Life Alert vs Medical Alert
COVID-19 Update: Since the medical alert industry is considered to be “essential” during the COVID crisis, monitoring and customer service centers are still open and ready to help. To learn more about how a medical alert device can help keep you or your elderly loved one safe and connected during this pandemic, take a look at our list of essential products for seniors during COVID-19.
With increased age comes an increased risk of suffering from a host of health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, reduced vision, poor balance and side-effects from medications used to manage chronic illnesses. These issues can make living alone dangerous for seniors; however, it’s possible to reduce the danger with a medical alert system.
Designed to be lightweight, low maintenance and user-friendly, today’s medical alert devices enable seniors and those with disabilities to live as independently as possible by ensuring help is always close at hand. These devices come in pendants and wrist-wearable buttons, and many companies also offer add-on units such as wireless waterproof help buttons that can be placed at the bedside or in the bathroom.
Thanks to the popularity of medical alert systems, there are now dozens of companies offering monitored devices that connect subscribers to an emergency call center. Although the overall services and products are similar, there are distinct differences in price plans, devices and options, which can make choosing the right medical alert company challenging. Our team of senior care experts has evaluated every system to help you and your family choose the one that best fits your needs and budget.
In this guide we’re comparing Life Alert and Medical Alert — two of the most recognized and established names in the industry. While each has its benefits, we ultimately find that Medical Alert provides a more affordable option that doesn’t require a long-term commitment.
|Side By Side Comparison||Life Alert||Medical Alert|
|Up-Front Equipment||$95 - $198||$0|
|Monthly Monitoring||$49.95 - $89.95||$22.95 - $64.95|
|Contract||Three-Year Contract--Can be cancelled, If Subscriber is Institutionalized or Passes Away||Month-to-Month, Six Month or Annual Prepaid Contacts--Full Refund of any Unused, Prepaid Services|
|Optional Monthly Add-On Services||Wall-Mounted Help Button Service||+$10/Month Fall Detection
+$5/Month Device Protection Plan
|Water-Resistant Wearable Devices||Pendant and Wristband||Pendant and Wristband|
|Connection||Landline or Cellular||Landline or Cellular (AT&T Network)|
|2-Way Voice Communication||Through In-Home Base Unit or Mobile Pendant/Wrist Button||Through In-Home Base Unit or Mobile Pendant/Wrist Button|
|Range (From In-Home base unit for landline service)||Up to 800'||Up to 400'|
|Battery life||Call Button Battery is Non-Rechargeable--Battery Rated for Up to 10 Years||Non-Rechargeable Batteries in Wristband/Pendant of At-Home, Landline-Based Devices-- Battery Lasts for 2 Years
36-hour Base Station Backup Battery
|FALL DETECTION, LOCATION and RESPONSE SERVICE|
|Fall Detection||Not Offered||Optional|
|GPS Locator||Included in Mobile Devices||Included in Cellular-Based/Mobile Devices|
|Coverage Away From Home||Included in Cellular-Based Devices||Included with Cellular-Based Devices|
|24/7 USA Call Center||Yes||Multiple Response Centers Throughout the United States--Service Available in Up to 140 Languages|
|Wireless, Waterproof Wall Buttons|
Extra Medical Alert Buttons
Additional Neck Buttons (Pendants) and Wrist Buttons
Life Alert Overview
Established in 1987, Life Alert is the company behind the popular “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” campaign that increased awareness of safety issues for seniors and those with disabilities. Life Alert is one of the most established and recognized names in the medical alert industry, and the company maintains an A+ Better Business Bureau rating. Life Alert is also five-diamond CSAA-certified and has a five-star rating with Consumer Affairs, and its U.S.-based monitoring center is UL-certified.
The company now offers three levels of medical alert protection — a basic in-home, landline-based service, a waterproof bathroom system and a GPS-enabled on-the-go system. Each of these allows subscribers to connect instantly with a Life Alert dispatcher through a wireless, senior-friendly device such as a wearable pendant or wall-mounted help button.
