Providing reassurance to you and your loved ones, medical alert systems summon help during an emergency. Fall detection is an added protection, particularly beneficial for seniors who live alone or have certain chronic health conditions. With this feature, an alert is automatically sent to the emergency monitoring center if a person falls — even if the medical alert button isn’t pushed. Before we dive into available options, let’s do a quick fact check.
|Test Duration||3-5 days|
|Fall Detection Costs||$5+ monthly|
|Alert System Price||$19.95+|
Now, let’s look at the top alert systems with fall detection.
Bay Alarm Medical provides one of the most reliable and affordable life-saving medical alert systems with fall detection available. As we noted in our full Bay Alarm Medical review, these systems are backed by a reliable, 24-hour medical alarm emergency center that is based in the United States. As is true with the majority of medical alert systems, automatic fall detection is an add-on feature. The cost is an additional $10 per month.
With Bay Alarm’s at-home system, fall detection comes in the form of a help button that is worn on a lanyard around your neck. While some providers offer fall detection only with at-home systems that use a cellular connection, Bay Alarm Medical offers it with either a landline or cellular connection. In addition, the help button has a range of 1,000 feet, which is above average for at-home systems. The starting monthly fee for Bay Alarm at-home systems is $21.95.
For on-the-go protection that includes a fall detection option, Bay Alarm offers the GPS Help Button, a lightweight device that comes in your choice of black or white. It also has an extended, 72-hour battery life. One thing we like about the GPS Help Button is that it is an all-in-one device. Some on-the-go systems offer fall detection through a separate help button, but this means that you need to remember to grab two devices every time you leave home. The starting monthly fee for the GPS Help Button is $29.95. This is a great price for an on-the-go system. However, you will be required to pay a $99 equipment fee upfront.
Note that Bay Alarm Medical’s second on-the-go device, the SOS Smart Watch, does not offer the option of fall detection. This is true of all medical alert watches on the market; most medical alert providers agree that fall detection is not as reliable when one of those watches is worn on the wrist.
Bay Alarm Medical offers reliable and affordable options with fall detection, regardless of the type of system that you need. If you are someone who spends the majority of your time at home, you will have your choice of an at-home system with a landline connection or a cellular connection. Both include an automatic fall detection option. And Bay Alarm offers an on-the-go option with fall detection for older adults who frequently go out independently. Essentially, Bay Alarm has checked all of the boxes. And as we mentioned, they keep things affordable. See for yourself on our full Bay Alarm cost and package page.
What we love best about Medical Guardian is the highly designed products that they offer consumers. And Medical Guardian includes a fall detection option in four of these at-home and on-the go systems. The cost for fall detection is an additional $10 per month, a price that is in line with industry standards. However, keep in mind that Medical Guardian’s monthly monitoring fees are slightly higher than those of many other systems.
Medical Guardian’s Home 2.0 includes a fall detection option. It works with a cellular connection, includes a voice assist button, and has a range of 1,400 feet, one of the longest ranges that we have seen. The monthly cost for this system is $34.95, with a $99.95 upfront equipment fee. Medical Guardian’s second at-home system, the Classic Guardian, is available for those who wish to use their landline connection. Unfortunately, it does not come with a fall detection option.
However, all three of Medical Guardian’s on-the-go systems include optional fall detection. And each device has its own unique features, so people with varying preferences are sure to find the right match. The Mini is ultra light, weighing only 1.3 ounces, and comes in three colors. It has a battery life of five days, and fall detection is built into the device. The monthly fee is $39.95, with a $124.95 equipment fee.
At 1.7 ounces, the Mobile 2.0 is not quite as small (but still lightweight in our book!). It also has a five-day battery life. However, unlike the other mobile devices, the Mobile 2.0 comes with a separate help/fall detection pendant. The Mobile 2.0 also costs $39.95 per month, with a $124.95 equipment fee.
The Active Guardian has the longest battery life, seven days, which sets it apart from its on-the-go counterparts. Fall detection is built into the device, which is the largest of the three, weighing 2.6 ounces. The Active Guardian costs $44.95 per month but does not carry an equipment fee.
If you are unsure about which system is right for your needs, Medical Guardian offers a free online risk assessment to help you find the right system. In addition, our full Medical Guardian cost guide has much more detail on how much you’ll pay for this system, and our complete Medical Guardian system review has everything you need to know about what it’s like to live with a Medical Guardian alert.
