Without doubt, the greatest fear my Mom has, is that of falling, and being unable to get help, as she lies injured and alone. Luckily, she has me, her living medical alert system, in the same home.
But for those elderly adults who don’t have a caregiver living with them, medical alert systems are just about the only answer that has been found to this problem.
Unfortunately, these devices are not cheap, and in general, the better devices come with hefty monthly rental fees.
There are ways though of getting some systems for free, or at a lower cost.
You may find free medical alert systems for seniors from –
- Assistive Technology Services offers a free medical alert device
- Veterans – free LiveLife mobile alarm
- Certain Medicare Advantage plans come with one as a benefit
- Medicaid assisted living help may cover a free medical alert system
- Medicaid HCBS programs and waivers
- Medicaid Managed Care Programs
- Veterans’ grants and Veteran Directed Care Programs
- State Assistive Technology Programs reuse centers
- Assistive Technology Programs public Online Exchanges
- Medical equipment loan closets
- Online listings and social media sites for free used devices
Monitored and non-monitored medical alert systems
It is important to understand that medical alert systems for the home, and mobile alerts, can be divided into two types –
- those with a monitoring service
- those which are non-monitoring devices
In general, the devices which offer a monitoring service will rent out their devices for a monthly fee – the cheapest starting at around $29 per month.
The monitored services will have assistants who answer the alert, appraise the situation, and contact emergency services to respond to the alert.
The devices which have no monitoring service (non-monitoring alerts) will charge for the device upfront, and may, if they use a cellular network, have a small monthly charge.
The non-monitoring devices may have automatic fall detection, or rely on the user to press a button if they fall, and then will rely upon the users contacts to respond in an emergency.
You will rarely get the monitored system for free, unless it is through Medicare Part C, or a Medicaid waiver, HCBS program.
Contents Overview & Quicklinks
Let’s go through the different possibilities for free medical alerts to start.
There are two companies who themselves offer a free medical alert device in certain situations.
Assistive Technology Services free medical alert device
I was absolutely staggered to find that the company Assistive Technology Services, who sell a range of medical alert systems, have an ongoing project of providing medical alert devices to people who really cannot afford one themselves.
As I understand it, the system works through the kindness of donations made to Assistive Technology Services, to which the company then adds their contribution.
For each $1 donated, they donate $1.50, and so $2.50 goes towards giving someone a free unmonitored medical alert system.
If you wish to apply to be a recipient, you can go to the link below –
Disclaimer: I have absolutely no links whatsoever with this company and have never discussed any of this with the company. I simply came across this on their website while doing my research. The company sells a whole range of unmonitored medical alert systems and devices.
Free mobile medical alert for veterans from LiveLife LLC
According to LiveLife LLC, Veterans can get their LiveLife Mobile Alarm for free.
It is an unmonitored mobile pendant alarm which sends alerts to the user’s contacts.
It has GPS Location Tracking, GEO Fencing (alerts when the wearer leaves a specified area), Automatic Fall Detection, Two way Talk communication and an SOS button.
You can follow this link to their website for instructions on how to get the free medical alert here.
Can you get free medical alert systems from Medicare ?
Medicare Parts A and B
Medicare Parts A and B will not pay for medical alert systems, which they refer to as PERS – Personal Emergency Response Services.
Medicare Part C or Medicare Advantage
But, as of 2019, it is possible that the elderly may be able to obtain a free medical alert system through Medicare Advantage, also known as Medicare Part C.
Taken from Medicare.gov site –
“Medicare Advantage Plans, sometimes called “Part C” or “MA Plans,” are an “all in one” alternative to Original Medicare.
They are offered by private companies approved by Medicare.
If you join a Medicare Advantage Plan, you still have Medicare.
These “bundled” plans include Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance), Medicare Part B, and usually Medicare prescription drug (Part D).
Medicare Advantage Plans will be different depending on which state you are in, and who is the provider.
So, if you have a Medicare Advantage Plan you need to contact your provider to see if they will cover the costs of a medical alert system either fully, or in part.
Can you get free medical alert systems with Medicaid ?
Medicaid may well pay for your medical alert system, or a part of it, depending on your circumstances, and which state you live in, so long as you qualify for Medicaid of course.
Medicaid Assisted Living Benefits
Medicaid is funded partly by the government, and partly by the individual states.
This means that the states have a certain amount of freedom in how they use the money, following the government guidelines.
The Medicaid assisted living help will change by state, as each one has its own policies as to how it assists people in assisted living.
Each state will have its own programs with their own names.
The types of Medicaid program which pay for assisted living are most commonly Medicaid Home and Community Based Services Waivers, 1915 Waivers, and sometimes Medicaid State Plan Programs.
