Page Reviewed / Updated – May 04, 2020

Medical alert systems offer peace of mind to seniors and their caregivers. When choosing to age in place, seniors that live alone may be at risk for delayed response times from emergency services. Medical alert bracelets give seniors near-instant access to help from anywhere in their home. Active seniors may need a system that runs on cellular towers, while those who spend most of their time at home may only require in-home monitoring. Either way, the goal of a medical alert bracelet is to allow seniors to summon help in medical emergencies.

This guide helps seniors select the right monitoring company by providing an overview of the most commonly available features, price points and upgrades. Listed below are the answers to some common questions about medical alert bracelets, as well as information about how to order and set them up.

1. How Much Does a Medical Alert Bracelet Cost?

For many seniors, the cost is the most important consideration when shopping for a medical alert bracelet. If the service is too expensive, it isn’t a workable solution. Many in-home systems start as low as $19.95 with the option to add fall detection for an additional $10 per month. LifeStation, MobileHelp and Bay Alarm Medical all offer in-home systems with low startup costs and continuing service fees.

2. How Does a Medical Alert Bracelet Work?

Seniors set up a base station in their home that communicates with a wearable device like a bracelet. The bracelet has an emergency button that can be pressed when urgent assistance is needed. Some units include two-way communication with the call center so that seniors can describe the emergency and operators can respond appropriately. Some units respond to voice commands for situations when a senior might not be able to reach the button.

Mobile units work even outside the house. A senior can run errands or visit a museum without worrying about losing their ability to connect with an ambulance. Companies often advertise their partnering cell provider, so seniors can choose an alert company that has good cell coverage in their area.

3. Can I Wear it in the Shower?

The bathroom is one of the most dangerous rooms in the house, especially for seniors with mobility issues. The CDC reports more than 234,000 bathroom-related injuries each year, many of which result in hospitalization. Medical alert bracelets are usually waterproof and can be worn in the shower, bath or pool.

4. How Long Does it Last on a Single Charge?

Wearables require regular charging to stay active. When seniors are at home and near a base station, it’s a good idea to charge the bracelet so that it continues to work while moving around the home or heading outside. Most devices last at least 24 hours, but some can go as long as five days between charges.

5. How Does Fall Detection Work?

Fall detection is an optional service that’s offered with many medical alert bracelets. These devices have sensors that can feel a fall as it happens and when it does, a notification is automatically sent to the monitoring company. Contact is then attempted by the monitoring company and if the senior doesn’t respond, emergency services are notified. However, no device can detect 100% of falls, so it’s important to use the call button whenever possible.

Placing an Order for a Medical Alert Bracelet

After deciding on a medical alert bracelet provider, ordering is usually as easy as filling out an online form or making a phone call. Most monitoring companies ship the equipment to the customer’s door, though some may also offer installation. Installation may cost extra for those seniors that need help setting up the new technology. Expedited shipping is often available for an additional fee.

Eldercare Financial Assistance Locator

  • Discover all of your options
  • Search over 400 Programs

Setting Up Your Unit

Once the equipment arrives, setup is usually simple. Seniors can simply plug in the base station and follow the instructions to connect with the monitoring company. Some providers offer phone assistance to walk users through the process. In-home systems may require a telephone with a landline for installation. Seniors who don’t have a landline should look for systems that use mobile or WiFi connections as an alternative.

Wall-mounted units may require some drilling and hardware installation. In most cases, no additional wiring is needed to set up a system with reasonable coverage. Base stations connect to wearable devices within a minimum of 600 square feet and many may offer a wider area of connectivity. For the best coverage, seniors should install the base station in the center of the home or use multiple units to avoid dead zones.