Wearable Medical Alert Devices

Wearable Medical Alert Devices (2021): Types, Top Models + Expert Buying Guide

By jwilder

Wearable Medical Alert Devices

Living independently, though it may be preferable to assisted living facilities for most seniors, is a known risk factor. If something happens to you, the risks are much higher because help may be hard to come by.

Medical alert devices are designed to reduce those risks and make living at home safer and more secure for people who don’t have family or a caregiver who can be there at a moment’s notice.

But which device is best for you? To learn more about how these devices can help you, read our guide to the best wearable medical alert devices:

What is a Medical Alert Device?

When seniors are living alone, accidents and health issues aren’t as simple as they would be with others living in the house. If you fall, experience irregular heartbeat, or begin to have a medical emergency, you may not be able to reach the phone to dial 911. If you don’t have anyone at home or any way to get help, what started as a mild-moderate health issue can turn deadly in a flash.

Over 36 million seniors fall each year. These falls are usually minor, but 32,000 of those people die as a result of simple falls - many of them because they could not call for help.

Even when not fatal, falls are the leading cause of head trauma and broken hips in seniors. These types of injuries are serious even when you have help- they can be devastating if you are alone without a way to get assistance.

Medical alert devices use technology to keep seniors safe. They give people an added layer of security that connects them with family members or 911 dispatchers in case of an emergency. These products are very popular and beneficial for seniors who live alone, like a home security system that is more worried about your health than your valuables.

What are the Different Types of Medical Alert Devices?

Wearables vs Home-Based Devices

There are two main categories of medical alert devices: wearables and home-based. They perform the same basic function, but the technology is implemented in a different way.

Home-based medical alert devices plug into your wall and typically include an “SOS” button, as well as other technology like fall sensors that can detect an accident. Until recently, these devices were not much more effective than a landline because you still have to reach the device to get help. This was the case until voice-activated technology was more efficient, allowing seniors to simply call for help instead of trying to reach the device.

Many smart speakers, such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home, can dial 911 for you if you are in trouble and cannot reach your phone. This has made some older types of home-based medical alert devices semi-obsolete, because there are few things easier than saying “Alexa, dial 911”.

Wearable medical alert devices such as necklaces and bracelets, on the other hand, are still very relevant and necessary. Wearable devices put the SOS button within reach, 24/7. Many devices also use accelerometers to detect falls and accidents- some also monitor your vital signs to detect the warning signs of a medical emergency before they happen!

Because of the immense benefit of wearable devices, we are going to focus solely on wearables in this guide. They’re convenient, easy to use, and potentially life-saving.

Types of Wearable Medical Alert Devices

  • Fitness Trackers: Many smartwatches and fitness trackers have built-in “emergency” buttons and fall detection sensors. If you have one of these devices, the ability to call for help is always on your wrist. Some of these devices will even monitor your heart rate and blood pressure 24 hours a day, alerting you to potential issues before they occur.
  • Necklace/Bracelet Alert Devices: These products are connected to GPS and cellular services and help you stay protected no matter where you are. They will alert EMS to your precise location using GPS and cell tower triangulation, and many of them also have two-way voice functions so that you can talk to dispatchers and give them the info they need. Some devices can also be set up to remind you to take your medicine, a
  • Fall Detection Devices: These devices are a subcategory of necklace/bracelet devices that use an accelerometer to detect falls. If the sensor detects that you’ve fallen, it will automatically contact 911 for you and give the dispatcher your location.

5 Great Benefits of Medical Alert Devices for Seniors

  1. 1
    Increased Independence: According to a study published in 2015, wearable technology helps seniors live independently for longer before they need to enter assisted living facilities or nursing homes. If you are getting older but don’t need much assistance, a wearable alerting device can give you all the help you need to remain free and independent.
  2. 2
    Safety: If you take a fall or have a medical emergency at home, these devices can be the only thing separating an average trip to the hospital from something much worse. They keep you safe and connected to people who can help!
  3. 3
    Peace of Mind: After experiencing a fall, many seniors are more nervous about the danger of falling again and are therefore less active and social. Having a medical alert device helps you feel confident and safe, trusting that you’ll be okay even if you have another accident.
  4. 4
    Condition Management: Devices that remind you to take your medicine or keep track of your vital signs make it much easier to manage different health conditions. Whether it’s diabetes, COPD, or even cancer, managing your health is much easier when you have electronic help!
  5. 5
    Cost-Effective: The average cost of one year in an assisted living facility is $51,600. The average cost of a full nursing home? $105,000. The most expensive monthly service fee for a medical alert device is just $45. If the lack of help in an emergency is the only thing limiting your ability to live at home, a medical alert device is far more cost-effective!

The Best Wearable Alert Devices for Seniors

1. Best Wearable Medical Alert Device (Overall): Medical Guardian On-The-Go

On-The-Go Guardian Life Saving Senior Medical Alert System by Medical Guardian™ - WiFi Tracking, Emergency Call Button, 24/7 Alert Button for Seniors, Nationwide 4G LTE Cellular (1 Month Free)

Medical Guardian is the top maker of medical alert devices, and the On-The-Go is a 4G-powered, affordable option that’ll keep you covered at home and outside. If you have an emergency, all it takes is the press of a button on the necklace and you’re instantly connected to someone who can help.

The monthly fee for this device is $40, which is slightly above the standard price for most alert devices. The device itself, though, is half the cost of other name brands, including most other Medical Guardian devices. If you’re looking for a top-notch alert device that you can take anywhere, you can’t go wrong with the Medical Guardian On-The-Go.

