• When a medical alert system with fall detection detects a fall, it will automatically alert a monitoring center. If you don’t respond to monitoring center staff, they will send medical help.
  • After testing 16 fall detection devices for ease of set-up, response time, and fall detection accuracy, the Handbook Team chose the Medical Guardian Mini Guardian as our top recommendation.
  • Medical alert systems with fall detection cost around $31–$70 per month and $0–$350 upfront in equipment or activation fees.
1
Fastest response time
9.9 Exceptional
Medical Guardian MGMini Lite
Smallest and lightest device
Battery life of up to 5 days
Memorial Day sale: 75% off MG Mini Lite with code: MEMORIALDAY24
9.9 Exceptional
See Special Offers

On MobileHelp’s Website

Our Top Pick

Falling is a surprising, scary, and sometimes painful experience that’s even more traumatic when you’re unable to get up by yourself. Some people may wait an agonizing amount of time until they’re found, with one study reporting a median time of 13.5 hours spent on the ground. But it can take as little as one hour to develop dehydration, pressure sores, and an overwhelming sense of helplessness. As a result, people who’ve experienced what’s called a “long lie” are sometimes admitted to nursing home facilities sooner than anticipated.

Push-button medical alert systems help avoid long lies by allowing people to call for help even when they can’t reach a phone. But these basic systems require the person to be conscious and capable of using the button. Fall detection devices solve this problem by recognizing a fall and alerting the monitoring center automatically. If the monitoring center staff members don’t hear a response, they call 911 and send an ambulance to the person’s location.

Being down on the floor alone is a miserable, undignified experience for anyone, whether young or old. Rapid fall detection means restoring dignity.

Steve Moran, Senior Living Foresight

Because medical alert systems offer protection from long lies and other emergencies, fall detection devices can increase a person’s self-confidence, activity level, and sense of security. They also promote privacy, autonomy, and independence by allowing some people to safely age in place.

But not all fall detection devices are created equal. Medical alert systems and fall detection devices aren’t subject to FDA testing and approval, so they’re not held to any accuracy standards. The Handbook Team conducted our own series of fall detection tests to find the most reliable models. Below, we’ll help you find a device that fits your needs or your care recipient’s lifestyle.

Which fall detection device is right for you?

Why HelpGuide cares about older adult safety

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Feelings of independence, security, and connection are closely related to older adult mental health. Older adults experiencing loneliness and social isolation tend to have a much higher risk of depression, anxiety, and suicide, as well as dementia, heart disease, and stroke, according to research.

Thankfully, studies have shown older adults who use medical alert systems have a greater sense of security, improved mental health, and are shown to be more active and independent around the home.

Independence is closely tied to one’s sense of identity, especially in older adults. Being able to perform daily tasks, make decisions, and live without constant assistance reinforces the feeling of being competent and valuable. A loss of independence can, unfortunately, erode this sense of self-worth.

Ryan Sultan, MD

For older adults, maintaining autonomy is directly related to mental health and quality of life. That’s why we’ve made it our mission to share the best information about medical alert systems that can help keep care recipients healthy, safe, and active. 

Our Handbook Team hand-tests every medical alert brand we review, so we can feel confident recommending the best products for our readers. We consult with gerontologists (experts in older adult care), researchers, and industry leaders in older adult safety, as well as mental health experts, to vet our choices.

We also put ourselves in the consumer’s shoes by mystery shopping brands and walking through the set-up process, just like new customers. Additionally, we survey users and interview real people who use medical alert systems.

By compiling our testing data, interview and survey results, and insights from older adult care providers, we formulate a strongly informed perspective that we’re sharing with you here.

Learn more about our medical alert systems review methodology.

What you need to know about the best medical alert systems with fall detection

Fall Detection Devices
Fall detection devices are most accurate when worn at the sternum. Fall detection devices are most accurate when worn at the sternum.
The Medical Guardian MGMini Lite had the fastest response time. The Medical Guardian MGMini Lite had the fastest response time.
The MobileHelp Micro is the most sensitive mobile fall detection device. The MobileHelp Micro is the most sensitive mobile fall detection device.
The Bay Alarm Medical In-Home Cellular is the most sensitive in-home fall detection system. The Bay Alarm Medical In-Home Cellular is the most sensitive in-home fall detection system.
Fast, hard falls are easier to detect than slow, soft falls. Fast, hard falls are easier to detect than slow, soft falls.

