Last Updated: April 23, 2024

We’ve all seen the commercial with the infamous line: “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” 

The advertisement itself may have been a bit melodramatic, but it raises an important question: what should seniors do if they actually fall and cannot get up?

This is where a medical alert system can be critical.

What are Medical Alert Systems?

pushing help button around neck

Medical alert systems, sometimes referred to as life alert devices, are emergency monitors for seniors to use as they go about their everyday lives. 

Many medical alert systems are used in the senior’s home. These usually consist of a base unit and sensors that are mounted on the wall of the home. These types of systems can detect a fall in the home and trigger an automatic call to emergency services.

Some systems also come with a portable option for the senior to wear wherever they go. The main feature of mobile options is the help button. When an emergency such as an injury or fall occurs, seniors can press this button to send out an alert and get the help they need.

Oftentimes seniors wear these portable monitors around their neck like a long necklace, on their wrist like a bracelet, on their belt loop, or in their pocket. These monitors should be small and portable so the senior can wear them at all times, and waterproof so they can wear them in the bath or shower – a common location for falls. According to Forbes Health, studies have shown that while a monitor worn on the wrist can detect a fall, devices worn closer to a person’s center of gravity  – such as a necklace or pendant – can detect falls more accurately.

How Do Medical Alert Systems Work?

pushing emergency alert bracelet

Most medical alert systems allow for real-time tracking through the use of voice, data, and GPS technology. This is important because it gives emergency services the senior’s exact location in case of an emergency.

With a mobile device, seniors can press the help button after a fall to alert emergency personnel. An in-home system will automatically alert emergency services when it detects a fall. 

Many basic systems simply alert emergency services once the help button is pressed. More elaborate systems are connected to a 24-hour call center that fields the emergencies and determines the next move. They are able to either alert the senior’s emergency contacts (set up ahead of time) or send for emergency services if needed.

Who Should Use Medical Alert Systems?

man pressing emergency alert button

All seniors could benefit from having a medical alert system, since you never know when an incident may occur. But, these emergency alert buttons are especially important for seniors who live alone or are aging in place

If a senior who lives alone has a fall and no one is there to help, a medical alert system is not just beneficial; it can actually be lifesaving.

Additionally, wearing a medical alert system is one way for seniors to maintain their independence at home while still being prepared for an emergency. And it also provides peace of mind for family members and caregivers that their loved ones can access help in case of an emergency.

Why Should Seniors Use a Medical Alert System?

senior falling and pushing help button

The main reason for seniors to use a medical alert system is to allow for fast action in case of a fall or other emergency. 

According to the CDC, around 36 million falls are reported among seniors every year. Falls can be caused by a number of reasons, such as certain health and cognitive conditions, loss of muscle mass, and weakened eyesight, reflexes, and balance. They can also be caused by unsafe footwear or safety hazards inside and outside the home, like steps, rugs, spills, and clutter.

Falls should be taken seriously when they occur. Falls are the leading cause of accidents, serious injuries, and accidental deaths in seniors. To that end, emergency departments treat 3 million seniors for injuries from falls every year. That is more than 8,000 falls every day.

The risk of falling can also be a major source of anxiety for seniors, as falls can threaten their independence, mobility, and physical health.

Oftentimes when a senior falls, they need help from someone else to regain their balance and get back up. But, if they live alone or no one is around, they may not be able to get themselves up at all. Being stuck on the ground for a long period of time is extremely dangerous for seniors and prolongs their risk of serious injury. 

Therefore, getting help quickly after a fall is key. With a medical alert system, even a senior who lives alone can have peace of mind that help is available when they need it – all at the push of a button. 

How Much Do Medical Alert Systems Cost?

emergency alert system

As with all technology, the price of medical alert systems can vary based on equipment, activation, monitoring type, extra devices, and additional features.

Some companies allow you to rent their medical alert system equipment, and some require you to buy it. Buying the items may cost anywhere from $50-$350 depending on the type of equipment.

In addition, many medical alert systems charge a monthly fee to use their service. This fee pays for access to the 24-hour emergency call center.

Generally, the service cost for at-home medical alert systems is around $25 per month or $239 per year. The service cost for on-the-go-devices is slightly more expensive at around $30-$45 a month. 

Sometimes there is an additional one-time installation or activation fee that can range from $25-$100. However, this fee is often included in the package when you purchase and initiate a medical alert system.

Are Medical Alert Systems Covered by Insurance?

Usually medical alert systems are not covered by insurance. But, some options might be available to help you cover the cost.

For example, your HSA or FSA may offer a deduction for medical alert systems. Medicare Advantage may also cover some of the cost of medical alert systems. You may be able to get coverage through Veterans benefits as well. 

However, make sure you check with your insurance provider or your state’s Medicare/Medicaid program, as benefits can vary by policy or state.

If you need assistance funding a medical alert system, be sure to contact your local sheriff’s office or Area Agency on Aging, which sometimes have grants or resources available. 

Best Affordable Medical Alert Systems for Seniors

There are hundreds of companies that sell medical alert systems. Some of the top-rated, affordable options are as follows:

  • MobileHelp – The National Council on Aging (NCOA) voted this company as “Best All-Around System.” Their monthly fees start at $19.95 and fall buttons are available for an additional $10 per month. They also offer a free trial period.
  • Bay Alarm Medical – The NCOA voted this company as “Best for the Price.” Their fees start at $25 per month and fall buttons are available for an additional $10 per month. They also offer a free trial period.
  • Lively Voted “Best Health Services” by the NCOA, this company’s fees start at $25 per month, with fall detection buttons for an additional $25 per month.

Other options include Get Safe as a basic option, Medical Guardian MGMove as a wearable option, and Fast Help as an easy, quick option available on Amazon. Some other notable providers of medical alert systems are ADT Medical Alert and Life Alert.

How to Help Your Senior Loved Ones

woman and nurse looking at emergency button

Medical alert systems are one impactful way to gain confidence about your senior loved ones’ safety as they age. For some seniors, this is all the reassurance they need about their safety and independence. But, other seniors may need a little more support.

Having a fall can reveal or trigger the need for additional support. Whether you are looking for support in a senior living community or are seeking home health care services, Florida Senior Consulting can help. 

Our expert senior advisors will find your loved one the care they need to lead a healthy lifestyle, stay safe and lower their risk of falls and injuries. With this peace of mind ultimately comes a better quality of life for seniors and their families.

When the decisions become too overwhelming, our experts are here for you. And, we offer these services at no cost to seniors or their families.

Senior living on your terms. The choice should be yours.

For peace of mind, call us at (800) 969-7176 or visit us at FloridaSeniorConsulting.com.

Contact Florida Senior Consulting

(800) 969-7176