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Best Medical Alert Watches of 2020

Our experts reviewed and researched 5 medical alert watches and narrowed the list to their top 2 recommendations.

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The Best Medical Alert Watches

Seniors don’t always like to use medical alert systems. Many feel self-conscious about wearing a button around their necks, and the system may remind seniors of their potentially fragile health. Fortunately, technology such as smartphones and smartwatches with medical alerts built in go a long way toward addressing these issues. The devices have multiple functions, some of which aren’t related to medical alerts. They look cool and don’t scream, “Medical alert device!” Many seniors are comfortable using them. There’s also the fact that seniors may remain active. They walk, hike, garden and bike even into their 90s. A smartwatch lets them do these activities without becoming a nuisance the way a neck pendant might. Moreover, a smartwatch gives seniors the confidence to actually engage in these activities. If an injury occurs, help is a button press away. Two companies, Medical Guardian and MobileHelp, sell high-quality smartwatches that run on the AT&T cellular network. The smartwatches offer two-way communication with U.S.-based emergency operators who have multilingual support.

Here are the Best Medical Alert Systems Watch for 2020

How We Chose Our Top 2 Medical Alert Watches

We identified the top 5 medical alert watch brands and narrowed it down to 2 of our favorites based on a number of criteria. We looked at affordability, service, ease of use, response times, and other factors to rank the best medical alert watches on the market. Take a look at the medical alert watches we have deemed the best of the best.

5
Products considered
5
Experts consulted
2
Products selected
37
Hours of research
  • 1. Medical Guardian
    Ease of use Excellent
    Equipment Excellent
    Service & Response Excellent
    Features & Tech Excellent
    Pricing

    Overview

    Medical Guardian’s smartwatch is called the Freedom Guardian. It’s a GPS device that seniors can use both at home and on the go. The watch comes with a few mobile phone capabilities that may eliminate the need for some seniors to have a cellphone.

    The design of the watch is simplistic, and the large icons are easy for seniors to see. The watch face is analog and in high-resolution color. It displays the time, day and date. The watch sends low-battery alert notifications at 15%, 10% and 5%.

    To summon help, users press and hold a red button on the side of the watch for three seconds. Alternatively, they can press and hold the “EMERGENCY/SOS HELP” touchscreen for three seconds.

    Otherwise, a simple touch of the red button enables wearers to navigate the watch’s various features. They can also use the touchscreen for navigation.

    Family members have the option to keep track of seniors via the Freedom Guardian companion app, which is free to download. Also available is a customer care web portal. It offers the same features the app does. Examples include location tracking, emergency alert history and SMS messaging. Caregivers or family members can input information about appointments, events and daily tasks so seniors get a reminder to do them. Family members can also use the portal to read resources and talk with a customer care representative.

    The band of the watch is flexible and made from soft silicone. It’s available in black or white. Charging is done via a charger and magnetic charging prongs. The process is simple and requires that the watch be on a flat surface.

    Pros
    • Two-day battery life and two-hour charge time
    • One-touch medical alert signal and WiFi capabilities for more accurate tracking
    • Proactive family care functions
    • Three-day weather forecast, advanced location tracking, text-to-speech messaging and reminders and alerts (medications, doctor’s appointments, parties, social events, etc.)
    • Available in black or white
    Cons
    • Messaging and alerts/reminders not available at all service levels
    • Can’t wear the watch when it’s recharging
    • No fall detection available
    • Not fitness-oriented

    Pricing

    The smartwatch itself costs $99. That’s a one-time expense.

    Next, Medical Guardian offers four subscription types for medical alert monitoring. Plans are monthly ($44.95), quarterly ($134.85), semiannual ($269.70) and annual ($494.45).

    The monthly plan gets you the weather forecast, time and date, and emergency SOS service. The quarterly plan adds free ground shipping. Meanwhile, the semiannual plan throws in a free lockbox, and the annual plan includes a free month of service. When you break the annual plan down by month, it equals $41.20, a bit cheaper than the $44.95 you pay month by month.

    A lockbox is a small device kept outside the senior’s home. It grants emergency responders quick access and can prevent damage to doors. You can get the lockbox for $2.99 extra a month if you choose the monthly or quarterly plan.

    For $5 extra a month, you get the smartwatch’s text-to-speech messaging capabilities and the reminders and alerts.

    A protection plan is available for another $5.99 a month. It covers damage from normal wear and tear, drops, accidents, spills, humidity, dust, heat and power surges. It also covers the watch in case of manufacturer defects and offers unlimited battery replacement. It’s good for one watch replacement during any 12-month period (so, seniors may be out of luck if they lose a watch twice in one year). Last but not least, the protection plan gets you unlimited technical support.

    Suppose you opt for the monthly plan with the communications upgrades. You’d pay $49.95 per month before taxes kick in. If you add the protection plan, that’s $55.94 a month.

    The Bottom Line

    Paying $50 to $55 a month for emergency monitoring may seem like a lot. However, cellphones and cell service can be costly. If your parents don’t already have a phone and a plan, this watch means they may not ever need one. From that perspective, $50 to $55 a month could be a great bargain. Of course, if your parents already do have a phone, then that $5 monthly upgrade may not be necessary.