Our testing experience

In July 2023, the Handbook Team tested 18 fall detection devices from popular medical alert companies, including Medical Guardian, MobileHelp, Bay Alarm Medical, LifeFone, Lively, and Medical Care Alert. 

We evaluated how easy it was to set up each device using the provided instructions. Then, while wearing the necklace or watch, we pressed the help button to place a test call to the monitoring center. We recorded how long it took for a monitoring staff member to answer each call, then told them we were testing the equipment—something medical alert companies encourage users to do every month.

From our tester

“By the third test call, the monitoring center answered by saying, ‘Hi, Emily, are you still testing?’ So it seems like the monitoring center staff can track calls and offer a sense of personalization and connection with the agent.”

Our procedures varied depending on the type of system we were testing. For instance, while testing mobile medical alert systems, we asked monitoring staff to also identify our current location to check the accuracy of the GPS tracking. While for in-home systems, we stood 5 feet away from the base unit and evaluated how well we could hear the monitoring staff member.

Not every device passed muster at each stage in testing—and poor quality was duly noted.

From our tester

“Once we connected to the monitoring center, the staff member couldn’t hear us and calls kept dropping. We spent half an hour on the phone with technicians to resolve the issue. Even after the problem was fixed, audio quality was intermittently spotty.”

Next, we tested each device’s fall detection accuracy. In our experience, all detection devices are less likely to register a slow fall, like when someone slides out of a chair, than a hard and fast fall. This is why we conducted a series of three slow falls and three fast falls with each device. 

  • For the slow falls, we wore the medical alert system while sitting in a chair, then bent forward to put our knees on a mat. From there, we laid completely flat on our stomachs for at least 30 seconds.
  • For the fast falls, we dropped each device from shoulder height and let it remain on the mat for at least 30 seconds.

We purposely focused on forward-facing falls, since falls on an outstretched hand (FOOSH falls) are one of the most common emergency room injuries.

It’s important to note that fall detection testing is not 100 percent accurate. That’s because studies are forced to use simulated falls in lab environments rather than data from real-world falls. To generate enough real-world fall data, researchers estimate we’d need to record about 100,000 days of activity. In the absence of real-world testing data, we read research papers and consulted with gerontologists to create our testing protocol, which most closely mimics real-world falls.

Only two models proved sensitive enough to detect all falls: the MobileHelp Micro and Bay Alarm SOS In-Home Cellular.

Did you know?

Stillness after rapid downward movement is one of the criteria these devices use to detect falls. Moving too soon after falling can cause the device to think you’re okay or able to press the button manually.

We timed how long it took the device to start calling the monitoring center. Then, we timed how long it took for someone to answer the call. We noted any time a device started a false alarm and, if applicable, tested the device’s call cancellation feature. 

We also focused on two-way speaker quality, monitoring staff friendliness, lanyard adjustability, charging ease, and app functionality. 

In addition to testing medical alert devices hands-on, we mystery shopped, spoke to brand customer service representatives, and interviewed independent senior health experts.

Compare the best fall detection devices

Device Starting monthly price Fall detection monthly fee Fall detection accuracy In-home range (feet) Mobile device battery life (days) Learn more
Medical Guardian MGMini Lite Visit site
$44.95 $10.00 5/6 N/A 3 Visit site
MobileHelp Micro Visit site
$39.95 $11.00 6/6 N/A 5 Visit site
Bay Alarm Medical SOS Home Cellular with Fall Detection Visit site
$29.95 $10.00; one-time fee of $30 6/6 1,000 N/A Visit site
Medical Alert Mobile System Visit site
$39.95 $10.00 5/6 N/A 5 Visit site

Reviews of the best automatic fall detection devices

1. Medical Guardian MGMini Lite: Fastest response time

Fastest response time
9.9 Excellent
Medical Guardian MGMini Lite
Starting monthly price: $44.95
$10 for fall detection
GPS tracking
75% off MG Mini Lite with code: MEMORIALDAY24
Features
  • In-home range: N/A
  • Mobile device battery life: Up to three days
  • Connection type: 4G LTE
  • Standout feature: Wrist-based fall detection
More information

The Medical Guardian MGMini Lite bracelet is unique from our other top picks. This lightweight bracelet weighs less than an AA battery and looks similar to an Apple Watch, but without the bells and whistles of a touchscreen smartwatch.

