The Medical Alert System You Know by Name
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.
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.
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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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.
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.
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, and an operator will then speak with the user and connect them with the proper emergency services.
Both the Life Alert pendant and the Help Button are waterproof, meaning that they’re perfect for use in the shower or the tub.
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.
Better Business Bureau (BBB). (June 2020). Life Alert Emergency Response, Inc. BBB Profile.
The Monitoring Association (TMA). (January 2020). TMA Five Diamond Monitoring Centers.
Gerontology. (December 2014). Sensitivity and False Alarm Rate of a Fall Sensor in Long-Term Fall Detection in the Elderly.
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