of the best ways to keep your aging parent safe is to get them a medical alert system.

These systems, also called life alerts or medical alarms, are pretty simple. You wear or carry with you a “panic button.” If you fall or have an emergency and can’t reach the phone, you press the button and the system connects you to someone who can help you.

They provide real peace of mind both for you, the caregiver, and for the older person living alone (or who is alone during the day while you can’t be with them).

But although the systems themselves are simple, they are notoriously confusing to try to purchase.

So here’s the quick guide to help you make a decision.

There are two kinds of medical alerts.

The first is what you’re probably already familiar with. The system dials a monitoring center where professionally-trained staff answer the phone and dispatch help. This is the kind I prefer (see below).

The second kind is a “no-fee medical alert.” These are units you buy and then program to dial a series of friends, neighbors or family members. In an emergency, the unit dials each number in turn until someone answers.

I like the monitored systems because you can count on having a trained person to help you. With the no-fee alert you can’t count on anyone answering the phone promptly. But on the other hand, there are no ongoing costs and these systems are better for people who don’t feel comfortable involving a stranger in their situation.

And then there are different operating ranges

The chief difference among various types of medical alerts is the operating range and the way that outgoing communications are handled.

The oldest and most time-tested kind of system has a base station that has a powerful speakerphone in it. When you press the panic button the base station dials for help and you communicate through the speakerphone.

An improvement over this is a system that basically puts the speakerphone in the little pendant that you carry around. This way you never have to worry about being too far from the base station (or behind a door with the water running). These systems work up to 600 feet away from the base station.

The last type is new on the market in the past few years. These are the cellular systems that don’t use a landline phone line for the emergency call. Instead, they work anywhere you can get a cell signal. This means you can use the system both in your house and when  you are running errands.

Which system is right for  you?

  • If you want the “no-fee” alert, the only units I like are the ones from LogicMark. That’s because they have the “talk through the pendant” functionality. When you’re dialing friends or family instead of trained responders, it’s particularly important that you’re able to communicate clearly about the problem you’re having. Click for more info.
  • If the unit will be used in a small home or apartment, or if cost is a big issue, Bay Alarm Medical uses the old standby units with the base station speakerphone. They’re a reputable company that’s been in business for a long time. Be sure to use the promo code “Joe” to get extra savings on their already affordable plans. Click here.
  • My favorite medical alert is the Medipendant. This is a talk-through-the-pendant style unit that’s backed up by a high-quality monitoring center. More info about Medipendant.
  • For people who are on the go, the 5Star Urgent Response system from GreatCall is by far the best cellular alert I’ve seen in terms of features and ease of use combined with a good price.