We placed a total of nine test calls to the Medical Guardian monitoring center through the MGMini Lite. We waited an average of six seconds for the MGMini Lite to initiate a call after each fall, which is one of the fastest response times we recorded.

Once the call started, a monitoring staff member answered in 21 seconds on average—the fastest response time on this list. The total elapsed time from the tester falling to the call being answered averaged 27 seconds, which is significantly lower than the 48-second average of all medical alert systems we tested.

The MGMini Lite bracelet detected five out of six test falls and connected us to a monitoring center agent in less than a minute every time. This is impressive for a wrist-worn device, but the bracelet still wasn’t as accurate as the MobileHelp Micro and Bay Alarm Medical SOS Home necklaces.

Research shows that fall detection sensors worn at the sternum are more likely to register falls and give the fewest false alarms. Medical Guardian also has a disclaimer stating that fall detection works best when worn around the neck and outside of clothing.

Unlike the MobileHelp Micro, the MGMini Lite did not initiate a call when it shouldn’t have during our testing. We were also pleased that the monitoring center agent could see our correct location each time we asked. Accurate GPS location is crucial for on-the-go systems if you don’t know or aren’t able to tell the agent your location during an emergency.

While the MGMini Lite is one of the more expensive mobile fall detection devices we tested, it seems appropriately priced based on accuracy, quality, and novelty. When talking to a sales representative on the phone, we were offered a more significant discount than what was available on the website, so you may be able to save money by calling instead of ordering online. That said, Medical Guardian offers numerous add-ons, like an extended warranty and a lockbox, which can raise the monthly price, so beware of getting talked into services you may not need.

From our tester

“The MGMini Lite was lighter and smaller than the medical alert watches we tested. Wearing it was just as comfortable as wearing any watch.”

Read more in our in-depth Medical Guardian review.

Best overall

Our final verdict on the MGMini Lite

The MGMini Lite is the best option if you want sensitive wrist-based fall detection with some of the fastest response times. The MGMini Lite combines swift emergency connectivity with a stylish, lightweight design. With one of the fastest response times available in wrist-based fall detection systems, you’re assured rapid assistance with an average call connection of just six seconds.

2. MobileHelp Micro: Most sensitive on-the-go system

Most sensitive on-the-go system
9.7 Excellent
MobileHelp Micro
Starting monthly price: $39.95
$11 for fall detection
24/7 U.S. based monitoring
Features
  • In-home range: N/A
  • Mobile device battery life: Up to five days.
  • Connection type: 4G LTE.
  • Standout feature: Verbal alerts for low-battery status.
More information

The MobileHelp Micro, a mobile device worn around the neck, detected all six of our test falls and took an average of 38 seconds to connect to the monitoring center. The Micro’s impressive fall detection accuracy, fast response time, and five-day battery life shot it to the top of our list.

However, the Micro’s sensitive fall detection sensors led to an unprompted call to the monitoring center during our tests. Unfortunately, the device doesn’t have a cancellation feature when the fall detection is set off. If you have a false alarm with the Micro, you’ll need to wait for someone to answer the call and then inform them it was a false alarm. This was a minor inconvenience, but an inconvenience all the same.

Like many medical alert systems, the MobileHelp Micro connects to an app, so caregivers can view system status, battery life, activity, and GPS location. It struck us as outdated and sparse compared to other medical alert system apps because it doesn’t allow caregivers to leave notes for each other or make online payments. We were also disappointed that a voice or sound doesn’t confirm when the device has been correctly placed in the charger, which is another perk the MGMini Lite offers.

If you’re looking for an accurate mobile fall detection necklace for the lowest price (it costs $4 less per month than the MGMini Lite) and a five-day battery life, go with the Micro.

From our tester

“The entire setup process took about one minute, and it couldn’t have been easier because lights and verbal cues guided us through everything. I like that it verbally tells you when it needs charging, but it would be nice if it also confirmed that it was docked correctly in the charging cradle.”

Our final verdict on MobileHelp Micro

The MobileHelp Micro had the most accurate fall detection of the mobile systems we tested. Its accuracy, fast response time, and multi-day battery life make it an excellent on-the-go fall detection necklace. The MobileHelp Micro’s unparalleled sensitivity in fall detection, coupled with a quick emergency response capability, makes it an indispensable companion for those needing dependable safety assurance on the move.

