Tag Archive for: care partner

Roles Reversed: Taking Care of Your Care Partner

Roles Reversed: Taking Care of Your Care Partner from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

MPN Network Managers Summer and Jeff are experiencing a bit of a change. Jeff is Summer’s care partner, however the roles have been reversed. Jeff recently had a knee replacement and is unable to do many tasks he was before. Summer has jumped in taking care of Jeff, but admits it’s harder than it looks. Watch and hear Summer’s comedic take on switching roles and stepping into the care partner role.  

Want to connect with Jeff and Summer? Email them at question@powerfulpatients.org or text EMPOWER to (833) 213-6657. 

Transcript:

Jeff:

Summer! Bring me a snack.

Summer:

Yes, I’m bringing you a chocolate bonbon.

Jeff:

I don’t want a Ghirardelli, I want a Walker’s shortbread.

Summer:

Ugh, yes sir.

Being a caregiver is not a day in the park.

Jeff:

Hi, I’m Jeff.

Summer:

I’m Summer, hi.

Jeff:

We’re your MPN Network Managers for the Patient Empowerment Network. We’re here today to continue talking about caregiving. In the last video, we talked about me being Summer’s caregiver and or different roles and what I bring to that and so on. We had a chance in the last month to actually turn the tables.

In mid-December I had a knee replacement and since then, Summer has been acting as my caregiver. Tell us how it’s been, Summer.

Summer:

Ugh, it’s been exhausting. I’m driving, I’m doing dishes, I’m emptying the garbage, I’m cooking all the meals, I’m getting everything exactly the way you want. You’re lot more of a perfectionist than I am…

Jeff:

Yup, I should be able to drive in another week or so and Summer hates driving, so I really appreciated that. And pretty soon I’ll get back to my role of doing the driving anyway. She’s done a wonderful job, really been very helpful and I’ve been extremely appreciative of it. What’s been the hardest thing for you, Summer?

Summer:

Thinking about all the little things you take for granted that you couldn’t do, like mailing your letters and emptying your garbage. That’s everything, you really have to be on the ball and think of what the needs of the other person really are.

Jeff:

Very true. We stressed that in the last video. Needs of the patient. We have a real supportive relationship in our normal marriage in general, so for us it’s not difficult, but some people may have a difficult time adjusting to being a caregiver or even being a patient.

Summer:

Right.

Jeff:

One thing you have to remember, give the caregiver time for themselves. I think I did a pretty good job trying to give you time for yourself.

Summer:

Yeah, I did my aerobics, I visited friends, I rehearsed for the play, I did my stand-up comedy, yeah, I did.

Jeff:

So, it’s worked well for us. So, as you enter into this relationship of patient and caregiver, be aware of each person’s needs. And, you should have a good experience with it.

Summer:

Darling, I have an urge for a chocolate cookie. Could you bring me one? I gotta take a nap.

Jeff:

Certainly. I’ll get it after we say goodbye to the people. Goodbye, ’til next time.

Summer:

Bye, ’til next time.

Patient and Care Partner Address the Mental Aspects of an MPN

Patient and Care Partner Address the Mental Aspects of an MPN from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

MPN patient Summer emphasizes how important it is to have goals. One of her personal goals is to walk 10,000 steps each day! As a care partner, Jeff shares his main goal is to do whatever he can to help Summer achieve her goals. Some of their shared goals are to live life to the fullest, always live in the moment and don’t let the disease you have control your life.  

Want to connect with Jeff and Summer? Email them at question@powerfulpatients.org or text EMPOWER to (833)213-6657. 

Transcript:

Jeff:

Hi, I’m Jeff.

Summer:

Hi, I’m Summer. And hi, I’m Zelda.

Jeff:

And we’re your MPN Network Managers for the Patient Empowerment Network. Here to talk to you today about emotional and metal aspects of dealing with a severe or very serious disease. Summer has some real strong thoughts about that, so I’m going to let her tell you about it.

Summer:

Well, I think it’s really important to always have goals. And one of my first goals, this is my Apple Watch right here to keep track of my steps so I can get 10,000 steps a day. That’s really important. Of course, I’m still teaching my classes. That’s very inspiring. We’re putting on a show pretty soon. And my goal right now too is I’m getting ready for my next comedy show. I’m going to talk about the cloud and about those little people that are in the traffic signs that tell you when to stop or go. And of course I’ve got Zelda and I don’t know what her goal is, just to be a good dog. So, that’s what my goals are. To stay positive.

