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Life Alert Review

The Medical Alert System You Know by Name

30+ Years in Business
A+ BBB Rating
Overall Rating:
3 of 5
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<20 Second Avg. Response Time
$49.95 Starting Price

When it comes to selecting the right medical alert system to fit the safety and monitoring needs of you or your loved ones, it’s easy to side with brand recognition. Even after years of reviewing and looking into countless medical alert systems, no brand has been so instantly recognizable for me as Life Alert. There is a level of familiarity and long-term experience in the industry with Life Alert that many companies simply don’t have. But I wanted to know if brand familiarity equates to higher quality. To find out, I decided to try out all of Life Alert’s systems for myself: the standard Master Unit, along with the add-on Mobile + GPS pendant and Help Button. Overall, I was impressed with the level of service and excellent response times of Life Alert’s monitoring center. On the other hand, Life Alert does not offer automatic fall detection, which is offered by most other companies such as Medical Guardian and GreatCall. Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty details of my experience with Life Alert’s product and service offerings, and the pros and cons of choosing this company.

What We Like About Life Alert

  • 24/7 monitoring with excellent response times
  • Has its own dispatch center so it can answer calls immediately
  • Pendant batteries last 7-10 years
  • Founded in 1987 and is well known in the industry
  • Has an A+ rating with the BBB1 is Five Diamond certified2 and is UL certified

Things to Keep in Mind About Life Alert

  • More expensive monthly service and activation fees than competitors
  • Does not offer fall detection
  • No trial period for new customers
  • Requires a three-year contract
  • Difficult online shopping experience
  • No fall detection

How Life Alert’s Product Lineup Works

Before you start shopping, it’s important to understand how Life Alert’s product lineup works, as it’s a little differently than most medical alert companies. Life Alert offers one main system: the Master Unit. The other pieces of equipment that Life Alert offers, the Life Alert + Mobile GPS pendant and the Help Button, can’t be purchased as standalone systems; instead, you have to purchase them as add-on services with the Master Unit. Other companies like MobileHelp and Bay Alarm Medical offer mobile systems that can be purchased separately from their in-home base units, instead of requiring customers to purchase them together as Life Alert does. Life Alert typically tries to encourage customers to purchase a sort of double or triple play bundle that includes the Master Unit, the GPS pendant, and the Help Button. If you want to purchase the Master Unit on its own, you’ll need to work with a sales agent, as they only offer it on a case-by-case basis.

A Breakdown of Life Alert's Master Unit

Life Alert System

Life Alert System

  • Price: $69.90-$89.95 per month
  • Fully-waterproof pendant
  • Three-day backup battery
  • 800-foot range from base unit

Life Alert’s Master Unit is ideal for a senior who likes spending most of their time around the house. My system came with a base unit with an emergency button and a two-way speakerphone and a waterproof emergency pendant that can be worn as a necklace or on a wristband. While I’d normally recommend professional installation for Life Alert, since you have to pay for it whether or not you use it (more details on that later), I set up the system myself to get a better feel for the equipment.

All I had to do was plug the base unit into the wall and put on my pendant. I placed the base unit in the kitchen, which is a central location. To make a test call, I pressed the large yellow and white button labeled “HELP” in red letters on the base unit. It made a noise to let me know it was making a call, and I was connected to a Life Alert dispatcher shortly after. The dispatcher asked if I needed help, and I told them I was running a test using the two-way talk feature. There’s also a small grey cancel button at the top of the base unit, so you can cancel the call in case of a false alarm.

FYI: Keep in mind that Life Alert does not offer fall detection, so if that’s important to you, you may want to look into another system!

Next, I tested out the pendant by walking across the house into the living room and pressing the grey help button. I could hear the base unit firing up to make a call, and again, I was connected to a dispatcher. The pendant works within an 800-foot range from the base unit but does not feature a two-way speakerphone itself. If the emergency button is pressed and the unit is too far away to hear the user, Life Alert’s dispatcher will try calling the customer via phone. If the phone call is not answered, Life Alert automatically dispatches paramedics to the customer’s home.