Home and Community Based Services (HCBS)
The Medicaid Home and Community Based Services waivers, or 1915 waivers, are very commonly used for funding medical alert systems.
Some waivers may simply offer a medical alert system as part of the benefit.
It can often be argued that if the medical alert system will make the individual less reliant on the help of carers, and that it can reduce the amount of funding needed.
To find out more technical information about the waivers, there is in depth information at the official Medicaid site –
Money Follows The Person
This program helps nursing home residents return to their home, and pays for different technologies which will help them maintain their independence.
Consumer Direction or Self Direction
Self Direction is a Medicaid-based and state financing system designed to provide services to individuals with disabilities, helping them to remain living independently.
Under this program the elderly participants are provided with funding, and can choose the type of care they have, and what equipment they use – they have a certain degree of autonomy.
You should under this program be able to pick whichever medical alert system you wish to have.
If it allows you more independence, it may also reduce the amount of hours a carer has to be with you, and thus the amount of funding you require.
To find out more about Medicaid Self Direction, click here.
Medicaid State Plan PCA Programs (Personal Care Attendant)
Personal Care Attendant Plans are another form of program where the beneficiary has need of help with daily living tasks due to some kind of disability, or functional impairment.
The plans vary by state, so the conditions for eligibility will vary also.
These plans may also pay for the expense of a medical alert system.
Find your Medicaid State office
Here is a link to CMS.gov. Select your state and get a list of the state waivers and programs, along with their criteria –click here.
To find out more information on the HCBS programs and waivers in your state, check-out your local Area Agencies on Aging – locate your local office –here.
Or you can read my article in which I list all the Medicaid HCBS waivers, programs, 1915 waivers, Money Follows The Person, and lastly Pace Programs, which are available to the elderly in each state in the US.
You just go to your state on the list, and you will find the relevant websites for the programs “Medicaid Home And Community Based Services, Waivers and Programs For Seniors, Listed By State”.
State Financial Assistance Programs with a free medical alert systems
There are financial state assistance programs which are available to the elderly who don’t qualify for Medicaid.
The intention is to help the elderly remain in their own homes.
Electronic equipment is allowed, and some programs specifically mention PERS, and others mention assistive technology.
To find out if your state has a financial assistance program, follow this link to the AARP Foundation’s website, where there is a list of the benefits available in each state. Just click on your state to see what is available –
Free medical alert systems for Veterans
If you are eligible for a VA pension, and you need the help of another person in your daily activities, or if you are housebound, you may be eligible for extra payment.
These payments are made in addition to the monthly pension.
You cannot receive the two payments at the same time.
Aid & Attendance
If you require someone to help you with the basic daily activities of everyday living, you may qualify.
This benefit may be added to your monthly pension if you are housebound because of a permanent disability.
Veteran Directed Care Program
The Veteran Directed Care Program (VDC)was set up to assist veterans at risk of nursing home placement.
The following quote is taken from here on the va.gov website
“Veteran-Directed Care is for Veterans who need skilled services, case management, and assistance with activities of daily living (e.g., bathing and getting dressed) or instrumental activities of daily living (e.g., fixing meals and taking medicines); are isolated or their caregiver is experiencing burden.”
The Veteran Directed Care Program (VDC) has those veterans who are eligible –
- managing their own budget
- deciding on their own the products and services which best suit their needs
- deciding who they hire to provide the services and products
With this being the case, a person who qualifies for this program should be able to have a medical alert system.
The VDC program is available through the Veteran’s Health Administration’s Office of Geriatrics and Extended Care Services.
Veteran’s Affairs Medical Centers (VMACs) will decide if someone is eligible, and will then make the referrals to the Aging and Disability Network Agencies.
The Aging and Disability Network Agencies will provide help to the veterans, and their families, with sorting out what they require and setting it all in place.
To find out more about the availability of VDC’s where you live, you should contact VMACs for more information.
You can find your nearest VA location here.
Local programs offering free medical alert systems ?
Your Area Agency on Aging
Area Agencies on Aging provide services to help adults 60 and over, their family and caregivers receive the information and assistance they need in locating and accessing community services.
The services include information, benefits counseling and legal assistance.
There are over 600 Agencies nationwide.
Your local Area Agency on Aging should have information on any programs run locally or by your state which will offer financial assistance for medical alert systems.
If you wish to locate your local office, you can use the locator here.
Free or cheap medical alert systems on State Assistive Technology Programs
State Assistive Technology Programs exist to increase access to assistive technology devices to the disabled and elderly.
The term “assistive technology devices” covers medical alert systems, as it applies to any technology which allows a person to complete a task, which they otherwise could not complete without the device.
Each state has its own AT program, and will have a main website where you can make contact and find out what equipment is available for free or at a low cost.
