The small box that the Mobile Guardian arrives in tells the story. Medical Guardian has developed a streamlined dual system for at-home and on-the-go protection. The way that they do this is a bit unique to the industry. We recently got our hands on Medical Guardian’s Mobile Guardian alert system to test it day and night, and we think you’ll like what we found.
While many medical alert systems have a central hub or base unit through which all communication and functions flow, the Mobile Guardian, at about the size of a pack of Trident gum, is the base unit. That is, it functions as a base unit and a mobile device. No need for a larger unit taking up space on your kitchen countertop or living room bookshelf.
We lived with the Mobile Guardian for several days to observe the benefits of this efficiency and also to uncover any hitches in the system. Read on for our full review.
Unpackaging our new medical alert system was simple. The main box contained our primary portable device, the Mobile Guardian, and its charger. We also pulled out the optional accessories for the device, a lanyard, and a belt case. The black belt case, in particular, seemed well made and sturdy. It included a magnetic closure on the front, a belt clip on the back, and a soft felt interior. Overall, we think you’ll like the first impression you get with Medical Guardian.
Next, we unwrapped the emergency button to be used at home and in conjunction with the mobile device. The watch was accompanied by a black watch band which we had selected when placing our order. A white watch band or a lanyard are also available.
Aside from the user manual, the only things left were a few extras that Medical Guardian threw in for us. These extras included a lock box and an emergency wall button. The lock box will enable you to keep a key outside your home with the box’s code stored securely at the Medical Guardian response center. In the event of an emergency, EMTs would have quick access to your home without damaging your door.
Note that the wall button syncs with the Mobile Guardian and has a 600-foot range from the mobile unit. If regularly wearing the Mobile Guardian or help button, the wall button isn’t absolutely necessary, but we understand some seniors will appreciate the extra layer of protection.
Now that it’s all on the table, we were ready to check out the main attraction – our Mobile Guardian alert system.
We were ready to dig into our package and play with our new device. Instead, it turned out that we needed to charge the Mobile Guardian for three hours.
No biggie. It gave us time to watch out our windows as a January storm left heaps of snow on our driveway, front walkway, and sidewalk. We couldn’t think of a better time to contemplate the importance of safety devices for seniors.
In fact, the winter months in cold-weather climates can be perilous for older adults. A quarter of falls occur on a person’s property but outside their home.1 We imagine that a good number of these falls occur in the winter months, as ice and snow make for a dangerous situation. Snow shovelling can also place strain on a senior’s heart, already working strenuously to keep the body warm.
Using a wearable device like Medical Guardian (preferably with fall detection) even for a short walk down the driveway for the mail can be life saving.
Did You Know: Medical Guardian’s mission statement is “To empower our customers to live a life without limits.”2
Upon returning to our Medical Guardian, we checked to see if it was fully charged. How do we know if it’s fully charged, you ask? The simplest way is to observe whether a red light on the cradle is still blinking. When the device is fully charged, the red light disappears completely.
It is important to charge the Mobile Guardian daily as the battery has a 24-hour life. Some may choose to do this at night while sleeping. Others may prefer to keep the charger near the door where they can consistently place the device in the charger as they return.
In addition to the red indicator light on the cradle, a red light on the bottom of the mobile device blinks when the battery is low. If you get a case of the “blinks” while you’re out and about, know that you have about one hour of power remaining. Finally, a voice prompt will warn you when the battery is dangerously low.
Speaking of blinking lights, let’s talk about the other two lights on the Mobile Guardian. The middle light on the bottom of the device blinks green every three seconds, indicating that you are connected to a Wifi network. Next to it, a yellow light blinks, again every three seconds, indicating that the device is communicating with a GPS satellite (this alert system also has GPS location tracking, a feature we love to see).
Now, the lights are very small, not much bigger than a pinprick. Still, we’re not crazy about advertising to everyone in sight that we’re wearing a medical alert system — and that’s pretty much what these lights do! One easy way to get around this issue is by using the included belt case, which completely encloses the device, rather than using the lanyard. But honestly, it’s meant to be worn in the belt case anyway, so no real complaints here.
If you’re looking for something ultra-discreet, albeit without as many neat features as Medical Guardian offers, check out our review of Philips Lifeline. Their GoSafe 2 mobile alert system is slightly smaller and less conspicuous than Mobile Guardian.
Here’s what Medical Guardian’s Mobile Guardian looks like in action…
Our battery now fully charged, we turned next to testing the system. Our instruction manual directed our attention to the two buttons on the side of the device (a power button and a test button). We were directed to hold down the test button for two seconds. A voice prompt then instructed us to press the gray emergency button on the front of the device. In doing so, a test call was sent to the emergency response center. In short order, another message told us that the test was successful.
In less than a minute, we knew that our Mobile Guardian was working properly. In our book, that’s peace of mind right out of the box.
Pro Tip: The first time we attempted to push the emergency button on the Mobile Guardian, we thought the device wasn’t working properly as we did not get a response. So just be sure to hold down the button for a full second or two and wait for a voice prompt.