Jeff:

And Summer has those goals, but one serious and important thing that we decided when she got this disease was we were going to live every life, every moment of our lives to the fullest, in the moment. And that took some adjusting because I’m a real planner. We pay attention to enjoying everything that we do, each day that we do it. And, we decided early on not to change our lifestyle, not to let the disease control us, and just to keep going. And, that alone plus Summer’s fantastic exercise regimen has really done a lot to keep her in good shape and to keep her strong.

As a caregiver, my goals are do whatever I can to help her achieve her goals. So, it’s really important to live life in the moment and keep a positive attitude. Don’t let the disease control you. That’s our advice.

‘Til next time, I’m Jeff.

Summer:

I’m Summer and I’m Zelda.

Breaching Cultural Barriers in Cancer Caregiving

Humanity is diverse with no two persons being alike. We all face our own struggles, we all have our own ways of handling the hardships life throws at us. While we all may face similar obstacles, that doesn’t mean that each encounter is the same. Cancer comes in many forms with many faces and each person’s experience with it is incredibly unique.

Because the struggle with cancer is as diverse as the people who handle it, it’s imperative that healthcare providers and caregivers alike strive to understand the values and perspectives that shape the cancer patient’s approach to treatment. Among the most important aspects of this is in learning to breach the cultural barriers involved in cancer caregiving.

The Significance of Transcultural Nursing

Culture plays a powerful role in nearly every aspect of human life. It shapes what we do and it informs how we see others, how we see ourselves, and how we see our world. Culture also plays a pivotal role in defining how we understand and respond to illness.

For this reason, the effort to understand a patient’s culture is essential in providing high-quality care. This is where transcultural nursing comes in, particularly when it comes to caring for marginalized and traditionally underserved patient populations, such as low-income patients who live in remote areas.

At the heart of transcultural nursing is the effort to understand how a patient’s culture has influenced their health practices. Transcultural nurses leverage this understanding to devise personalized treatment plans that not only serve the patient’s health needs, but that also respect and align with their personal values and beliefs.

Such efforts are especially critical in cancer care, when recommended courses of treatment may sometimes clash with the patient’s wishes. All too often, indeed, healthcare providers may unwittingly dismiss, disparage, or disrespect a patient’s worldview and in the process undermine their right to bodily autonomy simply because the patient’s perspective does not line up with the practitioner’s view of “the science.”

A transcultural approach to patient care, though, can go far in making the exam room a “judgment-free” zone. If we want patients to be truly empowered, if we want them to enjoy and to exercise the self-determination that is their right, then they must first understand that clinicians will respect their beliefs without judgment, even if they do not share them.

Cultivating a “judgment-free” environment in the healthcare system is often the first, most difficult, and most important step in the process of shared decision-making, a process in which the patient’s self-defined goals, needs, and values carry as much, if not more, weight than the clinical data.

End of Life Care

Though hundreds of thousands of people around the world are winning their fight against cancer every day, the reality remains that, for some, victory over cancer will not mean survival. It will, rather, be defined not only by how the patient chooses to fight but also by how they choose to withdraw from it.

And this, too, is a decision that is often deeply imbricated in the patient’s cultural perspectives on illness, death, and dying.

If the patient is a person of faith, for instance, then they may be unwilling to undergo invasive surgeries or grueling treatments to prolong their lives. Healthcare providers and caregivers must endeavor to understand patients’ views of their own mortality and how these shape the patient’s choices regarding treatment.

Considering the Caregiver

As important as it is for care providers to understand the patient’s culture, it is equally important for caregivers to carefully reflect on their own values, perspectives, and beliefs, as these can and do strongly influence patient care practices, even at the subconscious level.

For instance, cultural values regarding quality-of-life issues may compel healthcare teams and informal caregivers alike to unconsciously scale back in their efforts with those patients whom they believe are enduring a “life not worth living.” These cultural perspectives also often obfuscate the fact that quality of life assessments are highly subjective and that these may easily conflict with the patient’s and family’s perspectives on what makes life worth living.

In the case of cancer care, for instance, patients and families may be willing to pursue a litany of experimental treatments, treatments that may seem both outrageous and futile to healthcare providers, who may feel that the patient has long since exceeded the subjective threshold for the “intolerable” quality of life.

In such cases, a caregiver who does not understand the personal and cultural factors informing quality of life perspectives is unlikely to be able to build the kind of trusting, respectful, and supportive relationships that patients need from their healthcare team.

The Takeaway

In many ways, culture defines who we are, what we do, and what we believe. It also strongly shapes our views about and responses to potentially life-threatening illnesses, such as cancer. For that reason, it is incumbent on caregivers to break through the cultural barriers separating them from their patients. Only then will patients enjoy the respectful, empathetic care they deserve.

