Most aging parents worry about being a burden to their children and complicating their already busy lives.1 On the flipside, independent living is very important to many seniors who can feel like they are losing control by asking for help. A personal emergency response system, more generally known as a medical alert device, can ease these competing worries of parents and children. Bay Alarm Medical has been in the business of health technology since 1946, and was the first to develop an in-car medical alert device, considered revolutionary at the time. In this review, I put Bay Alarm Medical's In-Home Medical Alert and GPS Help Button to the test and found them to be uncomplicated and affordable, all while prioritizing families, health, and
The In-Home Medical Alert system is one of Bay Alarm's most popular and affordable models, starting at $19.95 per month. This price makes it one of the least expensive medical alert devices out there. To reduce the cost even further, you can see if your insurance will cover it. Its extended signal range of 1,000 feet from the base unit is a game-changer, as other companies, like ADT, only have a 300-foot range. I also tested the GPS Help Button, which operates on a cellular network and springs into action by (you guessed it) pressing the help button to connect to Bay Alarm's emergency response center.
One thing that truly shines about Bay Alarm Medical is their language support. If you're considering a system for someone who speaks little English or prefers to communicate in their first language, Bay Alarm offers customer support in nearly 200 languages, including Greek. While companies like GreatCall and Philips Lifeline also have a top-rated customer support team, they don't offer the same range of language support that Bay Alarm does. Keep on reading for a detailed overview of my experience with Bay Alarm Medical's range of systems and features!
There are several factors to consider when choosing which Bay Alarm Medical system will work best for you. If the user will primarily need protection at home, consider the In-Home Medical Alert, because it's the least expensive and likely has most of the features you'll need or want. The rest of their lineup is designed for on-the-go or in-car scenarios. Note, 24/7 professional monitoring is included with all their systems. Let's take a closer look at what's included in each Bay Alarm Medical system and the different key features that'll influence your decision.
|In-Home Medical Alert||Landline and/or Cellular||Two-way audio; Wireless, waterproof wall buttons (2-pack for Preferred, 4-pack for Premium); Up to 32-hour backup battery; Standard help button lasts up to 5 years; Auto Fall Detection button lasts up to 2 years; Choice of waterproof necklace or wrist button; Up to 1,000 ft. coverage area|
|GPS Help Button||Cellular||Includes charger, lanyard, and case; Two-way audio; Waterproof buttons; Black or white color options; 72-hour battery life; Caregiver tracking with Preferred and Premium; Auto Fall Detection with Premium; Keep device after one-time purchase|
|In-Car Medical Alert||Cellular||Two-way audio; Automatic Crash Detection; In-car tracking app; Driving status updates; Geofencing; Push button to call for help; Built-in backup battery; Works in any vehicle|
|SOS Smartwatch||Cellular||Step tracking; Touch screen watch design; Set daily step goals; One day battery life; Emergency help button|
|Inside & Out of the Home Coverage Bundle||Cellular and/or Landline||In-Home Medical Alert; 4G LTE GPS help button (In-Home + GPS); In-Car Medical Alert (In-Home + In-Car only); SOS Smartwatch (In-Home + SOS Smartwatch only)|
Before we dive into the descriptions for each Bay Alarm Medical system, I want to share my interactions with the company and how easy the buying and setup process turned out to be.
Navigating Bay Alarm Medical's website isn't difficult, but I would call them — which I ended up doing — to get a better understanding of the system that works best for you. I have a feeling Bay Alarm's support team went through something similar to “Disney training” because the representative was quite friendly. When I told the agent that I wanted to try a system for in-home use, she recommended the Preferred Package for the In-Home Medical Alert system. The Preferred Package includes two waterproof wall buttons with adhesive mounts that are perfect for the shower or tub. I personally wouldn't wear a help pendant on me as I shower, so the wall buttons are excellent backup options. I went ahead and ordered, and then all I had to do was wait for the gear to arrive!
Pro Tip: If your loved one is part of American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)2 or Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC),3 Bay Alarm Medical offers a senior discount of $1 off monthly package rates. The discount only applies once per customer.
Bay Alarm isn't going to win any design awards (the color is the off-white of a personal computer circa 2005). But they're functional, super-durable, and easy to set up. When I took the components out of the box — base unit, power adapter, personal help button (which you typically wear as a pendant), and two wall buttons — I only needed to plug in the base unit to an outlet and then connect it to the phone line. I should mention that placing the base unit in areas where you frequent (e.g., kitchen, living room, or bedroom) or by high fall risk areas like the stairs is essential.
Once the base unit was on, I pressed the help button on the pendant, which connects wirelessly to the base station. The base station beeped for about five seconds, and then an automated voice said, “Call connected, please wait.” In another few seconds, the operator picked up and asked if I needed help. I let them know that I was only testing the system, and that was that. All communication occurs through the speaker of the base station.
