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.

As of the 2019 census, there are more than 50 million adults aged 65 and older living in the United States. While many of these seniors require full-time or nursing home level care as they reach their later years, many also would prefer to remain as independent as possible for as long as they can. While this can be a challenge as seniors become more susceptible to physical or mental impairments over time, medical alert companies equip their users with personal help buttons and other devices that provide quick, reliable access to 24-hour emergency assistance.

Through the quick press of a help button or a feature such as automatic fall detection or voice-activation, a senior can send an immediate call for help to an around-the-clock monitoring center. At these centers, professionally trained operators are often able to speak directly with seniors through a device’s two-way speaker system. Operators can assess the senior’s situation and needs and contact any appropriate emergency services or caregivers so seniors can quickly receive help. They can also contact emergency personnel if the senior is unresponsive.

Medical Alert Company Comparisons

Because there are so many medical alert system companies, with most offering seniors a choice of devices, plans and price points, it can be difficult and time-consuming for seniors and their loved ones to wade through the multitude of options and find the best system for their needs. To help make this process easier, we’ve put together comprehensive, side-by-side comparisons of what we believe are the best medical alert systems on the market.

Below, we compare two companies, Medical Guardian and Life Alert, that each offers high quality, flexible medical alert systems with optional features that enhance device capabilities and provide additional support for seniors and caregivers. While both have much to offer, we found that Medical Guardian is best for technologically savvy seniors and caregivers who value privacy and flexibility, and LifeFone is best for budget-conscious seniors with medical conditions or a higher risk of falls.

Category


Side By Side Comparison


Medical Guardian


LifeFone


COSTS






Up-Front Equipment


$9.50 for shipping (free shipping if paying annually)


$0



Monthly Monitoring


-$29.95 - $79.95
-+$10/month for optional fall detection


-$24.95 - $46.95
-+$5-$10/month for optional fall detection
-+$6/month for Activity Assurance for At-home landline users



Activation Fee


$99 one-time device fee for Freedom Guardian smartwatch


$0



Contract


Monthly, quarterly, semi-annual and annual plans; No cancellation fees and prorated refunds issued for any unused prepaid months


Month-to-month; prorated refunds for any unused prepaid months; 30-day free trial



Optional Monthly Add-On Services



-Medication Reminders - $6
-Daily Check-in Call - $19
-Caregiver Location Tracking - $9


FEATURES






Water-Resistant Wearable Devices


Fully waterproof pendant and wristband (all but Freedom Guardian smartwatch)


Waterproof pendant and wristband



Connection


Landline with Classic Guardian


Cellular for all other plans


Landline or cellular (AT&T network)



2-Way Voice Communication


-Through in-home base station for Classic, Home and Family Guardian plans
-Through mobile base station with Mobile Guardian plan
-Through wearable device with Active and Freedom Guardian plans


Through in-home base for At-Home products or wearable pendant with On-The-Go service



Range (From in-home base unit for landline service)


-1,300 feet for Classic and Family Guardian
-600 feet for Home Guardian


-1300 feet for At-Home system
600 feet for in-home device with -At-Home & On-the-Go GPS
-350 feet for On-the-Go GPS mobile system



Battery life


-32-hour battery backup with Classic and Family Guardian in-home plans
-30-hour backup with Home Guardian plan
-Up to 24 hours with Mobile Guardian, up to 5 days with Active Guardian and up to 2 days with Freedom Guardian


-32-hour battery backup in At-Home landline and cellular base units
-Up to 24 hours and 30-hour backup with At-Home & On-the-Go GPS
-Up to 36 hours with At-Home & On-the-Go GPS, Voice-in-Necklace


FALL DETECTION, LOCATION and RESPONSE SERVICE






Fall Detection


Optional monthly add-on with Classic, Home, Family and Active Guardian plans


Optional monthly add-on with all products



GPS Locator


Included with Mobile, Active and Freedom Guardian devices


Included in On-The-Go GPS products



Coverage Away From Home


Included with Mobile, Active and Freedom Guardian plans


Included with On-The-Go products



24/7 USA Call Center


Yes


Yes


OPTIONAL ACCESSORIES







-Wall-mounted help button - $2/month
-Voice-activated wall button with Class and Family Guardian plans - $5/month
-Lockbox - $2/month (free with annual plan)


-Wall-mounted help button - $39.95
-Lockbox - $29.95 (hanging), $39.95 (Master Lock)
-Second wearable help button - $39.95


Medical Guardian Overview

Medical Guardian provides six system plans that offer a variety of pricing options and device capabilities, making it easy for seniors and their loved ones to find a plan that suits both their budget and their monitoring needs. The company provides three in-home plans that include both landline and cellular options for its in-home plan so users without a landline who are less mobile can still only pay for the services they need. Additionally, with its robust Family Guardian plan, caregivers and loved ones who would like to more closely monitor a senior can use the mobile app combined with in-home sensors to monitor the senior’s daily activity levels.