How Can Care Partners Combat Burnout?

How Can Care Partners Combat Burnout? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Care partners Diahanna, Sherea, and Patricia discuss how they have learned to overcome burnout. Often times when caring for a loved one, we don’t even realize the burnout until after the fact. As care partners, you have to know when to step away and take time for yourself, so you can effectively care for and support your loved one. 


Transcript

Diahanna:

Hello, we’re going to talk about care partner burnout. So the question I would like to pose is, how would you describe caregiver burnout? And how do you feel it coming on? And how can you counteract it? And Patricia or Sherea, either one of you can answer those questions, it would be great to hear from you.

Patricia:

Let me just start with, I have been a caregiver. Although I am right now experiencing multiple myeloma, my father had multiple myeloma and passed in 1990 and I was his caregiver. At that time, a very young person. So, he actually had to have part of his breast bone removed and they left the wound open, and it had to be pack everyday, twice a day with gauze and an iodine thing. And so, my mom could just not do it and my though was, well she can’t, I have to. So every morning before work, I would go and take care of him in that way. Every evening when I came home from work, before he went to bed, I would go over and do the same thing. And that went on for several months. Because I was young and because I really did not have any understanding of what as going on with my father. I mean multiple myeloma, what is that? Not like today. Today there is information. You know you go online, you can find the information. It worked out anyway that I was able to take care of him. I didn’t know that I even had a burnout cause I just continued to do what I was doing. I worked everyday, I had three kids, you jut do what you have to do and I think that’s what most caregivers get to a point of saying to themselves, “I’ll do what I have to do”. And whether they know they have burnout or not, they just do it.

Diahanna:

You know, I think that is very interesting, Patricia, because I think women have a tendency to do that more so than man because we are already maternal. We’re caregivers.

Patricia:

Yeah.

Diahanna:

And we, if someone else drops the ball, and you know we are used to being on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, vacation or not. And so, we do always step in and tack up the slack and put ourselves on the back burner. A lot of the time we don’t realize we’re burnout until after the fact.

Patricia:

Way after.

Diahanna:

And we have no more energy. We have nothing else to give ourselves. So Sherea, how would you describe it? How would you look at this?

Sherea:

I would describe…I was a caregiver for my father, now I’m doing some caregiving for my mother who is having some memory issues. And what I can tell you about the feeling is, the feeling of being overwhelmed, the feeling of pressure, and what I notice with is that I have a short fuse. When I’m feeling burnout, things that normally would just not be a problem become an issue. And so, what I try to do is recognize that I’m having a moment and that I’m going to need to step away for a little bit and get recentered. And I do understand that yes, as women, we just do what we have to do, but there does come a point where you have just had it. You’re at the end of the rope. And I’m starting to recognize that more. So it is a feeling of pressure and just being overwhelmed. And the moment I start feeling it, it used to be I kind of just keep pushing, but now the moment I start feeling it, ok let’s work on that now so it doesn’t become an issue later.

Diahanna:

Mhmm. I can appreciate that. When I was taking care of my husband, I probably put myself in a position where I was taking care of him at times when he didn’t need to be taken care of. It was that thing as I felt I could do better or more for him that he probably didn’t know about or I thought he didn’t know about. And I was mistaken on that. It got to the point where I wasn’t sleeping, there was a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress, I wasn’t eating well, and I was getting colds all the time, which I normally wouldn’t get. So my immune system, everything, was messed up as a result of what I was doing. And I remember coming home from work thinking I can’t do this anymore. If I’m going to be a partner to him, I have to step aside. And I called because I was going to every appointment, I was looking at everything, I was doing all the research because he thought he didn’t have to research as long as he felt good, everything was ok. He said, “I’m going to let you be the person that worries because I know you worry enough for the both of us.” And I did. I worried enough for everybody in the household and it was taking me down a path of being mentally, physically, emotionally stressed. And I had to step away and say, “Honey, I don’t need to go to all your appointments. I don’t need to continue to do this.” And that’s how I realized that I was doing way too much and that I was going to be doing a disservice to him – to everybody in my household.

What Role Can Care Partners Play in Advocacy?

What Role Can Care Partners Play in Advocacy? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Care partners can play many roles in advocacy. Diahanna, Sherea, and Patricia discuss that as a care partner you have to stay knowledgeable and up to date about various treatments and discussions happening in your loved one’s disease area. Diahanna shares a time where she had to advocate for her late husband by speaking up to the nurse and nearly saving her husband’s life. She also expresses that as care partners, you cannot be afraid to ask questions on behalf of your loved one.

