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Ten Things You Should Never Say To A Person With Cancer…And One Thing You Should

I get it. People so often just don’t know what to say to someone with cancer.

It’s a shock when someone you care about has received a life-changing diagnosis. Our natural instinct at times of trouble is to rush in with well-meaning phrases and encouraging thoughts.

It may feel to the person saying these things that they are being supportive, but it’s all too easy to say the wrong thing.

So what should you avoid saying to a cancer patient? The following list includes some of the most common things that we in the cancer community have heard from well-wishers. At the end of the list I share the one thing I would have most liked to have heard instead.

1. You’ll beat this

Probably the top-most thing that people say when they want to be supportive is that you’re strong and will beat cancer. While we all hope for the best outcome, we cannot actually be sure of the outcome of the disease for anyone. As breast cancer blogger Nancy Stordahl writes in What Does Beating Cancer Mean Anyway? [1] ”Struggling to live up to some gold standard of what beating cancer means, adds to the already exhausting burden. We need to stop patronizing and judging cancer patients based on misguided battle talk analogies. Cancer isn’t an opponent in some war game you can stomp out by mindset or determination.”

2. You’re so brave

An extension of “you’ll beat this.” This can come across as quite patronizing – especially when it’s followed by a statement like “I couldn’t do it.” The truth is we don’t feel particularly brave, we just don’t have a choice. We do what we have to do to get through treatment the best we can. By promoting belief in bravery and stoicism in the face of cancer, society creates unfair expectations of cancer patients and deprives us of an outlet for our darker fears.

3. My aunt had the same cancer and she was cured

While I’m happy your aunt recovered from cancer, no two cancers are alike. Cancer is a complicated disease and chances are her cancer is not the same as mine. An alternative version of this statement concerns an aunt who died from the “same cancer”. Please don’t go there with us.

4. What’s your prognosis? What are your odds of surviving?

Never, ever ask anyone this question. It is highly personal, intrusive, and insensitive. Enough said.

5. Have you tried [insert latest miracle supplement or diet]. I hear it can cure cancer.

There’s no shortage of advice urging cancer patients to eat a particular food, juice religiously, or try a miracle supplement, however, there’s no scientific evidence that these work and many are downright harmful.

6. The stress of [your divorce, bereavement, job loss] probably caused your cancer.

This is a variation of the “you’re to blame” for getting cancer brigade. “Did you smoke?” asked of lung cancer patients. “Did you breastfeed?” directed at breast cancer patients. All said with the implication that you should/shouldn’t have done a certain thing and really it’s your own fault for getting cancer. In fact, using a statistical model that measures the proportion of cancer risk, across many tissue types, scientists from the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center published a study in 2015 which concluded that two-thirds of the variation in adult cancer risk across tissues can be explained primarily by “bad luck.” In other words, a major contributing factor to cancer is in fact beyond anyone’s control.

7. But you don’t look sick

This sounds almost accusatory. As if to be a card-carrying cancer patient you must look the part of a cancer “sufferer”. As cancer patients, we have good days and bad days. On the good days, we look just fine. Other days not so much. How we look is not a reflection of what we are going through.

8. It’s only hair, it will grow back

On the flip side of #7, there are those comments you receive when you do show signs of being a cancer patient. When you lose your hair after starting chemotherapy, you may find your distress dismissed with “it’s only hair, it will grow back” or “lucky you have a nice shaped-head – you can carry off the bald look”.

9. Look on the bright side, at least you will lose weight without having to diet

The crassness of this statement seems hard to believe – but yes, it has been said to cancer patients. Another variation on the looking on the bright side theme – breast cancer patients quite often have to deal with people saying to them “at least you’ll get a free boob job.”

10. You must stay positive

I’ve saved the best for last. Ok, I admit that I caved in when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer to the pressure to be positive because it reassured the people around me. While I accept that for some people, maintaining a positive attitude is a valid coping mechanism, for myself, and for many others, being asked to always show our sunny side is a denial of the times we are in pain, anxious, and afraid.

So what should you say to someone with cancer?

Sometimes there are no right words to say. Sometimes the best you can do is listen, without judgment, without offering any well-meaning advice.

Author Rachel Naomi Remen says it better than I ever could.

“Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention…. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.”

Having listened first, you could then say something like the following:

“I can’t begin to understand what you are going through/ I am so sorry you have to go through this. I am here for you. What one thing can I do for you right now?”

Knowing we’ve been heard and understood opens up a space for us to feel freer to ask for what we truly need at this moment.


[1] Nancy’s Point What Does Beating Cancer Mean Anyway?

September 2021 Digital Health Roundup

More and more technologies, from gaming technology to artificial intelligence, are being used in the quest to beat cancer. Electronic appointments are helping with taking medicine, and steps are being taken to protect patient data.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is working to combat breaches of personal data by making health apps more accountable when it comes to telling patients their data has been exposed, reports mobihealthnews.com. In a recently released statement, the FTC announced that health apps will need to notify users, the FTC, and possibly the media when data is compromised, and if they fail to make the notifications, they could be fined more than $40,000 a day. Learn more here.

Electronic directly observed therapy (eDOT) is a technology that is becoming more popular for providing medical services to patients, especially when it comes to taking medicine correctly, says ardorcomm-media.com. The eDOT appointments can be scheduled live, or they can be recorded. Providers can ensure that medications are taken properly and on time, and they can observe any side effects that may occur. Providers can also provide coaching or training during the appointments. The eDOT appointments require less time and resources than in-person visits. Find out more here.

Researchers are using 3D printing to create models of glioblastoma tumors, reports reuters.com. The models are made by taking part of the tumor from the patient’s brain and using it to print a 3D model of the tumor and then to fill it with the patient’s blood, creating a viable tumor. Researchers are then able to test how well various treatments will treat the tumor before they try them on the patient. Glioblastoma is the most common brain cancer in adults and is an aggressive cancer with poor prognosis. Learn more here.

Researchers have been inspired by gaming technology to create a virtual tool to study cancer, reports webmd.com. The tool, a virtual cancer tracker named Theia, for the Greek goddess of sight and clairvoyance, allows researchers from around the world to interact and study the cancer using 3D models and virtual reality. Get more information here.

A new type of artificial intelligence (AI) is being developed to detect lung cancer, says genengnews.com. It is a blood testing technology that can potentially detect over 90 percent of lung cancers. The test is called DELFI, which stands for DNA evaluation of fragments for early interception, and it can detect the fragmentation of DNA from cancer cells that circulate in the bloodstream. Researchers are hopeful that if lung cancer screening is as simple as a blood test, more people may get screened, and the cancer could be detected at earlier, more treatable stages. Learn more here.

12 Best Practice Tips To Design Helpful Patient Information Materials

As a patient advocate, you may be asked to help review or co-design patient information materials. Or you may wish to create the information yourself because you’ve noticed a gap in helpful information for your patient community.

Good patient information is important for several reasons.

Firstly, it reinforces what a healthcare provider has told the patient. If, due to stress, a patient hasn’t absorbed the information from their provider, a brochure or information sheet serves as a reminder.

Secondly, by educating patients, good information empowers patients with the knowledge, understanding, skills and confidence to take an active role in their health and wellbeing.

Thirdly, by sharing the information with friends and family, their loved ones can take a more active role in supporting the patient.

Whether it’s information for a brochure, leaflet or website, the same design principles apply. Information design should make complex information easy to use and understand, and ultimately empower patients to take a more active role in their care.

The following checklist is designed to help you in your own advocacy work when you are called upon to design patient information materials.

1. Know Your Purpose and Audience

Before you start, consider the purpose behind creating this information. What do you wish to achieve? For example, do you wish to increase understanding or raise awareness of a disease, or give instructions about a procedure or a medication?

Next, who are you creating this information for? Who is your intended reader? Are there health literacy challenges you will need to address with this audience? Consider if audio or video is needed if there are challenges for your audience in reading the information. Consider also if English is not a first language for your intended reader, will you need to create multiple versions of the content in different languages?

2. Use Plain English

Plain English is a way to write and present information so a reader can understand and act on it after a single reading.

Use plain, everyday words. For example, instead of “commence”, write “start”; instead of “in the event that”, use “if”.

Avoid jargon and acronyms. If you have to use medical terminology, explain the terms as you go along. If this clutters up your text, put the explanations in a glossary.

3. Write From The Perspective Of A Newly Diagnosed Patient

As patient advocates, we have most likely been immersed in our disease space for many years. We have become experts in the terminology and language of the medical world. We understand side-effects and know how to weigh up the pros and cons of treatment. But experts are made not born. Think back to those first few days and weeks of diagnosis. Remember the confusion and the uncertainty you probably felt at the time. Put yourself back into those shoes of a newly diagnosed patient and communicate from this perspective.

4. Make It Personal

Write as you would speak to the reader. Using personal pronouns such as “we” and “you” helps create a sense of relatability and trust.

5. Use Direct Language

Adopt present and active tense to make sentences more direct (e.g.” the nurse can vaccinate your child” rather than “ your child can be vaccinated by the nurse”.)

6. Design For Readability

Use short sentences and only include one main point in each sentence.

Try to avoid using hyphens and semicolons.

Keep capitalization to a minimum. Capital letters are harder on the eye. Use lowercase letters throughout the text. Save capital letters for the start of sentences and names.

Left align paragraphs. Left-aligned paragraphs make text easier to read than justified text. Justified text can create gaps between words, which slows down reading particularly for people with dyslexia.

7. Avoid Dense Text

Dense text means patients lose concentration and therefore cannot find the information required. To avoid this, keep your paragraphs short. Short, clear, separated chunks of text encourage those with reading difficulty to continue reading.

Use headings and paragraph breaks to separate blocks of information.

Good use of large text, white space and columns can also help readers to more easily assimilate information. Make sure related information is located together and not split over different columns.

8. Pay Attention to Typography

Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible, readable and appealing when displayed. No matter how well written the text is, if it is set out in a typography which is difficult to read, it is going to adversely affect readability and comprehension.

Choose Arial or Calibri type fonts for readability. When it comes to font size, 10 point is too small for most people to read. 12 point is more suitable. Choose 14 point for older people and children. 16 point is used for partially sighted people. Finally spacing between the lines should be 1.5 line spacings.

9. Use Design To Enhance Comprehension

How the information is set out in the document is an important feature of readability and comprehension. People tend to scan when they read information (this is particularly true of online information), so your document should have a logical order and structure to help readers find their way through the information.

You can achieve this in a number of ways, including the use of reversed text (e.g. white lettering on a dark background), headings and subheadings in bold font, bullet or number points. Use bold instead of italics and underlining as italics or underlining make text harder to read.

When using bulleted lists, make sure each item follows logically in sequence. Keep lists to a maximum of eight points where possible and start and end a list on the same column or page.

Tip: Use callouts to highlight key messages for content skimmers.

10. Choose Good Visuals

Visuals such as pictures, diagrams and photos can sometimes say more than words. Ensure the images you use are real, relatable and sympathetic to the reader.

Avoid idealized, ‘photo-shoot’-style images of people.

Choose images that are inclusive. Use images that don’t reinforce negative or stereotypical attitudes especially for ethnicity, age or gender.

11. Be Consistent

Be consistent in your use of design features, such as headings, sub-headings, etc. Describe numbers consistently (for example, don’t use percent on one line and fractions on the next).

12. Signpost to Other Sources of Information

Including other useful sources of information, such as helplines of patient organizations and general sources of medical information is a valuable source of further information and support for patients.

Do not confuse people by covering several treatments and conditions in the same leaflet. Tell people what other information, resources and support are available to them.

Conclusion

Next time you are called upon to design patient information materials, use the checklist in this article to guide you. Providing patients with accurate and actionable information is essential in delivering high quality care to patients and an important element in our patient advocacy.

