A Medical Response System That’s as Easy as 1-2-3
One in seven Americans are over the age of 65, and more seniors than ever are living independently at home. This trend has accelerated with the COVID-19 pandemic as many older adults are reconsidering plans to move into a senior living facility. In addition, social distancing has reduced the ability of caregivers to provide in-person help and daily check-ins. A medical alert device can be a literal life-saver for many seniors in this situation, by providing access to emergency services with the press of a button.
If you’re suddenly in the market for a medical alert device, it can feel overwhelming with so many choices and models. Luckily, ResponseNow is a medical alert company that offers a simple, straightforward lineup of three medical alert systems that provide peace of mind for seniors and their adult children like me.
For this year’s review, we’re testing the Belle+, ResponseNow’s cellular model with fall detection and device tracking. This is their top-of-the-line model, priced just under $50 per month. It operates on the same network as a mobile phone, so it can connect the user to a response center if they are home alone or doing activities independently outside the home. As you’ll see, the Belle+ handles pretty much everything you need in a medical alert system with just one piece of equipment.
Read on as I get into all the ins and outs of Belle+ and ResponseNow’s medical alert systems.
|Belle||Cellular||– Built-in SIM card for two-way communication between wearer and call center
– Uses AT&T’s network
– Shower-proof pendant
– Lasts 30 days on a full charge
|Belle +||Cellular||– Built-in SIM card for two-way communication between wearer and call center
– Uses AT&T network
– Device tracking
– Fall detection
– Shower-proof pendant
– Lasts 5 days on a full charge
|In The Home||Landline||– Approximately 500 ft range from console
– Sensitive and clear two-way communication from console
– Add an extra standard pendant for a spouse for $3.9 per month
– Waterproof pendant comes as necklace or wristband
While I was researching ResponseNow’s systems, I gave their customer service center a call to ask about the differences between the Belle and Belle+ systems. While both products operate on AT&T’s network and connect you with a 24/7 emergency response system with the press of a button, the Belle+ system adds fall detection and device tracking for an additional $10 per month. Each year, 3 million older adults are treated for a fall injury, and so these features are worth it in my view.2
All-in, the Belle+ system costs $49.95 per month (adding up to $599.40 per year), but the representative let me know that I could save 10% ($60 a year) by paying upfront with an annual payment plan.
After my call, I wanted to try out the live chat feature on ResponseNow’s website. Again, the representative was extremely helpful and answered all of my questions. I wanted to know which cellular network the Belle+ system runs on to make sure I’d have strong enough coverage to test it out in my neighborhood. The representative let me know that it runs on AT&T’s network.3 Luckily for me, I have solid AT&T coverage so I was all set!
Customer Perk: ResponseNow offers a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee for new customers, which means you can test out a system before you fully commit.
ResponseNow provided a very comfortable shopping experience, which was great. After our chat, I was ready to make my Belle+ purchase. Oh, and did I mention that shipping was free? I’m a sucker for free shipping, especially since shipping fees are typically charged by competitors such as Bay Alarm Medical and GreatCall! One last thing to mention is that I set up several emergency contacts of friends and family that live nearby. You’ll see why this comes in handy in the next section!
Setting up my Belle+ system was straightforward. The system came in one small box with a charging cradle, the mobile Belle+ unit, and a necklace strap. All I had to do was plug the charging cradle into an outlet, place the Belle+ unit on the charger, and once it was fully charged (which took about three hours) I was ready to go.
The Belle+ unit is a small black pendant with a built-in speaker and microphone that connects users with a care specialist via two-way voice any time you press the help button. It’s lightweight (about 2 ounces, or the weight of a tennis ball) and in terms of size, you can think of it as half the size of a playing card with the thickness of a slice of bread. (The Belle unit is basically the same size, just a touch lighter.)
To test out the system, I held down the black help button on the front of the device until it turned solid blue, which indicates it is connecting to the response center. Once I was connected to an operator, I used the device’s two-way audio to let them know I was just making a test call. The operator knew my location (I was at home) based on the GPS tracking embedded in the device, and also my name. She reviewed with me that in an emergency she could send emergency services, or simply connect me with the contacts I setup during the buying process.
Each ResponseNow system has its own set up, but each will come with all the hardware and documents you need. While the Belle and Belle+ units only require a quick charge, the At Home system will require the user to connect to a phone jack (with a working analog telephone line) and a power outlet, and should be placed where the user is more likely to hear the system in case they need to communicate with the operator.
With the Belle+ system, I found that there was little room for user-error. I had already set up my emergency contacts and preferences, and I had let the unit charge for three hours (or until the call button turned red). All that was left for me to do was try it out!
