Medical Alert Necklaces

Colin GrubbApr 16, 2014

Medical alert necklaces or pendants are key accessories in most medical alert systems. They work by sending a radio signal to a base unit within the home when the alert button is pressed, or automatically directing it to the company’s monitoring center, after which a representative contacts the user to assess their situation.

Almost all medical alert systems come with a transmitter in the form of an alert button and a receiver—also called a base unit—set up inside the house. The range of each device can cover the average area of the home, allowing the senior to move freely inside. Some systems have the ability to send a signal directly to the monitoring center without the help of a base unit, while others can detect falls and report them automatically after a period of inactivity or unresponsiveness. After the alert button is pressed or the system registers a fall, a representative from the monitoring center contacts the user, assesses the type of emergency, and either dispatches medical personnel or reaches out to an emergency contact.

Older alert systems had to be connected to a landline to work, but newer devices offer cellular coverage inside and outside the home. Mobile devices can be GPS-enabled and typically come equipped with a two-way intercom system that allows the user to speak to a representative from the company’s monitoring center. There are also companies that offer non-monitored systems, in which case the device will attempt to reach a set of predetermined contacts or simply dial 911.

What are the different types of wearable help buttons?

Wearable help buttons come in a variety of forms, including necklaces, bracelets, belt clips, and even keychains. Although these accessories can be worn in different ways, the material, quality, and features of the equipment do not vary. Furthermore, most companies offer waterproof or water-resistant products that can be worn at all times, even in the shower.


Necklaces are by far the most popular option, especially among women. These systems typically come with a lanyard that attaches to the help button, allowing the user to hang it from their neck and discreetly hide it under clothes. Depending on the pendant’s design, the standard lanyard may be swapped for a different material.


Medical alert bracelets are a more recent option in the industry. They often come in the form of an elastic or plastic wristband that is worn like a watch, with the help button located where the dial would be. Men tend to prefer this option, and many wearers report it is more comfortable for sleeping.

Other Options

Some companies offer alternative accessories such as belt clips and keychains. These are more common with mobile GPS tracking devices, which can serve as both the base unit and the help button. Other, more modern systems can even integrate with smartphones and function through stand-alone mobile applications.

When does a medical alert necklace make sense?

Medical alert necklaces make sense for users who want the convenience of a portable, light-weight device that can be easily reached and concealed under clothing. However, when shopping for someone else, consider any factors that may impact the user’s ability to press the button, such as arthritis in the hands, allergies to certain materials, or cognitive disability.

Necklaces & bracelets vs. carrying a cell phone

With both medical alert necklaces and bracelets providing similar functionalities, the decision really comes down to personal preference. If you’re considering a different type of device such as a cellphone, however, keep in mind that necklaces or bracelet buttons are more likely to be worn throughout the day and therefore less likely to be misplaced.

One of the earliest and simplest medical alert systems were personal emergency phones. These systems merely consisted of a wireless phone that allowed seniors to automatically dial pre-installed numbers. Although less expensive, phones could be cumbersome to carry, easily misplaced, and hard to reach after a fall.

What else you should know

Before purchasing a monitored medical alert system, it’s important that you not only study the contract, but also educate yourself about the different equipment available. When it comes to choosing medical alert systems, remember that necklaces and bracelet buttons are by far the more popular options, especially for seniors.

Besides contract terms and equipment, also look into the company’s customer service, make sure they provide 24/7 monitoring and employ trained professionals. Knowing that your loved one will receive the level of care and attention an emergency situation may warrant could provide you with additional peace of mind.

For more information, check our list of Top Medical Alert Systems