August 2021 Digital Health Roundup

There is an app for everything, and healthcare is no exception. Digital health apps are big business, but maybe they could be better utilized. The way we use telehealth is evolving rapidly, and it varies from state to state, but could that change at some point? Getting information about your health is important, but in many cases when you’re seeking information, you end up finding that there is no shortage of misinformation.

Healthcare Misinformation

Be careful where you get your information about cancer treatments, reports medicalxpress.com. A new study found that misinformation about health conditions is becoming more and more common, especially on social media sites. The study looked at 200 of the most popular cancer treatment articles found on social media, and discovered that one third of them include misinformation, and that those articles get more attention and engagement than the articles with evidence-based information. The misinformation is not only misleading, but it can also potentially be harmful to patients and negatively affect patient outcomes. One way to avoid misinformation is to use trusted sites like Patient Empowerment Network’s powerfulpatients.org, and it’s always important to talk to your trusted care provider about any treatment information you find online. Find out more about the study here.

Access to Telehealth

As special Covid-19 legislation expires in many states, access to telehealth is less certain, reports healthcaredive.com. During the Covid-19 pandemic many states used waivers to allow medical professionals to provide telehealth care to patients in other states. The waivers have already expired in some states like Florida, Alaska, New York, and Minnesota, but other states like Arizona are passing legislation to make the telehealth waivers permanent. Advocates for making permanent changes to telehealth access say it would help with staffing shortages, providing access to healthcare in rural areas, and maintaining doctor/patient relationships. It can also be beneficial to those who need to see specialty providers not available in their home states. However, because medical licensing is regulated at the state level, it’s difficult for doctors who want to practice across state lines. As the lawmakers continue to try to make telemedicine available to those who need it, some are saying a federal medical licensing system might be in order, or a system of reciprocity between states where out-of-state licenses would be automatically recognized. It will be interesting to see what permanent telehealth regulations result. Find out more here.

While many say telehealth increases access to care, there are others who say it could do just the opposite. Check out forbes.com to read an opinion on how to make sure telehealth doesn’t end up being a contributor to health inequities here.

Health Apps

There is no shortage of digital health apps, reports mobihealthnews.com. A recent report discovered that of the 350,000 digital health apps available 47 percent are geared toward monitoring specific diseases or health conditions, such as diabetes. The report also found that the effectiveness of health apps is being studied more often and that 90,000 new health apps were introduced in 2020. Not only are there a lot of digital health apps, but they are a big money industry as well. So far 2021 is showing record-breaking numbers in digital health investment. Learn more here.

While health apps are growing in number and popularity, they aren’t being fully utilized, reports medicalxpress.com. Typically, data and information that users collect and record about their health doesn’t connect to the patient’s medical chart. Healthcare providers then don’t have the opportunity to monitor the information or provide feedback about the data. However, a new study showed that patients with high blood pressure saw health benefits when they monitored their condition using an app that was accessible to their healthcare providers The study found that the typical patient had a reduction in systolic blood pressure. Researchers hope that eventually patients and providers can use mobile apps to better treat chronic health conditions and provide better health outcomes. Read more here.

Tools for Living with Cancer and COVID-19

Tools for Living with Cancer and COVID-19 from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo

Breast Cancer Network Manager Mary Leer highlights the importance of a previous interview with Dr. Shaji Kumar focused on COVID-19 and cancer. In the original interview, Empowered Patient and Care Partner Ask the Expert: Addressing COVID-19 Concerns, vaccine concerns are also addressed and key factors are given for cancer patients, survivors, and care partners.  

See More From the Best Care No Matter Where You Live Program


Related Programs:


Transcript:

Mary Leer:

Hello, my name is Mary Leer, and I am the Patient Empowerment Network’s [PEN’s] Network Manager for the Breast Cancer Network.  

 As PEN’s Breast Cancer Network Manager, I was proud to sit down with noted Mayo Clinic expert, Dr. Shaji Kumar. The interview helped me think deeply about my own experience as a cancer survivor and how it relates to my experience living through the pandemic that is still around us all. As cancer patients, we’ve had to live with multiple uncertainties and make decisions that can quite literally and figuratively be painful. We’ve had to make decisions about cancer treatment with our medical team, and we’ve had to deal with the fact that it is in our own best interest to at times take a path that we do not want to take in the name of healing ourselves and living a healthier life. We have learned to live with options and making choices with outcomes that are not certain, our experience and roles as survivors and as caregivers can make it hard sometimes difficult to understand the decisions of others who are hesitant or resistant to getting a vaccine. So I listened and learned from Dr. Kumar discussion about the importance of getting vaccinated to reach a significant percentage of our population. He shows compassion for those whose fear of the pandemic has led them to a decision to turn away from getting vaccinated, perhaps out of fear, distrust of medicine and anger about government impinging on personal rights, or perhaps, of course, their own personal health journey, please implore others to listen to the interviews Jeff and I did with Dr. Kumar. 

Dr. Kumar gave us very clear advice.  He answers many of the questions about COVID-19 that cancer patients, and our community have been asking and frankly worrying about. As you listen to the interviews on PEN’s website, you will hear his voice of reason, make it clear how critical it is for cancer patients, indeed all of us to get vaccinated for the sake of our own and for others’ health. As he states there are uncertainties about aspects of vaccination, such as the strength and length of one’s individual protective immune response, but the bottom line is that cancer patients especially need to be vaccinated to protect their health, even if one is well post-treatment. If still in cancer treatment or if one has had the COVID-19 illness, he told us to discuss the optimum time to get vaccinated with your medical team. He truly gave a clear message that there is solid evidence for the efficacy, safety of approved covid vaccines. Listen carefully and share Dr. Kumar’s interview responses with your cancer community and with your family. His answers address lingering questions my family and I had about COVID and cancer, the bottom line, these interviews with Dr. Kumar are once again, a way of giving us the tools to compassionately help ourselves and others through this COVID-19 health crisis. 

These Gift Ideas For Newly Diagnosed Cancer Patients Will Show How Much You Care

Do you have a friend or family member who is newly diagnosed with cancer?

Chances are you’d like to get them a gift to show you’re thinking of them.

While any thoughtful gift will be welcomed, there are some gifts that are particularly helpful at this time.

The gift ideas listed in this post are from my own experience as a cancer patient and other patients’ experiences. Remembering back to the shock and anxiety surrounding the early days of my cancer diagnosis I wouldn’t have been able to say at that time which gift would have been most useful because I simply didn’t know what lay ahead of me. Now from the other side of the cancer shore, I’m much more clued into the type of gift that I would love to have received at that time.

If you’re looking for the perfect gift to help a friend get through cancer treatment find inspiration in the list that follows.  Each of these gifts will be guaranteed to help your friend or family member feel truly cared for because you took the time to think of a gift that is not just thoughtful but useful and practical.

Gifts To Help Get Through Chemotherapy Sessions

I won’t ever forget my first experience of the chemotherapy infusion room – a cold and sterile environment I was ill-prepared for.  Sarah Dow (@he4dgirl) suggests gifting “big thick long soft bedsocks” which she used during her own chemotherapy sessions along with a soft warm fleece blanket.  Although most chemotherapy units supply patients with blankets, there’s nothing quite as nice as snuggling into a blanket lovingly chosen for you, rather than a hospital issue one.

Continuing with the coziness theme, another great gift idea is loungewear. Pick out some soft sweat pants and tops that will be comfortable to wear. If the patient will be in hospital for surgery then pajamas are another perfect gift idea. Consider whether they may face limitations after surgery, for example after my breast surgery I had great difficulty lifting my arms, so I wore button-down pajamas.

Gifts To Help Pass The Time During Chemotherapy

The length of time for chemotherapy sessions can range from an hour to eight or more hours depending on the chemotherapy regimen.  To pass the time Sarah suggests good headphones.  You might also like to consider purchasing a subscription to Spotify or Audible for something to listen to on those headphones.

Creating A Comfort Box

Sarah Connor (@sacosw) suggests creating a “box of comfort” filling it with “tissues, unscented soap and moisturizer, sucky sweets, tissues and something to read.” Or you could buy a tote bag which you can customize and fill with useful items to carry to treatment sessions such as:

  • A reusable water bottle that will keep drinks cool as it’s important to stay hydrated during chemotherapy.
  • A travel toothbrush, toothpaste, and alcohol-free mouthwash to help get rid of the metallic taste chemotherapy.
  • Wet wipes and hand sanitizer.
  • A squishy stress ball.
  • Puzzle and coloring books.
  • A notepad and pen – a gift Nancy Stordahl (@nancyspoint) would love to have received at the time was “a journal or pretty notebook for writing thoughts, making lists, writing reminders.”

Post Chemotherapy Gift Ideas

Chemotherapy does all sorts of not-so-wonderful things to a body.  From sleep disturbance to hair loss, nausea, aching joints and cracked skin, the effects of the treatment linger on.

Here are some gift ideas to bring comfort and ease to the patient.

  • To help your friend sleep, get them a silk eye mask or pillowcase. Add a lavender pillow spray, although be aware that sometimes scent and strong smells can be off-putting for chemo patients (this goes for scented moisturizer too).
  • Organic lip balms to help soothe chapped lips.
  • Foot rollers and mini massagers to ease aches and pains.
  • Paraben-free/sensitive skin toiletries because chemotherapy can make skin more sensitive.
  • Anti-sickness wrist bands to help with nausea.
  • Healthy snack bars, peppermint candy, and herbal teas (peppermint and ginger are good for nausea).
  • Soft hats and pretty scarves (again choose silk scarves as other material may get hot, itchy, and uncomfortable).
  • Chemotherapy can plunge some women into menopause. Julia (@BCCWW) suggests a chargeable, portable fan and chill pillows. Lisa Holtshousen (@LHoltshousen) is still grateful to her teenage sons who gifted her a ‘pearl’ necklace which she kept in the freezer and put on when hot flashes struck, and a box of “20 beautiful fans (the kind where your wrist does all the work) – enough for every spot in the house for quick access.”

More Gift Ideas

If you are really stuck for ideas, gift cards and subscriptions are always welcome. From meal delivery and uber rides to magazine/TV streaming subscriptions and gift cards to purchase books, audio, and games, there are plenty of options to choose from.

Gifts That Can’t Be Wrapped

Not all gifts can be wrapped up with a pretty bow but they are no less appreciated and often the most remembered.  Sarah Connor recalls such a gift: “One of my neighbors came round once a week, took a load of washing, brought it back clean and folded. I had two small children. That made such a difference. But it’s not something you could wrap up!”

Offer to walk the dog, carpool kids to school, do grocery shopping, drop off some meals. “Cooking is a chore,” says Nancy, especially when the patient is fatigued from treatment. “A warm (or cold) food item is so appreciated by the entire family.”

Give the Gift of Kindness

Finally, don’t underestimate the simple gift of kindness. Cancer can be a lonely and isolating time. A card or note to let your loved one know you are thinking of them can go a long way to helping a person feel less alone.

To quote Allie Moon (@alliemoonUK) “I think predominantly it’s knowing that someone is there for you, to listen and to be present. Other than that anything that provides a wee bit of comfort or joy is gratefully received.”

What I Wish I Knew

The Best Medical Alert Systems

Editor’s Note: This guide was originally published by AssistedLiving.org here.


Cancer in the elderly presents a great challenge. Their already vulnerable bodies become weaker as therapy wears them down, and they might even face dangers in their own home. They could fall or be too weak to react to call for help, so seniors and their families use senior care facilities, caregivers, adult centers, or other options to ensure their loved ones’ safety.

A medical alert system is one option. It is a valuable life-saving device and can protect seniors in emergencies, providing peace of mind for caregivers and loved ones.

To help buyers sift through their options, we’ve created this guide that compares 10 top providers based on the quality of their service, equipment options, cost, and overall value.