With a preliminary test complete, the time had come to wear the Mobile Guardian as we headed outside to shovel snow, our least favorite pastime.
While the Mobile Guardian is the primary device in this system, one or more wearable buttons provide a supplement. We wondered why someone wouldn’t just wear the Mobile Guardian for both in-home and away-from-home use. Let’s take a moment to sort this out.
First, the wearable provides back-up protection while the Mobile Guardian is charging. We recommend placing the wearable button either around the neck or on the wrist immediately after placing the mobile device in the charger. The button can even be worn while sleeping. Emergencies can occur at any time including when getting up in the middle of the night.
In addition, although it shouldn’t be submerged in water, the wearable can be worn in the shower, a high-risk area for falls. In contrast, the Mobile Guardian should not be near water at all.
Finally – and this is the reason customer service says that most seniors don’t wear the Mobile Guardian all day – the wearable is light. The trade off for the high level functions that the Mobile Guardian offers is weight. Now, we don’t want to make it sound as if the mobile device bears the weight of a brick. It does not – not even close. The wearables are just lighter, and they still have the ability to connect with the Mobile Guardian to access its functionality.
Pro Tip: Once the emergency button has been pressed, it cannot be cancelled. If you accidentally press the button, simply wait for the emergency response center associate to connect and tell them that it was a false alarm.
On the other hand, one thing that the Mobile Guardian has that the wearable buttons do not is two-way talk. This is kind of a big deal. If an emergency were to occur while wearing the bracelet or neck pendant help button, emergency services and your care circle would be contacted, but you would not be able to speak directly to an emergency response center associate. With the Mobile Guardian, however, you can speak with the monitoring center directly through the unit. We’re big fans of two-way talk, so this is something to keep in mind.
Finally, you may be curious about the range of the devices. Because the Mobile Guardian is a 4G cellular system, you can travel anywhere with it you please. Remember, the wearable buttons will connect with the Mobile Guardian anywhere within a 300-foot radius of it. This might come in handy if you’re outside gardening in the backyard, or talking to a neighbor in the drive. Because the Mobile Guardian is so easily portable, using it in conjunction with the wearable buttons while traveling would also be a breeze.
We do think it’s important to wear the help buttons as well as the Mobile Guardian, although we think you’ll get a better feel of what works best for you while using the system. Overall, we love the flexibility this system provides!
Here at SafeHome.org, we believe that a great cloak of protection is the use of fall detection technology. One study demonstrated that among older adults with medical alert systems that don’t include fall detection, only 50% press their emergency button.3 This is alarming for obvious reasons.
At Medical Guardian, fall detection is considered an add-on, which is actually pretty standard for the industry. Fall detection can be included in the system for an additional monthly fee of $10. Again, this is not unusual; many other medical alert systems also charge an extra monthly fee for the benefit of fall detection.
But with Medical Guardian, you’ll need to wear an additional pendant for fall detection, as it’s not included with the Mobile Guardian alert system. That said, we did find that the fall detection pendant is a decent replacement for the at-home wearable buttons (it does include an emergency button). If interested in an all-in-one device including fall detection, the Active Guardian by Medical Guardian may be more your style.
FYI: Individuals living with Parkinson’s Disease have twice the risk of falling as their peers.4
If fall detection is important for you or your loved one, we recommend looking into our in-depth guide to the best medical alert systems with fall detection.
One way that Medical Guardian demonstrates their competence is through the multiple certifications of their emergency response center. Medical Guardian is FM Approved, UL listed, and certified by the Electronic Security Association. Most importantly, they have a TMA Five Diamond certification, the gold standard of certifications in the medical alert system industry.
While their many accolades help to build trust in Medical Guardian, their response time was somewhat inconsistent. Our first two tests resulted in solid response times of 33 and 45 seconds respectively. However, we followed up with two more tests, both of which came in over a minute and 45 seconds. It’s good to know that fast response times are doable with Medical Guardian, though we would have liked to have seen less deviation here.
Have a look at this short video we made of a live Medical Guardian help call in action to get a better idea of the response time:
Did You Know: If English isn’t your mother tongue, Medical Guardian’s monitoring center associates are able to communicate through a third-party translation service.
Determining the price of your Medical Guardian medical alert system can be somewhat complicated, but the good news is that you’ll have several options to choose from. To simplify things, we’ll walk you through each step of the process ordering process.
It begins with choosing one of six main products: two at-home devices (Classic and Home), and four mobile devices (Mini, Mobile, Active and Freedom).
Of course, we went with the Mobile Guardian, and next we had three payment options: monthly, quarterly, or annually. The annual payment option will save you money in the long run and also enable you to access lots of freebies. It also means a large upfront cost; we paid $522.02 after taxes. Keep in mind that this does include the cost of equipment, something that many companies charge separately for.
