The Medical Alert System You Know by Name
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When it comes to selecting the right medical alert system to meet your needs, it's easy to side with brand recognition. Even after I've reviewed many medical alert systems, no brand is as instantly recognizable for me as Life Alert. It comes with a level of familiarity and long-term experience in the industry that many companies simply don't have. But I wanted to know if brand familiarity equates to higher quality in this case. For this year's review, I tested out Life Alert's systems: the standard Master Unit, along with the add-on Mobile + GPS pendant and Help Button.
Overall, I was impressed with Life Alert's service and excellent response times. On the other hand, Life Alert is on the pricier side and doesn't offer more customizable systems, unlike other companies we've reviewed, like Medical Guardian and Lively. Now, let's get into the nitty-gritty details of my experience with Life Alert.
When I first browsed Life Alert's website, I was confused on 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 you can't make an online purchase. The only way I could learn more was by calling Life Alert, which I'd highly recommend for getting answers to any questions.
Here's a helpful tip I wish I'd known: The phone number listed on the website only takes you to a call center that can send you a brochure — it's not the customer service or sales line, so they won't answer any questions. After a quick Google search, I found the separate phone number for customer service. You can reach the Life Alert customer service team at 1-(800)-338-9090. When I called, a friendly woman named Esmeralda was able to answer my questions.
Quick 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.
I asked for clarification on their product lineup, and she informed me that every Life Alert customer must have the standard Master Unit for service. You can then get the Help Button and GPS + Mobile device as add-ons. I wanted more details on the systems and their pricing, so Esmeralda transferred me to the sales line to get all the details.
Cindy from Life Alert's sales team cleared up my remaining questions. She 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 better understand Life Alert's services.
Medical alert systems are designed for simple setup and use. Typically, you can install them on your own, no problem. However, I'd recommend professional installation with Life Alert. Here's why:
While I recommend professional installation for Life Alert, I set up the system myself to get a better feel for the equipment.
To set up my Master Unit, I plugged it into the wall and put on my pendant. I placed the base unit in the kitchen, a central location in my home. 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 gray “cancel” button at the top of the base unit, so you can cancel the call in case of a false alarm.
Next, I tested the pendant by walking across the house into the living room and pressing the gray help button. I could hear the base unit firing up to make a call, and I was connected again to a dispatcher.
I tested out my GPS unit while running errands and found that it worked easily all over town! There's no setup 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 speaker to communicate with the dispatcher.
Setup advice: If you opt for DIY installation for the Help Button, place it in a spot where a fall is most likely to happen (bathroom, bedroom, or stairs), and remember to set it at a height that you could reach after a fall.
I decided to place my Help Button in the bathroom next to the shower. To set it up, I 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 like I was for the Master Unit.
When I asked Cindy if Life Alert offers a product warranty, she told me the company would 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 you can add to your monthly service, though she would not divulge what all of them were.
The minimum contract length for Life Alert is three years, which may not be as convenient as competitors we've reviewed, like ADT Health, that offer contract-free options. Additionally, 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.
|Add-on equipment||Mobile + GPS
|Monthly rates||$60.90 to $89.95 per month|
|Installation||Professional or DIY|
|Battery life||Up to 10 years|
Before you start shopping, it's important to understand how Life Alert's product lineup works, as it's different from most medical alert companies. Life Alert offers one main system: the Master Unit. The other pieces of equipment that it offers, the Life Alert + Mobile GPS pendant and the Help Button, can't be purchased as stand-alone systems; they have to be purchased as add-on services with the Master Unit.
From our Aloe Care Health review and Medical Alert review, you'll notice that other companies offer mobile systems that you can purchase separately from their in-home base units. Life Alert encourages customers to buy what I call a “double or triple play bundle” that includes the Master Unit, the GPS pendant, and/or the Help Button. If you want to purchase the Master Unit on its own, you'll need to work with a sales agent, as this is only offered on a case-by-case basis.
Depending on which bundle you select, you'll pay $60.90 to $89.95 per month. You'll also pay a $197 activation fee, which is pretty steep. As I've mentioned, the Master Unit isn't typically sold without one or both of Life Alert's add-ons. However, if you work with a sales agent and are approved to purchase it on its own, the price is $49.95 per month. If you're new to medical alert systems, know that Life Alert's prices are high compared to other providers. Visit our Medical Guardian pricing page and our Bay Alarm Medical cost page to compare Life Alert's pricing to other leading companies' prices.
The Master Unit is ideal for older adults who spend most of their time around the house. My system came with a base unit with an emergency button, a two-way speaker, and a waterproof help pendant that can be worn as a necklace or wristband. The waterproof pendant works within an 800-foot range of the base unit but does not feature a two-way speakerphone itself. If you press the pendant's help button and the unit is too far away to pick up your voice, Life Alert's dispatcher will call you by phone. If no one answers, the company will automatically dispatch paramedics to the home. The Master Unit also has a three-day backup battery in case of a power outage.
FYI: Life Alert does not offer fall detection, so if that's important to you, you may want to consider another system!
What I really liked about this system is that the Master Unit doesn't require setup 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 excellent for homes with poor cell reception.
Unlike LifeLine's products or LifeFone's equipment, Life Alert does not offer add-ons like lockboxes or stylish accessories for pendants, but it does offer two add-on pieces of equipment. Just remember, while the Life Alert Mobile + GPS pendant and Help Button seem like they should be stand-alone systems, they should be treated as accessories to the Master Unit.
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 you can wear it while running errands, visiting friends and family, or on a road trip. Life Alert's dispatchers will be able to send help straight to your location, no matter where you are, thanks to GPS technology.
The pendant is waterproof so that you can wear it in the shower, tub, or swimming pool. The device is small and lightweight with a built-in two-way speaker, so you can wear it as a necklace, clip it to a belt, or place it inside a purse or pocket. The pendant's batteries last up to 10 years. Yes, you heard me right: You won't have to charge or replace the batteries for an entire decade. This is the longest-lasting battery I've seen for an on-the-go GPS unit. For comparison, other mobile systems from companies we've reviewed, including LifeStation, only last around five days before needing a charge.
Hands down, this is my favorite Life Alert product. The Help Button is great for places where a fall may happen, like in the bedroom, near the stairs, or in the bathroom. The large, red, waterproof button features a two-way speaker, so you can install it in the shower or tub without any issues. Because of its permanent adhesive, you can place the Help Button anywhere in the house, and it makes the perfect supplement to the Master Unit.
While several companies offer help buttons, I haven't seen too many with a built-in two-way speaker. Plus, the battery lasts for a full 10 years, so you won't have to worry about a dead battery during an emergency.
Life Alert costs up to $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.
A customer service representative informed me that you can only return your system within the first couple of business days before getting locked into a contract if the system is shipped to the customer. However, some locations send out a technician who will bring the contract with them. If a technician delivers the system, there is no return window.
Yes. The minimum contract length for Life Alert is three years. After three years, a month-to-month option is available.
When the user presses the emergency button, an alert gets sent to Life Alert’s monitoring center. An operator will then speak with the user and connect them to the proper emergency services.
The Life Alert pendant and the Help Button are waterproof, so they’re perfect for use in the shower or the tub.
At the moment, Life Alert does not offer fall detection. Life Alert feels that the technology is not reliable and that it raises a lot of false alarms.