What I really liked about this system is that the Master Unit doesn’t require a set up through a landline or traditional cellular service. The representative I spoke with told me that Life Alert has its own line that operates independently from landlines and cellular networks, which is great for homes that don’t have a landline or for homes with poor cell reception. I also liked that Life Alert offers the choice of DIY installation or getting the system professionally installed. Again, professional installation is included in the activation fee, and opting for a DIY set up will not cut costs or reduce the activation fee.

Life Alert’s Lineup of Add Ons

Unlike other brands such as Philips LifeLine or LifeFone, Life Alert does not offer add-ons like lockboxes or stylish accessories for pendants, but they do offer two add-on pieces of equipment. Just remember, while the Life Alert Mobile + GPS pendant and the Help Button may seem like they should be their own separate standalone systems, you should treat them as accessories to the Master Unit. Here is what I found from my experience with Life Alert’s Mobile + GPS and the Help Button.

Life Alert Mobile + GPS

Life Alert Mobile with GPS

Life Alert Mobile with GPS

  • Small, compact, and waterproof
  • Cellular connection with nationwide coverage
  • Pendants do not require charging; batteries last for 10 years
  • Built-in two-way speaker

Life Alert’s Mobile + GPS device is perfect for someone who’s always on the move and enjoys an independent lifestyle. Thanks to the company’s use of multiple cellular networks, the device will work wherever GSM cell phones do, which means it’s a great option for seniors who enjoy spending time outside of the home running errands, visiting friends and family, or even going on road trips. With the built-in GPS technology, Life Alert’s dispatchers will be able to send help straight to your location, no matter where you are.

I tested out my GPS unit while I was out running errands and found that it worked easily all over town! There’s no set up involved, so all I had to do was put on the necklace strap and press the help button (also the only button) on the pendant, and I was connected to the response center. I then used the two-way speakerphone to communicate with the dispatcher.

The pendant is waterproof, so you can even wear it in the shower, tub, or swimming pool. The device is small and lightweight so it can be kept wherever is the most convenient for you: as a necklace, clipped onto a belt, or inside a purse or pocket. The Mobile + GPS pendant’s batteries last for up to 10 years. Yes, you heard me right, you won’t have to charge or replace the batteries for an entire decade. This device has the longest battery I’ve seen for an on-the-go GPS unit in the industry. For comparison, other on-the-go systems from companies like LifeFone and LifeStation only last around 5-7 days before needing a charge.

Life Alert Help Button

Life Alert Help Button

Life Alert Help Button

  • Easy-access button
  • Waterproof button with two-way speakerphone
  • Does not require charging, and batteries last for 10 years

Hands down, this device is my favorite of all the Life Alert products. The Help Button is great for places where an emergency or a fall may happen, like in the bedroom, near the stairs, or in the bathroom. The large, red, waterproof button features a two-way speakerphone, so it can be installed in the shower or the tub without any issues. Because of its permanent adhesive, the Help Button can be placed anywhere in the house, and it makes the perfect supplement to the Master Unit for an in-home system.

I decided to place my Help Button in the bathroom next to the shower. To set it up, I just removed the adhesive’s covering and pressed the button to the wall. It stuck, no problem. I pressed the red help button and was connected to a Life Alert Dispatcher just like I was for the Master Unit. While several companies offer help buttons, I haven’t seen too many with a two-way speakerphone built-in. The idea that someone in need of help would be able to communicate through the button offers added peace of mind. Plus, the battery lasts for a full ten years, so you won’t have to worry about a dead battery during an emergency.

My Experience with Life Alert

Finding the Right Life Alert System

When I first began to browse through Life Alert’s website, I was a bit confused by how to navigate the products. At first glance, it appears that Life Alert offers a Master Unit, a Help Button, and a GPS + Mobile device as separate services. There are no prices listed online, and there is no way to make an online purchase. The only way I could learn more was by calling Life Alert, which I’d highly recommend anyway for getting all of your questions answered.