The Belle+ system can be taken along with the user in a bag or be worn as a pendant. Although the unit is small and can easily fit into almost any handbag, I’d advise wearing the system as a necklace for the most accurate fall detection. Should the user need assistance, all they have to do is press a button as I explained above. The original Belle model can hold a charge for an entire month, and the Belle+ lasts up to 5 days. ResponseNow will send a text or email to the user when the rechargeable batteries drop below 20%, which makes it super easy to remember when to charge it.
With ResponseNow, I didn’t have to purchase any equipment, just the service. The company takes responsibility for service and repairs for equipment that isn’t working properly, and all ResponseNow systems come with a lifetime replacement warranty. This is a top-of-the-line warranty in the industry, with some companies only offering a one- or three-year warranty.
ResponseNow makes it easy to choose the system that’s right for you, as their product lineup is straightforward with just three options. First, decide if you’re buying a system for someone who is on the go or for more of a homebody. After that, you’ll want to consider your budget, if you have a landline at home, and if you want fall detection.
From the Experts: ResponseNow’s response times average between 30-60 seconds. For comparison, the average response times for medical alert systems across the industry are 15-45 seconds.
Starting at $29.95 per month, ResponseNow’s In The Home system is ideal for those who spend most of their time at home and have a landline. The base unit offers crystal-clear communication and has a range of 500 feet. Installation is simple—just plug the base unit into a power outlet and a phone line and flip the power switch! I’d recommend placing the base station somewhere central in your home or near the bathroom where falls most commonly occur. The base unit also has a 24-hour back-up battery in case of power outages. This system comes with a standard waterproof pendant that can be worn as a necklace or a wristband, but you can upgrade this to a fall detection pendant for $11.95 per month. Whether you’re cooking up a storm in the kitchen or mowing the lawn, you’ll be covered. All you have to do is press the help button on the wearable pendant during an emergency and the base station will connect to the 24/7 monitoring center.
Belle starts out at $39.95 per month and is a great option for those who are always on the go or don’t have a landline at home. The small device utilizes AT&T’s cellular network and the batteries can last 30 days after a fast three-hour charge. The lightweight, shower-safe pendant is worn as a necklace and works wherever AT&T has service. However, if fall detection is important to the wearer, it would be best to go with Belle+, as Belle doesn’t offer this feature. Belle is also great for those who spend time at home but don’t want a base station that takes up counter space. It’s an all-in-one system, and as long as you’re wearing it, you won’t have to worry about being out of range of a base station.
Belle+ is ideal for a wearer who is constantly on the move or for someone who wants a fall detection pendant but doesn’t have a landline and the price starts out at $49.95 per month. The waterproof pendant uses AT&T’s cellular network for calls and GPS tracking, which is perfect for seniors who like to hike or go on road trips. As long as the wearer is in an area with AT&T service, they will be covered. I tested out the system during a three-hour road trip to see if the coverage was reliable. I made test calls periodically throughout the drive by pressing the black help button. Each time I spoke with a new, friendly operator using the two-way talk feature. I was very pleased with the reliability of the system, and I found that on average I was connected to an operator in about 30 seconds.
The five-day battery life for this system is shorter than Belle’s 30-day battery life, but five days is an impressive hold for a device that offers 24-hour monitoring and GPS services. The Belle+ also lets registered cell phones locate the Belle+ device by text, which is helpful if your grandpa forgets to check-in during travels or your aunt misplaces things easily. When I tested the system I found that using this feature tends to drain the battery, so it’s best to use it sparingly, but it’s nice to have the option. While Belle+ worked seamlessly where I live, this system may not be best for those who spend large amounts of time in areas without good AT&T coverage.
While all of ResponseNow’s add-on accessories are straightforward and helpful, I highly recommend the Care + Protection Plan for any of the systems. It’s always good to have that little bit of extra coverage!
Overall, I was happy with ResponseNow’s Belle+. Although their products don’t have extra features like medication reminders, check-in alerts, or a mobile app, they excel at the most important feature of a medical alert device – responsiveness, ease-of-use, long battery life and fall detection – to ensure your loved one’s safety both at home and on the go. The Belle and Belle+ units don’t require a landline or base station, and you communicate with an operator in an emergency directly through the pendant. If you’re looking for an alert system that lets a user remain independent and offers high-quality equipment, long-lasting battery life, and reliable service, ResponseNow is a great option in my books.
ResponseNow starts at a cost per month of $29.95 and prices range up to $49.95 per month for the Belle+ system.
When you sign up with ResponseNow, the call center will ask for your emergency contacts. When you press your alert button, an operator will ask you who you want to contact. If they don’t hear from you, they will dispatch emergency services.
While ResponseNow pendants are safe to take in the shower, they should not be submerged underwater.
Either the Belle or Belle+ would be great options for those who spend a lot of time at home but don’t have a landline, as they both use AT&T’s cellular network.
Once the user would like to terminate service with ResponseNow, they are responsible for returning the equipment. If the user is within the 30-day money-back guarantee timeframe, they will receive their refund once ResponseNow receives the equipment.
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