Medical Guardian also offers three mobile plans, with its most affordable Mobile Guardian option starting at $36.62 a month if paid annually. This plan includes a small portable mobile base station device and a wearable help button. The Active Guardian plan costs less than $10 more at $45.79 per month (if paid annually) and comes with a wearable neck pendant with a help button that serves as an all-in-one mobile alert device. It has an exceptionally long 5-day battery life and uses Wi-Fi and GPS location tracking technologies. Finally, the Freedom Guardian is a smartwatch-style device that can directly connect wearers with the emergency monitoring center through an easy-to-use side button. The device includes voice-to-text SMS messaging, medication reminders and weather forecasting. It also comes with a mobile caregiver monitoring app.

All of the company’s system plans have two base levels of pricing, with plans costing around $2-$6 less per month (depending on the plan) if paid for annually instead of monthly, quarterly or semi-annually. All of its wearable devices except for the Freedom Guardian smartwatch-style device are fully waterproof.

Pros of Medical Guardian:

  • Includes a smartwatch-style device option
  • Care Circle contacts
  • Extra wall-mounted buttons can be added for a low monthly price
  • Offers voice-activated wall button as an optional add-on for Classic and Family Guardian plans that contacts the monitoring center when the user says “call Medical Guardian” twice, without needing to manually push a button
  • Low-priced lockboxes available ($2/month, free for annual users)
  • Lower rates available if a user pays annually
  • Caregiver apps that offer activity tracking provided with two plans, Family and Freedom Guardian
  • All devices except for Freedom Guardian smartwatch are fully waterproof and can be worn in the shower

Cons of Medical Guardian:

  • No device insurance
  • Fall detection not available with lowest-priced mobile option or Freedom Guardian smartwatch

LifeFone Overview

LifeFone is unusual in the medical alert system industry in that it offers a standalone emergency mobile app that allows device users and non-device users to contact the company’s emergency monitoring system from their smartphones. Users of this app can use three different contact buttons: a concern button that connects callers with a virtual escort service when they’re alone and feel unsafe, a panic button for emergencies and a medical button for users with health conditions that require immediate assistance. This app costs $5.95 for LifeFone device users and $7.95 per month for new app users without a device.

Along with the mobile app, LifeFone has four distinct system plans that start at $29.95 per month for the landline at-home plan. Like Mobile Guardian, LifeFone also offers a cellular-based at-home plan for $34.95 per month.

Pros of LifeFone:

  • Optional fall detection costs less at only $5 per month compared to Mobile Guardian’s $10/month, and is available with all plans
  • All plans come with free shipping
  • Users can pay less if they pay quarterly, and even less if they pay annually
  • Spouses can share At-Home plans by purchasing a second wearable help button for $39.99
  • All new users get a 30-day free trial
  • Monitoring center operators use callers’ pre-written Emergency Care Instructions that can include medical history and preferred emergency contacts
  • Lifetime price lock ensures users’ monthly rates never increase
  • Optional extra features include medication reminders, customized daily check-in calls and activity assurance for landline users that calls users if they don’t turn off a pre-programmed alert within 15 minutes

Cons of LifeFone

  • Additional devices such as wall-mounted buttons and lockboxes must be purchased for a higher up-front cost rather than paid for at a low monthly rate
  • Caregivers must pay an extra monthly fee to monitor a user’s location through the Caregiver Portal
  • No smartwatch-style device
  • Option to purchase a second wearable help button for a spouse or housemate is only available for users with a landline

Pricing

Both companies have nearly identical base-level in-home and on-the-go system costs, although LifeFone beats Medical Guardian for a few of its pricing policies. Unlike Medical Guardian, LifeFone allows users to pay a slightly lower monthly price if they pay quarterly and annually, whereas Medical Guardian only offers lower rates if users sign up for an annual plan. Both offer free cancellations and prorated refunds of prepaid services, but LifeFone also provides new customers with a free trial that allows them to return their devices within 30 days for a full refund. Additionally, LifeFone’s fall detection add-on option only costs an extra $5 per month compared to Medical Guardian’s $10 rate. Finally, LifeFone guarantees that its system prices will stay fixed over time, so seniors know they’ll never be asked to pay a higher rate for the initial services they choose.

Our Pick

After closely examining both company’s offerings, we feel Medical Guardian and LifeFone each offer excellent, comprehensive options with fully waterproof wearable devices that can serve seniors who have a wide variety of needs. Medical Guardian shines for its stylish smartwatch-style device and its two plans that come with caregiver apps with activity tracking, and LifeFone excels for its pricing, its inexpensive standalone mobile app and add-on services, such as daily check-in calls and an activity assurance system.

While Medical Guardian’s technologies allow caregivers to stay more involved in monitoring a senior’s activity, LifeFone can become more actively involved in checking on a senior’s daily wellness if customers opt to purchase its activity assurance or daily check-in call services. Through the activity assurance service, monitoring centers will dispatch emergency services to the senior’s home if the senior does not respond to an operator’s call after not turning off a pre-programmed alert within 15 minutes. Through the daily check-in calls, operators call seniors to actively check on them daily and can remind them about any specified tasks such as taking medication.

Unlike LifeFone, Medical Guardian also offers voice-activated wall buttons that let seniors contact a monitoring center simply by using their voice. This is perfect for seniors with limited mobility, those with memory impairments and those who are at higher risks of falls and who may not always have immediate physical access to their wearable device or a wall-mounted button.