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As technology advances at seemingly exponential speed, so do medical alert devices. Medical alert systems provide more safety for older adults than they could a decade ago. While these advancements are useful, they come at a higher cost, leaving older adults on a tight budget to look for alternatives.
Not all seniors can afford another monthly bill. Some companies have realized this and now offer medical alert systems without monthly fees. While this is great for your wallet, these systems lack some of the standard safety features and the 24/7 monitoring of systems with monthly fees, so they won’t be right for everyone.
Below, we’ll take a look at systems without monthly fees, who they’re best for, and affordable alternatives.
Medical alert systems typically require a monthly monitoring fee, equipment fee, or both. Medical alert devices without monthly fees eliminate monitoring, but you’ll still pay an upfront equipment fee. In other words, you are buying the system outright.
To get rid of monthly fees, providers also eliminate the use of a monitoring center as a go-between for the subscriber and 911 dispatchers. Instead, you’ll press a help button (or use voice activation) to call 911, your emergency contacts, or both, depending on how you set up the system.
While deciding which type of system is best for you, consider what the monthly fees cover. Most importantly, when pressing the emergency button on your device, rather than connecting to 911 or emergency contacts directly, you will be connecting with a monitoring center agent. These agents are well trained; some even have EMT certifications. They quickly assess the situation and then call 911 to send the appropriate help.
FYI: Most medical alert providers with monthly fees own or use at least two monitoring centers in different parts of the country for redundancy. If a power outage or severe weather event disables one center, the other can still provide protection.
The monitoring agents usually have the subscriber’s medical history, current medications, and allergies at their fingertips. They can communicate with a 911 dispatcher in a way that the person in distress can’t, as they might be in pain, dizzy, or even unconscious. Many on-the-go monitored systems also include advanced location detection to determine your precise location. This means that help can be sent straight to you, even if you don’t know where you are.
Systems without monthly fees are typically simple and easy to use. This is a plus. On the other hand, they often don’t include advanced features that you may find useful or even lifesaving, such as fall detection pendants. Fall detection is a somewhat recent technology: If you fall while wearing your pendant, it will automatically detect the fall and send an alert to the monitoring center, whether you remain conscious or not. One in three older adults fall at least once per year,1 so this is a feature we highly recommend.
The biggest advantage to medical alert systems without monthly fees is the cost savings. A medical alert system without a monthly fee is most appropriate for the money-conscious older adult who still wants some layer of protection. In addition, because most systems with no monthly fee are at-home systems, they are best suited for those who are homebound or rarely leave their home unaccompanied.
Typically, these systems do not include advanced features such as fall detection or 24/7 monitoring. For this reason, they are not a good fit for seniors who are at high risk of falling. This high-risk group includes those with dementia, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, COPD, or vision loss. It also includes those who take medications that cause dizziness or weakness, have fallen at least once before, or are 85 and older.2
The WellBe Smart Speaker, which can only be purchased online, costs $189 with a $9.95 shipping fee. If you decide to add professional monitoring, the cost is a low $10 per month.
The Silent Beacon Panic Button has a one-time fee of $99.99. The device easily pairs to your smartphone or tablet. You can purchase the button on the company’s website or through various online retailers.
LogicMark products are sold in brick-and-mortar as well as online retail stores such as Walmart and Amazon. Prices run from $130 to $150 for the Guardian Alert 911 and from $206 to $220 for the Freedom Alert.
We’d highly recommend a system with monthly fees if it fits in your budget. The 24/7 professional monitoring and advanced features these devices offer make them well worth the cost, as they add another layer of protection and peace of mind. Let’s look at a few affordable medical alert providers with monthly monitoring fees.
Bay Alarm Medical offers reasonable monthly prices offers for reliable at-home and on-the-go systems. Its at-home systems start at $24.95 per month, while its on-the-go systems, including a traditional help button and a smartwatch system, start at $29.95 to $34.95 per month. Upgrades include add-ons like fall detection and jewelry pendants. For more information, check out our review of Bay Alarm Medical.
If you’re searching for an on-the-go system that won’t break the bank, take a look at Lively (formerly GreatCall). The company is known for its mobile devices; in fact, Lively doesn’t offer at-home systems. Two of its systems are cell phones with medical alert capabilities. They include oversized screens, large fonts, hearing aid compatibility, and more. They also offer a smartwatch and a traditional on-the-go help button. Lively’s equipment costs are comparable to other popular cell phones and top medical alert smartwatches on the market, with monthly Health & Safety Packages starting as low as $24.95 per month. Read our most recent review of Lively for a closer look.
Quick tip: Want to compare popular medical alert providers? Head to our list of the best medical alert systems for seniors.
If you’re looking for a solid at-home system, we recommend MobileHelp. This provider’s landline and cellular systems have a great range, and MobileHelp has low monthly prices. The MobileHelp Wired Home landline system, starting at $24.95 per month, has a range of 1,300 feet between the base unit and help pendant. The MobileHelp Classic, a cellular at-home system, starts at $19.95 per month and offers a range of 1,400 feet. Read our MobileHelp review to learn more.
Aloe Care Health has slightly higher costs for their at-home systems, but they offer great features for you and your caregivers. The base unit uses voice activation so you can check in with loved ones or send an emergency call to the monitoring center. Using an app, caregivers can monitor their loved one’s wellness and health through air quality, temperature, and activity sensors. Starting at $29.99 per month, this is an excellent system for remote caregivers, those who want activity monitoring, and seniors with health conditions such as dementia. To learn more, take a peek at our review of Aloe Care Health.
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