Personal alarm buying guide: How to find the best alarm to keep your loved one safe

The right personal alarm, medical alert or panic button could help save a life.

A personal alarm can give you the peace of mind that your loved one will be cared for in the event of an emergency or accident. Alarms generally cost from $150 to $500 per device, with an optional monthly fee for 24/7 monitoring by trained staff.

Our guide will compare different types of personal alarms and walk you through the steps to choosing the right model for your lifestyle.

What is a personal alarm?

Personal alarms or medical alarms are small devices used to notify a nominated contact in case of an accident or emergency. They need to be worn at all times and can quickly and easily help someone call for help if they are lost, injured or have fallen and cannot get back up on their own.

Personal alarms or panic alarms can be particularly useful for seniors or if you have elderly parents or grandparents who do not require assisted living help, but may be at risk of falling, getting lost or having a medical emergency. Personal alarms can also be used to monitor children, those with mobility issues or those recovering from illness or surgery. The right personal alarm can give both you and your loved one more freedom and security.

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Increased safety for you or your loved ones.
  • Get instant alerts in case of emergencies.
  • Gain peace of mind that your loved ones are safe.
  • Have more freedom to leave your loved one home alone.
  • Choose between several wearable options.
  • Affordable, especially when compared to assisted living.
  • Monitored plans come with 24/7 support.
  • The NDIS, health insurance or other government programs may subsidise the cost.

Cons

  • Some people don't want to admit they need more help as they get older and will be reluctant to wear a personal alarm.
  • Must be worn at all times to be effective.
  • May include an ongoing subscription fee.
  • You may receive false alerts.
  • Personal alarms cannot prevent accidents or guarantee 100% safety.
  • Installation of in-home units can take time and cost extra.
  • Some devices require the wearer to be capable of and willing to activate the alarm. If your loved one is not able to do so, look into devices with automatic fall detection and automatic sensors.

What types are available?

You can choose between two types of personal alarm systems: monitored devices and non-monitored devices.

  • Monitored

Monitored devices are two-way speakers that connect to a landline. When these alarms are activated, the staff at a monitoring centre are alerted. These respondents will determine if there is a false alert or an emergency and follow a predetermined emergency response plan that may include alerting emergency services or calling a family member. Monitoring centres are staffed 24/7 and are able to respond to alarms at any time of the day, but you will have to pay an ongoing fee for this service.

  • Non-monitored

Non-monitored alarms are similar to monitored alarms except they require designated individuals to be nearby and able to be contacted in case of an emergency. When the alarm is activated, the device calls a list of pre-programmed numbers until someone answers the call. If the call is not answered by anyone on the list, some devices will automatically alert emergency services. These devices often require the user or wearer to be able to activate the alarm.

Who will be alerted in case of an emergency?Best for:Ongoing fees?
MonitoredStaff at a monitoring centre who can contact emergency services if necessary.
  • Those who do not have family or friends nearby
  • Those who require 24/7 monitoring
  • Those who cannot activate the alarm themselves
Yes, ongoing fees are required to cover the cost of staff at 24/7 monitoring centres.
Non-monitoredA pre-programmed list of nominated individuals who live nearby.
  • Those who have family or friends nearby who can respond in case of emergency or accident
  • Users who are able to activate the alarm when necessary
No, non-monitored systems do not typically have ongoing fees.

Cost

The cost of a personal alarm device ranges from around $150 to $500 or more. This price typically covers the cost of the device and storage.

Monitored personal alarm systems are subscription based. To get access to 24-hour support, you'll likely have to pay between $20 and $50 per month. Monitored systems typically need to be connected directly to a landline. Keep in mind, you may have to pay an additional one-time installation fee.

Some companies offer discounts for pensioners and veterans. You may also be able to receive subsidised pricing through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), health insurance providers, community services and even your local council.

There are several smartphone apps that offer similar services to a personal alarm, some of which are free. However, these apps can be difficult to use, especially for older people who aren't familiar with smart devices. Free apps don't offer the 24/7 wearability of a personal alarm and might not be within reach if the user falls and cannot get back up.

How to compare personal alarms

Once you've determined which type of personal alarm would be best suited to your needs and you've assessed your budget, consider the following additional factors:

Additional handy features include the following:


 

Sarah Brandon

Sarah Brandon is a writer for Finder. She has a degree in Psychology from New York University and loves learning about why people do what they do. Sarah has researched and written about a wide range of topics, from pool fences to private jets to personal loans. But no matter the subject, her number one priority is figuring out what information our readers need to make the best decisions.

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