Medical alert systems are valuable life-saving devices. They can protect seniors in case of emergency while providing untold peace of mind for caregivers and loved ones. In studies, nine out of 10 subscribers reported that their medical alert system helped them maintain their independence.

Personal emergency response systems are often used for fall detection, but they can also provide a lifeline in case of medical emergencies related to diabetes, heart attack or stroke. Additionally, they can be activated in case of a fire or burglary. Medical monitoring companies can even help during unforeseen everyday situations as one subscriber discovered when she couldn’t get out of the tub.

Today, smartphones and voice-activated devices have created some alternatives for seniors who may need to contact a neighbor or relative in case of an emergency, but professionally monitored systems still have their benefits. No other system provides a direct link to trained operators or emergency contacts along with advanced features like GPS tracking.

Telephone-based monitoring companies emerged in the 1970s, and many providers have been providing services continuously since then. There are also some newcomers that focus on innovative algorithm-based technology and transparent pricing. In fact, more than 260 medical monitoring services are registered with the Better Business Bureau.

Helping Buyers Narrow Down Their Options

To help consumers sift through their options, we’ve created this guide that compares 10 of the top providers based on the quality of their service, equipment options, cost, and overall value. Each company was evaluated, ranked, and given a star rating, and the companies’ profiles give you a detailed look at the company’s ranking and offerings to help you see how these products might fit into your life. We’ve also created a consumer guide that outlines some of the most important purchasing considerations. Finally, we’ve answered some common questions to help you make an informed decision if you decide that a medical alert system is right for you.

How We Chose the Best Medical Alert Systems

One of the challenges of selecting the best medical alert companies is that, particularly on the surface, many of the deals appear similar. To get past this confusion, we identified several traits that the top providers share.

Monitoring Plans

Nearly all companies offer customers the choice of landline or cellular service for in-home monitoring as well as mobile devices equipped with GPS location tracking. Across the industry, it was common to see surcharges for fall detection, wellness calls and other premium features. If you’re interested in these services, be sure to add $5-$10 to the monthly fee per item when comparing plans.

Response Times

Comparing response times is one of the most effective ways to evaluate service quality. Some providers answered help calls in less than 20 seconds while others took as long as seven minutes. When determining service quality, we looked for companies with multiple U.S.-based call centers and professional operators who have received specialized training.

Reviews and Qualifications

Subscriber satisfaction is another important consideration. We cut one provider from our list because customers had trouble getting their money back after trying the service. Industry certifications from organizations such as Underwriters Laboratories and The Monitoring Association also gave us insight into the provider’s service quality.

Equipment Features

While many providers use nearly identical base units and pendants, we noticed some differences in the product’s battery life and signal range. We also considered the system’s audio quality, weight and appearance while giving preference to devices that were easy to use and maintain.

Ethics

Deceptive pricing schemes and hidden charges booted several companies off our list of contenders. Nearly all of our top picks have monthly service agreements with no long-term commitment, and many offer a 30-day money-back guarantee that gives customers an opportunity to try the service.

In addition to using the above criteria to select the top medical alert companies, we ranked the top twenty providers based on thirty different factors. Each company was awarded a star rating based on this analysis. For more information on our ranking process and the metrics used, read “A Full Explanation of Our Ranking Methodology.”

The 10 Best Medical Alert Companies

COMPANY BASE COST STARTING COSTS PLANS FEATURES STAR RATING
MobileHelp $19.95 — $44.95 $49.95 One-Time Fee +$15 Shipping with Month-to-Month Payment Landline, Cellular, Bundle Fall Detection GPS Location Tracking 5.0/5
LifeFone $24.95 — $39.95 None Landline, Cellular, Bundle Fall Detection Medication Reminders Wellness Calls Caregiver Apps 4.6/5
Bay Alarm Medical $19.95 — $29.95 $99 device fee for mobile +$9.95 Shipping Landline, Cellular, Bundle Fall Detection Location Tracking Caregiver Tools 4.2/5
Medical Guardian $29.95 — $44.95 $124.95 device fee for Mini +$10 Shipping Waived with Annual Subscription Landline, Cellular Fall Detection GPS Location Tracking Caregiver App 4.1/5
GetSafe $24.95 $79-$229 equipment fee + $12 for Shipping Cellular Hands Free Voice-Activation Caregiver App 4.0/5
Medical Alert $22.95 — $37.95 $9.50 Shipping with Month-to-Month Plan Landline, Cellular Fall Detection Caregiver Apps 3.7/5
QMedic $30 — $45 None Landline, Cellular Activity Tracking GPS Location Tracking Caregiver Dashboard 3.7/5
BlueStar Senior Tech $23.95 — $35.95 None Landline, Cellular, Bluetooth Fall Detection Activity Monitoring Family and Mobile Apps 3.1/5
LifeStation $19.95 — $34.95 $50 Activation Fee for Mobile with GPS and Standard Payment Package Landline, Cellular Fall Detection GPS Location Tracking Caregiver Apps Alexa Integration 3.1/5
Lifenet $29.95 — $49.95 None Landline, Cellular Fall Detection GPS Location Tracking 2.65/5

MobileHelp: 5.0/5 Stars

Best for On-Demand Telehealth Services

MobileHelp is an industry leader offering six medical alert systems with numerous premium features and accessories available. While its low prices for high-quality services is noteworthy on its own, MobileHelp recently made their offerings even more useful with the introduction of MDLIVE. MDLIVE is an on-demand telehealth service that allows MobileHelp users to speak with a board-certified physician via phone or video without scheduling an appointment or paying a copay. All MobileHelp customers may add MDLIVE to their service plan for under $10 per month.

MobileHelp’s Star Rating

MobileHelp earned a perfect 5-star rating and ranked first among the top 20 medical alert companies we reviewed. Its number-one spot cannot be attributed to just one thing. MobileHelp scored highly in all ranking categories, and particularly excelled in the In-Home Systems, Mobile Systems, and Reliability and Reputation categories, earning a perfect 10 in all three. MobileHelp’s in-home system is the least expensive of all companies we reviewed, and it is one of the very few companies that does not charge an extra fee for a cellular version. In addition, MobileHelp offers a generous free-trial period of 30 days and is extremely transparent about its pricing and policies on its website.

Highlights

  • MobileHelp devices have earned a Good Manufacturing Practice seal from the FDA.
  • The brand’s medical alert systems have multiple third-party quality certifications.
  • MobileHelp is based in Florida and serves customers in all 50 states.
  • Dispatch services are provided by Rapid Response, one of the nation’s top monitoring companies.
  • LanguageLine connects callers to interpreters specializing in more than 240 languages.
  • According to company data, MobileHelp answers an emergency call every eight minutes.
  • The company is an accredited BBB member with an A+ rating.

The Takeaway

Whether you’re shopping for in-home or remote coverage, MobileHelp is a strong contender. It’s a great choice if you’re looking for a budget-friendly package that you can share with a partner or spouse. The company offers a suite of free and paid caregiver tools through MobileHelp Connect as well as a line of attractive jewelry-style pendants made by Trelawear.

PLAN MONTHLY PRICE STARTING COSTS SERVICE RANGE BATTERY LIFE EXTRA FEATURES
MobileHelp Classic $19.95 $49.95 One-Time Fee and $15 Shipping with Month-to-Month Payment Cellular 1,300′ Console: 30 Hours
Pendant: 5 Years
Optional Fall Detection
MobileHelp Wired Home $24.95 $15 Shipping with Month-to-Month Payment Landline 1,300′ Console: 30 Hours
Pendant: 5 Years
Optional Fall Detection
MobileHelp Solo $37.95 $15 Shipping with Month-to-Month Payment Cellular Nationwide 24 Hours GPS Location Tracking
Optional Fall Detection
MobileHelp Duo $41.95 $15 Shipping with Month-to-Month Payment Cellular Nationwide Varies GPS Location Tracking
Optional Fall Detection
Mobile Duo $44.95 $15 Shipping with Month-to-Month Payment Cellular Nationwide 24 Hours GPS Location Tracking
Optional Fall Detection
MobileHelp Touch $49.95 $15 Shipping with Semi-Annual Payment Cellular Nationwide 24 hours; 12-hour backup for tablet GPS Location Tracking
Optional Fall Detection

What Customers Like

Adult children researching medical alert systems for their parents repeatedly comment on MobileHelp’s reputation and number of positive online reviews. A son who subscribed for his parents said, “Several reputable entities rated MobileHelp highly in the field. Mobilehelp had 2,300+ reviews with a 4.6/5 rating overall.” Others talk about the exceptional service, including one son who stated “Great customer service from ordering to monitoring.”

Learn more about how to get a Medical Alert System from MobileHelp.

What Customers Don’t Like

In the rare complaints about MobileHelp service, subscribers most often cite difficulties canceling a subscription. A problem with the GPS identifying an incorrect location is another concern reported by customers.


LifeFone: 4.6/5 Stars

Best for Industry Experience

Based in White Plains, New York, LifeFone has specialized in medical alert services since the 1970s, and it continues to be one of the nation’s leading providers. LifeFone is a top choice for seniors seeking in-home or mobile coverage, and its two-in-one package is a great value. This enduring brand excels in all areas, which is why it’s been recognized by Harvard Medical School, Consumers Digest and review sites such as TrustPilot.

LifeFone’s Star Rating

LifeFone ranked second-highest among the top medical alert systems, with an almost-perfect score of 4.6/5 stars. LifeFone scored in the top 30% in all ranking categories, but particularly excelled in Availability of Add-Ons with a score of 10.0. LifeFone was one of only two companies to offer all of the add-ons for which we evaluated, including less-common features like medication reminders and activity tracking. LifeFone also scored highly thanks to its consumer-friendly policies, including a 30-day money-back guarantee, $0 activation fees, and a price-lock guarantee that prevents future rate hikes.

Highlights

  • LifeFone has been endorsed by the National Council on Aging and WebMD.
  • New customers can take advantage of a 30-day trial.
  • Helpful dispatchers respond to calls in approximately one minute.
  • The company’s monitoring centers aren’t certified, but the brand has substantial experience.
  • LifeFone has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Free basic protection is available for spouses.

The Takeaway

Established providers sometimes lose their competitive edge, but LifeFone holds its own by offering a comfortable balance of quality and value. Its equipment performs well, and its fee structure allows subscribers to save money or purchase optional upgrades, such as daily wellness checks, scheduled phone calls or medication reminders. In each area, LifeFone provides the level of service that we expect from a top-tier provider.

PLAN MONTHLY PRICE STARTING COSTS SERVICE RANGE BATTERY LIFE EXTRA FEATURES
At-Home Landline $29.95 None Landline 1,300′ Console: 32 Hours
Pendant: 2—5 Years
Optional Fall Detection
At-Home Cellular $34.95 None Cellular 1,300′ Console: 32 Hours
Pendant: 2—5 Years
Optional Fall Detection
At-Home & On-The-Go With GPS $36.95 None Cellular 600′ (Home), 350′ (Mobile) 30 Hours Optional Fall Detection
GPS Location Tracking
At-Home & On-The-Go Necklace $43.95 None Cellular Nationwide 30 Days (Standby) Optional Fall Detection
GPS Location Tracking

What Customers Like

Subscribers and their family members frequently mention the positive experiences they have interacting with LifeFone customer service reps and call center operators. One daughter wrote, “I couldn’t ask for a better customer service. It was excellent. And if I have any questions, I don’t think twice about picking up the phone, calling and asking.” Customers also recommend the service and appreciate the security it provides.

What Customers Don’t Like

The sensitivity of the device and a somewhat slow response time are drawbacks mentioned by some reviewers. Other issues subscribers report are the equipment’s limited range and a lack of tech support on weekends.