Care Partner Tips for Communicating with Healthcare Teams

Care Partner Tips for Communicating with Healthcare Teams from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Ensure that you are in a position to ask the right questions of your healthcare team. Diahanna suggests familiarizing yourself with various online resources so you are aware of the potential needs of your loved ones. Watch as care partners, Diahanna, Sherea and Patricia share more crucial tips to help others communicate with one’s healthcare team.

Resources for New Care Partners

Resources for New Care Partners from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Sherea explains that you cannot move forward, unless you are able to acknowledge all the feelings that may come with the initial diagnosis of your loved one. Watch as care partners Diahanna, Sherea, and Patricia also share their tips and go-to online resources for new care partners.

Is There a Difference Between Care Partner vs Caregiver?

Is There a Difference Between Care Partner vs Caregiver? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

The term caregiver is generally more recognized around the world. Care partners Diahanna, Sherea, and Patricia share that being a care partner is generally more intimate than being a caregiver. Care partners are those who are taking care of family members and loved ones whom they’ve known before any initial diagnosis.

How to Seek Help as a Care Partner

How to Seek Help as a Care Partner from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

When in need of help care partners Diahanna, Sherea, and Patricia share that you should not be shy. There is a tendency for care partners to deny help, but if you are burned out while caring for a loved one you are no good for them or yourself. Diahanna explains caregiving to be a very humbling and rewarding experience.

What Should Healthcare Providers Know About Care Partner Burnout?

What Should Healthcare Providers Know About Care Partner Burnout? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Care partners are often able to fill in any gaps at appointments with their loved ones. Sometimes information at a visit can go in one ear and out the other for a patient as it can be traumatic experience. Care partners Diahanna, Sherea, and Patricia discuss that providers should know that burnout is real and it is important to not only discuss the needs of your loved one, but discuss your needs as well.  

How an MPN Care Partner Handles Burnout

How an MPN Care Partner Handles Burnout from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

MPN Network Managers Summer and Jeff discuss care partner burnout. Jeff is the caregiver of Summer who is living with myelofibrosis. Jeff admits to doing majority of the research so he can properly advocate for Summer’s care. In this video, Jeff talks about various outlets he uses to counteract burnout such as photography, music and improv theater.

Want to connect with Jeff and Summer? Email them at question@powerfulpatient.org or text EMPOWER to (833)213-6657.

 


Transcript

Summer:

Wake up. I’ve finished making your bonbons, Jeff. You said you wanted these.

Jeff:

Thank you, Summer. Mmm.

Summer:

Is it delicious?

Jeff:

It’s delicious. Just what I needed.

Summer:

Well, I’m glad I could please you.

Jeff:

Well, I’m Jeff.

Summer:

I’m Summer.

Jeff:

And we’re your MPN Network Managers for the Patient Empowerment Network. We’re here to talk to you today about…

Summer:

What caregivers do, and sometimes caregivers might get burned out. So, we’re talking about what you can do periodically to not get burned out, to keep going, and being great like you are. What are some of the main things you do, Jeff?

Jeff:

Well, I…one of the main things I do is try to remove myself from worrying about myelofibrosis and Summer’s disease. And I go out into nature and I take a lot of nature pictures. I go to National Parks, and take pictures of scenery, beautiful scenery, and big mammals and stuff, which I really really enjoy doing. It sort of clears my head and really refreshes me. I recently took a trip, as a matter of fact, to Yosemite. That’s one of the things I do.

Summer:

And another thing has to do with music.

Jeff:

Yes, I love music and I play in a band. I play the keyboard and the guitar, and I do that once a week at my church and I really really…again it requires quite a bit of focus and it puts my mind in a completely different place. So I remove myself from the worries, is one of the things I do. I’m very fortunate because Summer is doing quite well and doesn’t need huge amounts of physical care.

Summer:

Right, but you do all of the medical stuff because I can’t stand to hear about medical stuff, it’s boring.

Jeff:

That’s right. I do do a lot of the research and keep up with what’s going on in the myelofibrosis area and that’s kind of what my portion of the caregiving is. We’ve talked before about working with, dealing with these disease requires a team approach: the patient, the caregiver, and the medical team.

Summer:

Right.

Jeff:

It’s very important.

Summer:

And we also do improv. That really helps.

Jeff:

That’s correct. We’ve mentioned before that we run a small theater, and one of the things we do in the theater is improvisational theater. We make things up, now you’ve got to be in the moment, so your head can’t be disclouded and worrying about other things. It takes your mind off of the disease, and in my case, worrying about Summer’s disease and the caregiving responsibilities. So that helps us. It actually helps both of us a lot.