Here’s a helpful tip I wish I would have known before I called: the phone number listed on the website only takes you to a call center that can send you a brochure—it is not the customer service or sales line, so they will not be able to answer any questions. After a quick Google search, I found a separate phone number for customer service, where a friendly woman named Esmeralda was able to answer my questions.

When I asked how to decide which system would be best for me, she informed me that every Life Alert customer must have the standard Master Unit for service and that I could add on the Help Button or the GPS + Mobile device to fit my needs. I wanted some more details on the systems and their pricing, so Esmeralda quickly transferred me to the sales line to get all the details.

Then, I connected with Cindy, who was able to clear up my remaining questions. Cindy informed me that rather than offering each system separately, Life Alert offers different bundle plans: one with all three items ($89.95 per month), and one with a Master Unit and a choice between the Mobile + GPS and the Help Button ($69.90 per month). I decided to order the plan with all three items to get the best deal and a better understanding of Life Alert’s services.

Little-Known Fact: Life Alert is so confident in their service that the company guarantees a complete refund should the customer pass away from an emergency situation on their watch.

Getting Your Alert System up and Running

If you’ve read some of our other reviews, you know how much we like to set systems up ourselves, but with Life Alert I have to recommend opting for the professional installation. Here’s why:

  • Less stress for you: Not too many companies offer to send a professional to help with installation, so I would take advantage of this service. The technician will be able to help you set up your system in the place that will be most effective and easiest for the user.
  • A technician may already be on the way: Depending on where you live, Life Alert may have a technician deliver the system to you rather than shipping it separately.
  • Your activation fee pays for it anyway: Life Alert’s activation fees for both plans are almost $200, and as I’ve said before, opting for DIY installation won’t save you any money.

If you do decide to install the systems yourself, scroll back up to our product description section for detailed setup and installation instructions!

Pro Tip: If you opt for DIY installation for the Help Button, be sure to place it in a spot where a fall may be likely to happen (bathroom, bedroom, or stairs), and remember to set it up in a place where you could reach the device in case of a potential fall.

Product Warranty

When I asked Cindy if Life Alert offers a product warranty, she let me know that Life Alert will cover any defective equipment and provide new batteries for the Master Unit if needed. She also informed me that they have several protection plans that can be added to my monthly service, although she would not divulge what all of them were. If you decide to go with Life Alert, be sure to keep this in mind and learn about all of your options!

Our Favorite Things About Life Alert

  • Trusted Name in the Industry: Founded in 1987, Life Alert has become a household name thanks to its commercials and award-winning service. The company estimates that it helps save a life every 11 minutes, which amounted to over 44,900 in 2018.
  • Excellent Emergency Service: When pressing the emergency button, most medical alert companies will answer the call through trained call center employees, but Life Alert has its own dispatch center, so they can answer the call immediately, for emergencies big and small. Cindy also informed me that they allow customers to dictate which medical center they would prefer in case of an emergency.
  • The Help Button: Many medical alert brands offer a help button as an add on to an in-home system, but not too many offer one with a built-in two-way speakerphone. In case of an emergency, I think it’s so important that the person calling for help can hear the dispatcher, which may not be possible with base units that are far away or if the customer is in a shower with the water running.
  • Help With Installation: New customers can choose between having their system professionally installed or installing the system themselves. Customer service can set up an installation time or walk the customer through setting it up themselves.
  • Long-Lasting Batteries: When compared to its competitors, Life Alert’s pendants last an impressive 10 years, including the Mobile pendants. Other mobile systems may have a long-lasting battery that can hold a charge for about a month, but once the pendant utilizes GPS features, that time frame drops to about a week max. Needless to say, a battery that can last a decade with GPS technology is very impressive.