Medical Guardian offers comprehensive medical alert services and equipment. We particularly like the variety of available on-the-go options, all of which can be paired with automatic fall detection. Their monthly cost is within the range of what we see with other mobile systems, although at the higher end of the range. Their at-home systems also have great equipment, but fall detection is only available in one of these options, and this system comes at a monthly price that is up to $15 more expensive each month than many other at-home systems.
Lively offers safety and health solutions for older adults and their family caregivers. In our Lively analysis, we found that this service offers an array of simple-to-use mobile products, including two with automatic fall detection, that are ideal for active seniors.
First, Lively’s two popular phones, the Jitterbug Smart3 and Jitterbug Flip2, offer unique features for older adults, like voice dialing and texting, hearing aid compatibility, and brain games. For fall detection, these systems can be paired with the Lively Wearable2. Or, if you prefer to use your own smartphone (rather than purchasing a Jitterbug Smart3), you can download the free Lively app, which will act as a conduit between the Wearable2 and Lively’s monitoring center.
The Lively Wearable2 was designed to look like a black smartwatch, and it is stylish. However, it is important to know that the Wearable2 can also be attached to a lanyard and worn around the neck, which needs to be done if you opt for fall detection. It has a few great features for active older adults, such as a step tracker and daily health tips. In addition, it has a fantastic battery with up to four months of battery life.
Lively’s second mobile offering with fall detection is the Lively Mobile. It functions as a more traditional on-the-go medical alert system, so you do not need to own a smartphone to use it. Its features include GPS location detection, two-way talk, and optional automatic fall detection. It also has an 80-hour battery life and is waterproof.
Lively uses a tiered pricing system for all of its systems. In order to access fall detection, you will be required to get the Ultimate Package, which costs $39.99 per month. Now, you can find lower prices with other systems, but we think the value you get for this price makes it well worth it. In addition to the fact that fall detection is included in this price (which costs an additional $5 to $10 with most other systems), you will also have access to two other high-value services. The first is Lively Urgent Care, a telehealth platform that enables you to connect with a board-certified doctor or registered nurse. With this service, you can ask medical questions and get prescriptions filled.
You will also have free access to Lively Link, a smartphone app for caregivers and other loved ones. With your permission, the app provides location detection when away from home, activity detection in the home, and a way to monitor the battery and device usage. Overall, this system provides a thorough system of safety and protection.
With Lively, you get a lot of bang for your buck. The Ultimate Package provides exceptional services, including fall detection, at a price similar to other on-the-go systems that are either basic in nature or would require you to pay more for extra services. And although Lively’s on-the-go devices include an equipment fee of $49.99, we usually see much higher equipment prices.
We do think you need to consider two things before purchasing a Lively medical alert system with fall detection. First, Lively does charge an activation fee of $35 for all of its systems. We do not consider this a deal-breaker, but it will increase your upfront costs. Also, while the Lively Wearable2 includes optional fall detection, it is also designed to resemble a smartwatch. And in order to be fully and consistently protected against falls, Lively recommends wearing the Wearable2 around your neck. You can decide if this makes sense for you or, as an alternative, go with the Lively Mobile.
For more on Lively’s relatively low costs, read our Lively brand and package guide.
LifeStation offers two at-home systems and one recently redesigned on-the-go system that come with the option of adding fall detection. One thing that distinguishes LifeStation from other medical alert systems is the cost of its add-on automatic fall detection. Whereas many other providers charge $10 per month for this feature, LifeStation is one of the few to charge $5 per month. That’s a $60 annual savings! Take a look at our full LifeStation review, where you can find not only pricing information, but also a comprehensive view of what it is like to live with the system.
Like most medical alert providers, LifeStation offers two at-home systems: one that connects through a landline and one that connects through the medical alert provider’s cellular signal. Both include several add-on options, including fall detection. The major differences between the systems, besides the type of connection, is the range and starting monthly fee. With a landline connection, you will have a range (between the base unit and help button) of 500 feet and a starting monthly cost of $22.95. With the cellular connection, you will have a range of 600 feet and a starting monthly cost of $30.95. While you can certainly find a larger range in other systems 一 in fact, up to 1,400 feet 一 500 or 600 feet works just fine in the homes of many older adults.
The lone at-home system with a fall detection option is the Sidekick, a tiny pendant weighing only 1.4 ounces. Fall detection is programmed directly into this pendant, so you will not need an additional help button. It also includes advanced location detection and a five-day battery life. Sidekick comes in at a starting monthly cost of $37.95.