3. Bay Alarm Medical SOS Home Cellular with Fall Detection: Most sensitive at-home system

Most sensitive at-home system
9.3 Excellent
Bay Alarm Medical SOS Home Cellular with Fall Detection
Starting monthly price: $29.95
$10 for fall detection
Sensitive fall detection necklace
Features
  • In-home range: 1,000 feet.
  • Mobile device battery life: N/A
  • Connection type: Cellular.
  • Standout feature: Helpful instructions for confirming how far away the necklace works from the base station.
More information

The Bay Alarm Medical SOS Home Cellular with Fall Detection was the only at-home system to detect all six of our falls. In most cases, it only took the base unit an impressive three to four seconds to start calling the monitoring center after the fall. On average, it took nearly one minute for someone to answer each call, and it once took a full two minutes for a monitoring center staff member to pick up.

Despite having no volume controls, the home base speaker was loud enough for us to carry on a conversation with the staff member from 5 feet away. That said, we ran into trouble on our first test call when the monitor couldn’t hear us and the call kept dropping. We were able to sort out the issue by calling customer service. This is why it’s important to test all medical alert systems out of the box and on a monthly basis to make sure they work when it counts.

Handbook Team Tip

In larger homes, it can be tricky to hear the base station from every room. Mobile medical alerts cost a little more than in-home systems but are designed as wearable help buttons with built-in speakers, making it easier to communicate with the monitoring center no matter where you might fall.

As an in-home system, the SOS Home Cellular pairs with a wearable necklace that only works within 1,000 feet of the base station. Because walls and other obstructions can interfere with the signal from the necklace to the base station, the actual working distance may be less. Of the in-home systems we tested, only Bay Alarm Medical included clear instructions for confirming the necklace’s range.

The SOS Home Cellular is also one of the few in-home systems with an adjustable lanyard, which helps ensure you can adjust the necklace to rest at the sternum, the optimal location for detecting falls. A landline option is available too, which may work better for people in rural areas with weak cellular connections.

From our tester

“Initially we had some trouble with the Bay Alarm Medical SOS Home Cellular base station dropping calls, but customer service was able to fix it. The fall detection necklace worked every time, and the monitoring center’s response times were very consistent. It seemed reliable and trustworthy.”

Our final verdict on the Bay Alarm Medical SOS Home Cellular with Fall Detection

The SOS Home Cellular had the most sensitive fall detection necklace of any in-home system. We also liked the necklace’s magnetic clasp and the base station’s loud audio. The Bay Alarm Medical SOS Home Cellular system stands out for its exceptional responsiveness. It detected every fall in our tests and quickly connected to the monitoring center. Its thorough instructions for testing the operational range and the adjustable lanyard ensure optimal placement and functionality, providing peace of mind for at-home users.

4. Medical Alert Mobile System: Easiest to use

Easiest to use
9.5 Excellent
Medical Alert Mobile System
Starting monthly price: $39.95
$10 for fall detection
24/7 US-based monitoring
Features
  • In-home range: N/A
  • Mobile device battery life: 5 days.
  • Connection type: Cellular.
  • Standout feature: Waterproof wrist and neck wearables.
More information

The Medical Alert Mobile System with fall detection is a great choice for people who want a simple, straightforward system that works inside and outside the home. While we found the pendant very easy to set up, our tester found that it didn’t initially detect a fall, which required troubleshooting with customer service to remedy.

Medical Alert had one of the fastest response times during our medical alert system testing. We also liked the included illustrations that detail the correct way to wear the device. Our tester didn’t experience any connectivity issues and found the simple system worked as it should.

One potential downside relates to communication with multiple caregivers. Our tester was able to program one caregiver, but didn’t think the device allowed for more. We also found that while the device charges quickly, in two to three hours, there is no information in the manual or on the Medical Alert website about how long the charge lasts.

From our tester

“I like that they included an additional lanyard but I could see this being very hard to attach if you have difficulty with dexterity or trouble seeing.”

Our final verdict on the Medical Alert Mobile System

The Medical Alert Mobile System is ideal for people seeking a straightforward, basic system with an emphasis on fall detection. You can save money on the Mobile System with Medical Alert’s affordable annual plan, making it one of our list’s most budget-friendly options. While Medical Alert doesn’t offer the same features available through other fall detection devices, setting up the device is easy, and the company has a rapid response time. We like Medical Alert’s lengthy 5-day battery life for the mobile device and the company’s clear pricing structure, which requires no long-term contracts or equipment fees.