Pros

  • 4G coverage across America
  • 30-day battery life
  • Simple, easy to activate/deactivate SOS button

Cons

  • No fall detection sensor
  • Monthly price is higher than average

2. Best Medical Alert Devices for Fall Detection: Home & Wellness Medical Alert Device

Home&Wellness Senior Safety Medical Alert Device with Fall Detection. Verizon 4G. 4 Months Service Included

With cellular service that uses Verizon’s massive network, you’ll seldom travel outside of range. This medical alert necklace will send EMS your location the moment you press the button, or if the device’s built-in accelerometer registers a fall. It’s a very accurate sensor, so you’ll rarely deal with false alarms or missed alerts.

The best part about this alert device, outside of the accurate GPS data and fall detection, is that it includes 4 months of service for free. After those four months end, you will be paying $35 each month- but those first four months cost nothing extra! If you’re looking for a high-end and simple fall detection device, this necklace from Home and Wellness is the way to go!

Pros

  • Free service for the first 4 months
  • GPS is very accurate, uses Verizon network
  • The accelerometer detects falls instantly

Cons

  • Batteries only last 1-2 days on average
  • High upfront cost (roughly $100)

3. Best Medical Alert Devices with GPS: We Send Help GPS Medical Alert

This small device comes with three months of service included and combines worldwide GPS with cellular data and a fall detection sensor to become an indispensable tool for any senior. The SOS button immediately dials 911, and the device has two-way voice so that you can let the dispatcher know how to help you.

The We Send Help medical alert device can be attached to a bracelet, necklace, or belt clip to keep you protected at all times. If you enjoy walking outside and don’t carry a cell phone, this highly accurate GPS alert device is perfect for you.

Pros

  • Small device that’s easy to take anywhere
  • 3 free months of service
  • Subscription is only $25/month, lower than most other devices
  • Includes fall detection

Cons

  • Fall detection isn’t always accurate
  • Bracelet and necklace not included

4. Best Medical Alert Devices with no Monthly Fee: ATS Senior HELP Dialer

Senior HELP Dialer Medical Alert - No Monthly Fees Medical Alert System- HD700

This wearable device is designed for home use. It’s a necklace/wristband that transmits your emergency alert to the receiver which dials 911 through your landline. If you stay at home most of the time and want to be safe in case of an emergency, this is the device for you.

You can program up to 3 different phone numbers that will be dialed simultaneously when you press the device’s panic button. The device itself is nothing special; it’s similar to other devices, but it can only be used within 100 feet of the receiver. The thing that makes this device great is that it requires no monthly subscription to use- just plug it in and you’re ready to go!

Pros

  • No monthly fees
  • Simple and effective alerting
  • Program 3 different phone numbers to alert

Cons

  • Only works in the home
  • 100-foot range is relatively weak

FAQs: Medical Alert Devices

Does Medicare Cover Medical Alert Devices?

Unfortunately, medical alert devices do not fall into any category that standard Medicare or Medicaid would cover. Though they are helpful, it seems that the decision-makers in the Medicare organization do not consider them to be medically necessary for seniors.


You may get lucky if you have Medicare Part C, however. As a supplement to your standard Medicare Parts A and B, you could get a medical alert device reimbursed with Part C. This isn’t a guarantee- your success will depend on your plan and the provider’s judgment- but it’s always worth a shot.

How Can a Senior Get a Free Medical Alert Device?

The best way to get a free medical alert device is by reaching out to a charity or other organization that helps seniors. The US Administration on Aging has a portal that can connect you to local agencies that, in some cases, will assist you in getting a medical alert device.


If there is a church, lodge, or other social organization you are connected to, you may also be able to get assistance in paying for an alerting device. Unfortunately, there is no perfect way to get a medical alert device for free; it’s a trial and error process.

Buying Guide: How to Choose an Alerting Device

Price Range of Wearable Medical Alert Devices

There are two different costs to consider when shopping for a medical alert device. The first is the upfront cost: the price of the product itself. These devices are almost always available at a price range from $50 to $150. This makes them relatively cheap compared to smartwatches (and dirt cheap compared to assisted living).


The second cost that must be taken into account is the monthly subscription fee. The average fee is $35, while some devices cost $45 each month. The cheapest subscription price you can find is $25. So, while the variations aren’t huge, they do add up over the course of a 12-month cycle.

What to Look for in a Wearable Medical Alert Device for Seniors

  • Battery Life: Because it’s a piece of wearable technology, your medical alert device will rely on batteries that constantly need to be recharged or replaced. Look for an alert device that has a battery life of at least 20 hours, hopefully longer. The more you’re putting your device on a charger, the more annoying (and less useful) it is.
  • Subscription Cost: Devices that use cellular networks to provide their service always come with a monthly fee. This fee ranges between $25 and $45, which can feel pretty steep. If you’re being price-conscious, be careful to get a device that doesn’t have a high subscription fee.
  • Additional Features: Some devices do a lot more than watch out for falls and let you dial 911. If you have serious heart, lung, or arterial issues, you may want to get a tracker that will watch your heart rate and blood pressure around the clock. That way, you are always in the loop when it comes to your health.

Conclusion

There we have it! Wearable medical alert devices are as varied as they are valuable. Though they may take different shapes and sizes (and have wildly different price tags), they all contribute to your health, safety, and peace of mind. Is there a particular device from our list that you’re interested in? Why or why not? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!


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