In addition to the low cost of fall detection, LifeStation’s medical alert systems all come with free equipment and a 30-day risk-free trial period. Learn more about LifeStation’s no-contract pricing plans in our full LifeStation medical alert cost breakdown.
LifeStation offers affordable and trustworthy medical alert systems with fall detection for both on-the-go and at-home systems. We especially like the all-in-one Sidekick, a relatively new device that comes with a fall detection option at only half the price of what many other providers charge. And the equipment is rented, so you will not be required to pay an upfront equipment cost. At the same time, you will be getting a very lightweight and well-designed system with fall detection and other advanced features.
Falls are a leading cause of injury-related death in older adults. In fact, fall death rates increased 30 percent between 2007 and 2016, a rate that, if it continues, will lead to seven fall deaths every hour by 2030.1
This is a great reason to invest in a medical alert system, especially one that offers fall detection. Fall detection ensures that help is immediately on the way when you need it most. A swift response is important because the longer that you lie on the floor without emergency assistance, the more difficult your recovery may become.
Did You Know: For older adults, falling once doubles your risk of falling again.2
Before making an investment in a system that uses fall detection, it is important that you understand what fall detection is and how it works. We will explain fall detection technology and the devices that employ it.
When wearing a device with fall detection, you will always have immediate access to emergency help in the event of a fall. Here is how it works: When you are falling, sensors trigger an alert, and this alert is sent to your medical alert system’s emergency monitoring center. Most providers recommend that you press the help button, if you are able, in order to speak with a monitoring center associate. They will assess the situation and send emergency help if needed. Many systems include a cancellation feature so that if the alert is sent in error or you have fallen but are not hurt, help will not be sent.
Importantly, if you are not able to speak or press the help button, an alert is still sent to the monitoring center, and if the associate is unable to contact you through the device, they will send help. Using GPS on the medical alert, the associate will be able to pinpoint your location and relay it to a 911 dispatcher. This can be useful in an emergency situation like a heart attack or stroke, or if you have a head injury resulting from a fall.
Fall detection systems use a sensor or multiple sensors that are triggered when the user falls. The most commonly used sensor is an accelerometer, which operates on low-power radio waves and, as its name indicates, detects abrupt motion typical of a fall.
FYI: The most common place to fall is on a flat surface such as the living room floor, rather than on the stairs or in the bathroom, as is commonly believed.3
Sophisticated fall detection systems, like the one in the Apple Watch, use three-axis accelerometers that provide information on acceleration in three directions.
Depending on the system, other sensors may be used too. One example is Philips Lifeline medical alert systems, which use barometric sensors in addition to accelerometers. These sensors can detect subtle changes in barometric pressure, like a change that would occur when moving from a standing to a prone position.
Other systems use a gyroscope, a type of motion sensor that tracks rotation, or a magnetometer, which measures the strength of magnetic fields.
Fall detection technology continues to evolve. When using a single sensor, the data may be unreliable under certain conditions. More advanced systems fuse the signals of different types of sensors, thus gaining greater accuracy and fewer false alarms.
Many medical alert systems offer fall detection through a pendant that is worn on a lanyard. In some cases, this is separate from the rest of the system. For example, Medical Guardian’s Mobile 2.0 is an on-the-go device worn around the neck or attached to a belt. Because it offers fall detection through a separate pendant, users always need to carry two pieces of equipment in order to be fully protected.
Other systems, like Lifefone’s Voice-in-Pendant is an all-in-one device. This means that fall detection is programmed directly into the mobile device. For those of you who don’t want to worry about remembering multiple pieces of equipment every time you go out, we recommend an all-in-one device.
Some at-home systems offer fall detection as well. One example is GetSafe, an at-home system that works mainly through voice-activated wall buttons that are placed around your home. A fall detection pendant is offered as an add-on with this system.
Another at-home system, Aloe Care Health, offers optional fall detection, but this time through a sensor that hangs on a wall and is recommended for use in the bathroom. See our Aloe Care Health review to learn more about that device.
Some may dislike the extra cost that fall detection requires. While fall detection is a valuable tool for protecting the health and longevity of older adults, it is not a feature typically included in a system’s basic price. As an add-on, its cost will run an additional $5 to $10 per month.
In addition, many fall detection systems are imperfect. For some, a concern is that they can trigger false alarms. Most providers recommend that users wear the fall detection pendant around their neck (rather than on their wrist or belt) for the best performance. Also, tighten the lanyard so that the device sits on the chest bone rather than swinging, which also could trigger a false alarm. Those individuals who don’t like wearing a device around their neck, either because it is less comfortable or less discreet, may not like the limitations of many fall detection systems.