Summer:

Right. So do you want any more bonbons or is that a no?

Jeff:

I’ll just take another bite. You know, if we keep going like this, you could become the caregiver and I’ll be the patient. So until next time, I’m Jeff.

Summer:

I’m Summer.

Jeff:

Bye!

Summer:

Bye!

Care Partner Profile: Mike Crocker

The first time Mike Crocker became a care partner was in 2016 when his wife Dr. Gerri Smoluk was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). The second time was in 2020 when, after being in remission for four years, Gerri was diagnosed with leukemia again. The two experiences couldn’t have been more different, says Mike.

Gerri’s first diagnosis came shortly after she started a new job. Gerri, who had a PhD in biochemistry, worked in the pharmaceutical industry. She was feeling tired a lot, but she was brushing it off, blaming it on the stress that comes with a new job. However, Mike urged her to see a doctor, so Gerri had a coworker, who was also a doctor, check her out. The coworker sent Gerri directly to the emergency room. She was admitted and was in the hospital for 45 days undergoing chemotherapy. “She had a very severe case,” says Mike.

It was overwhelming to say the least, but Mike quickly took on the role of caregiver. He soon realized that the simple things were the most helpful. Mike made sure to bring Gerri some of the comforts of home. He made sure she had t-shirts and sweatshirts to wear instead of hospital gowns. He brought Gerri her laptop and yarn for crocheting. He brought her the few foods that she could actually taste after the chemo wiped out her taste buds. Mike was also her sounding board. He listened as she talked through her care options and how they would affect her quality of life. He was simply there for her, walking with her daily so she could get some exercise and maintain circulation, so she didn’t have to stay in bed with the compression sleeves on her legs. “I did all the little things that could help her be a little more in control and have as close to a normal day as possible,” says Mike adding that Gerri’s background in biochemistry and the pharmaceutical industry gave her unique insight into her care. “She started charting her tests and data so she could be a part of the solution and have informed discussions with doctors. She wanted details and wanted to know what to expect.”

Mike and Gerri learned that patients and care partners are given overwhelming amounts of information and that they have the responsibility of learning all they can and asking questions and making decisions. He says that doctors aren’t always keeping up with the latest research and that it is easy for them to get stuck in routine treatments. He found that doctors talk about options based on their experience and their skill set, but that doesn’t mean that approach is best for the patient. He says that being comfortable with the doctor and getting a second opinion if wanted are also important. He and Gerri learned to be active participants in her treatment and care.

In addition, Mike and Gerri were always looking ahead and focusing on the future. He concentrated on keeping her spirits up. When she was bald from chemo Gerri was looking at wigs and Mike says he encouraged her to go wild and get a bright red wig. “She didn’t go for it but being outrageous and adding humor to the moment was a way for me to help,” he says.

It was while she was in her fourth year of remission that Gerri found Patient Empowerment Network (PEN). “Gerri liked PEN’s focus on making the information understandable for patients, giving them easy-to-digest information to make decisions,” says Mike. Gerri jumped right in and helped to develop the Network Manager program which launched in March 2020. The program is made up of volunteers around the country who use their own patient experience to support patients and their care partners through their own cancer journey and on to a path to empowerment. “PEN is very important because it is patient-focused,” Mike says, and that’s why PEN appealed to Gerri. She liked that she could use her scientific background to help patients understand the information and to make sensible decisions for themselves. Gerri served as the AML Network Manager and was named a finalist for the 2020 Reuters Patient Champion Award in the Patient Advocate category.

Then in July 2020, Gerri got her second diagnosis. She celebrated her birthday July 7 and a week later, Gerri was back in the hospital. “This time she had a second type of leukemia which threw doctors for a loop,” says Mike. “Usually when leukemia patients relapse, it’s with the same type of leukemia.”

Although they had been through a leukemia diagnosis before, this experience was nothing like the first. “It was very different. It was during covid so of course, unlike before, when she could have friends drop in, she no longer could have visitors. Everything was more restrictive with covid,” says Mike. “At least I could be there every day.”

This time, Gerri and Mike were not expecting a longer hospital stay. They were expecting outpatient treatment that would be easier, and they were looking forward to time away from the hospital. The first time was so scary, but this time they were experienced, and they knew what to expect, but what they expected is not what happened.

After about a week Gerri got worse. Doctors were trying to figure out what was wrong, but they were unable to save her. Gerri died July 27, 2020. The autopsy revealed she had an antibiotic resistant bacterial infection.