Bay Alarm Medical: 4.2/5 Stars

Best for Overall Value

Bay Alarm is a longstanding security and medical alert company with more than 70 years of experience. The California-based company offers quality equipment and reliable nationwide service at a competitive price. However, packages that offer Bay Alarm Medical’s industry-leading devices and accessories together at an affordable rate are one of the brand’s strengths. Its systems are available as standalone products or in premium packages, which include additional features and add-on devices for a low, bundled cost. These packages make Bay Alarm Medical’s high-quality devices even more affordable, offering consumers incredible value. And when it comes to monitoring credentials, Bay Alarm Medical is among the best. The company operates three U.S.-based call centers that are certified by The Monitoring Association and meet UL standards.

Bay Alarm Medical’s Star Rating

Bay Alarm Medical earned a star rating of 4.2/5, making it the third-highest rated medical alert company out of the 22 we ranked and reviewed. The company scored highly in the In-Home Systems and Mobile Systems categories due to its low device prices. In both categories, Bay Alarm Medical offered the least expensive device. Bay Alarm Medical earned its highest score in the Reliability and Reputation category, which can be primarily attributed to its A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, extremely well-designed and informative website, and very quick average response time of 10 seconds.

Highlights

  • Bay Alarm Medical is an established company owned by one of the nation’s leading security companies.
  • Bay Alarm Medical’s monitoring centers meet the industry’s highest quality standards as defined by UL and TMA.
  • Discounts are available to members of AARP, USAA and other national organizations.
  • Bay Alarm Medical offers a risk-free 30-day trial, and subscribers can cancel at any time.
  • Spouses receive free coverage.

The Takeaway

If you want protection that covers you at home and on the go, Bay Alarm Medical offers some of the best bundled rates in the industry. However, the company does have a $10 surcharge for cellular service. Bay Alarm Medical devices give you access to emergency response teams at home, on the road, and nearly anywhere nationwide. Additionally, customers enjoy the peace of mind of working with an industry leader.

PLAN MONTHLY PRICE STARTING COSTS SERVICE RANGE BATTERY LIFE EXTRA FEATURES
In-Home $19.95 $9.95 Shipping Landline (+$10 for Cellular) 1,000′ Console: 32 Hours
Pendant: 5 Years
Optional Fall Detection
In-Car $29.95 $9.95 Shipping Cellular N/A N/A Crash Detection
Caregiver App
Mobile $24.95 $99 device purchase fee + $9.95 Shipping Cellular Nationwide 72 Hours Optional Fall Detection Optional GPS Location Tracking
SOS Smartwatch $24.95 $179 device purchase fee + $9.95 Shipping Cellular Nationwide 18-24 Hours Built-in Step Tracker Touchscreen Two-Way Communication

What Customers Like

Bay Alarm Medical’s knowledgeable, patient staff receives overwhelmingly positive feedback. One reviewer shared, “The rep was very helpful. [He] took his time so I could understand everything he was telling me. He spoke very clear and was very polite.” Reviewers also appreciate Bay Alarm’s ease of installation and range of choices. According to one subscriber, “It was easy to set up, great options and features, easy to configure for our needs … .”

What Customers Don’t Like

There are few subscriber complaints about Bay Alarm. The only issues reported concern batteries losing charge too quickly, contradictory instructions about how to correctly charge the devices and moderately long hold times when contacting customer service.


Medical Guardian: 4.1/5 Stars

Best Customer Service

Medical Guardian offers customers six high-quality medical alert device options, including the advanced Freedom Guardian smartwatch. While its wide variety of device options and reputation of reliability would make Medical Guardian a standout company on its own, its top-of-the-line customer service makes Medical Guardian an even more appealing option for buyers. Medical Guardian strives to assist customers every step of the way, from helping them determine which device is the best option for them to providing ongoing support after purchase. The dedicated Customer Care Team is available via phone and live chat to assist customers with any of their needs.

Medical Guardian’s Star Rating

Medical Guardian ranked among the top four of the medical alert companies we reviewed, with a score of 4.1/5  stars. The company scored highly in all categories and excelled in the Availability of Add-Ons metrics. Medical Guardian offers almost all of the add-on devices we researched, including sought-after activity tracking and real-time location tracking. The company also received above-average ratings in the In-Home Systems, Mobile Systems, and Extra Costs categories, contributing to its all-around high score.

Highlights

  • Medical Guardian maintains five core values for its business practices: Customers Above all Else, Innovation as our Motivation, Passion for Purpose, Building Meaningful Relationships, and Excellence in Results
  • Medical Guardian’s monitoring center is certified by the Underwriters’ Laboratory, Factory Manual Approved, and The Monitoring Association 5-Diamond Certified.
  • Medical Guardian is a member of the Electronic Security Association, acknowledging the company’s commitment to providing excellent service in emergencies.
  • All customers receive a free Welcome Kit that includes many helpful items such as a detailed user manual and an EMT information card.
  • Medical Guardian’s emergency monitoring services are available in all 50 states, and operators are 100% U.S.-based.
  • The company maintains an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

The Takeaway

With six device offerings spanning basic in-home systems to the technologically-advanced smartwatch device, Medical Guardian has a system that will meet almost anyone’s needs. Combined with its commitment to customer support and very detailed website, including a helpful Product Quiz feature to help prospective customers determine which device is best for them, Medical Guardian will be a particularly good choice for first-time buyers of medical alert systems.

PLAN MONTHLY PRICE STARTING COSTS SERVICE RANGE BATTERY LIFE EXTRA FEATURES
Classic Guardian $29.95 $10 Shipping (waived with annual payment) Landline 1,300′ 32-hour backup Optional fall detection
Home Guardian $34.95 $10 Shipping (waived with annual payment) Cellular 600′ 30-hour backup Optional fall detection
Active Guardian $39.95 $10 Shipping (waived with annual payment) Mobile Nationwide 5 days GPS Location Tracking Optional Fall Detection
Mini Guardian $39.95 $124.95 one-time equipment fee $10 Shipping (waived with annual payment) Mobile Nationwide 5 days GPS+WiFi+Triangulation Location Tracking Optional Fall Detection
Mobile Guardian $44.95 $10 Shipping (waived with annual payment) Mobile Nationwide 24 hours GPS Location Tracking
Freedom Guardian Smartwatch $44.95 $299.95 one-time equipment fee $10 Shipping (waived with annual payment) Mobile Nationwide 2 days Advanced Location Tracking Text-to-Speech Messaging Reminders and Alerts Low Battery Notification

What Customers Like

Current and past Medical Guardian customers speak highly of their experience with the company’s products and services. Many mentioned the great customer service and customer service agents’ willingness to assist them, with one happy customer describing the “Outstanding services. Excellent customer services.” Another happy customer, whose mother uses a Medical Guardian device, said “I cannot say enough good things about Medical Guardian… Great staff answering her call. Very professional, and reassuring! I highly recommend them!”

What Customers Don’t Like

Some customers have expressed dissatisfaction with their experience returning their Medical Guardian device and canceling service. Unsatisfied reviewers were surprised by the restocking fee of $50 that Medical Guardian charges upon return, and by the $15 they had to pay for return shipping.


GetSafe: 4.0/5 Stars

Best for Simple, Hands-Free Protection

GetSafe takes a different approach to emergency monitoring than other companies in the medical alert industry. Unlike essentially all other medical alert systems which have a wearable component, GetSafe is an entirely hands-free system (though a wearable is included for those who prefer to have a personal alert button on their body). Many seniors and their families say that the biggest barrier to emergency protection is getting their loved one to remember or be willing to wear the device every day. GetSafe eliminates this problem by using a combination of voice-activated systems and emergency buttons placed throughout the user’s home, so there’s no need to remember to put on a pendant or wristband each day. GetSafe’s unique approach to monitoring can be the perfect option for those who haven’t had luck with traditional medical alert systems in the past.

GetSafe’s Star Rating

GetSafe rounds out the top five medical alert companies with a score of 4.0/5. While its starting costs can be high, especially for its more comprehensive systems, the monthly monitoring fee is among the lowest of all companies we reviewed. In addition to earning a 9.0/10 in the In-Home Systems category for its low monthly cost, GetSafe scored highly in the Availability of Add-Ons ranking. All GetSafe users and their families can access an accompanying mobile app for $5 a month, and wall buttons are included with every service package. GetSafe earned its highest score in the Reliability and Reputation category with one of the fastest average emergency call response times (10 seconds) and an easy-to-navigate website with a helpful live-chat feature.

Highlights

  • All GetSafe systems are hands-free.
  • GetSafe offers one of the lowest monthly monitoring rates.
  • The system is easy to install and the GetSafe website features helpful installation videos, meaning no installation fees for the customer.
  • The certified monitoring center is U.S.-based and operates 24/7.
  • GetSafe offers a risk-free 30-day trial.

The Takeaway

GetSafe helps fill a hole in the medical alert industry for those for whom wearing a device every single day just isn’t possible. Its products are perfect for seniors who want protection in their home without having to remember a wearable device. GetSafe currently does not offer any mobile devices, so it isn’t suitable for those looking for on-the-go emergency coverage. While startup costs can be high, especially for larger service packages, the low monthly monitoring fee helps keep costs reasonable overall.

PLAN MONTHLY PRICE STARTING COSTS SERVICE RANGE BATTERY LIFE EXTRA FEATURES
Starter $24.95 $79 Equipment Cost Cellular 20 feet voice range; 1,000 feet pendant range 32-hour Backup Completely Hands-Free
Optional Fall Detection
Standard $24.95 $149 Equipment Cost Cellular 20 feet voice range; 1,000 feet pendant range 32-hour Backup Completely Hands-Free
Optional Fall Detection
Select $24.95 $229 Equipment Cost Cellular 20 feet voice range; 1,000 feet pendant range 32-hour Backup Completely Hands-Free
Optional Fall Detection

What Customers Like

Customer reviews for GetSafe skew positive, with one customer describing the company as “very easy to deal with.” Another reviewer appreciates the “Step by step guidelines on what and how to do what you need” that GetSafe provides.

What Customers Don’t Like

Most negative reviews for GetSafe found online are from the company’s time as a home security system retailer, so it’s possible the same concerns will not apply for medical alert customers. A common issue among unhappy reviewers was payment processing problems.


Medical Alert: 3.9/5 Stars

Best for Quality Service With Annual Discounts

Medical Alert is one of the nation’s largest PERS providers. It’s owned by Connect America, a national company that operates several monitoring firms. Medical Alert offers customers the choice of monthly, semiannual, and annual billing agreements with no long-term commitment. In addition to receiving discounts that can bring monthly costs below $20, customers who select an annual or semiannual plan get extra benefits, such as free shipping and a lockbox that can help emergency responders enter your home. Optional fall detection is available with all plans for a monthly fee.

Medical Alert’s Star Rating

Medical Alert earned a star rating of 3.9/5, making it the sixth-highest rated medical alert company of the top twenty we reviewed. Medical Alert offers quality devices at a low cost compared to other top companies, as demonstrated by its very high scores in the Extra Costs, In-Home Systems, and Mobile Systems categories. In all three categories, Medical Alert ranks the second-highest with scores of 9.0 or higher. Its monthly rates for its mobile and in-home systems are among the lowest in the industry, and the costs go down even further when paid for on a semiannual or annual basis. Medical Alert also keeps startup costs to a minimum, only charging a small shipping fee and no other one-time device, activation, or installation fees.

Highlights

  • Medical Alert serves customers in the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
  • UL-certified monitoring centers employ bilingual agents who are fluent in English and Spanish.
  • Caregivers can take advantage of the 365Access app, which includes location tracking and notification tools.
  • Specially trained SIA-certified operators answer calls in 30 seconds or less and stay on the line until help arrives.
  • Medical Alert offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

The Takeaway

This Connect America company is impressive with its customer-focused features that benefit seniors and caregivers. It answers calls promptly, provides professional service and rewards loyal subscribers by offering semiannual and annual billing discounts. The company also offers a range of vanity pendants that resemble designer jewelry.