In addition, some falls could be missed. (Many systems provide information on their websites stating that they are, say, 95 percent effective.) Of course, this depends on the type of sensors and number of sensors that a system employs.
Fall detection systems may not be perfect, but they have saved lives. And importantly, the technology continues to improve.
It’s one of those things that nobody thinks will happen to them — until it does. One in three adults over the age of 65 falls each year, according to the National Institute on Aging. Some of these falls can have severe consequences. The National Council on Aging reports that every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in an emergency room following a fall. Keep reading for more tips, or head over to our full guide to home safety and security for more resources.
As residents of the Midwest, we know that our harsh winters can create havoc for people walking across icy or snowy pavement. We keep a bucket of salt handy! But it isn’t just bad weather that can cause falls, particularly for older adults.
Which conditions put the older population at risk for falling, and is there anything that family members and friends can do to help keep our loved ones safe?
As a family member or caregiver, being cognizant of physical, behavioral, and environmental risks is a great first step. Observing or asking questions of your loved one can help you determine if they are at a high risk of falling.
Determine the following of the senior:
Any of these factors may increase a person’s risk of falling. Let’s now focus on some proactive steps that will help decrease the risk.
Muscle weakness, poor balance, and gait problems can result from a variety of diseases and conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and Parkinson’s disease. While many of these conditions cannot be cured, a physical therapist can help improve some of the symptoms. In the meantime, if you or a loved one suffers from diabetes or pre-diabetes, check out our rundown of the best medical alert systems for diabetics.
Any older adult, whether or not they are suffering from a chronic condition, can also decrease their risk of falling through exercise. It is true that we lose muscle as we age, but it is also true that exercise can partially restore some strength and flexibility. The type of exercise an older adult participates in depends, in part, on the severity of the risk factor for falling.
For seniors who are at a lower risk, tai chi is often recommended to help improve mobility, balance, strength, flexibility, and psychological health. For those with osteoporosis, weight-bearing exercise like walking is recommended. For those who are at a higher risk of falling, exercise while sitting in a chair might be recommended.
Another physical condition that could lead to falls is vision impairment. It is a good idea to visit an ophthalmologist annually to ensure your prescription is current. Other things to watch out for are tint-changing lenses, which can be dangerous for a senior when going from bright sunshine into a darkened building, and progressive lenses, which can sometimes cause difficulties on stairs.
Medications can also pose a problem. If you or your loved one is struggling with weakness or lethargy, a medication review may be in order. A medication or its dosage may need to be adjusted. Either of these side effects could contribute to a fall.
Next, let’s talk about environmental factors. One of the easiest preventative measures that can be taken to decrease falls is ensuring your home environment, or that of your loved one, is safe. Of course, if it is your family member’s living space, it is important to realize that no one likes changes made to their living space without their knowledge. We sure wouldn’t. So it’s all in the approach. You know your loved one best, but a few adjustments that could be made to ensure safety include the following:
A few other changes that could be made to decrease risk involve changes to daily living. Getting enough sleep is important. We recognize that this is not always easy, as circadian rhythms often change as adults age. Medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and depression can impact sleep patterns too.
Choosing appropriate footwear is also important to prevent falls. For those of us who like to dress fashionably, this can be a tough one. Who invented high heels anyway?! Aside from wearing low-heeled shoes, footwear should also be non-skid and rubber-soled. Avoid backless shoes too.
Limiting alcohol consumption is yet another way to decrease the risk of falls.
Finally, we always like receiving advice from other experts in the field. Ever considered a falls prevention program? They can be found through local agencies on aging, senior centers, YMCAs, hospitals, and health clinics. The programs often teach coping mechanisms to help deal with the fear of falling, fall prevention strategies, behavioral changes that can be made to prevent falls, and safe exercise.
Falling doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of aging, especially if we make the necessary adaptations for healthy bodies and peace of mind.
All right, now that you have a good sense of what to do in case of a slip or fall, you’re probably wondering about the logistics of buying a medical alert system. How much does the equipment cost? How much is monitoring? Will I need to sign a contract? Next, we’ll answer all these questions for you.
Generally, the costs associated with medical alert systems fall into four categories: equipment costs, monthly monitoring fees, add-ons, and hidden fees.