Other fall detection devices to consider

Unaliwear Kanega Watch: Fall detection in a smartwatch

8.0 Very good
Unaliwear Kanega Watch
Starting monthly price: $69.95
Adjustable sensitivity
Features
  • In-home range: N/A
  • Mobile device battery life: 24–36 hours.
  • Connection type: Cellular, Wi-Fi.
  • Standout feature: Adjustable fall sensitivity.
More information

The Unaliwear Kanega Watch attempts to deliver accurate fall detection in a smartwatch, and it does so with artificial intelligence and an adjustable sensitivity scale—technologies we’ve seen in only a few other devices. The Kanega Watch didn’t pass all of our fall tests, but our research suggests this may be because our test designs don’t account for the device’s smart tech.

For example, we test hard falls according to most manufacturers’ instructions: Hold the device at shoulder height and drop it onto a rug or mat. The Kanega Watch failed all these tests because it’s designed not to register a fall when it’s not being worn.

We also learned that the device’s algorithm is more sensitive to backward and sideways falls. According to research, the majority of older adults fall forward, but backward falls still account for about 40 percent of all falls. After learning the Kanega watch is more sensitive to backward and sideways falls, we tested sideways falls with the Kanega Watch and recorded flawless results. However, it detected just one out of three slow forward falls, and it sometimes took over two minutes for a monitoring staff member to answer the call.

The Kanega Watch could be a good solution for people willing to go through a learning curve, as the device’s fall detection sensitivity can be adjusted from 0 (most sensitive) to 100 (least sensitive) by calling customer service. It may take time to find a setting sensitive enough to register falls without triggering false alarms, though. The watch arrives set to 50, and we recommend immediately adjusting it to be more sensitive. Adjust it down incrementally if it causes too many false alarms.

At about $70 per month, the Kanega Watch is the most expensive fall detection device on the market. It has other useful features like voice activation, GPS tracking, and medication reminders, but it lacks step tracking and weather forecasts—features we’ve come to expect in medical alert watches. We were also surprised at how large the watch is, but our testers say they eventually got used to its bulky, heavy feel.

From our tester

“I wore the device for three days with the sensitivity level set high and it only detected one fall when it shouldn’t have. All I had to do was press the crown to cancel the call—super simple. I couldn’t deal with sleeping in it because it’s so bulky.”

Our final verdict on the Unaliwear Kanega Watch

The only fall detection device on the market with AI and adjustable sensitivity, the Kanega Watch is suitable for people who don’t mind tinkering with technology. It leverages advanced artificial intelligence and adjustable fall sensitivity to offer a customized approach to fall detection, setting it apart in the smartwatch market. While it requires a learning curve, its ability to fine-tune sensitivity to user needs—particularly effective for detecting sideways and backward falls—makes it a promising option for those seeking tailored safety measures.

Devices to avoid

Lively Mobile Plus: No falls detected

Lively Mobile Plus

Our verdict: The Lively Mobile Plus never registered our test falls.

The Lively Mobile Plus detected none of our falls. We even called customer service to make sure the fall detection feature was activated—and it was. The user guide notes using the belt clip disables fall detection. That wasn’t the problem in our case, but we were surprised that fall detection could be disabled by the user.

Although we can’t recommend the Lively Mobile Plus as a fall detection device, it performed well as a GPS tracker and felt lightweight around the neck. It’s also the only monitored medical alert device we’ve seen that allows users to directly call 911 by pressing and holding the button for five seconds.  

Lively does charge a $35 activation fee, which is not clearly stated on the website or at checkout. Our testers also ran into trouble accessing the brand’s caregiver app without a Premium plan, even though it’s advertised as a perk for the Basic plan too.

What our testers say: “The Lively Mobile Plus did a poor job of fall detection during our tests. The lanyard isn’t adjustable, so it could be an awkward length. Also, the call center tells you more than once that the call will be recorded, which seems unnecessary and a waste of time.”

