A Guide to Wall Button Medical Alert Systems

Updated: Jul 17, 2022

Aging in your home brings a sense of independence, familiarity, and comfort. Your home should be a safe place to age, especially since the likelihood of falling is more common as you get older. More than one in four older adults 65 years and older falls every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Key Takeaways

  • Wall button medical alert systems connect to a 24/7 monitoring center and don’t need to be worn like a standard help pendant.
  • They are placed in high-risk areas in the home and can be activated with a push, by pulling a string, or by using your voice, depending on the model.
  • Wall buttons are great options for those who need a medical alert system but may be hesitant or forget to wear a pendant.

Medical alert wall buttons connect to a 24/7 monitoring center and can be used to dispatch emergency services to your home after a fall or other emergency. If you still drive and are active outside your home, consider a mobile medical alert system or medical alert smartwatch to stay connected to the monitoring center when on the go. 

There are proactive steps you can take to minimize the risk of falling, such as wearing supportive shoes with nonskid soles and adding non-slip mats to your bathroom and kitchen. Mats should be properly secured to the floor, otherwise, they can bunch up and contribute to falls. If you do fall, you’ll need to call for help quickly. A medical alert system wall button connects you to a 24/7 monitoring center that will dispatch emergency services to your home after a fall or other medical emergency.

What Are Wall Button Medical Alert Systems?

A wall button is an additional accessory to the medical alert system base station that extends the coverage in your home. Wall buttons are connected to the in-home base station and contact the 24/7 monitoring center when pressed.

Most base stations have a two-way speaker to communicate with the monitoring center agent. Some base stations are voice-activated, but most have a standard push button at the top. When you contact the monitoring center, the agent will assess the situation and determine if you need emergency services. If you confirm or are unresponsive, the agent will automatically dispatch emergency responders to your home. 

How Do Wall Buttons Work? 

Wall buttons are placed on the walls of the home, typically in high-risk fall areas like the bathroom, kitchen, or staircase. The button should be positioned low enough to the ground so you can reach it if you fall.

You’ll press a wall button during an emergency to connect to the monitoring center. Some wall buttons use cellular service to connect directly to the monitoring center, but most buttons send a signal to the base station to call the monitoring center. 

Wall buttons typically have a large red button in the center, making it easy to locate and press to call for help. Besides the standard push button, some wall buttons are pull-string or voice-activated. These two options are excellent alternatives for contacting the monitoring center, especially if you’ve fallen or are unable to reach the push button for any reason.

A fall detection lanyard is still the safest option for falls from a standing height because it automatically connects to the monitoring center when the fall sensor is triggered—even if you’re unconscious or can’t press the alert button.

Some wall buttons have a two-way speaker, allowing you to speak directly to a monitoring center agent. Wall buttons can be waterproof or water-resistant, which will determine if you can place them in or near your shower. A waterproof wall button can be placed directly in the shower, but a water-resistant button should be placed near the shower—not in it. Wall buttons are a great option in case you forget to wear your pendant or are uncomfortable wearing a pendant while showering.

What’s the Difference Between a Wall Button Medical Alert System and an In-Home Medical Alert System?

An in-home medical alert system includes a standard base station and a help button pendant. Wall buttons are typically an add-on accessory to in-home alert systems and aren’t always included.

Pros and Cons of Wall Buttons

Pros

  • Extends the base station’s coverage in your home

  • Waterproof buttons can be placed in the shower

  • Flexible at-home medical alert option if you’re hesitant to wear a pendant

Cons

  • Only available for inside the home

  • Can’t detect falls if you’re unconscious or unable to press the button

  • Most wall buttons are an additional monthly charge

Why Use a Wall Button Alert System? 

A wall button alert system gives you or your loved one a more flexible at-home option than the traditional wristband or lanyard help button. By placing wall buttons in permanent, strategic spots throughout your home, the monitoring center is a push, pull, or verbal notification away. 

Wall buttons are a great safety accessory for those who need 24/7 monitoring but may not always wear a pendant. Even someone who isn’t the primary user of the medical alert system can get help if they need it by pressing a wall button, such as a partner, roommate, or guest. A wall button medical alert system may be the right option for the following reasons: 

Hesitancy or Forgetting to Wear a Pendant

Some people may not want to consistently wear a pendant or even wear one at all. This can be dangerous if they live alone or have health conditions that make it crucial to be connected to a 24/7 monitoring center. Older adults with memory loss may forget to wear or misplace their medical alert pendants. 

