Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries for seniors, according to the National Council on Aging. At the touch of a button, a medical alert system can communicate with friends, family or medical technicians who can dispatch help. ConsumerAffairs researched the best medical alert systems in San Diego to help you decide which one is right for you.
With a mild climate and year-round sunny weather, San Diego is a popular destination for retirement. About 12 percent of San Diego’s population is 65 or over. A medical alert system is a good idea for seniors or those who require assistance for medical conditions. If you use a wheelchair or other mobility devices, a medical alert system summons help in case of a fall.
Stairs in your home or apartment building can increase the chances of a fall. If you are a senior living alone or with another senior, either of you might need a way to call for help if unable to get to a phone. The National Council on Aging provides tips for preventing falls.
Features of medical alert systems in San Diego:
Most can operate with cell service and/or a landline
Base station plugs into an outlet and has a rechargeable backup battery in case of outage
Comes with a small wearable device with battery life of two to five years
Additional mobile device available with some plans
Basic in-home systems have a range of 600 to 1000 feet
Smartphone apps can extend service
Wall-mounted buttons available with some plans
Many medical alert companies offer a 30-day trial of service and equipment. Some have service contracts or subscriptions. For medical alert companies that do not require long-term contracts, ask about a price lock to prevent future increases. Most companies do not charge cancellation fees. Leased equipment is given with no extra charge, but must be returned upon cancellation.
The base station is easy to install. Companies provide technical support to walk you through the process. Installation is done by the user, but technicians can come to your home for a fee if needed. Wall-mounted help buttons come with batteries and double-sided tape for installation. If the equipment fails, companies will replace it by mail.
Monitored medical alert systems connect the user to a 24/7 call center. Professionals talk with the user to find out if an ambulance should be dispatched, or if they should alert family or friends on the contact list. A non-monitored system automatically calls 911 and alerts people on the contact list when the help button is pressed, bypassing the call center.
Most companies now offer automatic fall detection for an additional fee, which means that if sensors in your wearable device detect a fall and you can’t press the button, help will be dispatched. Medical alert systems in San Diego can also summon help in other emergency situations, like a fire or break-in.
Basic Medicare, Medicaid and most insurance providers do not cover medical alert systems, but private long-term care insurance might. Extended plans like Medicare Advantage could also cover medical alert systems in some cases. Plans generally include low-price or free coverage for a spouse living in the same household. Ask your medical alert company about discounts for AARP members or military veterans.
Medical Guardian offers no long-term contracts and price-lock guarantees. Based in Philadelphia, this company operates nationwide. Some reviewers noted dispatchers going to the wrong address and reported difficulty with the cancellation process, but others experienced great customer service and helpful responses to falls.
In business since 1976, LifeFone operates out of suburban NYC. Spouses are included free with basic service. Reviewers found customer service to be helpful and diligent, and reviewers comment that the fall detection feature works well.
MobileHelp has three call centers and operates in all 50 states, with headquarters in Florida. The company offers an online tracking platform for families and caregivers. Reviewers enjoyed the helpful staff and many mentioned they were grateful for the added security for their family members.
LifeStation is based in New Jersey and works everywhere in the U.S. The company offers month-to-month service agreements and covers a spouse in the same household for a low fee. One reviewer, a medical provider in California, recommended the system to her residents in assisted living. Other reviewers encountered trouble with credit card billing practices.
Medical Alert is a division of Connect America in Pennsylvania. They offer one month free and a free lockbox with your annual subscription. Reviewers encountered some problems with canceling service, but were generally pleased with the equipment and customer service.
HomeSafe and GoSafe pedants and wristbands by Philips are water resistant and have automatic fall detection. Response associates, based in the U.S. and Canada, are available 24/7/365. The average answer time is 12 seconds and the average tenure of associates is seven years. Founded in 1974, Philips Lifeline was a pioneer of medical alert device technology and remains a leader today.
Medical Care Alert
Medical Care Alert offers three different devices to cover seniors with different activity levels. The company locks in your price and guarantees it for life and offers an in-home risk-free trial on its service. Medical Care Alert’s devices have optional fall detection, GPS and cellular connection.
GreatCall Lively provides an easy-to-wear, waterproof mobile device that comes with GPS and optional fall detection. The company also offers an optional Urgent Care service that gives customers 24/7 access to nurses and board-certified doctors. GreatCall Lively has no annual contracts and no cancellation fees.
One Call Alert
One Call Alert has helped thousands of customers maintain safe and independent lifestyles at home and on the go. Medical alert systems come with flexible payment choices, optional automatic fall detection and no cancellation fees, and there are no long-term contracts. One Call Alert’s certified U.S.-based call centers are standing by to assist in an emergency 24/7.
ADT Health has medical alert systems to fit any lifestyle. Both in-home and on-the-go systems come with professional monitoring, flexible payment options and free battery replacement with no long-term commitment required. Bracelets and pendants are 100% waterproof so you’re always protected.
Bay Alarm Medical
Bay Alarm Medical is based in Concord, California where they have one of their two call centers. The company innovated the technology with the first in-car medical alert device. Reviewers liked the friendly customer service and easy set-up.
Life Protect 24/7
With guaranteed pricing, no contracts and no equipment fees, Life Protect 24/7 offers mobile and landline monitoring units. Mobile devices work outdoors, indoors and even in the shower. The battery stays charged for up to one month. There’s no cost for the medical alert device, but for an additional fee you can get a front door lockbox that can be opened by first responders.
RescueTouch provides medical alert systems tailored to your level of chosen response. Its devices come monitored or unmonitored and can contact family and EMS. The company was founded by an EMT and is owned and operated by first responders. RescueTouch also offers discounts for AARP members, individuals with disabilities and the families of nurses, first responders and veterans.
Acadian On Call
Acadian OnCall offers medical devices that contact one of 3 certified, U.S.-based monitoring centers. Its certified medical dispatchers will notify emergency medical services, family or other trusted contacts based on your needs. Acadian OnCall’s medical alert pendants are waterproof, allowing you to wear them 24/7. Acadian also consistently exceeds the industry average response time.
Named Best Medical Alert of 2018 by Modern Senior Magazine, Alert1 prides itself on treating customers like family with unlimited button pushes and talk time. The AlertOne Command Center is based in the U.S. and has a 5 Diamond certification from The Monitoring Association (TMA). Devices are made for in-home, on-the-go or both, and feature fall detection.
MedGuard Alert offers a wide range of products, including in-home and mobile help devices. The company has both monitored and unmonitored options, and its in-home devices can connect by landline or cellular. MedGuard Alert requires no long-term agreements and provides free equipment with any monthly monitoring program.