PLAN MONTHLY PRICE STARTING COSTS SERVICE RANGE BATTERY LIFE EXTRA FEATURES
At-Home Landline $22.95 $9.50 Shipping with Month-to-Month Plan Landline 1,300′ Console: 32 Hours
Pendant: 2—5 Years
Optional Fall Detection
At-Home No Landline $32.95 $9.50 Shipping with Month-to-Month Plan Cellular 1,300′ Console: 32 Hours
Pendant: 2—5 Years
Optional Fall Detection
At-Home & On-The-Go Package $37.95 $9.50 Shipping with Month-to-Month Plan Cellular 600′ (Home), 350′ (Mobile) Varies GPS Location Tracking
Optional Fall Detection
On the Go $37.95 $9.50 Shipping with Month-to-Month Plan Cellular Nationwide 5 Days (30 Days Standby) GPS Location Tracking
Optional Fall Detection

What Customers Like

Many subscribers find that Medical Alert gives them greater security and peace of mind. They also appreciate the friendliness of the staff, and the company’s fast response when help is needed. One woman shares, “I’ve had Medical Alert for about 12 years … Their reps have all been nice. When I fell in the bathroom, I called them and they answered right away.”

What Customers Don’t Like

A lengthy wait for customer service assistance is one of the few downsides mentioned in reviews of Medical Alert. Other subscribers cite the weight of the device and how easy it’s activated as disadvantages.


QMedic: 3.7/5 Stars

Best for Innovative Features

Created by MIT scientists, Boston-based QMedic has taken medical alert technology to the next level. It provides a user-friendly experience for seniors along with advanced features geared toward tech-savvy caregivers. One of the brand’s most unique services is compliance monitoring, which detects whether or not the user is actually wearing their medical alert device. Caregivers also have access to an online dashboard which provides a visual overview of the subscriber’s activity levels, including periods of sleep or activity. Automatic alerts notify caregivers when unusual patterns are detected, and algorithms may trigger automatic wellness calls. This system is designed to prevent false alarms while providing enhanced peace of mind. Although QMedic is developing fall-detection features, its approach emphasizes the value of nonintrusive activity tracking and passive monitoring.

QMedic’s Star Rating

QMedic earned a score of 3.7/5 stars. Its place in the top ten best medical alert providers can largely be attributed to its advanced device features including compliance monitoring and generous discounts for annual subscribers. Though its devices are priced above the industry average when paid for monthly, the annual rates reduce the overall cost by up to $140 per year. And while QMedic has less industry experience than some competitors with 10 years in the medical alert space, its informative and user-friendly website, free trial period, and A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau contributed to a high score in the Reliability and Reputation category.

Highlights

  • QMedic is a leader in passive medical monitoring.
  • The company uses proprietary tracking technology developed by MIT experts.
  • Alert systems offer excellent performance and onboard self-testing tools that minimize maintenance requirements.
  • Calls are routed to two U.S.-based monitoring centers that respond in 30 seconds on average.
  • Contracted monitoring centers in Utah and Idaho are certified by UL and TMA.
  • QMedic supports active or proactive alerts in addition to wellness calls.
  • The service is backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.

The Takeaway

This service stands out for its user-friendly products, no-nonsense pricing and innovative technology. We like the simple interface and onboard self-testing function, which provides enhanced peace of mind. However, seniors may need to partner with a relative to take full advantage of QMedic’s suite of activity tracking tools.

PLAN MONTHLY PRICE STARTING COSTS SERVICE RANGE BATTERY LIFE EXTRA FEATURES
In-Home $30 None Landline/Cellular 1,000′ 2 Years Activity Tracking
Self-Testing
Mobile GPS $45 None Cellular Nationwide 14 Days GPS Location Tracking

What Customers Like

QMedic is highly rated for its reliability and advanced features. Family members in particular appreciate being alerted to unusual sleep or activity patterns, or when their loved one isn’t wearing the device. The uncomplicated set up is also a plus; as one reviewer says, “Set up is really easy. In a nutshell, it’s plug, test and play!”

What Customers Don’t Like

The only downside mentioned in reviews of QMedic is the lack of an automatic fall detection option for use at home or when on the go.


BlueStar Senior Tech: 3.1/5

Best for Customized Service Plans

BlueStar Senior Tech is a veteran-owned business that has provided medical monitoring and personal emergency response systems for more than 20 years. The company offers a wide selection of equipment and service plans at a variety of price points. While the brand’s expansive product catalog adds to the complexity of the decision-making process, BlueStar Senior Tech is “committed to providing a customized approach to [its] customers.” It does not believe in a “one-size-fits-all” approach to emergency medical monitoring, and will work with prospective and active users to find a device and plan that meets their specific needs.

BlueStar Senior Tech’s Star Rating

BlueStar Senior Tech’s star rating of 3.1/5 makes it the eighth-highest rated of the top 20 medical alert companies. The company received a score of 9.0/10 in the Availability of Add-Ons category, offering almost all common add-ons and some less-common features including on-demand location information and medication reminders. While its prices for in-home medical alert systems and shipping are higher than average, its large selection of devices and add-ons helps ensure that all BlueStar Senior Tech customers are able to build a service plan that fully meets their needs. It also offers military discounts to help make its devices more affordable for veterans and their spouses.

Highlights

  • Blue Star Service Solutions is a full member of the Medical Alert Monitoring Association.
  • The company offers military discounts and supports a variety of nonprofits that serve veterans.
  • Mobile and in-home systems have two-way voice capabilities and support advanced features, including fall detection.
  • Some devices can communicate with health monitoring systems, medical devices and smartphone apps.
  • Blue Star offers a selection of value-added features, including caregiver dashboards and severe weather alerts.
  • Mobile pendants are waterproof and resist extreme temperatures.

The Takeaway

Blue Star offers a wide selection of unique products ranging from basic in-home systems to portable GPS-enabled panic buttons and stylish BellPal watches that can interact with an emergency app on your smartphone. The company sells self-monitored systems and offers some unique features for caregivers. Rates are competitive, and there are options for every lifestyle.

PLAN MONTHLY PRICE STARTING COSTS SERVICE RANGE BATTERY LIFE EXTRA FEATURES
Sentry $23.95 None Landline 600′ 24 Hours w/o Power
SafeGuard $27.95 None Cellular 600′ 36 Hours w/o Power Fall Detection
Family App
Ranger 4G $31.95 None Cellular Nationwide 40 Hours (Standby) Fall Detection
GPS Location Tracking
Mobile App
Admiral Alert $35.95 None Cellular Nationwide 48 Hours Fall Detection
Mobile App
BellPal Watch $9.95 $199.95 Equipment Fee Bluetooth (Requires Smartphone) Nationwide 6 Months Fall Detection
Mobile App

What Customers Like

Reviewers consistently cite Blue Star Senior Tech’s affordable cost, quick response time and polite, knowledgeable operators. Many appreciate that the company is veteran-owned and reliable; as one woman says, “I recommend it to anybody that’s been in the military. They go beyond the call of duty. When they tell you they’re going to do something, they do it.”

What Customers Don’t Like

Subscribers report issues with the range on the mobile device and problems with the accuracy of the GPS locator. Being sent a mobile system instead of a landline equipment was another problem noted by a customer.


LifeStation: 3.1/5 Stars

Best for Caregiver Support

LifeStation has more than 40 years in the medical monitoring business. The brand’s mobile systems include GPS and Wi-Fi tracking capabilities as part of its Find My Loved One feature. “Find My Loved One” allows caregivers to locate the exact location of their loved one’s device on-demand, providing peace of mind for caregivers and other loved ones. As of 2020, LifeStation devices are compatible with Amazon Alexa systems, so caregivers can use their Alexa device to access their loved one’s location and other crucial device information. And with a 24/7 customer service line, LifeStation agents are available around-the-clock to support caregivers with any questions or concerns they have involving their loved one’s medical alert monitoring.

LifeStation’s Star Rating

LifeStation earned a star rating of 3.1/5 stars, making it the ninth-highest rated company out of 22 total contenders. LifeStation received above-average scores in most ranking categories, but its highest was for Availability of Add-Ons. LifeStation offers many of the add-on services and devices we included in our evaluation, including location information on-demand, fall detection, and a device protection plan. And, LifeStation’s in-home and mobile devices were both among some of the least expensive of the companies we ranked.

Highlights

  • LifeStation uses UL- and TMA-certified monitoring centers.
  • Emergency calls are handled by accent-neutral operators based in the United States.
  • Interpretation services support more than 240 languages depending on your preferences.
  • There’s no contract, and customers who cancel in the first 30 days receive a full refund minus shipping.
  • LifeStation’s tracking service uses GPS, Wi-Fi and algorithms to pinpoint the subscriber’s location.
  • LifeStation provides caregiver tools and integrates with Amazon Alexa.

The Takeaway

In an industry where companies sometimes seem like clones, LifeStation has gone out of its way to develop value-added features and caregiver monitoring functions that separate it from the competition. Response times average around 20 seconds, and best of all, its rates are competitive, especially given the quality of the service.

PLAN MONTHLY PRICE STARTING COSTS SERVICE RANGE BATTERY LIFE EXTRA FEATURES
In-Home Traditional $21.95 None Landline 500′ Console: 36 Hours
Pendant: 4 Years
Optional Fall Detection
In-Home Plus $30.95 None Cellular 500′ Console: 36 Hours
Pendant: 4 Years
Optional Fall Detection
Mobile with GPS $37.95 $50 Activation Fee with Standard Payment Package Cellular Nationwide 5 Days Optional Fall Detection
GPS Location Tracking

What Customers Like

Customers consistently praise LifeStation’s patient, courteous staff and the system’s ease of use. One subscriber who installed the system for his elderly parents commented, “The LifeStation team is amazing! Every person I spoke to from the initial call through shipping, setup and testing were so helpful and patient.”

What Customers Don’t Like

The few negatives subscribers report include being charged before the service is activated and difficulties switching plans and returning equipment. The length of time it takes to get a refund when canceling the service was another issue noted.


Lifenet Medical Alert Systems: 2.6/5 Stars

Best for Transparent Pricing

Founded in 2008, Lifenet is a relative newcomer to the industry, and the company impresses with its refreshingly transparent pricing system. Lifenet doesn’t have activation fees or hidden charges. Customers can choose from monthly service plans as well as quarterly and annual options with discounted rates. On top of that, seniors have the freedom to cancel at any time. The company even offers prorated refunds, which is virtually unheard of in the telecom and security industries.

Lifenet’s Star Rating

Lifenet’s transparent pricing model greatly contributed to its star rating of 2.6/5 stars. Though its monthly monitoring costs are higher than the industry average and its offerings somewhat limited, making for lower scores in most ranking categories, Lifenet earned a perfect 10.0/10 score in the Extra Costs category. The only extra cost that Lifenet users will ever face is shipping, which is less than $10. There are no device, activation, or installation fees, and fall detection is even included in the monthly cost for Lifenet’s mobile device. The company’s consumer-friendly cancellation and refund policies also helped Lifenet earn its place in the top ten medical alert companies.

Highlights

  • Lifenet uses 100% U.S.-based monitoring centers that are certified by the Electronic Security Association.
  • Subscribers can customize their emergency response plan and make changes at any time with no additional fee.
  • Add-ons, such as daily wellness calls and extra help buttons, are available for a nominal fee.
  • In-home equipment has an excellent transmission range and long battery life.
  • Lifenet medical monitoring is available in Canada and all 50 states.
  • The company offers shipping, returns and activation at no charge.
  • Call-center operators include EMT-certified medical professionals.

The Takeaway

Lifenet’s base rates are slightly higher than the competition, but there are no hidden fees. With this company, what you see is what you get. Lifenet is a strong choice for seniors seeking reliable service without hidden fees or sales gimmicks.