    The communications options on the watch are somewhat limited. For instance, suppose you send your parents a message. They open it. The message displays on the screen and is read out loud to your parents. They can respond in one of three ways. They choose from “yes/no,” “OK,” and an audio response of up to one minute. Also, messages disappear from the watch once they’re acknowledged or closed. Seniors can still access them through the customer care portal or companion app. These limitations serve many situations just fine, but the smartwatch, although it has some mobile phone capabilities, is not a complete replacement for a phone.

    The Freedom Guardian has an IPX7 rating, which means it can be immersed in water up to 1 meter (about 39 inches) for 30 minutes. Seniors can shower, wash their hands or get wet in the rain without damaging the watch. Swimming with the watch on is not a good idea, but for the most part, seniors can wear the watch anywhere, anytime, and be protected.

  • 2. MobileHelp

    Overview

    Like Medical Guardian does, MobileHelp sells a variety of home and mobile-focused medical alert systems. Its smartwatch is the MobileHelp Smart, and it offers a noticeably different experience than the Freedom Guardian does. For one thing, the Smart is fitness-oriented with the built-in Samsung Health app. For another, the Smart doesn’t offer the communications capabilities that the Freedom Guardian does. Each watch has a distinctive look. For example, the Smart features a round face and the time displayed digitally, while the Freedom Guardian is square with an analog display.

    When the Smart’s battery reaches 15%, seniors get a low-battery warning. The battery is rechargeable via a wireless charging surface. Seniors place the watch onto a charging dock.

    The home screen of the watch displays widgets such as a “Help” button and a weather forecast button. There are also icons for Samsung Health, “Test” and location. Pressing “Test” enables seniors to make sure they’d be able to get emergency help without having to send an actual alert.

    To send a real alert, seniors press “Help” on the home screen or hold down the “Help/Back” button on the side of the watch. Like with the Freedom Guardian, emergency operators will speak with seniors through the watch’s built-in speakers and microphones. They’ll send emergency responders if they are unable to get a response.

    Pros
    • Samsung Health app monitors water, caloric and caffeine intake, heart rate, activity levels and more
    • Military-grade hardware, including watch face resistant to water, dust, scratches and extreme temperatures
    • Battery lasts up to two days on a single charge
    • MobileHelp Connect service lets approved family members or caregivers see where the watch is (where the senior is) and get notified in an emergency
    • Weather forecasts
    Cons
    • No communications capabilities with family members or caregivers
    • No fall detection
    • Can’t wear the watch when it’s recharging
    • Hefty upfront price for the watch
    • Available only in black

    Pricing

    MobileHelp Smart comes with a $349.95 price tag for the watch itself plus $24.95 for monthly monitoring (emergency response).

    However, you need at least $424.80, taxes not included, for your initial payment. That’s because the total includes the watch and three months of monitoring. If you have a promo code, it can offset some of that cost.

    The Bottom Line

    For many people, the decision of which watch to choose (MobileHelp Smart or Freedom Guardian) comes down to two factors: which look they prefer and whether they prioritize communications capabilities or fitness tracking.

    The Smart could be ideal for independent, active seniors with fitness goals, and the Smart is a bit more durable than the Freedom. Seniors still shouldn’t swim with the Smart, though. The watch’s IP68 rating means that it is protected from harmful contact with dust and that it can be immersed in water 1.5 meters deep for 30 minutes. It’s fine for showers, rain and hand washing.

    Pricing for both watches is a mixed bag. The Freedom has a lower upfront price but more expensive monthly monitoring. The Smart has vastly cheaper monthly monitoring but a higher upfront price. However, if seniors use the Smart long enough (about 12 to 15 months), the pricing eventually works out in its favor.

    Either watch should make seniors feel less self-conscious about wearing a medical alert device. That said, the Freedom Guardian appeals to a larger base because it lets family members and caregivers be involved to a great extent.

What Is a Medical Alert Watch?

Various types of medical alert systems exist. Some are for in-home use, while others employ GPS for both home and outside use. A medical alert watch (smartwatch) has GPS built into it. Emergency operators can see a senior’s location to send emergency help when needed. These watches generally have one or two help buttons and two-way communications capabilities with operators.

What Are the Benefits of Owning a Medical Alert Watch?

Perhaps the biggest benefit is that seniors don’t have to feel self-conscious about wearing a medical alert device. Medical alert systems are no good if seniors don’t use them.

Meanwhile, a smartwatch is sleek and multifunctional. It looks cool and does other things in addition to serving as a medical alert system. Seniors and their families may feel like they get more value for their money.

However, smartwatches don’t have fall detection. For that, seniors need to wear a button or pendant around their necks. If falls are a major concern for your family, a smartwatch may not be the best option. Of course, it could still be the best choice if it’s the only system your parents would wear.

One more thing: Seniors won’t be able to use their smartwatch’s monitoring service if they travel outside of the United States. That’s true for medical alert systems in general, not just smartwatches.

What Costs Should You Expect with Medical Alert Watches?

There tends to be an upfront cost for the smartwatch plus a monthly subscription for ongoing monitoring. The upfront cost can be as high as $350, and monitoring may cost between $25 and $60 a month. You don’t need to worry about setting up a cell plan for the watch, but look for companies that don’t make you sign long-term contracts or pay activation fees.

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