The state AT programs work with a lot of nonprofits, and community organizations, which have refurbishing and reuse centers, which will often both gift free equipment to those in need, or sell it at a very low cost.
As well as the main website services, most AT programs will also have an “Online Equipment Exchange “, and this is where anyone in the state can register for free, to buy, sell, or to donate used medical equipment – this is not to be underestimated, as I have seen examples of hospital beds being offered for free, and it is well worth a good look.
If you wish to see how to find the AT program website for your state, you can see how in my short, illustrated article –
Free medical alert systems from medical equipment loan closets
Medical Equipment Loan Closets offer free (usually), new or gently used, equipment on either temporary or long term loan, or both. Some closets ask for a deposit, which will be returned to you, when you return the equipment, but it is generally very little money.
The closets are often run by volunteers for the town or village, and by nonprofit organizations.
Lots of churches have independent loan closets for the community, as well as religious charities such as The Society of Vincent De Paul, or UMC.
American Legion Posts, VFW, Lions Clubs, and Rotary Clubs often run medical equipment loan closets for their local communities, and a few by Elk lodges.
Medical equipment loan closets are also known as –
- medical equipment lending libraries
- community loan closets
- assistive technology lending libraries
- lending libraries
- medical equipment banks
To find a medical equipment loan closet in your area, first have a look on the internet. If you don’t find anything, you can contact these different admins and ask if they know of one –
- your local Area Agency on Aging
- your town council human services
- your town or municipal senior services department
- public senior centers near you
- established religious charities
- local churches and faith groups
The type of medical alert system that you may find at a loan closet is going to be a non-monitored system, as all the systems with monitoring services are renting the systems out on a monthly basis and retain ownership of the devices.
How to find free medical alert systems near you online ?
You will only be able to find the medical alert systems which have no monitoring, that you enter the phone numbers of your emergency contacts into, and then in an emergency the device will send out a text to those contacts.
So there should be no monthly fee, except for a small charge for the cellular network if it uses one.
Online listings very often have free medical equipment posted on them.
When you use online listings and groups, you will be able to make your searches as local as you want, allowing you to get results for free equipment near to you.
Important points to remember –
- the quality of the equipment you are going to find is not guaranteed to be great, and if it is faulty you don’t have any recourse, you will be accepting it for free in the condition that you find it
- always pick up your free equipment with a friend – you know nothing about the person, people, you are meeting
- don’t have the items brought to your home (especially if an elderly adult lives there) – meet up somewhere local, such as a mall car park
Here are the online listings and groups where you can find used medical equipment –
- Craigslist online listing
- Facebook Groups and Facebook Marketplace
I have a series of illustrated guides on how to find any type of free medical equipment online, near to where you live.
Just click on the guide you want to take a look at.
On Craigslist.com –
On UsedHME.com –
On Freecycle.org –
On Nextdoor.com –
On Facebook.com –
On OfferUp.com –
I haven’t actually written a guide to using OfferUp, as there is a very good video on Youtube which you can see below.
Cheaper medical alert systems without monitoring
As I mentioned at the outset, there are medical alert systems which are not linked to a monitoring service, and which rely on a set of family, friends or carers to receive and respond to any medical alerts.
Let’s take a look at these.
No monthly fee medical alert systems
If you don’t qualify for a free medical alert system, you can always buy a system without monthly fees from the manufacturer – systems which charge monthly fees are renting the device to the user, and also charging for monitoring of the device by a monitoring center.
You can buy a non-monitored medical alert system and pay for the equipment cost only. It is a one time payment, and the equipment is yours.
If you get a landline system (only available on in-home medical alert systems) there will be no more charges, as it uses your landline, but it is limited to use in the home, and a small area outside around the home.
This is not the case with a cellular in-home system, or a mobile medical alert system, where you will use cellular network coverage for the device.
With a cellular system and not a landline, you will though have to pay for some cellular coverage as the system will need some connection to the network such as a SIM, and this is not free.
With both the home and the mobile systems, in an emergency, when the alert is signaled the systems call the contact phone numbers that you have for emergency situations.
The different systems let you enter from 3 to 10 emergency contact phone numbers.
Typically, you will be entering the phone numbers of caregivers, family members or neighbors into the system.
The medical alert will dial through the numbers in an emergency, until one of the contacts answers their phone.
Some systems don’t allow the user to talk through the device, and will just send a text message alerting the contacts to your medical emergency.
The systems, with Two-Way Talk, allow you to talk through the handheld device, or button, with your contacts.
With cellular devices without Two-Way-Talk, which send text messages, the extra charges are the cheapest.
Non-monitored In-home medical alert systems
In-home medical alert systems can use either a landline or a cellular network to make their calls.