More than a year later, Mike says he’s doing okay. “Everyone handles it differently,” he says. “You have to give yourself permission to not be happy and also give yourself permission to keep going and find other things to fill the hole.” In September 2021, he retired from his career as a web project manager, and recently he reached out to PEN looking for a way to use his skills to help others. “Gerri was the driver, so now I’ve been drifting,” he says. “That’s why I contacted PEN. I wanted to do something of value.”

Mike will be an invaluable addition to the PEN network of volunteers.

Ask the Prostate Cancer Expert: How Is Prostate Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Evolving?

Ask the Prostate Cancer Expert: How Is Prostate Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Evolving? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

 What should prostate cancer patients, care partners, and underserved patients know about? Watch as expert Dr. Yaw Nyamefrom the University of Washington shares insight about prostate cancer detection, screening guidelines, specific concerns for Black men, support groups, and clinical trials to work toward better health outcomes for all. 

See More From Best Prostate Cancer Care No Matter Where You Live


Related Resources:

How Has the Onset of Prostate Cancer Evolved?


Transcript:

Sherea Cary: 

Hello, we are here with Dr. Nyame. I have a few questions for you. Dr. Nyame, how has prostate cancer evolved over the last decade regarding the onset of the disease, the population in which it impacts the care and the treatment? 

Dr. Nyame: 

You know, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men that is in a solid organ. It affects about one in nine men over their lifetime, and probably the biggest advance or change we’ve seen in the disease occurred in the late ‘80s with the introduction of the PSA test. What that allows us to do is detect cancers very early in their natural life history, if you will, and that gives us the opportunity really to provide treatment when there’s…with an opportunity for cure. The downside to that is not all prostate cancers are the same, we know that some prostate cancers are diseases that men will die with and not from…meaning that some of these cancers that we detect don’t need any treatment or intervention. This means that a lot of research that has occurred in the last decade or two has been focused on helping us determine which cancers deserve treatment and which ones we can watch safely and so some of the biggest advances have been diagnostic tests such as radiology imaging, so we’ve seen things like MRI really come into the mainstay of prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment upfront. We have very exciting nuclear medicine scans. 

So, you might hear the term PSM-A as a new test that’s really going to disrupt and change the way the prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment is made. We also have genetic testing that we can do on blood samples, urine samples, and tissue, that might give us some very exciting information about one’s risk of dying from prostate cancer, which ultimately is what we want to know when we’re offering treatment to someone.  

Sherea Cary: 

Thank you. What screening test or risk-reducing care would you suggest for men who have a family history of prostate cancer, and at what age should screening begin for specific populations?  

Dr. Nyame: 

Unfortunately, there is no data, rigorous data to help answer this question, but we know that men that have a high risk of developing prostate cancer benefit from earlier testing with PSA. We know this from a variety of studies, including some modeling studies, which we have done here at the Fred Hutch Cancer Center at the University of Washington. When I talk about high-risk groups, it really falls into two categories, men who have a strong family history and a strong family history means a first-degree relative, father, brother, grandfather that has prostate cancer. 

But when we look at the genetics of prostate cancer it’s not just about prostate cancer itself, what we have found is that things that lead to family histories of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer also increase your risk of prostate cancer, for instance, the BRCA gene, which is a breast cancer gene is associated with a marked increased risk of prostate cancer. So, knowing your family history matters and knowing it beyond prostate cancer is important. The other high-risk group as men of African descent or ancestry, we know our black men have a much higher risk of developing prostate cancer in their lifetime, it’s about a one in six or one in seven risk compared to one in nine in the general population. So, the recommendation I make for these two groups is to consider screening earlier and to do it more frequently. On average, PSA screening happens for men between the ages of 55 and 70 or 74, and it’s usually every two years, if you look at the population level data, I would suggest that you consider screening at age 45 or 40 and doing it every year, however, you’ve got to turn the screening off at some point. So, if your PSA stays low and is non-concerning into your early 70s, then I think you can be reassured that your risk of having a fatal or aggressive cancer is low, and you could safely stop screening. 

 Sherea Cary:

Thank you. So, for someone who has a first degree relative such as a father who had prostate cancer and maybe even an aggressive form of prostate cancer, it will be important for them to get screened at 40 to start at least having a baseline number to be able to watch it? 