For on-the-go systems, make sure the GPS Help Button is fully charged before trying it out. Once charged, loop the button through the lanyard included in the package, and you'll be all set! To test it out, hold the help button until you hear a beep, and an automated voice will prompt you to either stay on the line or press the button again to cancel the call. You can wait for the operator to respond to complete the test.
Setup Tip: Avoid placing the base unit in crowded areas where you could potentially knock over items as you try to reach for it. Keep the base unit in a visible spot with few or no objects surrounding it.
Bay Alarm's customer service was top-notch. Whether I spoke to an operator or one of their Care Consultants, I never felt put off by my interactions with them. I asked the customer service agent if they offer language support in Greek, as I was thinking of my great aunt, who speaks little English. They let me know that they could set her up with an operator who was fluent in Greek, which I know would make her feel more comfortable if she was using the system. In fact, Bay Alarm offers language support for more than 200 languages. Bay Alarm extends a helping hand in all directions, whether by live chat, phone, or through their FAQ portal. They will do anything to offer the help you need.
When I spoke with a representative about Bay Alarm Medical's warranty, called the Protection Plan, they explained that the warranty would allow you to replace your device so long as the reason is normal wear and tear. However, if you lose or damage the device, then the plan only covers 50% of the item's replacement value. In this scenario, you'd simply order a new one online or by phone. The representative added that they could only send one replacement unit per calendar year, and additional units cost a $100 deductible. If you decide to opt-out of the Protection Plan, you would have to pay a $299 fee for non-manufacture damage.
Now, let's take a detailed look at the systems and accessories that Bay Alarm has to offer before narrowing down which ones suit your loved one best.
Pro Tip: Reported by the National Council on Aging (NCOA),4 falls are the leading cause for both fatal and non-fatal injuries for seniors in the U.S., which is why fall alert pendants from companies like Bay Alarm Medical are so important for those aging in place.
Prices and Package Options
The In-Home Medical Alert system is great for homebodies, especially if they live alone or with family members who are out of the house often. Starting at $19.95 per month, the plug-and-play system works great in areas with little to no cellular service. I have a landline, so all I needed to do was plug in the system's grey cord into the phone jack. I noticed that Bay Alarm offers an in-home 4G LTE cellular connection, which runs off of AT&T cell towers, as an alternative option. I preferred the stable connection of my landline since I don't have great AT&T coverage, but this option is suitable for those who don't have a landline in their homes (you don't even need to have a preexisting AT&T plan, by the way).
I signed up for the Preferred Protection Plan for $24.95 per month, which came with the base unit, two wall buttons, and my choice of either a necklace or wristband button. I stuck one wall button near the bed and one in the bathroom. All the buttons are waterproof, so I didn't have to worry about mounting the wall button near the bathtub. These buttons will come in handy if you take off your pendant while showering or sleeping. The system's two-way audio allowed me to communicate with a dispatcher from anywhere in the house (1,000-foot range) without being near the base unit. I pressed the help button on my pendant in the kitchen, and it quickly connected to the base station in the living room on the other side of the house, no problem.
Prices and Package Options
I recommend the On-the-Go Help Button for anyone in the family, whether it's your child who walks home from school or your partner who works at a construction site. With a compact, lightweight design, and a color choice of either black or white, it doesn't feel too bulky or cumbersome. The package comes with the help button, charging dock, USB cord to charge the button in your car, necklace cord, hip pouch, and an AC adapter. Once you charge the button, simply place it around your neck, and you are good to go. You can make a test call whether you're in the house or out and about thanks to the 4G LTE GPS connection.
What really stood out to me about the GPS Help Button was the Caregiver Tracking app which
costs an extra $5 per month. You can easily track the user's location through the app in case you're busy and can't monitor their whereabouts in real time.
Prices and Package Options
In my book, the SOS Smartwatch is best for active older adults who spend a lot of time out and about. This smartwatch has a simple touchscreen and help button, along with a few extra features like step tracking and daily goal setting. For older adults who want to track their daily activity with a little added protection, or those who want a discreet, sleek medical alert system, this is an excellent option. Very few medical alert providers offer smartwatch systems, so it's pretty unique for the industry.
Prices and Package Options
Anyone driving a vehicle can use Bay Alarm's In-Car Medical Alert, the first in-car medical alert technology to grace the market. When you live in a bustling city as I do, you never know when car accidents will happen. With the In-Car Medical Alert, you can keep track of the subscriber's whereabouts and receive alerts through Automatic Crash Detection. All you have to do is plug the device into your car's auxiliary power outlet. From there, the system's companion mobile app lets you track the user's location and shows their driver profile and trip information.
The app also allows you to set up location boundaries and will notify you if the user goes outside of those boundaries. If you don't want your aging family member to go anywhere too far by themselves, you could use geofencing to receive alerts as soon as they drive past the boundary. This feature is particularly useful for parents who want to keep their teenagers from driving somewhere they shouldn't. It's a simple yet powerful device, especially with Automatic Crash Detection. Bay Alarm's 24/7 professional monitoring team will notify you right away if your loved one ever gets into a car accident.