PLAN MONTHLY PRICE STARTING COSTS SERVICE RANGE BATTERY LIFE EXTRA FEATURES
Home & Garden $29.95 None Landline 1,000′ Console: 32 Hours
Pendant: 4 Years
N/A
Home & Away $49.95 None Cellular Nationwide N/A Fall Detection
GPS Location Tracking

What Customers Like

Lifenet subscribers talk about the company’s fast response time, and the peace of mind that having the service provides. The patient, knowledgeable staff is also commented on. “You went above and beyond to help me. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and explain everything to me,” shares one customer.

What Customers Don’t Like

There are few negatives reported about Lifenet. One reviewer who subscribed for a parent found the system somewhat difficult to set up, even with phone assistance from a company representative.


How to Choose a Medical Alert System

Two key considerations when choosing a medical alert system are the type of coverage and extent of protection it provides. In-home systems provide coverage throughout your house and in the yard. Mobile systems offer coverage when you’re on the go. They use a combination of cell phone service and GPS satellites to maintain a constant link between emergency dispatchers and subscribers anywhere in the nation. Mobile and in-home systems are quite specialized, so it’s important to think about the type of coverage you need and what kind of system will work in your environment. Doing so can help you determine which of the following types of systems you need:

  • Landline system. Most in-home medical alert systems connect to your existing phone line using a standard telephone jack. They also work with VoIP service. However, this option may not be as reliable.
  • Cellular or mobile system. Cellular systems are ideal for mobile use as well as homes that don’t have a landline. The SIM card is provided by the company, so there’s no extra fee. However, average rates tend to be higher.
  • Dual system. Combination systems use separate at-home and mobile devices to provide complete protection no matter where you are. They’re also suitable for sharing with a spouse.

Defining the type of system you need is just the starting point. To ensure that you pick the right medical alert system, you also need to:

Consider Base Units, Pendants and Help Buttons

Equipment and device options are fairly standard across the industry, but you still have some choices to make. Most systems have limited aesthetic appeal, and there’s minimal variety between manufacturers. Here are a few of the most common options you can choose from:

  • In-home base units feature an emergency help button, paging functions and built-in speakers that allow seniors to communicate with dispatchers in case of an emergency.
  • Emergency response pendants are designed to be carried with you at all times, even in the shower. Devices can be worn like a watch or necklace, and there’s a belt-clip option for men.
  • Optional wall- or surface-mounted help buttons that you can place in the bathroom, near a nightstand, in the basement or in other areas where falls are common.
  • Jewelry-style pendants are a newer option available through several providers. They tend to have a shorter transmission range and battery life, but they’re remarkably discreet.
  • Most mobile monitoring devices resemble a small flip phone or pager. These systems can be carried in your pocket, clipped on your waistband or stored in a purse.

Factor in Audio Quality When Selecting Equipment

Audio quality is a make-or-break feature. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to gauge the system’s volume until you have the unit in your house. Sound levels for most in-home systems range from 60 to 80 decibels, which can affect your ability to communicate with operators, especially from a distance. If you have hearing concerns, it’s important to select a provider that offers a 30-day money-back guarantee in case the system doesn’t meet your needs.

Investigate Battery Life

Battery life is another important consideration that can influence your choice of system and devices. Here are some factors to consider:

  • In-home base units plug into a standard electrical outlet and are equipped with emergency battery packs. If you live in an area that’s prone to power outages or severe weather, select a model that provides at least 30 hours of backup power.
  • Traditional push-button pendants and wristbands use stable lithium-ion batteries that may last up to 7 years depending on the model. Some providers even measure battery levels during self-tests and send replacements as needed.
  • Mobile devices with advanced features, such as two-way voice communication and GPS tracking, may need recharging every few days or weeks depending on the system’s design and features.

To help you compare the available options, you should also ask yourself how often you want to recharge your device. Do you prefer simple features if they extend the battery life, or are you comfortable recharging the device often so that you’re protected when you’re driving, traveling and running errands?

Think About Service Plans

Medical alert companies typically sell their monitoring service for a fixed monthly rate and provide customers with equipment to use during that time. Most providers offer basic packages for one price and à la carte upgrades at an additional cost. For example, with an in-home system, you’ll receive a base unit and a wristband or neck pendant. If you want extra pendants or help buttons, you’ll typically pay $3-$5 extra per button, per month. Understanding what you get with a plan and the extras you need makes it easier to compare offerings and prices from different companies.

Basic plans generally include:

  • Cellular service for in-home or mobile systems
  • One base unit for in-home plans
  • The first pendant or wristband

With most providers, you pay extra for:

  • Landline phone service
  • Equipment that’s lost or damaged
  • Additional help buttons or pendants

Compare Fee Structures and Pricing Plans

In the past, some companies locked customers into ironclad three-year contracts that could only be canceled in extreme situations, such as nursing home placement. Mercifully, the industry has moved away from this model. Most top-rated providers offer month-to-month service agreements that you can cancel at any time, and there are no penalties as long as you return the equipment.

If you sign up for quarterly or annual billing, many companies give you a discount and extra benefits, such as free device protection or a lockbox for emergency responders. Just make sure that the company offers prorated refunds in case you decide to cancel. With so many providers competing for your business, there’s really no need to go with a company that has hefty activation fees or cancellation penalties.

Did You Know? Seniors can receive free quotes for personal safety monitoring, medical alerts and wander prevention services for those with Alzheimer’s. Receive a quote here.

Decide on Extra Features and Add-Ons

Standard service plans include 24/7 monitoring and basic equipment, but companies offer numerous upgrades. Here are a few of the most popular value-added features to look for:

  • GPS tracking allows emergency operators to pinpoint the subscriber’s exact location in case of an emergency. This feature is ideal for seniors with Alzheimer’s or wandering concerns.
  • Fall-detection functions use accelerometers and algorithms to detect unusual movements. This enhanced feature costs $5-$10 per month. Technology is improving, but it still has limitations.
  • Caregiver dashboards that display activity and tracking information are ideal for tech-savvy relatives who want a convenient, unobtrusive way to check on loved ones.
  • Medical alert systems can also be used as a daily wellness tool. For a nominal fee, many providers offer medication reminders and daily check-in functions.
  • As technology improves, more providers are developing mobile emergency response apps and voice-activation tools that can interact with Alexa and home automation devices.

Define Your Emergency Response Needs

Medical alert systems and other PERS are designed to get you help when you need it while preventing false alarms the rest of the time. If you activate the help button, a specially trained operator will answer your call in a matter of seconds. Communication is handled through the base unit, but you can also choose a pendant with two-way voice capabilities.

If you’re unable to communicate with the dispatcher due to medical reasons or the location within your home, the operator will contact emergency responders and treat the situation as a genuine emergency.

Nearly all companies allow subscribers to create a customized plan that instructs operators to contact a friend, relative or neighbor before calling 911. In many cases, it’s much more convenient and appropriate to contact a neighbor or relative rather than police or emergency medical services.

Companies are also moving toward passive monitoring systems that use smart technology to detect unusual movement patterns and trigger automatic wellness calls. If these are the features you want, it may narrow down your choice of systems and providers.

Weigh Provider Credentials

To help you determine if a medical alert company provides timely, reliable service that will meet your needs, be sure to check these four credentials:

  • Average response times: Ideally, the company should answer emergency calls in one minute or less. You also want to find a provider that offers consistent service around the clock.
  • Qualifications: Industry certifications can help you evaluate a provider’s commitment to quality service. TMA’s Five Diamond certification is one of the most rigorous. Underwriters Laboratories, Factory Mutual and the Electronic Security Association also offer third-party quality assurances.
  • Monitoring centers: Look for providers that have at least two onshore facilities. The best providers invest in operator training programs and often employ a nurse, EMT or medical supervisor who can assist during high-priority calls.
  • Language: For most consumers, U.S.-based operators are ideal. However, if English isn’t your first language, look for providers that employ bilingual agents or offer third-party interpretation services. Some companies support more than 200 languages.

Match a Medical Alert System to Your Particular Needs

Medical monitoring is a unique industry. The products are very similar, yet one small feature can determine whether or not the system can work for you. As you start the comparison process, identify your main requirements and any special features that you may need. Decide whether you want landline or cellular service. If you want mobile coverage, find out whether AT&T or Verizon works best in your area. Next, determine what features are important to you. Do you care about long battery life, or would you prefer a pendant that looks like an artisan necklace? As you consider the product’s features and functionality, one or two clear contenders will emerge. You can also learn more about each provider by checking online reviews to see how the system worked for customers in a similar situation.

If you’ve considered medical alert systems in the past but were overwhelmed by the number of options and underwhelmed by the lack of convenient features, the technology has improved. It’s less intrusive and more user-friendly. Consumers today have more options than ever, and we hope that this guide helps you find the right one for your lifestyle.

A Full Explanation of Our Ranking Methodology

We ranked the top 22 medical alert companies on the market today on factors including price, availability of premium features, and company history and reputation. In total, we evaluated five main categories (metrics) and 30 subcategories (sub-metrics). Metrics and sub metrics were weighted in proportion to how much of an impact that specific metric has on customers’ experience and bottom line. A full explanation of the metrics and sub-metrics involved in our data-driven analysis can be found below.

Extra Costs

We considered any costs users may face outside of their standard monthly monitoring fees. This includes startup fees such as activation and installation, as well as cancellation fees, shipping fees, and additional costs for common extra features. While these extra costs can add up with some companies, this metric accounts for just 10% of our rankings because they are typically one-time expenses and thus do not have as much of an impact on a user’s expenses overall. The sub-metrics are as follows:

  • Device/Equipment Fee: Does the company charge a one-time fee to lease or purchase the medical alert device itself, and if so, how much?
  • Activation/Installation Fee: Does the company charge a mandatory one-time fee to activate or install the device, and if so, how much?
  • Shipping Fee: How much must most customers pay for shipping (excluding sales, specials, discounts for longer payment periods, etc.)?
  • Fall Detection: How much extra per month does the company charge for automatic fall detection?
  • Cancellation Fees: Does the company charge cancellation fees when users choose to end their service? We measured this sub-metric in terms of “yes” or “no.”
  • Prorated Refunds: Do customers who choose to end their service before their subscription period has run out (i.e., six months into an annual payment) receive a prorated refund for unused months? We measured this sub-metric in terms of “yes” or “no.”

In-Home Systems

This metric evaluated a company’s in-home systems based on both cost and features. Because one’s monthly monitoring payments make up the majority of total medical alert costs, this metric was weighted at 25%. The sub-metrics are as follows:

  • Monthly Cost: How much do customers have to pay each month for standard emergency monitoring services? We always used the regular monthly price- not the annual or semi-annual prices, which are often discounted. If a company offers more than one in-home device, we chose the least expensive option.
  • Available Discounts: Does the company offer any discounts on the monthly monitoring fee for quarterly, semi-annual, or annual subscribers? We measured this sub-metric in terms of “yes” or “no.”
  • Extra Fee for Cellular In-Home: How much extra does it cost per month to use this system with a cellular connection rather than a landline?
  • Range: How far can users travel from their base station and still be protected by their medical alert system?
  • Showerproof: Can users wear their device in the shower, where falls are common? We measured this sub-metric in terms of “yes” or “no.”

Mobile Systems

Similar to the in-home systems category, the mobile systems ranking category focused on the devices’ monthly cost and features. Because the monthly monitoring cost and features available with one’s device have a major impact on customer experience, this metric was weighted at 25%. The sub-metrics are as follows:

  • Monthly Cost: How much do customers have to pay each month for standard emergency monitoring service? Again, if a company offers more than one device at different costs, we chose the least expensive option.
  • Available Discounts: Does the company offer any discounts on the monthly monitoring fee for quarterly, semi-annual, or annual subscribers? We measured this sub-metric in terms of “yes” or “no.”
  • Battery Life: How long does the device’s battery last in between charges?
  • Water-Resistant? Can users wear their device in the rain, and is it okay if it gets splashed? We measured this sub-metric in terms of “yes” or “no.”