Pros of Life Alert:
- Trusted U.S.-based company in business for over 30 years
- The only medical alert company endorsed by former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Kopp
- All wearable and wall-mounted call devices are waterproof
- Offers GPS tracking
- Service can be cancelled if the subscriber is placed in a nursing home, requires around-the-clock care or passes away
- Spouse coverage available at a discount
Cons of Life Alert:
- Pricing plans are not posted online by Life Alert — potential subscribers must phone the sales center for current pricing
- No fall detection service
- Subscribers must sign a three-year service contract
Medical Alert Overview
Medical Alert is a well-known brand owned by Connect America, a government-approved provider of remote patient monitoring systems in over 30 countries. Medical Alert users comment on the friendly, professional and knowledgeable call agents and the all-inclusive pricing plans that are easy to understand.
Medical Alert has multiple UL-certified monitoring centers located throughout the United States, and the centers are interlinked to ensure seamless protection for subscribers. These centers are five-diamond certified by the CSAA and staffed by multilingual operators. Service is available in up to 140 languages through a third-party translation service contracted to Medical Alert.
Mobile service with optional GPS monitoring is provided through AT&T, and the at-home service is offered throughout North America. Medical Alert also has a proprietary caregiver app that allows authorized family members and loved ones to contact a subscriber, check notifications and track a subscriber’s location through a compatible smartphone.
Medical Alert offers a number of options for subscribers including services for seniors who have a landline and cellular-based services that are completely wireless. Options range from basic at-home landline service, which pairs a wrist or pendant call button with a two-way base unit speaker, up to the MobileElite Medical Alert System with GPS location service.
Pros of Medical Alert:
- Established U.S. company headquartered in Philadelphia, PA
- Risk-free, 30-day money back guarantee on all plans (less shipping costs)
- Subscribers can switch plans without penalty
- At-home systems work throughout the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands through compatible landlines
- Products backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee
- Fall detection available for a fee
- Free lockbox provided with annual rate plans
Cons of Medical Alert:
- Consumers must sign up and prepay for a 12-month monitoring subscription to get the lowest possible price along with free shipping and a free lockbox
- To use the MobileElite service, subscribers must carry a small, pager-sized device along with either a wrist or pendant call button
Pricing for Life Alert starts at $49.95 per month for basic in-home service, which is notably higher than the $22.95 charged by Medical Alert for similar service. Over time, this price difference can add up to hundreds of dollars. It’s important to note that to get the lowest possible prices through Medical Alert, subscribers need to sign a 12-month contract that can be cancelled without penalty.
Medical Alert pricing is relatively easy to understand and clearly posted on the company website, while consumers interested in Life Alert must call a sales center for detailed pricing information.
While Life Alert and Medical Alert both offer time-tested medical alert systems supported by U.S.-based call centers, Life Alert has been in business longer, which may be an important deciding factor for some subscribers. Each company offers in-home and GPS-based mobile medical alert devices, and both companies have domestic call centers that are UL-certified; however, fall detection isn’t offered through Life Alert.
In terms of affordability, Medical Alert services are priced lower than Life Alert when comparing similar services and devices, which can be an important consideration for seniors and families on fixed budgets.
Another important distinction between these two medical alert systems is that Medical Alert doesn’t require a contract or long-term commitment. On the other hand, Life Alert subscribers need to commit to a three-year contract, and they can only cancel under very specific conditions. Despite having an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, Life Alert has more BBB consumer complaints than any other medical alert company in the United States.
Overall, we prefer Medical Alert over Life Alert because the prices are significantly lower, which can add up to big savings over time. We also appreciate that Medical Alert posts its pricing on its website so seniors and their families can review the products and services without any pressure from a sales representative as may occur with Life Alert.
When choosing between Life Alert and Medical Alert, our pick for the best option for seniors is Medical Alert.
Compare More Medical Alert Systems
Click on the links below to read about Medical Alert system comparisons.
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