How To Choose the Right Medical Alert System For Seniors

    Think of a medical alert system as providing peace of mind. Peace of mind to loved ones and caregivers who know help is a push of a button away, even when they can’t be there. Peace of mind for seniors who wear the devices, knowing they can confidently pursue their independent, active lifestyles and remain in their own homes, assured that assistance is available if they need it.

    Through a wearable device, such as a pendant or wristband, subscribers are connected to a response centre that is alerted with the push of a button. Once alerted, response associates will make contact with the wearer to assess the situation then, depending on the need, will send emergency responders and/or contact people on the subscriber’s personal notification list. With most medical alert systems, the response centre  has access to the subscriber’s medical history and can provide emergency responders with vital information.

    There are many medical alert systems available in Canada, each promising to deliver peace of mind. Not all of the systems are the same and they often don’t offer the same level of service delivery. Here is a simple guide to help you identify the medical alert system that will meet your specific needs.

    1. What to Consider in a Medical Alert System


    Think about your lifestyle and the activities you do regularly. Do you live alone or primarily stay around the house? Or are you active in your community and often on the go? Your daily routine will help you understand the medical alert system you need. If you spend a lot of time outside the home, for example, a mobile alert system could be the best choice.


    Consider your overall health. Is falling a concern? Do you take medications that influence your energy levels or balance? In as many as 30% of falls, seniors can’t or don’t push the medical alert button. A medical alert system for seniors with fall detection, such as Philips Lifeline HomeSafe with AutoAlert, could be a solution to ensure you get the help you need, whether you push the button or not.


    To have access to the Response Center 24/7, the subscriber needs to wear the pendant or wristband. That means the device must be lightweight and comfortable for daily wear. A waterproof device allows the subscriber to wear the pendant in the bath or shower, where many falls occur. Pendants should come equipped with breakaway cords.

    With many medical alert systems, the device is paired with an in-home communicator that provides the two-way communication with the Response Centre. The quality of the communicator is important so look for a system that includes high-fidelity speakers and microphone. In the event you need to talk with the Response Centre, you want to be heard clearly and you want to be able to hear the Response Associate.


    People who choose a medical alert system often have many questions about how to set up and use the equipment. Selecting a medical alert system that provides professional installation can alleviate a lot of worry. When trained personnel installs the system, you have the reassurance it has been tested especially for your home and lifestyle. You will understand the range between the wearable device and the communicator and you will receive instruction about how the system works.

    2. Features to Look for in a Medical Alert System

    Response Centre:

    The ability of the Response Centre to respond to your needs is essential. Check that the medical alert system’s Response Centre can communicate with you in your preferred language. Also, to avoid having your personal and medical information shared across borders, verify that the Response Centres are located in Canada. If the medical alert system you are considering has access to your medical history, find out how much training the Response Associates receive. Ask if they deal only with medical alert system calls or if they are dispatchers for other alarm services. You want the confidence of knowing the Response Associates are focused on the medical alert system.

    Fall Detection:

    A device equipped with fall detection technology can identify when the wearer has fallen then alert the Response Centre even if the wearer is unable to do so. For example, Philips Lifeline HomeSafe with AutoAlert uses technology and algorithms to separately identify your regular movements, such as sitting or reclining, from a fall. This capability results in significantly fewer false alerts. If a fall does occur and you do not rise after 30 seconds, the Response Centre is alerted and initiates contact with you.

    Location Detection:

    Also referred to as a mobile alert system, this feature allows the wearer to be protected even while outside the home. If you are active—take walks, go to fitness classes, visit friends—a mobile alert system could be for you. The wearable device has a speaker and microphone incorporated so you can talk to the response centre wherever you are. Find out what technologies the system uses and look for one that uses more than GPS. If a fall or emergency happens outside the home, it is critical the system be able to locate you as quickly as possible. For example, Philips Lifeline GoSafe system uses up to six location technologies to identify where the subscriber is, even if the person cannot speak.

    Battery Life and Monitoring:

    The equipment needs to work even when the power goes out. Check that the in-home communicator has a built-in, backup battery system. A wearable device that requires removal to recharge could leave the subscriber unprotected while recharging occurs. Find out how often you need to test the system or if that is done automatically. Maintaining the system should be as worry-free as possible.  Ask if service calls are included with the service or if you are expected to change the battery when it needs to be replaced.

    3. Fees for Medical Alert Services

    What Is Included:

    The fees for the medical alert system should be upfront and clear–there should be no hidden fees. Find out if the cost of equipment is included in the monthly fee, or if that has to be purchased or rented separately. Is there a warranty included with the service? Fear of incurring charges keeps some seniors from pressing the button, even when they need assistance. So make certain you will not be charged if you accidentally press the button.


    It’s important to understand if you are committing to use the service for a set period of time. Is the fee tied to signing a contract and will that fee increase once the contract expires? Also, ask if the service is transferable in case you move residences.


    There may be a time when you need or want to cancel service. Ask if there is a cancellation fee with the medical alert system and find out how much advance warning you need to give to cancel.

    4. The Right Medical Alert System

    Looking for the medical alert system that brings you peace of mind?

    Philips Lifeline is an easy-to-use personal response service that lets you summon help any time of the day or night – even if you can’t speak. All you have to do is press your Personal Help Button, worn on a wristband or pendant, and a trained Personal Response Associate will ensure you get help fast.

    What You Should Do Now:

    Here are 5 ways we can help you or your loved one live safer and more independently at home as long as possible:

    1. Get our latest tips, tools and resources straight to your inbox. Sign up for our monthly newsletter.
    2. Not sure if the time is right for a medical alert service? Take this quick assessment to find out.
    3. If you would like to learn how to live a healthier and safer lifestyle, go to our blog or visit our resources section, where you can read and download guides.
    4. Wondering which medical alert system company is the best for your needs? We’ve put together a guide comparing the best medical alert systems for you.