Availability of Add-Ons

Add-on devices and features are an important element in determining a customer’s satisfaction. Even those who are only interested in basic add-on devices, such as a lockbox or wall-mounted button, will benefit from a company that offers these devices along with medical alert systems all in one shop. For those who need specific add-on features like medication reminders, the decision of which medical alert company to choose may rely solely on whether the company offers the needed service.

Because of the influence the availability of add-ons can have on a customer’s decision, this category is weighted at 20%. The goal of this ranking category was to evaluate the availability of these devices and features rather than their costs, and thus was measured using a yes/no system. The add-ons that we included in this ranking category (the sub-metrics) are as follows:

  • Fall detection
  • Lockbox
  • Wall buttons
  • Device protection plan
  • Caregiver portal/app
  • Location Information On-Demand (location tracking for caregivers)
  • Medication Reminders
  • Activity Tracking

Reliability and Reputation

Factors like cost, device battery life, and availability of desired add-on features are all tangible things that certainly impact a customer’s satisfaction with their medical alert company. But, other intangibles also can have a great impact on a user’s experience. In our Reliability and Reputation metric, we examined those intangibles that impact customer satisfaction and safety. Because of this impact, Reliability and Reputation was weighted at 20% of a company’s total score. The elements we chose to evaluate, our sub-metrics, are as follows:

  • BBB Rating: What is the company’s Better Business Bureau rating?
  • Monitoring Center Certified by 3rd Party: Does the company’s monitoring center(s) have certifications and ratings from third-party safety organizations? We measured this sub-metric on a yes/no basis.
  • Free Trial Period: Does the company offer new users a free trial period and, if so, how long is the trial?
  • Average Response Time: How long does it take, on average, for a user to speak with an emergency operator after pressing their medical alert emergency button?
  • Transparency/Ease of Finding Information on Website: Is the company’s website informative and user-friendly? Are prices, extra costs, and policies clearly explained on the website? Is it easy to find the information most important to customers? This sub-metric was measured on a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the most transparent and informative website.
  • Years in Business: For how many years has the company provided medical alert systems and services?
  • BBB Review Score: What is the company’s average score from consumer reviews on the Better Business Bureau website?

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Medical Alert Systems Expensive?

Medical alert systems typically cost between $20 to $45 per month or about $1 per day. Basic in-home systems with one pendant and a push-button base unit are the most affordable option. Mobile systems that include GPS tracking cost more, but their advanced capabilities can benefit active seniors, travelers and adults who are at risk of wandering. With fall detection and other add-ons, monthly costs can climb as high as $90. However, seniors may be able to save by signing up for annual or semiannual billing, and affinity discounts may be available to members of national organizations, such as AAA and USAA.

Will My Insurance Pay for a Medical Alert System?

Despite the proven benefits, most health insurance plans don’t cover the cost of personal emergency response systems. If you’re aged 65 or older, basic Medicare (Part A and Part B) doesn’t cover the cost of medical alert systems, but some Part C Medicare Advantage Plans do provide this value-added benefit. Coverage is sometimes available to homebound individuals who receive in-home care or self-directed services through Medicaid if the device helps them live in the community safely.

Do I Need to Purchase Special Equipment?

Usually, no. The majority of medical alert companies include the cost of equipment in their monthly monitoring fees. In other words, there’s usually no upfront charge for the device, but you may have to pay if the equipment is lost or damaged or if you fail to return it after you cancel your plan. If you’re purchasing equipment upfront, determine whether it’s self-monitored or tied to a certain provider.

How Long Do the Batteries Last?

Batteries in medical alert systems last anywhere from 24 hours to 7 years depending on the technology and design. GPS-enabled systems with two-way voice communication have the shortest battery life, especially when connecting to remote cell towers in rural locations. Most in-home base units remain active for up to three days without power. Lithium-ion batteries used in pendants and push buttons generally last for several years.

What Type of Phone Service Do I Need?

Nearly every medical alert company offers multiple service options. If you have a landline, the system uses your existing service. All you need is a phone jack. Landline systems are generally compatible with VoIP technology, but it’s important to remember that this system isn’t as reliable in case of Internet malfunctions or power outages.

Mobile devices come with their own SIM card, and you don’t have to purchase cell service since it’s already included in the monthly monitoring fee. There’s one drawback, however. Most cellular systems use AT&T’s nationwide network, which has coverage gaps in Nevada, Nebraska and Montana. If you don’t have AT&T, a Verizon-based service like GreatCall may give you an alternative.

Do I Need to Hire an Installer, or can I Set up the System Myself?

Medical alert systems are easy to use and install. In most cases, it takes five minutes or less. Installation is as simple as plugging in a phone jack, connecting the power supply and turning on the unit. If you need assistance, many companies can walk you through the process over the phone. You may also want to work with a tech-savvy relative who can take advantage of online monitoring tools.


Compare More Medical Alert Systems

For more information, read about our reviews of additional companies not included in this guide in head-to-head company comparisons to see how each stacks up against the competition:

Other Medical Alert Systems We’ve Reviewed

More About Medical Alert Systems

Making the Hard Decision to Move Forward

It may not come as a surprise to many of you that making new changes in your life can be difficult. And it is the natural human tendency to procrastinate even when we know that taking that first step will lead to better outcomes. Indecision can be costly, physically, financially, and mentally. This new environment in which we suddenly find ourselves is a testament to the need to make fast and drastic changes as our very lives depend on it.  And we have to manage this unfamiliar ever-changing changing COVID environment for some time to come. And for those of you who are immunocompromised, they may be even higher. 

Now, let’s take a look at another life and death struggle that we are in every day that takes up much of our time, energy, and leaves us stressed. The fear of financial ruin. What I have found is that even in the best of times, we don’t want to recognize our financial weaknesses, no matter how they have come about. And there is something to be said about being careful with that information. Now with the national and global financial volatility we find ourselves in with no foreseeable bottom or end in sight, not speaking to someone about your financial concerns and addressing them can leave you in a more desperate financial situation than you may already find yourselves in.  

 

I find it challenging to help anyone who has questions they want to ask but don’t know how when they should ask, or even know what questions to ask. Let me reassure you, I am available to help you navigate your financial lives. I am an advocate for you, not the hospital, not the treatment center, not your doctor, but for you. I endeavor to help prevent and or reduce financial stress/toxicity which is the predominant concern when dealing with a chronic illness. If you feel that paying for your medications, or medical treatment bills is putting a strain on your finances, please call me. Even if you feel everything is manageable now but may become difficult in the future, call me. Don’t wait until the bottom falls out to seek help. You may have had your treatment changed as a result of not being able to go into the doctor’s office for treatment. (intravenous vs oral meds). Is this new treatment going to cost you more?  

Now that some people are beginning to be more open to seeing their doctors, a sad reality is showing itself. Some of these people who put off important follow-up visits, tests, or initial visits due to COVID exposure fears or increased costs-share burden, are finding themselves in more dire physical condition. Perhaps other illnesses have worsened or a new illness in a more advanced stage.  

Let’s not become a statistic. Having a conversation with a financial professional can reassure you that you are on the right track or reveal weaknesses in your financial armor that can be addressed. Getting in front of your healthcare expenses, being proactive in your insurance plans, and making sure your financial goals are secure is one of the most important steps to not only meeting your household financial obligations but your healthcare objectives as well.  

How Has Cancer Research Evolved in Light of the COVID-19 Pandemic?

How Has Cancer Research Evolved in Light of the COVID-19 Pandemic? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo

What have been some benefits for cancer research during the COVID-19 pandemic? Expert. Dr. Shaji Kumar describes some of the clinical trial changes that have been born from the pandemic to improve access to care and to decrease the risk of infection for cancer patients.

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Transcript:

Mary Leer:

Are there any noticeable trends born out of the pandemic that will be or could be a benefit to the future of cancer care or research?

Dr. Shaji Kumar:

That’s a very important question, and I think we always learn from adversity, and I think this is going to be no different. I think, especially when the pandemic hit back in the spring of last year, we all had to think fast on our feet to figure out how best to continue to tell about the best care for the cancer patients without compromising the care in any way. And we knew that bringing the patients back into the clinic at the same rate we did before the pandemic would expose them to significant risk for infection, so how do we continue with treatment? There have been very different things people have tried…one of them is to try and get the medications to patients at home. If they are on IV medications, they can be changed to something that’s comparable that can be given by mouth. We already did that for some patients. For some patients who used to come to the clinic very often, so we figure out is there a way for them to get some of those testing done in a clinic much closer to home, so they can avoid the travel, they can avoid being in a bigger city, they can avoid being in a bigger institution, again, reducing the risk of exposure, and then you look at those numbers and then decide on the next course of treatment. We converted many of the clinic visits to video visits. Nothing is as good as having the patient right in front of you, but this is the best we could do under the circumstances.

And I think that helped. So I think the clinical trials was a big problem because in many of those trials were done in a very rigid fashion with very little variability allowed within the protocols. And everybody loosened from the clinical trial sponsors, the pharmaceutical companies, the institutional review board, the investigators to try and build flexibility into those clinical trial structures to allow patients to continue to be on those trials, So what does that mean for the future? I think the video visits are here to stay, I think we will continue to utilize that and bring patients back to the clinic only when it’s absolutely needed. I think the clinical trials will have in-built flexibility so that patients can enroll on clinical trials remotely, they can potentially be given some of those medications at home, maybe it would be something where we would check into the patients on a regular basis to make sure things are proceeding in the right way. I think there are increasingly technologies that will allow the patients to communicate in real time with the care team and also provide many of the data that we need through iPads or iPhones, Apple watches, whatever we end up using.

So that is that I think that technology will rapidly take off in the next few years. So I think a lot of the care of the patients with cancer in general, and particularly cancer patients, is going to look very different five years from now, because of all these things that we have always thought of and we thought, “Yeah it will take time to implement, it’s difficult.” Now we figure it out in a year. We can do a lot of those things.

Jeff Bushnell:

What’s the final takeaway for the average cancer patient and caregiver, how to get through this? What’s your bottom line for us all?

Dr. Shaji Kumar:

Your cancer treatment comes first, let’s not compromise on it, let us do it as safe as we can by observing all the instructions in terms of social distancing, masking, avoiding gatherings, getting vaccinated, and make sure you keep connected with your care team. You don’t have to be in the clinic to do that. There’s a variety of different tools, I think every hospital has options to either through their medical records to message their care team, or set up video visits and so forth.

So we want to be in a state where it was before the pandemic in terms of your communications, but use the technology, so we can decrease the risk of exposure without compromising the quality of care.

Should Cancer Patients Get COVID-19 Vaccines If They’ve Tested Positive for Antibodies or the Virus?

Should Cancer Patients Get COVID-19 Vaccines If They’ve Tested Positive for Antibodies or the Virus? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo

What are the recommendations for cancer patients on COVID-19 vaccines if they’ve tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies or the virus? Expert Dr. Shaji Kumar shares current vaccine recommendations for cancer patients.

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Transcript:

Mary Leer:

Here’s a question many cancer patients are unclear about if antibodies are present or if I have tested positive before, “Should I still get the vaccine?”

Dr. Shaji Kumar:

I know the recommendation right now is to go ahead and get the vaccine, partly because we don’t know the natural immunity from the infection, how long does it last. So it seems like the antibodies can start to wane off the infection. And again, we don’t have a lot of data on it, but it looks 3 to 6 months, it might start waning at least to the level that they can detect. Now, whether that is sufficient or even the undetectable levels is protective against a future infection, we don’t know. There have been some reports of people getting a second infection even though they have been infected before again, scattered reports, we don’t know how widespread that phenomenon is going to be, so given all these, I think the current recommendation would be to go ahead and get vaccinated. We generally tell people to wait for two to three months after the infection to go ahead with the vaccination.