Wall buttons are a permanent connection to the monitoring center and emergency services without the need to constantly wear a help button. 

Wanting a Low-Tech Option 

There are a variety of medical alert system options available today, including smartwatches and smart speaker base stations. While some older adults may enjoy a high-tech device, others may be overwhelmed by the features. 

A standard wall button is straightforward: You push it to connect to the monitoring center during an emergency. Wall buttons often already have batteries in them and are connected to the monitoring center, requiring minimal to no setup besides testing their connection to the base station.

How to Choose a Wall Button Medical Alert System

Most medical alert systems include wall buttons as an add-on accessory. Wall button models vary by brand, so consider your must-have features to help you choose the right wall button medical alert system for you. 

Battery life: Wall buttons may run on standard AA batteries or have a multi-year battery life, depending on the brand. Before purchasing wall buttons, confirm the battery lifespan and the company’s wall button replacement policy (if any) once the battery is low. 

For example, Bay Alarm Medical’s wall buttons have a five-year battery life. The monitoring center will monitor the battery and notify you when it’s low.

Push, pull, or voice-activated: Would you like a standard push button or multiple options to contact the monitoring center? Push buttons are the most common wall button available, but some companies offer pull-string or voice-activated buttons. 

Two-way speaker: A wall button with a two-way speaker may be essential if your home is large and your base station speaker doesn’t extend to all rooms. A wall button speaker allows you to communicate with the monitoring center agent and explain the severity of the situation.

Waterproof: You should be able to place a wall button in and outside your shower without worrying if it will get damaged. Check that the button is waterproof or water-resistant and will function properly with constant water exposure. 

Wall attachment: Most companies include adhesive tape or screws and a hanging anchor to attach the button to the wall. Make sure proper attachment materials are included with your wall buttons.

How Much Do Wall Buttons Cost? 

The cost of medical alert systems varies by the package you choose. In-home packages typically have the lowest monthly monitoring price, about $20–30 per month. Wall buttons are a monthly charge on top of the monitoring cost and are priced at about $2.50–$3.00 per button.

GetSafe is one of the only medical alert systems to include wall buttons in its standard subscriptions and not as an add-on accessory.

Where Should Wall Buttons Be Placed in the Home? 

The main base station should be placed in a central area of your home, such as the kitchen or living room. Assess where you can add a wall button to this area if the base station isn’t voice-activated and would need to be pressed to connect to the monitoring center.

Place wall buttons lower to the ground so you or your loved one will be able to reach them after a fall.

The most common spot where older adults fall in their home is the bedroom, followed by stairs, and then the bathroom, according to a study published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. Not only should you place a wall button in these locations, but you should make sure they’re in a strategic area where the risk of falling is higher, such as next to the bed or in the shower.

Frequently Asked Questions

A wall button medical alert system includes an in-home base station and one or more wall buttons that are placed in high-risk areas around the home. The wall button is pressed during a fall or other emergency.

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MEDICALLY REVIEWED BY

Christopher is a Board-Certified Geriatric Nurse Practitioner and Holistic Nurse. As a Nurse’s Aide, Registered Nurse and now Nurse Practitioner, he has loved working with older people since 2004. He earned his Master’s Degree with Honors at Yale University, completed an Advanced Practice Nurse Fellowship in Geriatrics at New York University, and gained comprehensive experience working with people with dementia (and their families) at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY.

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Breaux Emily. "A Guide to Wall Button Medical Alert Systems" AgingInPlace.org. Jul 17, 2022. Web. Apr 04, 2024. <https://aginginplace.org/medical-alert-systems/wall-button/>.

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Breaux E. (2022, Jul 17). A Guide to Wall Button Medical Alert Systems. AgingInPlace.org. https://aginginplace.org/medical-alert-systems/wall-button/

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Emily Breaux, "A Guide to Wall Button Medical Alert Systems," last modified: Jul 17, 2022, https://aginginplace.org/medical-alert-systems/wall-button/.