Prices and Bundles for Inside & Out of the Home Coverage
For a little bit of everything, I recommend Bay Alarm's Bundle Packages for loved ones who are both in and out of the house throughout the day. You can potentially save over $100 per year when you choose one of their bundles instead of buying two separate systems. Keep in mind, though, these bundles are priced higher overall, and there may be a one-time equipment fee depending on the bundle you choose. What I liked about Bay Alarm's bundles is the combination of different systems in one package. The base station and pendant can cover your grandpa while he watches the news at home, and when it's time to go golfing, all he has to do is throw on the On-the-Go Help Button to stay protected.
While you cannot beat the in-depth nature of a written review, I do create reviews of medical alert systems and products on the Senior Living YouTube Channel. In this video, you can see an overview of all of Bay Alarm Medical's systems with closeup videos of them in action and explanations of how each device works. For a summary of the review content, with a lot less reading, check out our video review of Bay Alarm Medical below.
Bay Alarm Medical has add-ons similar to other leading companies like Medical Guardian, as listed below. The major ones to focus on are the wall buttons, designed for bathrooms and other “high-fall” areas, and the Bella Charms, which are a way to add some style accessories to the pendant.
|Add-on Product & Price||Description|
|Lockbox — $39.95||When emergency situations arise, first responders are trained to enter your home through whatever means, including breaking down the front door and resulting in a costly repair bill. With Bay Alarm's lockbox, you can avoid all of that. The lockbox comes ready to use with a pre-programmed four-digit code that Bay Alarm's operators can give to EMS.|
|Help Buttons — $34.95||The In-Home Medical Alert packages come with one help button, but you can also order an extra one. That way, you can have the wristband and necklace button to switch things up from time to time. The buttons are waterproof, so you won't need to take them off in the shower.|
|Bella Charms — $27.95||The Bella Charms, basically stylish “sleeves” for the help buttons, come with a variety of design options. Just place the help button into the plastic hook on the back of the charm, and you're set! If your older family members are fashion forward, they can match the different Bella Charms to their outfits.|
|Wall Buttons — $5 per month for each button||Sometimes you can never have too much of any item, and in this case, it's the wall buttons. When I ordered our In-Home Medical Alert package, I signed up for the Preferred Protection Plan which included two wall buttons. The ultra-sticky double-sided tape makes for easy installation.|
|Vial of Life — $8.95 for each additional kit||Bay Alarm's Vial of Life is a medical form that lets first responders know about your medical history and any allergies you have, along with any medications you take. It's free for new subscribers, but it costs $8.95 for each additional kit. It saves a lot of the guesswork that EMS would normally do, and they'd be able to better assess the user's immediate needs during an emergency.|
|Auto Fall Detection — $15 per month||Available with the In-Home and On-the-Go Medical Alert systems, Auto Fall Detection is a literal lifesaver for aging loved ones. Auto Fall Detection will detect any fall, whether it's a slip in the bathroom or fall out of bed in the middle of the night. The sensor can pick up a downward movement followed by no movement before triggering a response. Even though these systems sometimes give false alerts,5 it's an extra layer of protection.|
Bay Alarm nails it in two respects — its affordability (starting at $19.95 per month, Bay Alarm is less expensive than leading products like Philips Lifeline) and the language support offered by customer service. Bay Alarm also shines in its durability and ease of use. There's nothing complicated about it! In short, I couldn't find much to complain about with Bay Alarm Medical, and I was happy with my experience. With a wide range of different products, you're bound to find something that meets your needs.
Monthly rates for Bay Alarm Medical systems start as low as $19.95 per month and range up to $39.95 per month.
The Protection Plan allows for one device replacement (base unit, GPS device, or In-Car device) per calendar year based on normal wear and tear. If the device is damaged or lost, the plan will cover 50% of its replacement value.
Bay Alarm Medical’s 24/7 professional monitoring team will respond in 45 seconds or less.
Standard phone lines are compatible with Bay Alarm Medical systems, including Comcast, Time Warner, Charter, and Cox.
If you decide to cancel, simply give the office a call, and you will receive instructions on how to power down and return your device(s). Keep in mind that the account is not fully canceled until the equipment has been returned in working condition and processed. There aren’t any cancellation fees, so you can cancel at any time.
Bay Alarm Medical systems can be moved anywhere in the U.S. as long as you contact Bay Alarm and update your emergency contact information with them. They do not recommend making these changes for moves of less than two weeks.
Journal of Family Nursing. (May 2009). You Don't Want to Burden Them: Older Adults' Views on Family Involvement in Care.
AARP. (2020). Membership & Benefits.
Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC). (2020). About Us: Overview.
National Council on Aging (NCOA). (2020). Falls Prevention Facts.
Telemedicine and e-Health. (2016). Older Adults' Experience with a Novel Fall Detection Device.