Medical alert systems provide senior citizens with a level of security that allows them to live independently without fear that accidents or other medical emergencies will leave them without any way to summon help. Using a medical alert system allows a senior to immediately summon assistance using an alert device that they wear on their person if they become incapacitated and cannot help themselves. These systems can spell the difference between life and death when a sudden emergency occurs.
Home medical alert systems usually require users to pay a monthly fee to access the service, since the emergency calls are routed to a monitoring center manned by professional emergency technicians. However, there are no-fee alert systems that do not require you to pay a monthly fee. These systems connect the senior to 911 or a family member or neighbor in case of emergency, and it is up to the person contacted to summon help.
The main benefit of these systems is that they are free of monthly fees. The elderly user or their loved ones purchasing it for them will need to make an initial investment of about $200 to $300 in equipment. Unmonitored alert systems can be an important alternative to regular medical alarm set-ups for seniors who are living on a fixed income or pension, as there are no recurring monthly fees to worry about.
Top Brands/ Models of No Monthly Fee Systems
LogicMark Freedom Alert 35911. The LogicMark Freedom Alert system is a customer favorite. The pendant houses a two-way speaker and microphone so users can actually talk into it. This system allows users to program up to four contacts (ie. family members, friends or caregivers). It can be configured various ways to suit the user’s needs: three modes that allow you to call the contacts consecutively, call 911 if none of your contacts reply or call 911 directly. And up to four pendants can be programmed onto the base station. Both the Freedom Alert and Guardian 911 described below are top-sellers in the no monthly fee medical alert systems category. See full Freedom Alert 35911 review >>
LogicMark Guardian Alert 911. The Logic Mark Guardian 911 is similar to the Freedom Alert described above, except that it is only programmed to call 911 when the alert button is pressed. Some people prefer this set-up as it is the fastest way to speak to 911 for help – no middle-man or time-wasted calling custom contacts who may not be able to get to the phone. It provides complete emergency coverage all around your home and allows you to talk directly to a 911 operator if desired. Like the Freedom Alert pendant, the pendant has a speaker and microphone, so users can speak into it. The water-resistant (not shower-safe) pendant runs for up to a year on a single AAA alkaline battery and also has a test button for confirming battery life. See full Guardian Alert 911 system review >>
Lifelink Prodigy Medical Alert System. Although less popular than the LogicMark systems above, Lifelink Prodigy is a carefully designed system that strives to be both easy-to-use and reliable for seniors. The Lifelink Prodigy medical alert package includes a base station unit and lightweight waterproof pendant. Up to eight emergency numbers can be programmed into the system, including 911 since the system is 911-compliant throughout the US and Canada. The Prodigy also has the option of being connected to a Bluetooth cellular phone adapter rather than a land line if desired. Lifelink Prodigy medical alert review >>
How No Monthly Fee Alert Systems Work
A no-fee medical alert system has two components: a base station that is plugged into a phone jack and a wireless pendant that the senior wears around his or her neck. To contact someone in case of an emergency, the senior simply pushes the button on the device to start the emergency calling process.
To set-up the system, the senior or their child or caregiver helping them will program a series of emergency numbers into the device. These numbers can connect to family members, neighbors or friends, or 911. These numbers are usually dialed in sequence until someone is reached. Some offer the option to contact 911 directly. Every system is a little different in their features, so be sure to check them out before purchasing. These devices have varying coverage areas, ranging from just within the central area of the house to more peripheral grounds.
While no-fee medical alert systems have no ongoing fees, you will still need to invest in the equipment needed. The most affordable systems cost around $200 to $300. They price is usually lower for straight-to-911 auto-dialers like the Guardian Alert 911, designed to call 911 and only 911 directly. More complex ones like the Freedom Alert will play a recorded message when someone picks up and then allow the senior to speak to someone on the other end of the line. Communications is done through a 2-way speakerphone pendant.
An even simpler system is the nurse alert or wireless call button system. This system consists of a button that is paired to a pager unit. It is suitable for alerting the caregiver who is located in the same house as the senior. To learn more, check out our detailed guide here.
Compared to Monitored Systems
If budget allows, it is worthwhile to consider monitored medical alert systems. Monitored systems enable a straight-forward direct call to the 24/7 monitoring center at any hour of the day or night. Seniors can then talk to a real life trained technician.
What value can one put on the added assurance of always being connected with trained call-center technicians whose sole focus is to help those who have sent a medical alert? Many feel that the extra $1 a day is something they can deal with. With unmonitored alerts, the senior user is dependent upon the automated dialing mechanism working as programmed. If their custom contact is not be able to answer the phone when called, the senior may not really like the idea of being connected with 911.
The second benefit of monitored systems is that they do not require much maintenance and fiddling on the part of customers. The system is already configured to work before it is sent out by the various medical alert companies, so there is no stress of having to read through printed manuals and program in phone numbers.
For a more in-depth comparison of these two approaches, check out our Monitored vs. Non-Monitored Medical Alert Systems Comparison guide.
Learn more about the different Life Alert Alternatives.
Benefits of No-Fee Senior Alert Systems
Long-term cost savings. Although you will have to shoulder the initial costs of buying the necessary equipment, this outlay will more than pay for itself in the long run, as you will save money from not having to pay monthly fees. For example, if you use a fee-based monitored system that charges $30 per month, after one year, you would already have spent $360 and would still need to be on a subscription to continue your use of it.
Allow the senior to continue living independently. Medical alert systems allow senior citizens to live on their own even, since they always have access to help whenever they need it. For seniors or their children who worry that they may need assistance if they fall down or meet an unexpected emergency, it provides an easy way to get access to help. This allow the choice of living independently, rather than moving into a facility where they could be monitored round the clock.
Can be life-saving. When a medical emergency occurs, seconds count and any delay in responding can be life-threatening or debilitating. A medical alert system can ensure that help comes in a timely fashion. And the devices can be worn anywhere, sometimes even in the shower, so the senior is always within reach of help wherever they are.
Can allow for recovery at home. If a senior has just been released from the hospital, a medical alert device like the Freedom Alert can help with their recovery at home, since it can keep them within reach of help.
Related: 4 Handy Medical Alert Devices for the Elderly – Read about monitored and unmonitored medical alert systems and other devices that are helpful for seniors who live independently.
Tips on Choosing a Good System
Make sure it is easy to set up. You want a system that the senior can set up on their own, if they have to. The system should be easy to use. In case of emergencies, the senior will likely be flustered and may not be thinking straight. So you want a system with a device that has instinctive and simple controls the senior will be able to use even if they are confused.
The system should have the features the senior needs. For example, if the senior knows that the emergency contacts programmed into the device are not available during the day, he might want a device that allows him to call 911 directly. He might also want one that allows him to converse with the person answering the phone so that he can answer questions about his condition.
The medical alert system should be affordable. Of course, this is not as important a consideration as the features the system has, but cost is still a factor that has to be taken into account in making any purchase decision.
Lastly, does the provider have good customer service and provide a good warranty policy? If the user has problems, is there good customer support behind the product to help the user? If device breaks down within its warranty period, you want a provider that will quickly repair or replace the device to ensure uninterrupted protection.