The systems are comprised of a base unit and one or two alert buttons which can be worn on the wrist or around the neck.
In an emergency, your loved one will press one of the help buttons, and it will signal the base station to start making the calls to your preferred emergency contact numbers.
Some systems will also have the option of Automatic Fall Detection – you may prefer this, as systems without it cannot call you for help if the help button is not pressed, and it is not always possible for a person to press the button.
Also, note that Fall Detection is not 100% fail proof.
40% of falls are sliding or slumping falls, and these are hard for Fall Detectors to identify, as they rely on impact and speed for detection.
Non-monitored mobile medical alert systems
Mobile medical alert systems work on cellular networks, which makes them a little more expensive.
There will be a cost for sending the alerts, and for any conversations on the devices that you may have with your contacts, as they use a SIM card.
This is not likely to be more than a few dollars a month.
Because these systems are for more active elderly users, and are for anywhere you go, they should come with GPS tracking.
This is used to instantly locate where you are, and will be texted to your contacts in an emergency.
The devices will all have an emergency button on them, and you simply press that if you have an incident and require assistance.
The system will either send text messages, or if you have Two-Way Talk, will connect you with your emergency contacts when one answers their phone.
Some systems have automated voice messages saying there is an emergency, and send your location in a text form to the contact who answers.
Automatic Fall Detection either comes on these devices, or is an extra for a few dollars more.
The cheapest medical alert systems with no monthly fees ?
There will be extra charges though if you pick a cellular system.
I have a long article all about 48 different systems for monitoring elderly parents from afar, where I deal extensively with the types of monitoring available, and a lot of the devices. You can read that here.
- SureSafeGO Anywhere -there is a monitored and a non-monitored version
- Guardian Alert 911
- LogicMark Freedom Alert Emergency System
Assistive Technology Systems
- Personal Assistance Voice Dialer II – Amplified medical Alert Telephone with waterproof pendant
- Touch N’ Talk Tow-Way Voice Pendant Emergency Alert
- SkyAngel911 Mobile Emergency Alert System
- Automatic Fall Detection with Two-Way Voice Pendant
- Help Dialler with two Panic Buttons
- Medical Alert A100
- Medical Alert A110
- Medical Alert A120
- Mace Alert 911
- Medical Alert System for Seniors LLR -100
- Medical Alert System for Seniors LLR -110
- Medical Alert System for Seniors LLR -120
- Medical Alert System for Seniors LLR -500
Home8care medical Alert
- Home8Care Medical Alert
- VTech CareLine Home Safety Phone System and Alert Pendant Button
Athena Empowerment Technology
- App – it turns your smartphone into an alert device
- V.ALRT Wearable Button – Works with your smartphone
- LiveLife Mobile medical Alert with Auto Fall Detect, 2 Way Voice & GPS
What to avoid when buying a non-monitored Medical Alert System
Here are a few mistakes to avoid making when you purchase a medical alert system –
- make sure that you test the device you have bought immediately, as you only get 30 days to return them with most companies
- make sure that you are aware of what you are paying for – do you own the equipment, or are you leasing it ?
- make sure it’s a non-monitored system if you are buying from a company which sells both monitored and non-monitored medical alert systems
- is any specialist equipment needed for the installation ?
- remember to be aware of what is an added extra before you speak to a sales person
- be clear about how many bits of kit you are getting
- check the volume of the devices when you receive them to make sure you can hear them clearly, especially if it is an in-home system
- make sure the “Help” buttons on the pendants and wristbands are sending the signals to the base station throughout your house – verify the range of the signal
- make sure you can a good number of contacts into the system
- find out if it is a cellular, or a landline operated system
- if you are getting a cellular network device, do your research and make sure you have good network coverage in your area
- if you are getting a mobile device be sure you know what the charges are for talking and texting, once you have bought the device, as there is going to be a cellular network charge of some kind
If you qualify you can get your medical alert systems paid for, but you are going to have to do some work, and contact the different providers concerned
If you can’t qualify for a free medical alert system, and you go down the route of a non-monitored system, remember that the cheaper it is, the less the range the system will have, and the weaker the batteries will be.
You will find that the mobile systems are more expensive than the in-home medical alert systems.
With the non-monitored systems, you are relying on your emergency contacts to respond to your medical emergencies, to do so quickly, to assess the situation and act appropriately.
Only you will know if they are able to do that.
The monitored medical alert systems provide a service with operators who are trained to assess the situation and to respond with great speed.
The operators will have your medical records on hand to help them.
This is why systems with operators charge monthly fees – the cheapest for an in-home system starting at around $19.99 / month
I’m Gareth, the author and owner of Looking After Mom and Dad.com
I have been a caregiver for over 10 yrs and share all my tips here.