For those able to swing such a large upfront cost, but not sure if it is worth it, here are the benefits. On their website, Medical Guardian says that the cost of paying monthly or quarterly is $1.45 per day, while paying annually is $1.35 per day. Let’s do the math. If paying annually, you will save $3 per month or $36 per year. This nearly amounts to a free month of service.
Still not sure? Take into account a few items that come gratis with the annual payment: a lockbox, a second help button, and free shipping. As you can see, Medical Guardian offers lots of bells and whistles because they want you to pay for the system annually. Whether or not this is the best option is up to you.
But honestly, we don’t think paying $500 upfront is a wise move for most folks — so we’d sooner recommend getting on Medical Guardian’s monthly plan. Here’s the latest on Medical Guardian’s equipment and prices.
|Battery Life||1 day||5 days||5 days||1 day|
|Can Be Used at Home||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|GPS Location Tracking||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Wifi Location Tracking||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|One-Time Equipment Fee||$0||$124.95||$0||$299.95|
The Medical Guardian payment structure focuses on a single big-ticket item rather than selling “packages,” which is the structure many other medical alert companies use. Then, they allow you to fill in the gaps as needed with add-ons, accessories, and upgrades.
Reminds us a little of fast casual eateries in the restaurant industry. You pick the main course, like a sandwich or a burrito, and then customize the rest of your meal based on your own preferences.
Don’t like picking and choosing and just want one simplified plan? Look into our Bay Alarm Medical review or our review of Medical Care Alert. Both of these companies make it somewhat easier to find what you’re looking for.
Medical Guardian’s CEO Geoff Gross knows first hand the stress of ensuring an older loved one’s safety. His grandmother fell several times, and his family realized that she needed help at home.
This experience inspired Gross to found Medical Guardian out of his apartment. He interviewed other seniors to find out what they wanted and needed. And he concluded that they wanted the ability to live safely and independently while doing the things they loved. Though the company has grown since the mid-2000s, their family-first approach to business continues to this day.
Medical Guardian is our favorite alert system for several reasons. We love simplicity, and we know that many older adults do, too. That’s why we were so impressed with the Mobile Guardian. It eliminates the need for a larger base unit, and it still offers 24/7 emergency coverage at-home and on-the-go.
It also offers lots of flexibility. Some individuals may prefer to keep the Mobile Guardian attached to their belt all day while they’re in and out, replacing it with a help button at night while the main device is charging. Others may want to keep the Mobile Guardian charging near the door, wearing it as a necklace when out and replacing it with the lighter help button at home. You see, the options abound!
Like any system, there is give and take. The main drawback that we see with the Mobile Guardian (aside from the blinking lights) is that it lacks fall detection. Sure, it’s possible to place the Mobile Guardian on your belt or in your purse while wearing a fall detection button around your neck… we’re just not sure it’s practical.
And let’s be honest, falls happen, especially for seniors with a recent history of falling.5 With this in mind, we recommend also looking into Medical Guardian’s Active Guardian alert system, which includes fall detection.
The great thing about Medical Guardian is that they offer a multitude of options knowing that we all have individual preferences and needs. Regardless of what your needs are, Medical Guardian likely has a medical alert system that’s a good fit for your budget and lifestyle.
The Mobile Guardian should not get wet, but the wearable alert buttons are water resistant. This means they can be worn in the shower but not submerged in water.
The Mobile Guardian needs to be charged every 24 hours. We recommend doing this at night while sleeping. The neck pendant or wristband can be worn while sleeping. Doing so provides protection if a fall were to occur while getting up in the middle of the night.
Medical Guardian uses the 4G AT&T cellular network for its mobile devices. You will not be charged any additional fees for using the network or contacting the emergency response center.
Sometimes older adults fall and are unable to push the emergency button. Examples include if someone faints, hits their head after falling, or has a heart attack. In this situation the device is able to detect a fall, send a wireless signal to the base station, and then contact the emergency monitoring center.
Medical Guardian does not charge cancellation fees, and they provide prorated refunds for months of unused service. However, Medical Guardian does not provide a free trial period. Want to experiment with a medical alert system or two before making a commitment? If so, we recommend reading our review of LifeFone. They offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.
BMC Geriatrics. (2019, Nov. 11). Fall-related emergency department visits and hospitalizations among community-dwelling older adults: examination of health problems and injury characteristics.
Medical Guardian. (2021). A Family-First Approach.
Philips Lifeline. (2020). Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) with Optimized Automatic Fall Detection Shows Greater Effectiveness than PERS Alone.
Parkinson.org. (2021). Falls Prevention.
CDC.gov. (2017, Feb. 10). Important Facts About Falls.
As SafeHome.org’s medical alert system expert, Jenny Wisniewski researches, tests, and reviews the best solutions to help seniors age in place. Her experience includes providing caregiving for her own Mother and regularly writing in the elder care consulting space. Jenny pays attention to the nuances in each alert system she reviews so that seniors and family members can find the best fit for their needs. In addition to elder care, Jenny also enjoys writing about travel, education, and the environment. And in her free time, she loves spending time outdoors with her family and golden doodle. Learn more about Jenny here