These are the upfront, one-time fees you will pay in order to receive all necessary devices. This may include just a wearable device and a charger, or it could encompass a base unit, wearable device, and multiple help buttons to place around the house. Questions that may impact the price of the equipment include the following:
As you may have guessed, equipment costs can vary. Typically, the devices that tend to be more sophisticated and run more expensive are mobile devices, like the $119.95 WellBe Smartwatch from HandsFree Health. (This is an item you will own, not rent.) On the other hand, in-home systems tend to be a little less expensive and may not require an equipment fee at all.
Be careful in your comparisons, however, as the providers who don’t charge an equipment fee are the same brands that might charge higher monthly fees, which we will talk about next. But first, check out our medical alert comparison guide to help you find the system that works best for you.
Monthly fees cover the cost of running a staffed response center and providing around-the-clock coverage. Associates from these emergency call centers are available 24/7 at the press of a button. Companies often offer several plans, with the base plan starting as low as $20 per month and upgraded plans running $40 to $50 per month. Some premium plans can cost even more.
Factors that will impact the price of the plan:
This will also affect the price you pay for an alert system. An a-la-carte menu of add-ons is often available. Items can either be purchased upfront or tacked on to the monthly fee. We have already talked about fall detection, but other add-ons include lockboxes, extra help buttons, and additional pendants. Some companies even offer decorative charms that a help button worn on a necklace can slip into.
Finally, be sure to look carefully for hidden fees (cha-ching). They usually come in the form of an activation fee, installation, or shipping/handling. Although these are one-time fees, they can add up. Thankfully, many medical alert system companies don’t charge any hidden fees.
Pro Tip: If you’re on a fixed income, our list of the most affordable medical alert systems might be just what you need to make your best choice.
If you’re shopping for a medical alert system with fall detection, you might be wondering what features to look for. And with so many options — like wearable smartwatch technology that tracks steps and detects falls, and GPS devices that can summon medical help from anywhere — it can be hard to decide which features are really important.
Fortunately, we can help you narrow down which fall detection features are most beneficial so that you can find a medical alert system that’s right for you or your loved one.
Around-the-clock emergency response is a critical feature of medical alert systems because an accident or illness can happen anytime, day or night. Look for a system that has 24-hour U.S.-based call centers with trained personnel.
You’ll want to find a device with fall detection that can be worn in the bath or shower. After all, this is where the majority of falls occur. Also, not having to worry about taking off your device when getting in and out of the shower is always a nice benefit.
Cellular monitoring is ideal for seniors who do not have a landline. With cellular monitoring, you can get reliable monitoring through a cellular network. But be sure that you have strong cellular service in your area.
Multilingual support is ideal for non-English speakers. Medical alert systems offer support in a variety of languages, from Spanish to Swahili. Each service varies, so if this is important to you, be sure to check which languages are available.
It’s important that your fall detection technology is backed up with a powerful two-way speaker. This allows emergency operators to hear you and talk with you after a fall, including in remote areas in your home. Many two-way voice units also function as a speakerphone, allowing you to receive calls without getting up.
The range of coverage varies with medical alert systems. You want to choose a large enough range so that you are covered whether you are reading in your backyard or getting your mail. Basic systems provide a 600-plus-foot range. This easily covers most yards and homes. Six hundred feet is about the length of two football fields. If you need more range, some systems allow you to add an extender to increase the coverage distance.
Falls happen outside of the home too. That’s where GPS location is immensely helpful, even life-saving. This is especially important for active seniors, as it can pinpoint your exact location in the event of a fall. Look for a medical alert system that has fall detection and GPS location.
A good feature for couples is spousal coverage. This allows you to add your spouse or other people in your home to your plan for little to no extra money.
A medical alert system with fall detection is only as reliable as the call center. Redundant call centers provide backup coverage in the event that your region is impacted by a natural disaster or major power outage. Be sure that the medical alert system you choose has redundancy built into their service.
CDC. (2022). Facts About Falls.
Al-Aama, Dr. Tareef. (2011, July). Falls in the elderly.
Mulley, Graham. (2001, April). Falls in Older People.
After earning a degree in journalism, Jenny Wisniewski spent much of her professional life in education; however, she returned to writing in earnest in the senior care space, acting as caregiver to her mother. She has hand-tested the industry’s top medical alert systems, writing nearly 50 in-depth articles that help seniors age safely in place. Jenny also covers caregiving, Medicare, assisted living, memory care, and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Previously, she’s written for national publications such as Country Magazine and Sierra Magazine. Jenny holds dual bachelor’s degrees in English/Journalism and Political Science from Miami University in Oxford, OH. She currently resides in Milwaukee, WI.