Who is Life Alert?
Life Alert is a medical alert industry leader and has been in business since 1987. Life Alert medical alert is often the first brand name consumers think of when they hear the term medical alert system, as it was one of the first companies on the medical alert device scene. Life Alert is most well known for their TV commercials showing a senior saying “Help I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” When most people think of Life Alert devices for seniors, this is the company that comes to mind thanks to their classic marketing campaign.
Life Alert claims on their website that they help a senior’s life from a potential catastrophe every 11 minutes! They are headquartered in Encino, California and employ over 600 people. Life Alert fields around 2 million calls a year. This makes Life Alert almost twice the size of most medical alert companies.
When Medical Alert Advice did our product review of Life Alert, we did have difficulty getting detailed product information on their emergency response medical alert systems, including the Life Alert cost, without going through their strict phone sales process. The company does not have any online pricing and has a dated looking website which makes it difficult to compare medical alert systems and determine the costs of what services or products they offer. Life Alert does own and operate their monitoring center which is TMA Five Diamond Certified.
There are primarily three system types that Life Alert offers:
- Life Alert In-Home System: In-home system that you can choose to use cellular service or a traditional landline telephone. This system comes with a base unit and a wearable help button. When the button is pushed, an emergency alert is sent to the station and a call center representative will be on the line within a few seconds to help.
- Life Alert In-Home System with Help Button: In-home system that does not require a landline telephone and can use cellular service instead. It includes a waterproof HELP Button that is especially useful for emergencies that occur in the bathroom, but the button can be placed anywhere. The button never needs charging and can last up to 10 years. Per Life Alert, over 80% of emergency calls happen in the bathroom.
- Life Alert In-Home, Help Button and Life Alert Mobile: All the protection of the Life Alert in-home system and HELP Button, plus Life Alert Mobile for on the go coverage. Uses GPS location services that can be used anywhere in the U.S. where compatible cellular service operates to help pinpoint your location in an emergency.
- Medical Emergencies: This requires the use of a medical alert base-station and a pendant or watch button at your home. This is the cornerstone of a traditional in-home medical alert system.
- Shower Emergencies: A large wireless add-on help button that you can mount in the shower, tub, near a toilet or pretty much anywhere within the medical alert base-station’s range. One push of the button, and you’ll be connected to Life Alert’s monitoring center to get the help you need. Batteries for the help button do not need to be changed for up to 10 years.
- Life Alert Mobile: There are really two versions of this Life Alert Protection Service:
- Mobile + GPS – This is an emergency button that you can carry with you that alerts the monitoring center that you need help and can also help them locate you using GPS location services. You can’t speak to the monitoring center like you can with your in-home system, but it will give you some protection when you’re on the go or out of the range of your in-home system.
- Using your cell phone or smartphone – If you only have a basic cell phone (you don’t need a wireless plan), Life Alert will give you a telephone number that you can pre-program into your cell phone’s speed-dial feature to connect you directly to their medical alert monitoring center. Caller-id from your cell phone can help to identify you with the dispatch center. If you have a smartphone, Life Alert does offer a mobile App that can be used to connect you to the monitoring center as well. This gives active and tech-savvy seniors yet another way to find the assistance they need, when they need it.
Life Alert is a company built around medical alert monitoring for seniors and they have a long history in the market. They were making major strides marketing to the medical alert device market more than any other competitor, which gives the company a head-start on experience. Life Alert features used to offer some other traditional monitoring services including smoke alarms (many states require specific licensing and permits for installation of these devices) and carbon monoxide detection, but they do not offer these services anymore. They do offer a mobile medical alert system which is great for peace of mind outside of the home. Life Alert does own their own TMA Five Diamond Certified Monitoring Center which provides highly trained call center representatives. They do offer advance payment discounts. No equipment fees (however there are setup fees), free shipping and a free equipment warranty.
Life Alert cons include their high costs. Their base monthly costs are higher than other medical alert options on the market, and their start-up costs are higher than most providers too as they do charge a setup fee. The full life Alert cost is much more out of pocket than other medical alert providers. You must contact them by phone and there is no online ordering, which can result in conflicting information from their sales reps. Their website has a dated look with very little information on it. They also have more than one website which can be a bit confusing as well. They have a 3-year contract with limited cancellation options, while most competitors have month-to-month agreements. However, if your loved one were to pass away at home while alone, you would receive a 100% refund of all monies paid to Life Alert up to that point.
