Reliable and user-friendly medical alert systems with plenty of affordable monthly plans
If you've heard of Connect America, the largest independent provider of medical alert systems, then you may have come across one of their brands, Medical Alert, at your CVS store.1 As the main medical alert provider for over 7,000 CVS stores nationwide,2 Medical Alert combines advanced technology with simple functions to come to your aid as quickly and efficiently as possible.
For this year's review, I ordered and tested out the At Home Landline system and the new and improved MobileElite GPS system to see how they hold up to other competing brands. I found that the GPS system was sleek and durable, and the products were high-quality and reliable. I like that there aren't any hidden fees or long-term contracts, and there's a 30-day free trial, so it's easy to give Medical Alert a test run. Not everything was rosy – for instance, the at-home unit could use better audio controls. That said, I'll walk you through the perks and qualms I had about both systems before diving into my buying experience and the straightforward setup process. Keep on reading for the ins and outs of using Medical Alert systems!
Clicking around Medical Alert's website is fine and all, but I highly recommend that you give them a call for more details about choosing a system that works for you. When I called, an agent named Joe answered the call after about 15 seconds. During our conversation, I had a long list of questions, and Joe was able to answer all of them.
Pro Tip: If you sign up with Medical Alert's annual payment option, you can receive monthly rates as low as $18.29 per month, one complimentary month of 24/7 professional monitoring and a lockbox for free!
One thing I was curious about was the free lockbox that's included with their semi-annual and annual subscriptions. I asked Joe if they sold the lockbox separately if I chose to pay monthly, which doesn't offer a free lockbox. To my surprise, he said that he'd be able to offer it to me for free anyway. In my experience, calling in to chat with a sales agent has frequently helped me knock off a few excess fees, like shipping or activation, in this case, a free lockbox! Now that I've shared my experience with ordering over the phone, let's move into setup territory.
After receiving my At Home Landline and MobileElite GPS systems in the mail, which took about a week, I began setting up the former right away. My package came with the At Home base unit, a help button with a neckband and wristband, the MobileElite GPS unit and its wrist/neck button, a charging cradle, and a carrying case. I unplugged the cord from my landline phone, which was in the living room, and plugged it into the “WALL JACK” on the back of the base unit. Then, I grabbed the telephone cord that came with the system and plugged one end to the base unit's “PHONE” port and the other to the back of my phone. The final plug-in was the power adaptor, and I made sure not to insert it into a light switch outlet. Once that was done, I powered on the base unit by sliding the ON/OFF switch to “ON.”
A steady green light indicated that the system was running properly. To make sure that the system was fully functional, I dialed the testing line number and requested my account to undergo “TEST” mode for 15 minutes. After following the automated voice prompts, I hung up and pressed the wrist help button. I knew the base unit received and verified the signal by the green light that appeared on my wrist help button after a few seconds.
Setup Advice: The At Home Landline system has a 400-foot range, so it's important to keep the base unit in a centralized area of your home and near a phone jack.
As for the MobileElite GPS, I took the small end of the power cord and plugged it into the back of the charger cradle. I connected the larger end of the cord into a wall outlet. A green light appeared on the charger, which meant that it was up and running. Then I placed the MobileElite onto the cradle, and the power light and signal indicator began to flash before the device announced, “Your device is now charging.” The signal indicator then illuminated green. I left the MobileElite device in its cradle for about an hour before it was fully charged.
To complete the setup process for the MobileElite GPS system, I just needed to download the Medical Alert Connect app, which gave me access to the statuses of my devices, contact lists, and testing schedules. I should note that Medical Alert encouraged me to test my systems every week to ensure that they were in top form.
Remember Joe? Well, during our conversation I asked about their product warranty since it wasn't spelled out anywhere on their website. Joe said that as long as I've signed up for one of their systems, they will send a replacement for equipment due to tear-and-wear at any given time.