Dr. Nyame: 

Absolutely. The baseline number is really a topic of discussion in the urologic community because we know that if you get a PSA at age 40 and its above one or above the median for your age group, that you’re a lifetime risk of having what we call significant cancer, so that’s a cancer that might have the potential to be fatal in your lifetime is higher, and so theoretically, you could get that one-time PSA at 40 and use that as a basis for how intense your screening practice would be. I’ve talked about PSA testing, but screening also involves the digital rectal exam, and it’s important that men understand that both those things together is what leads to a thorough and good clinical evaluation, when it comes to prostate cancer risk. 

Sherea Cary:

Thank you so much for sharing the information about the BRCA gene as well. I’ve heard information about the BRCA gene, but I always hear it in relation to women, I’ve never heard it in relation to a connection with prostate cancer. 

That is very interesting to know. What does a multi-discipline approach to prostate cancer look like? 

Dr. Nyame:

Well, when you think about prostate cancer and how it’s diagnosed and how it’s treated, you’re talking about a process that involves a team, the process often starts with your primary care physician, he or she may order a PSA test, which will prompt a biopsy if it’s positive, so that’s the step one is that relationship you have with your primary care physician. Step two is going to be your urologist, that’s the person that’s going to do your biopsy, and if you are diagnosed with prostate cancer that person in conjunction with your primary care physician is then going to be leading this process of, do we actively watch your cancer because it’s a low risk, or do we seek treatment because it’s localized, meaning it’s in the prostate and we can still get your treatment with curative intent as we call it, or has it spread? And in that case, your options for a doctor is different on the watch side, you’re probably looking at a urologist who’s watching closely, on the localized side, you’re going to talk to maybe a radiation specialist or a urologist because both treatments are equal and their effectiveness from cancer treatment. 

But they have different side effects. And I think to get good information about what treatment is best for you, you should see both, and then on the advanced side, you’re talking about medical oncologist that’s going to help navigate all of the various treatments that we have now for stage IV prostate cancer, and even in that setting, you might still find yourself considering a clinical trial with someone like a urologist or getting radiation treatment, which can be standard of care in select patients that have stage IV cancer. So as you can see, it is a very wide range of individuals that are helping take care of your cancer, and that’s just on the treatment side, that’s not talking about any of the other supportive services that you may need that may exist either in your community or in your health systems where you’re getting treated, and those can include patient navigators, social workers, the various nursing services, nutritionists, there’s a lot of people that you may want to put on your team as you’re considering your care. 

Sherea Cary: 

Thank you. So, some people may consider prostate cancer a couples’ disease. What advice would you give to a care partner? My father was a prostate cancer survivor, my mother was very supportive of him, but I took much of the lead as far as being his caregiver and coordinating things between my father, his doctor’s appointments, and with my siblings. 

Do you believe that support people, caregivers, such as children, are able to also assist in receiving care? 

Dr. Nyame: 

Absolutely. The data is overwhelming in this scenario, patients who are partnered or have strong social support do better, and I always say that the patients who have the best outcomes when it comes to cancer, have someone like you, Sherea in their life. It’s not surprising, given the burden of cancer treatment, that having someone that can help navigate all the aspects of your care and be there to support you leads to better outcomes and better satisfaction with the treatments that you choose, a cancer diagnosis, especially prostate cancer diagnosis, a disease that has a very high cure rate, has a very long lifespan, but has really life-altering potential consequences of the treatments you received, has an impact on what we return your survivorship. So how do you live with your cancer, and so the individuals that are there to support you through that journey are absolutely critical. 

Sherea Cary: 

Thank you. What differences do you see in terms of aggressiveness for cancers in different… Various populations?  

Dr. Nyame: 

This is an area of research that for me, is trying to understand why certain populations have more aggressive or worse outcomes when it comes to prostate cancer. 

The most obvious example of this here in the United States is for black men. Black men are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, so about 70% more likely to be diagnosed and they are twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as men of other races in the United States. If you look at what the natural history of prostate cancer and Black men looks like, meaning if you were to chart from diagnosis through the course of the disease, does it look different for black men? The answer is yes,, it appears of Black men get prostate cancer when they’re younger, and there’s data to suggest that perhaps Black men get more aggressive prostate cancer because they’re more likely to progress from the localized or treatable disease to stage IV aggressive disease that can’t be treated. We don’t understand what the drivers of that are for a long time, the medical community has suggested that it’s all biology, and by that may be an inherited biology, but we know that health disparities really carry a significant social contribution, and in fact, I like to say that social and environmental factors inform biology too, and so if we see something biologic that explains these trends, it doesn’t mean that that’s the way they were born, it might mean that you put someone in a community that lives near a highway with high pollution or does not have access to clean water or lives in a state of high stress or over security, we don’t know what the biologic manifestations of those types of experiences are, but that perhaps is the reason why we see our communities of color, especially our Black men, experiencing a higher burden of prostate cancer. 