Things to Keep in Mind About Life Alert

  • More Costly Than Its Competitors: Life Alert’s most popular package starts at $69.90 per month, plus a one-time activation fee of $197. As a comparison, both LifeStation and LifeFone offer a mobile pendant with GPS system starting at $39.95 per month, and LifeFone doesn’t require an activation fee.
  • Three-Year Contract Minimum: The minimum contract length for Life Alert is three years, which may not be as convenient as competitors like Medical Guardian and LifeFone which offer month-to-month, contract-free options. Additionally, it appears that the only way to cancel Life Alert’s contract is if the customer passes away or moves into assisted living. However, after the three-year agreement, month-to-month payments are possible.
  • No Fall Detection: None of Life Alert’s systems offer automatic fall detection, which is a very standard feature across the industry. However, a few companies like QMedic, along with Life Alert, feel that fall detection is prone to too many false alarms,3 which is why they don't offer it.
  • Mobile App: While Life Alert advertises that it has a Mobile App4 for on-the-go emergencies, it’s very limited. When I downloaded the app for myself, it appeared to simply be an extension of the website, prompting you to call and ask for a brochure. Until the app gets a well-deserved update, you may be better off opting for the Life Alert Mobile + GPS device.

Our Final Thoughts

I appreciate Life Alert’s long-term experience and trusted name in the industry, which offers family members and loved ones extra peace of mind. As far as their equipment goes, I was blown away by the ten-year battery life for the Help Button and GPS + Mobile Unit, and I found the systems to be simple and reliable, even for the most technology-averse seniors. I’d highly recommend bundling the Help Button with the Master Unit, as it offers added protection in high-risk areas like the bathroom or on the stairs. If you’re considering Life Alert for an active user who spends a lot of time outside the home, I’d suggest adding the GPS + Mobile Unit as well, as you can use it anywhere. Life Alert is $20 to $30 more expensive than the competition and requires a long-term contract, but you may find the price to be worth it for the high-quality products and peace of mind that comes with this brand.

SeniorLiving.org is dedicated to providing up-to-date information and data. However, the products and companies reviewed on Seniorliving.org regularly update or change their equipment, prices and models. To notify us of outdated or inaccurate information on our reviews or other materials, please contact us.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much does Life Alert cost per month?

    Life Alert costs between $49.95 and $89.95 per month, depending on the package you choose. There is also a one-time shipping and installation fee of $197 for every package.

  • What is the return policy for Life Alert?

    A customer service representative informed me that the system can only be returned within the first couple of business days before getting locked into a contract if the system is shipped to the customer. However, some locations will send out a technician who will bring the contract with them. If the system is delivered by a technician, there is no return window.

  • Does Life Alert have contracts?

    Yes. The minimum contract length for Life Alert is three years. After three years, a month-to-month option is available.

  • Who does the emergency button call?

    When the user presses the emergency button, an alert gets sent to Life Alert’s monitoring center, and an operator will then speak with the user and connect them with the proper emergency services.

  • Is Life Alert waterproof?

    Both the Life Alert pendant and the Help Button are waterproof, meaning that they’re perfect for use in the shower or the tub.

  • Does Life Alert offer fall detection?

    At the moment, Life Alert does not offer fall detection. Life Alert does not feel that the technology is reliable and that it raises a lot of false alarms.

Citations
  1. Better Business Bureau (BBB). (June 2020). Life Alert Emergency Response, Inc. BBB Profile.

  2. The Monitoring Association (TMA). (January 2020). TMA Five Diamond Monitoring Centers.

  3. Gerontology. (December 2014). Sensitivity and False Alarm Rate of a Fall Sensor in Long-Term Fall Detection in the Elderly.

  4. Google Play Store. (May 2018). Life Alert.

Linda’s Acclaimed Career in Senior Care Linda Schlenker is a comforting voice for seniors and caregivers across the U.S. For nearly three decades, Linda has helped seniors remain safe in their own homes, while helping them to regain priceless independence and peace… Learn More About Linda Schlenker

Since graduating from Harvard with an honors degree in Statistics, Jeff has been creating content in print, online, and on television. Much of his work has been dedicated to informing seniors on how to live better lives. As Editor-in-Chief of the personal… Learn More About Jeff Hoyt