Jeff Bushnell:

Is the idea of pre-screening, especially for cancer patients, maybe who may be at risk to see whether they have antibodies be an effective thing to decide which vaccine they should get? What are your thoughts on that?

Dr. Shaji Kumar:

You look at the Moderna and the Pfizer trials, and they said, now over 90 percent effective. Look at the AstraZeneca trials, you know, it’s like they recorded 70 to 80, 85 percent, and the J&J about 80 to 90 percent effective. Do these numbers mean much? It’s really hard to know, I think, partly because they have been tested in, again, different countries, different times, as the virus was continually changing its characteristics. So one could argue that maybe the vaccines that were tested later on when this will be some of the mutants were already there might be more effective, but we don’t know.

I think at the end of the day, 80 versus 90 is not something we would decide a vaccine on. The fact that, yes, if something was only 10 percent effective versus 90 percent, it’s a probably different story. So based on the numbers we have seen, I would say whatever you can get to first, if you don’t want to get jabbed twice, maybe you go with something that goes, it’s only one dose, but that may be the only distinguishing factor here, but nevertheless, I think we have to just get the vaccination, the first vaccine that we can get our hands on.

How Can People Help Achieve COVID-19 Herd Immunity?

How Can People Help Achieve COVID-19 Herd Immunity? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo

How can community members help work toward COVID-19 herd immunity? Expert Dr. Shaji Kumar explains why some are hesitant to get COVID-19 vaccines and ways that members in the community can educate others about COVID-19 infection and how vaccine access can be increased in remote areas.

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Transcript:

Jeff Bushnell:

Vaccine hesitancy has really become sort of the issue to the potential of achieving herd immunity, but the average person, how can we help overcome hesitancy and increase the people’s trust in the vaccine, and also increase the equitable distribution amongst all populations? Problems for being able to get it. What can we do to sort of push ourselves over the hill to get to that herd immunity?

Dr. Shaji Kumar:

You bring up a very important point, and I hope we are in a much better place than many parts of the world right now because we have one of the few countries where a significant proportion of the people have been vaccinated, but we are not quite at the point where we can claim herd immunity, I think we still need to continue to pursue this, and I think the ideal goal is to get everyone who’s eligible to get a vaccine vaccinated. Now, you bring up some of the very important points, because even though vaccine hesitancy is a real problem, the underlying reason behind this is manifold, and the only way to tackle that is we have a multi-front approach that will take into account what is the reason behind it.

So for the people where it’s hard to get to populations which can live in far from the areas, it may be more the ability to use those vaccines, which does need the complicated storage, for example, the J&J vaccine. You only need one dose. It’s easy to store. So that may be one of the approaches to be taken. And people who believe that this is a vaccine is going to create side effects, or it’s part of some grand scheme to introduce a variety of things. I think it’s a person of education, and I think they really need to tell them what can happen with, not really just to them, but the fact that if you continue to allow these infections to proceed on stuff, there are going to be increasing numbers of mutations, and that in turn is going to make the pandemic much more difficult to control in the long run. So it’s totally an individual benefit, but it’s on to the society’s benefit to have everyone be vaccinated. And then definitely, I think knowing that should anything unto it happen, there’s going to be medical care that’s going to be available to these individuals, and I think that’s also an important point, so who are near and dear to them is going to be the key thing

What Information Is There for Those Hesitant About COVID-19 Vaccines?

What Information Is There for Those Hesitant About COVID-19 Vaccines? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

For those cancer patients who have COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, what information is there about vaccine development? Expert Dr. Shaji Kumar shares details about development and clinical trials of the COVID-19 vaccines – and the reasons why testing could be carried out at a rapid rate compared to other vaccines.

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Transcript:

Mary Leer:

Can you speak to those who might be hesitant about the speed of vaccine development around COVID. I’ve heard this often from other people saying, “Well, they develop this so quickly, how can we trust it?”

Dr. Shaji Kumar:

I think those concerns are quite valid, I think vaccines have always been a very controversial topic and not just COVID vaccination but even for childhood vaccinations. There have been long-standing concerns that some of those vaccinations may be responsible for some of the issues that we see in the children and even in the late adulthood. I think what we really want to get across is, again, taking that question apart, and there are multiple different aspects to it, one is the whole concept of how we created the vaccine so quickly, we kept telling everyone from the time that it started that it takes five to 10 years to develop a good vaccine, and now we have something in a year, so obviously that raises concerns amongst people. I think it’s just a testament to how far technology has come. In the past, we had to isolate the protein and use that protein to develop the immune response, and what has been really unique about the COVID situation has been the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine, both of which uses a new technology called the mRNA-based technology. And this is something that has been developed over the past decade to decade-and-a-half, and I would say this is a platform that was perfect, just waiting for the right opportunity to come along.

And the COVID situation really presented that. And even though it was the speed with which this was developed, is just because the technology has come along so much and we can actually do that, and the second is how fast the clinical trials have been done, and I think that speaks to, again, the infrastructure that they have been developed over the years to rapidly develop and implement a clinical trial. So the clinical trials, both Pfizer and Moderna trials had 40 to 50,000 people enrolled in a quick phase and the community transmission that was happening at a very high rate. We could get these trials done in a very rapid manner, so the patients or the people who enrolled in this clinical trial the fact that they were not getting infected could be determined in a much, much faster fashion than what you would have done in the past with any of the other vaccines. So I think the technology is robust. The [COVID] trials are very well-conducted and the end point in terms of efficacy has been very well-determined or very accurately determined. And given the size of these trials and the number of people who have been a goal, I think we can feel fairly confident that the risk associated with this vaccine is pretty low, so you can argue that one of the risk of a particular side effect is only 1 in 80,000. So maybe to the 40,000 people enroll in the trial, they may not have adequate numbers of that and that was certainly a concern when they started vaccinating. And we just know a couple of days ago, there was a publication that looked at almost like 63 million vaccine doses that have been given, and overall the risk of vaccine related side effects have been very, very minimal.

But on the other hand, we all heard about what would happen with some of those vaccines and the blood clots, and I think that even though…yes, it is, as it is a risk. It is a very, very small risk. And the fact that you were able to identify them right away again, I think tells us that should there be rare side effects, you’re going to find it, and we are going to figure out the mechanics of why those side effects happen. And we’re going to figure out how to avoid those things.

So, I think the information flow is so fast and all the data related to vaccines and the side effects are being captured in a real-time fashion that you’d immediately be aware of side effects should that happen.

What Actions Should Cancer Patients in Treatment Take With COVID-19 Vaccination?

What Actions Should Cancer Patients in Treatment Take With COVID-19 Vaccination? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What actions should cancer patients in active treatment take in terms of COVID-vaccination and other measures? Expert Dr. Shaji Kumar shares information about cancer patients undergoing various types of treatment and advice about precautions for cancer patients after full COVID-19 vaccination.

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Transcript:

Jeff Bushnell:

What would you tell the patients who are in active treatment and who planned to get the vaccine just continue as normal after they get it, with all the appropriate precautions?

Dr. Shaji Kumar:

I think there’s one other important aspect which is, what is the right timing to get vaccinated, the vaccine, and that is a question that often comes up. So patients who are not getting active treatment, there is obviously no concern whenever the name comes up, go ahead and get the vaccine. And the second is what if someone is actually getting active treatment for their cancer, is there any role in terms of trying to find the vaccination, with respect to the doses of the medications and for most of the treatment we are using for cancer, there are no clear guidelines in terms of the when they can get the vaccine, that having several guidelines that have been put out by different organizations. The bottom line is, if there is an ability to space out or give some time between the vaccine and the dose of the medication, do that, don’t modify your treatments, just so that you can get the cross at a particular time. The only place where we would recommend specific guidelines within the context of somebody who may have had a bone marrow transplant or had some other kind of cellular therapies, in those contexts, we often recommend that you wait for a couple of months after the stem cell transplant, before we get the vaccines. But for all the other treatments that we are getting right now, we want to just within the schedule of the treatment that’s already on going, try and get the vaccine in between two doses.

Mary Leer:

For those who have been vaccinated and are living with cancer, you spoke to that in great depth, but I’m also wondering about people that are perhaps in post-treatment and let’s look at social distancing measures or other restrictions, are those different for patients versus the general population?

Dr. Shaji Kumar:

No, I think the proportions are the same, I think the social distancing and the masking should continue to be observed the same way, and I think the only other word of caution I think may be particularly relevant for the cancer patients would be, again, trying to avoid again those kind of being outdoors and larger groups of people, even if when you maintain the social distancing, try and not do that. The outdoors are probably a little better than smaller indoor gatherings, and it’s mostly the common sense proportions, and I think the cancer patients are probably more tuned to this because they have been following some of those things even before the COVID came on and post-vaccination, I would recommend that these steps don’t change at all, partly because we gain for a given person, we don’t know how robust the immune response that those patients have after the vaccination and the lack of good testing to say that, okay, now you’re fully vaccinated, your response is great, you don’t need to worry about getting infected.

What COVID-19 Vaccine Efficacy and Side Effects Do Cancer Patients Experience?

What COVID-19 Vaccine Efficacy and Side Effects Do Cancer Patients Experience? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What do cancer patients experience in COVID-19 vaccine side effects and effectiveness? Expert Dr. Shaji Kumar explains side effects reported in both cancer patients and non-cancer patients, what’s known about immune response from the vaccines, and current COVID-19 vaccine recommendations. 

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What Actions Should Cancer Patients in Treatment Take with COVID-19 Vaccination?


Transcript:

Jeff Bushnell:

For cancer patients who have tested positive for COVID, are there notable consistencies amongst that group of people, and have we learned anything from those patients yet about maybe their chances of getting it more, or their reaction to it?

Dr. Shaji Kumar:

We know that there’s a wide spectrum of reaction to the vaccine. The majority of the people would not notice any symptoms related to that except for some pain at the injection site. There are some folks, number of people who might have more or just myalgia, muscle pains, just feeling fatigue, some low-grade fevers, just feeling blah for 24-48 hours, and it seems to be not too uncommon. The reactions to the vaccine in terms of the side effects or the symptoms, there doesn’t appear to be much of a difference between cancer patients and normal individuals. Now, in terms of the efficacy of vaccination, there’s going to be a wide variation in terms of how strong an immune response one might develop against vaccines. We know from, not necessarily the COVID vaccine, but the vaccinations that have been used in the past, whether it be flu vaccines or pneumococcal vaccines, that we all get patients with cancer or patients going through treatment for cancer that can suppress the immune system, tend to have a lower response. But again, that varies quite widely from patient to patient now, there are some vaccines where we can clearly look at the antibody response and say, “Oh, this is not adequate, and we need to maybe give an extra shot.”

We just don’t have that information for COVID vaccines yet. So the way I would look at it is, even though the response in a given person might be less than what we eventually would identify to be optimal, it’s likely to be better than not having the vaccine, so I would encourage obviously, everybody to get the vaccine. Now, what about someone who has already had an infection, what would be the response? Should we vaccinate those people? We certainly should. Again, we don’t know the immunity from a natural infection, how long would that last? That is still something that is unknown, and the vaccination dose is likely to make the responses more relevant and more durable, so I would recommend the vaccines for everyone. We don’t think one vaccine is any different from another in terms of your underlying cancer or lack thereof. So in terms of assessing for the antibodies, there is no clear guideline in terms of what one should anticipate from the vaccine, so there is really no way to say, check the antibody, and they can go ahead and get one more dose or you’re fully vaccinated. So I think the bottom line is, get the vaccine, you don’t need to necessarily test for a response, and then we continue with the usual measures for prevention