- Mobile system with GPS and WiFi technology
- Cellular Provider: AT&T
- Unlimited Range
- Battery Life: 5 days
- Fall Detection Upgrade: $10
- 1-year warranty
- Portable Unit: Pendant
Medical Guardian is the brand leader in medical alert systems. The company offers a range of home-based and mobile options, and their prices are competitive. They also have a great reputation for customer service.
Their Active Guardian model earned our Editor’s Choice because it boasts the most functionality out of all their products. Not only that, but it’s the only medical alert device that has both GPS and WiFi location technologies. This means you’ll always be able to find your loved one’s exact location. Even if they don’t have WiFi in their home, the device uses local WiFi hotspots to pinpoint their location.
The portable unit is a pendant style with clear status buttons, indicating the battery life, WiFi and GPS signal, and speakerphone. The call help button is easily identifiable by a large surface area and different grey color. The device is also waterproof, so the person can continue to wear it while bathing.
The device is equipped for fall detection, which can be purchased for $10 a month. The battery lasts a lengthy 5 days, and can be recharged in 3 hours—the perfect amount of time for a visit with a loved one or caregiver.
Medical Guardian does offer discounted pricing for quarterly and annual subscription plans. To receive a refund for any months you don’t use, you have to return all equipment. Otherwise, a $350 fee will be charged. Cancellations can take 30 days to process.
The one downfall with the Active Guardian is its design. As a pendant-style designed to be worn around the neck, the portable unit is large and clearly recognizable as a medical alert device. For seniors looking for something a bit less noticeable, we’d recommend the Freedom Guardian smartwatch or the Mobile Guardian which comes in a variety of wearable options.
- Mobile system with GPS technology
- Cellular Provider: Verizon
- Unlimited Range
- Battery Life: 24 hours
- Fall Detection Upgrade: $39.99
- 1-year warranty
- Portable Unit: Pendant, wristband, keychain clip, belt clip
The Lively Mobile is made by GreatCall, the company behind the Jitterbug cell phones. This company has always been dedicated to helping seniors living full, active lives safely, and their Lively Mobile medical alert device is no different. The device is waterproof, offers two-way voice, and has an unlimited range thanks to its cellular and GPS technology.
This medical alert device is a preferred mobile option for seniors who want something discreet. The portable unit is small, and available in a snazzy silver or gold color. It can be worn as a necklace pendant, on a band around the wrist, clipped to your belt, or attached to your purse or pocket like a keychain.
GreatCall is unique with the way their pricing plans are set up. The device itself costs a one-time fee of $49.99, with three monthly pricing plans, ranging from $24.99 to $39.99. The Basic plan includes the standard 24/7 monitoring service and dispatch agent. The Preferred plan also includes 24/7 access to nurses and board-certified doctors, available for medical consultation without having to make an appointment, and GreatCall Link. The GreatCall Link app helps caregivers and loved ones keep track of the senior’s location on their smartphones. The Ultimate plan includes all of the above, along with fall detection.
Another selling point for GreatCall is their generous 30-day trial period, which refunds you everything less shipping costs and a $10 restocking fee and shipping. The Lively Mobile has also won awards for the fastest agent response time by the Good HouseKeeping Research Institute.
Where the Lively Mobile falls short is its short battery life, which only lasts for up to 24 hours. This is great for active seniors, who can recharge their device quickly at night, but it’s probably not the best option for those with dementia who may wander and get lost.
Because a medical alert device helps you monitor the safety of your loved one, it’s important to understand the common features they include. Not all of these features may be necessary for your situation, and more features tend to translate to a higher price.
Familiarize yourself with the features below so you can decide which ones will be most helpful to you in caring for your loved one.
There are two main types of medical alert systems. Home-based systems tend to be preferred by those caring for someone who is too frail to leave their home often, while mobile systems are a better fit for more physically active seniors.
Medical Alert Device Features
Regardless of whether you go with a landline or mobile devices, medical alert systems come with a standard set of design features. We review these below.
Medical alert systems provide seniors with 24/7 access to a live dispatcher, who can call 911 and their emergency contacts on their behalf. When the senior presses the call button, the dispatcher comes on the line in seconds.
The value of monitoring services is that the senior is immediately connected with someone who can help them reach 911 or a loved one, whichever they need. This can be critical in situations where time is of the essence. The dispatcher will also stay on the line with the senior and provide comfort while they wait.
Most medical alert systems charge an initial activation fee for the device, as well as a monthly subscription fee for the monitoring services.
Some medical alert systems come with a contract, which defines how long you will have to pay the monthly fee for whichever services you opted into (such as fall detection). Others allow you to pay on a subscription basis. Tuck advises against using a device with a long-term contract. All of the devices in our list offer multiple subscription options.
Are you still not sure how a medical alert device can help you? Below we review the common FAQ caregivers have about medical alert devices.
How do medical alert systems work?
Medical alert systems rely on cellular technology to connect the wearer of the device with a live dispatcher at a 24/7 monitoring center. Seniors can call for help, simply by pushing a button on their wearable pendant or wristband. Then, the dispatcher can contact emergency services or a loved one on their behalf. If the senior is unable to respond, the dispatcher will immediately call 911 and the contacts on their emergency list.
Medical alert devices with GPS technology help seniors get found even when they can’t call for help, such as when they’ve been knocked unconscious or become disoriented during a instance of wandering. The dispatcher relays their exact location to emergency services.
Do you really need a medical alert device?
Many people wonder if the medical alert device is truly necessary. Can’t a smartphone or smart home hub accomplish the same thing? The short answer is no.
Turning location services on your senior’s smartphone is a good start, but they won’t always have their smartphone on their person. When at home, it’s normal to leave it in another room or plugged in to charge. If they fall without their smartphone on them, they may not be able to reach it and call for help.
Seniors with dementia who are prone to wandering may become too lost or disoriented to call for help. If they leave their phone at home, their caregiver won’t have any way to find their location. Medical alert systems with GPS technology, on the other hand, can help caregivers locate them quickly.
Smart home hubs are another helpful precaution toward keeping seniors safe at home. However, the person needs to be in range for Alexa or Google Home to hear them, and they have to say the right phrase for Alexa to respond. If they do fall while they’re in range, these devices are not equipped to call 911, and some are limited in their ability to call cell phone or landline numbers.
Medical alert devices connect the senior instantly to a dispatcher who can call 911 or a loved one on their behalf. All the senior has to do is tap a button, no speaking required.
How can medical alert systems help you sleep better?
The main benefit medical alert devices provide to your sleep is peace of mind. Anxiety is one of the leading causes of sleep problems like insomnia. Many caregivers have trouble falling asleep at night, as they stress and worry about their loved one’s safety. Seniors, too, can have trouble sleeping, as they worry about their own safety living alone.
Many seniors want to keep living independently as long as possible. However, many of them are also living with chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, or stroke. Any of these conditions, or the medications prescribed to manage symptoms, can cause dizziness that leads to falls. If your loved one uses a cane or wheelchair for mobility, they’re at increased fall risk as well.
Medical alert devices are one of the best ways they can access help if they fall.
Are medical alert systems covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or insurance?
Medicare and insurance companies do not cover medical alert devices. However, Medicaid may cover part or all of it, depending on your state.
Most medical alert device companies host promotions throughout the year. Purchase during one of these times to save on your device. You may also be able to save by paying for multiple months up front or by choosing an annual or quarterly payment plan over a monthly one.
You may also be eligible for discounted pricing if your loved one is a veteran, or if you purchase devices for multiple people in the home.
Finally, you can save money year-round by using any of the links we’ve provided above. Tuck negotiates discounted pricing for all of the products we recommend.