Further, with such limited information about their services online, we had to rely more on what information was provided to us by company sales representatives and less on their website. Often, information received from different sales reps is conflicting, so you should carefully read all paperwork before signing-up to be sure you understand what you are getting. That bit of advice goes with all medical alert device providers you may be considering.
Life Alert does not offer automatic fall detection, wellness monitoring or pill reminders like some other medical alert companies do today. This is a significant drawback if you or your loved one is at an increased risk for falling or lives with another chronic condition that requires complex medication management. While not every senior needs the oversight of automatic fall detection or other bells and whistles other medical device systems offer, it is something to review with a physician or medical professional.
Since you’re looking at Life Alert, consider taking a look at Medical Guardian for comparison.
What We Like About Life Alert
No Phone Line Option – Most households today do not carry the expense of having a landline. Life Alert offers a cellular option in case your home is without traditional landline phone service. The monthly cost for this system may be slightly higher than the traditional landline medical alert device.
Smartphone App – If you have a smartphone, you can install this app to connect you with their call center. Essentially you are turning your smartphone into a medical alert device. Please note that when we downloaded the Life Alert App, it did contain outdated information.
Long Battery Life – Another benefit is the long-lasting battery life. This might seem like a small detail, but if a device or system requires daily or constant charging, it makes the product less appealing to active seniors as well as to older adults who are living with cognitive decline. Longer battery life and less charging frequency is a major benefit.
Discount For Advanced Payments – If you pay annually, you can receive one month free.
Company Owned TMA Five Diamond Certified Monitoring Center – Life Alert’s emergency response center is TMA Five Diamond Certified. There are many advantages to having this certification, such as standard training for all call center operators and annual review of the monitoring center’s performance. Medical Alert Advice highly recommends this certification.
Can Dispatch Paramedics Directly – We were told Life Alert is the only medical alert company that can dispatch paramedics directly from their monitoring center and do not have to contact 911 first. Unfortunately, we were not able to verify this claim.
What We Dislike About Life Alert
Life Alert Cost – We found the Life Alert start-up costs to be higher than most in the industry, for similar services. They also do not seem to follow a set pricing strategy when it comes to the installation charges or credit for a self-installation option, which makes it difficult to compare medical alert systems.Cancellation Policy – Life Alert requires you to sign a 3-year contract. Not only is this a big commitment, it is also very rare in the medical alert industry. Most companies are month-to-month nowadays to allow customers to easily try out their services. In rare cases, a company will ask for a one-year contract. Based on what other companies are doing, we feel that having customers sign a 3-year contract is out of the ordinary and will turn off a lot of potential users.
No Automatic System Tests – Most system consoles will automatically test weekly or monthly to the monitoring station, but per the Life Alert sales reps, they do not offer automatic testing. The Life Alert system will send a trouble signal if there is an issue.
No Activity Monitoring – Knowing that your loved one is up and about each day can be a huge relief. Some medical alert companies offer activity monitoring which requires the user to press a button once every 24 hours or track activity with additional sensors placed throughout the home. This is a great option that is not offered by Life Alert.
No Fall Detector Option – Automatic fall detection is not a full proof system; however, it is a very useful technology for seniors who may be diabetic or prone to fainting. If you are worried about your loved one falling, then finding a company who offers automatic fall detection would be right for you.
Unpublished Rates – With their rates not being published online, the quoted cost of life alert service could vary depending on the sales rep you speak with and what Life Alert package you choose. In past calls, when we told the rep we spoke with some competitors, the one-time charge for enrollment, shipping etc. would be substantially lowered. Since Life Alert is not consistent with their pricing, it makes it hard to compare to other companies. We suggest calling Life Alert yourself to try and negotiate the best rate possible.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
The monthly cost of Life Alert systems ranges between $49.95 to $89.85 per month, depending on which system you choose. Please refer to our Life Alert monthly costs and fees chart for more details.
Does Medicare Pay for Life Alert?
How Does the Price of Life Alert Compare to Other Systems?
Life Alert fees can be significantly higher than others in the medical alert industry. They also charge an equipment and shipping fee of $95 – $198 depending on which program you choose. Most medical alert companies do not charge for equipment.
Does Life Alert Need Wifi?
Your home does not need a wifi connection to get Life Alert coverage in your home. As long as you have a landline you can get the Life Alert In-Home medical alert system.