Summary of top fall detection device tests

BrandDeviceSlow Fall AccuracyFast Fall AccuracyAverage time from fall to start of callAverage time from start of call to answerTotal average wait time
Medical GuardianMGMini Lite2/33/36 seconds21 seconds27 seconds
MobileHelpMicro3/33/35 seconds33 seconds38 seconds
Bay Alarm MedicalSOS Home Cellular3/33/35 seconds58 seconds63 seconds
MobileHelpClassic3/32/310 seconds64 seconds74 seconds
Medical AlertMobile2/33/317 seconds

Pros and cons of fall detection devices

Fall detection devices can prevent or minimize physical and mental trauma that may occur when someone falls and can’t get back up for a long time. Breathing fluids into your airways during or after a fall can lead to pneumonia, and falling while showering or bathing can lead to hypothermia. People who remain on the floor for hours can become dehydrated and hungry, and they may experience side effects from missing medication. There’s also a risk of infection, pressure sores, muscle tissue breakdown, and hypothermia. If you’re seriously injured during the fall, you could experience a lot of pain and swelling before help finally arrives.

Fortunately, fall detection devices can help you or your care recipient avoid lying on the floor for extended periods, potentially minimizing mental trauma while providing a sense of security.

A fall detection device addresses the fear of falling by offering reassurance. A mobile device can provide the same sense of safety when you or your care recipient leave home independently.

What we like about fall detection devices

  • Promote independent living: Fall detection devices can provide an alternative to in-home care and assisted living facilities in the right circumstances.
  • Summon help automatically: Even if you can’t move or speak after falling, the device calls monitoring staff members, who dispatch first responders and notify caregivers.
  • Connect to a monitoring center: Monitoring center staff members answer alerts 24/7, provide a personalized approach, and minimize false alarm dispatches.
  • Provide peace of mind: It’s a relief to know that someone will be notified during an emergency.
  • Help avoid a “long lie”: Long lies occur when someone falls and remains on the floor for more than one hour, and they can cause pressure sores, dehydration, and an increased risk of death within six to 12 months.

What we don’t like about fall detection devices

  • Not guaranteed to detect all falls: Because some falls may go undetected, it’s still important to establish a check-in routine.
  • May cause false alarms: Sensitive devices may call the monitoring center when you haven’t fallen, which some people may find irritating or distressing.
  • May be taken off: People with memory problems may remove the device when they don’t understand its purpose, leaving them vulnerable.
Woman shown from chest to hips wearing a fall detection device on lanyard in a kitchen setting
The MobileHelp Classic fall detection necklace is small and lightweight.

How does fall detection work?

Fall detection devices contain a sensor called an accelerometer, which measures speed in relation to distance. The accelerometer feeds measurement data to a computer chip inside the device, where it’s analyzed according to an algorithm. The device is programmed to call the monitoring center if the algorithm reaches a certain threshold.

In practical terms, this usually means the device has to fall rapidly downward and then stop moving for two to 30 seconds to trigger a call to the monitoring center. 

To increase the sensitivity of a fall detection device, some medical alert companies add extra sensors, like barometers (which measure air pressure changes), magnetometers (which measure the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field), or gyroscopes (which measure rotating motion). These extra sensors make it easier for the device to detect falls that happen slowly, like when a person leans against a wall and then slides to the floor. 

Once someone from the monitoring center answers the call, they’ll speak to you through the device’s built-in speaker or through a speaker on a nearby base station. You can confirm you need help and ask them to call emergency services, a family member, or another caregiver. 

If you can’t speak once the monitoring staff member answers the call, they’ll send first responders to your home or, in the case of GPS-enabled devices, to your location to check on you. It’s a good idea to keep a spare key in a lockbox by your front door so emergency responders can quickly get inside without damaging your home. Register the lockbox code with the monitoring center so they can share it when needed.

How falls affect your mental health

To learn more about the mental vulnerability that occurs during and after a fall, we spoke with Christina Peoples, a psychogerontologist, and Steve Moran, a senior living expert with Senior Living Foresight. Both say people can develop a fear of falling, which can become debilitating. “It keeps people from living a full life,” Moran says.

Fall detection is imperfect but more affordable and less intrusive than the alternatives. The right answer is to use a great fall detection system and then have a realistic understanding of the limitations.

Steve Moran, Senior Living Foresight

“Fear of falling can lead to social isolation because now the individual may be fearful to leave home or may avoid areas of their home where the fall occurred,” says Peoples. “Furthermore, the person might refrain from visiting familiar community spaces they typically enjoy due to large crowds, or they could be hesitant to venture anywhere alone. This can cause stress, depression, and anxiety, which all have an impact on an individual’s mental health.” 