Sherea Cary:

So, is there a push to have African-American men tested earlier with the PSA test, since it appears that they may get prostate cancer earlier?  

Dr. Nyame: 

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, which makes a recommendation to the medical community about prostate cancer screening states that they cannot make a specific recommendation about screening in black men and other high-risk populations like men with a strong family history of prostate cancer, because those men were not included in the clinical trials that have looked at the efficacy of PSA testing for screening. 

Unfortunately, black men make up 3 percent or less of participants in the two screening trials that have informed whether there’s a benefit to PSA testing, which there has been shown to be a 20 percent decrease in dying from prostate cancer if you get screened. We recently took data from the screening trials and superimposed them on real-world data from our surveillance apparatus for cancer in the United States, and what we found was that if you did lower the age of screening in Black men from age 55 to 45, that you did decrease the risk of dying from prostate cancer significantly. It is our hope that this type of research will encourage the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force and other medical societies to reconsider their screening recommendation for black men, ultimately, whatever, if there is a recommendation made to screen at younger ages, I think we need to be conscientious and evaluate what the impact is on the ground, so that if there is a time where we need to reverse a recommendation like that because it’s potentially harmful, that we consider that, but I feel strongly sitting here today that we do need to advocate for earlier screening and Black men. 

Sherea Cary:

What advice do you have for prostate cancer patients about locating a clinical trial. Where can you find one? 

Dr. Nyame: 

Clinical trials tend to happen at the big cancer centers and the big academic university centers, although many of those programs will have affiliate partners out in the community. The easiest way to learn about clinical trials is to start by asking the physician that’s treating you for your prostate cancer, oftentimes, they’ll have resources and connections to the trials directly or are the people who are administering them; however, other great sources are going to be patient advocacy networks, and there are many of them for prostate cancer, there’s one… There are several, I’ll start naming a few. They have the Prostate Cancer Foundation, you have Us TOO, you have zero cancer, you have a PHEN, Prostate Health Education Network, which is an advocacy group for black men with prostate cancer. So these are all great sources of finding out what clinical trials exist, and in addition, you can just get on the Internet and Google if that’s something you have access to, the trick is navigating all the information, and I think knowing what trials are available for you, whether you qualify, that kind of thing can be difficult, and that’s ultimately where finding a provider, whether it’s your direct urologists or radiation oncologist or whoever is helping treat your prostate cancer, either them directly or sometimes seeking a second opinion, and going to a place where you might find someone who has some expertise in trials, if that’s something that you’re interested in.  

Sherea Cary: 

My father participated in a clinical trial, it was going on, I think the time of his treatment, and it was offered to us, and he was at a big facility here in Houston that offered…ask him if he wanted to participate. We did a lot of research. We said we’d try it. And we were glad to be able to participate. I participated in clinical trials also for different health conditions, ’cause I believe it’s important that we have to participate in order for our people to gather the information that’s necessary. So thank you for that. 

Dr. Nyame: 

Absolutely, you know I think there are a lot of reasons that we think that our black community, for instance, may not participate in a clinical trial given the history of medical experimentation and various forms of abuse that have existed in our history, but what I recently heard from our partner of our community partners at PHEN, when they surveyed black men about prosecutor clinical trials, was that although there was some concern about trust in the history, that the overwhelming majority of the men wanted to participate, but they never were asked, and that’s really stuck with me, and I think that black men are under-represented in clinical trials, and we have to find ways to be more inclusive and understand what barriers might exist into participation so that we can have that data to care better for the population. 

Sherea Cary: 

Thank you so much for spending time with us today. I appreciate you sharing your knowledge. 

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


2022 Guides for Medicare, Medicaid, and Insurance for people recently unemployed

Advocacy Through Various Mediums with an MPN Patient and Caregiver

Advocacy Through Various Mediums with an MPN Patient and Caregiver from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What is patient advocacy and how can you advocate? MPN Network Managers Jeff and Summer discuss the various ways in which they advocate. In addition to volunteering with PEN, Jeff actively participates in a support group. Summer who is living with MPN has decided to advocate through her humor. Make sure to watch to see a snippet of her stand-up routine! 

“Our challenge to you is, as a patient find a way to give your knowledge of how you’re handling your disease to others and you too can become a strong patient advocate.” 

Want to connect with Jeff and Summer? Email them at question@powerfulpatient.org or text EMPOWER to (833)213-6657.