Now that I've covered my overall experience with ordering and setting up Medical Alert systems, let's take a look at their product lineup and compare system features and prices.
|At Home Landline||– Two-way speaker communication via in-home base unit
– Waterproof emergency pendant or bracelet
– Base unit with 24/7 professional monitoring
– Free lockbox and one month free with annual plan
|– Monthly: $22.95 per month
– Semi-Annually: $19.95 per month
– Annually: $18.29 per month
|At Home No Landline||– Two-way speaker communication via in-home base unit
– Waterproof emergency pendant or bracelet
– Base unit with 24/7 professional monitoring
– Free lockbox and one month free with annual plan
|– Monthly: $32.95 per month
– Semi-Annually: $29.95 per month
– Annually: $27.45 per month
|MobileElite GPS||– 24/7 professional monitoring
– Interchangeable neck and wrist options for help buttons
– Handheld device with carrying case
– GPS location services
|– Monthly: $37.95 per month
– Semi-Annually: $34.95 per month
– Annually: $32.04 per month
So, which system is your perfect match? Below, I'll cover my experience with each Medical Alert system and who I found each system is best for.
Best For: Seniors who live in rural areas with poor cellular reception and homebodies.
The At Home Landline system is the cheapest among Medical Alert's other systems with monitoring plans ranging between $18.29 per month to $22.95 per month. Once the setup process was complete, I wore the wrist help button just like a watch, and throughout my busy day, I'd sometimes forget I even had it on. I live in a one-story home, so I wasn't too worried about the wrist help button being out of range from the system's base unit. Just to be safe, I walked to different areas of my house to make sure that the signal connection was strong and reliable. Sure enough, the green light stayed steady after pressing the button several times throughout the house and waiting for three seconds.
My main concern with the At Home Landline system was the base unit's two-way speakerphone. While I was in the kitchen, I decided to test out the wrist button to see if I could hear the operator despite not being near the base unit. I pressed the wrist button, and the base unit responded, “Emergency” before contacting a live operator. Once I connected with someone, the unit announced, “Emergency Reported.” The average response time for Medical Alert is 25 seconds, and during my test, it only took about 12 seconds for a live operator to get on the line with me. When I told them that I was just testing out the system, the operator asked for my name before letting me know that it was no problem. The problem was, the operator's voice was quieter than I'd expected. I have pretty good hearing, but for seniors who are hard of hearing, they will have to ask the operator to speak up louder than usual. Volume control for the base unit would be nice, considering one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 experience hearing loss.3
Overall, I found that Medical Alert's At Home Landline system is great for users who don't go out much and live in smaller homes. If you do leave the house often, then I'd recommend going with the MobileElite GPS, which I cover in detail further below.
Best For: Users who don't have a traditional telephone landline and spend a lot of time at home.
I did not order an At Home No Landline system, but I did receive helpful information about it during my call with Joe. Setup required fewer steps than the At Home Landline system; in this case, you would only need to plug in the power cube into an outlet that does not control a light switch. Once turned on, the At Home No Landline's base unit will announce, “System initializing” before stating, “System ready.” I asked Joe if I needed a specific cellular service provider and while AT&T is the most common choice, he responded that other providers will work with the At Home No Landline system. The signal needs to be at least 2.5 bars, and if it's not, you would need to relocate the base unit.
FYI: Medical Alert's waterproof (not chlorine-proof) buttons only last for about half an hour when submerged in water three feet deep, so don't lounge in the bathtub for too long or jump in the pool!
The testing process is the same as the At Home Landline system. A waterproof wrist help button or pendant is included based on your preferences. All in all, if you don't have a landline in your home or would rather set up the system with your cellular network, the At Home No Landline (or Wireless) is a great option.
Best For: Active seniors who enjoy frequent strolls around the neighborhood.
The MobileElite GPS has a sleeker design with a matte gray finish compared to the other Medical Alert systems. This setup is a two-part system: there's a handheld device that acts as a base unit with a two-way speaker, as well as a wearable help button that can either be worn as a bracelet or necklace. Monitoring plans are on the pricier side with a range between $32.04 per month to $37.95 per month. Like the At Home Landline system, I opted for the annual subscription since it was cheaper than the lower tier plans.
Setup for the MobileElite GPS required more time. I placed the MobileElite device onto the charger cradle. When I came back about an hour later, I saw that the power light stopped flashing red, which meant that the device was fully charged. For testing, I pressed and held the button until I heard a beep. The MobileElite device announced, “Dialing emergency response center now. To cancel this call, press and hold the Emergency Call Button for three seconds now.” I waited on the line, and as it rang, the device determined my location before connecting me with a live operator. I let them know that I was testing, and they verified my location and that my system was working properly before hanging up.