Peoples has seen firsthand how fall detection devices can boost morale. “I have a friend who is in her 70s and has a fall detection necklace,” she says. “She lives alone and often goes out in the community by herself, and she sees the device as something that prolongs her independence, not something that takes it away. She feels much safer knowing that she has support in case of a fall.”

How accurate is fall detection?

Every fall detection device we’ve seen comes with the same disclaimer: “Does not detect 100 percent of falls.” We agree with that statement for all fall detection devices—even the ones that registered each of our test falls. There’s too much variation in how someone could potentially fall—forward, backward, sideways, twisting, crumpled, hard, sliding, slowly, or quickly—to account for every single possibility in the device’s algorithm without causing too many false alarms.

That said, our tests showed some devices have better accuracy than others. 

Because fall detection devices are never 100 percent accurate, it’s important to use them as part of a comprehensive safety strategy that includes fall prevention, like physical therapy and home modifications, plus fall detection and frequent caregiver check-ins.

The first thing people can do is work on strength and balance as much as possible to prevent falls. Other back-ups might include a cell phone or voice-activated services, such as Amazon Alexa.

Steve Moran, Senior Living Foresight

How much do medical alert systems with fall detection cost?

Graph of high, average, and low fall detection prices
The most accurate mobile fall detection devices cost more than the industry average, but accurate in-home systems are more affordable.

Medical alert systems with fall detection cost around $31–$70 per month and $0–$350 upfront in equipment or activation fees. 

If you choose a fall detection device with no equipment fee, you’ll sign a lease agreement that holds you responsible for paying for a lost or damaged device, which can cost upwards of $350. Read the company’s full terms and conditions to avoid any surprises down the road.

Insurance coverage

You’re more likely to get coverage for a medical alert system through a long-term care policy than a health insurance plan, but it’s worth verifying coverage benefits with all providers. They may ask for a doctor’s note explaining why the device is necessary.

Unfortunately, medical alert systems aren’t covered by Medicare Parts A and B because they do not meet the definition of durable medical equipment. A Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan may provide coverage for medical alerts, but it’s uncommon. 

Your state’s Medicaid program may cover medical alerts under long-term care benefits.

How to save money

  • Look for a medical alert company that offers a discount when you choose an annual plan.
  • Talk to a sales representative over the phone—they’re sometimes allowed to give extra discounts.
  • Look for discounts offered through membership programs like AARP.
  • Ask your local Area Agency on Aging about available discounts or grants.

Note: Veterans Affairs does pay for a few mobile medical alerts (MedEquip, Latitude, and LogicMark), but none include fall detection.

Key features of medical alert systems with fall detection

In addition to an accurate fall detection sensor, look for these features when shopping for a fall detection device:

  • Adjustable lanyard.
  • Lightweight design.
  • Clear two-way audio.
  • Easy-to-use charging cradle.
  • Water-resistant case. 
  • Automatic caregiver alerts when a fall is confirmed by the monitoring center.
  • Caregiver app that shows device battery.

Our final verdict

Based on our tests, these devices are more likely to detect falls and give you the peace of mind you’re looking for:

Your final choice boils down to whether you want an in-home or mobile system, how much you want to pay, and whether you’d like to cancel false alarms before the monitoring center picks up. Each brand employs helpful, friendly, and easy-to-understand people in their monitoring centers, ensuring your care recipient gets empathetic and fast support during an emergency.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, we think fall detection is worth it. While your loved one may never actually need it, knowing that it could quickly summon help during an emergency can give them (and you) peace of mind. Fall detection devices also prevent or reduce the physical and mental deterioration associated with lying on the ground for hours at a time.

No, not usually. Fall detection devices use cellular networks to connect to the monitoring center, but consumers do not set up or pay for a SIM card or cell plan. It’s all handled by the medical alert company.

Smartwatches with fall detection, like the Apple Watch, are the exception to the rule. In order for the device to call 911 or an emergency contact, you do need a SIM card or cellular plan.

Yes, all Apple Watches released in 2018 or later have fall detection. That includes the Apple Watch Series 4, the Apple Watch SE and SE 2, and the Apple Watch Ultra.

The best wearable device for fall detection depends on each user’s needs and preferences. Top features include sensitivity, reliability, and user comfort. The Medical Guardian MG Mini  and the MobileHelp Micro stand out in our research. Both are designed to detect both soft and hard falls, ensuring timely assistance is provided when needed. Small size, long battery life, and accuracy make these options an excellent choice for those seeking dependable fall detection.

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