I repeated this process when I went for a walk in my neighborhood, placing the MobileElite device in its carrying case. I attached the help button to the company's newly designed wristband and wore it. While I wasn't a huge fan of carrying around two devices, I like that the wrist button is small and discrete, and I could easily throw the handheld device in a purse or pocket.
Seniors are often encouraged to perform physical activities that aren't strenuous to their health. Walking, for example, has been reported to reduce the risk of heart attacks,4 and it's important for them to do it safely. From my experience with the MobileElite GPS system, I recommend it for seniors who engage in activities outside of the house and don't mind carrying around a device.
Like I mentioned earlier, Medical Alert doesn't have a slew of accessories or add ons to enhance their medical alert systems. For that extra layer of security, I did go ahead and purchase both the fall detection pendant and the protection plan. Here's how my experience changed when I added these features to my Medical Alert systems:
Priced at a monthly rate of $10, automatic fall detection is a great add on, as it's designed to detect falls even when the user isn't able to press the button. If the user is passed out or otherwise unable to call for help, first responders will still be sent straight away if Medical Alert is unable to get in contact with the user.
The Protection Plan ($5 per month) isn't the same as a warranty since the former covers lost, stolen, or damaged equipment. Knowing that I wouldn't have to shovel out hundreds of dollars for a replacement reduces my anxiety.
When I received my free lockbox with the At Home Landline system, I set up the code and contacted Medical Alert's Customer Care that I'd customized the code onto the lockbox. After registering it on my account, they let me know that in case they needed to dispatch EMS, they would notify them of the code so they wouldn't break down my door and incur damage costs.
Overall, I found that Medical Alert's systems performed their jobs quite well. Between the At Home Landline and MobileElite GPS systems, I'd prefer the At Home Landline since I'm home for most of the day and would rather not wear another device on my body whenever I go out. Plus, the monthly rates are less expensive than the MobileElite GPS plans. With all that said, I appreciate the company's seasonal promotional offers, contract-free plans, 30-day trial, and lack of extra fees. What you see is what you get, and they make it so easy to try out their systems without any risk. According to Medical Alert, they're a proud member of the Medical Alert Monitoring Association, and their parent company, Connect America, has an A+ rating on Better Business Bureau.5 From my overall experience with testing their systems and my interactions with Joe and the live operators, Medical Alert stays true to their word in providing complete customer satisfaction.
Each Medical Alert system offers three tiers for monitoring subscriptions: monthly, semi-annually, and annually. Prices start as low as $18.29 per month and can range up to $37.95 per month.
You can cancel your subscription at any time and return the equipment within 30 days to receive a full refund. Equipment received after 30 days will result in a prorated refund.
Wear the fall detection pendant at chest level. If you fall and do not press the button after a few moments, the pendant will automatically contact the response center. If you are unable to communicate with the operator, they will call the phone number on your account first before dispatching EMS if you are still unable to respond.
Yes, you can purchase additional buttons or pendants without paying for additional monitoring subscriptions.
If you’re moving to a new location with Medical Alert, contact Medical Alert’s Customer Care through an online form or by giving them a call. You can update the information on your account including your address.
CVS. (2020). CVS Pharmacy and Drugstore Locator.
Medical Alert. (2020). Frequently Asked Questions.
National Institute on Aging (NIA). (November 2018). Hearing Loss: A Common Problem for Older Adults.
American Heart Association. (March 2020). For older adults, more physical activity could mean longer, healthier lives.
Better Business Bureau. (June 2020). Connect America BBB Profile.
Linda’s Acclaimed Career in Senior Care Linda Schlenker is a comforting voice for seniors and caregivers across the U.S. For nearly three decades, Linda has helped seniors remain safe in their own homes, while helping them to regain priceless independence and peace… Learn More About Linda Schlenker
Since graduating from Harvard with an honors degree in Statistics, Jeff has been creating content in print, online, and on television. Much of his work has been dedicated to informing seniors on how to live better lives. As Editor-in-Chief of the personal… Learn More About Jeff Hoyt