COVID-19 Update: Medical Alerts are considered essential devices during the COVID crisis, so monitoring and customer service centers are still open and ready to help. To learn more about how these and other essential products can keep older adults safe and connected during this crisis, take a look at our list of 10 essential products.
Poor vision, stiff joints and other physical conditions can make it difficult for seniors to navigate their surroundings even in familiar environments. This may result in unexpected slips or falls, which are a common concern for elderly adults. Seniors seek emergency treatment for fall-related injuries every 11 seconds, and falls are the number one cause of fatal injuries for people in their advanced years.
When an accident occurs, loved ones may not be aware that an elderly friend or family member has fallen, particularly if the senior is unable to call for help. Medical alert systems provide peace of mind for wearers and their caretakers by monitoring movements day and night. Many medical alert devices offer fall detection, and you can even choose a unit with GPS monitoring. Every second counts after a fall, so it’s essential that medical workers can pinpoint the wearer’s location and administer prompt care.
Many caretakers and elderly adults understand the benefits of purchasing a medical alert system but struggle to determine which device is best. Advertisements are often written with confusing industry terms that only make sense to experts in the field, so it’s difficult to understand what features you’re actually getting and why they matter. Plus, devices often have similar features and prices, which further complicates the decision-making process.
Our Side by Side Comparison
Rather than bombarding you with an extensive list of devices, we’ve created side-by-side company comparisons to help you choose between similar medical alert systems. These two well-known companies, Life Alert and Bay Alarm Medical, offer similar products, but we have discovered Bay Alarm Medical often works best for budget-conscience seniors who want a dependable device. Life Alert also has numerous perks, but it’s best for elderly adults who don’t mind paying a bit extra for a simple, no-frills medical alert system.
Our table below provides a quick rundown of the differences between Life Alert and Bay Alarm Medical. After reviewing the chart, you can find additional information about each company by scrolling through our guide.
|Life Alert||Bay Alarm Medical|
|Rating||3.75 out of 5 stars||4.5 out of 5 stars|
|Cost||Life Alert||Bay Alarm Medical|
|Lowest Monthly Price||$49.00||$19.95|
|Highest Monthly Price||$68.00||$59.95|
|Starting Fees (Range)||$95-$198||$0|
|Long-Term Contract?||Yes: 3 years||No contract: billed monthly|
|Optional Monthly Add-Ons||N/A||$0-$10 per month|
|Water-Resistant Options||Pendant||Pendant and wristband|
|Fall Detections||N/A||$10 per month|
|GPS Monitoring||Yes: HELP on the Go with GPS device||Yes: On-The-Go devices|
|Connection||Landline or cellular||Landline or cellular|
|Range||800′ to 1,000′||Up to 1,000′|
|Battery Life||72-hour backup for In the Home Base station||Up to 5 years for the nonrechargeable in-home call button|
|Up to 7 years for In the Home pendant battery
Up to 10 years for the wall-mounted HELP button and HELP On the Go with GPS device
|Up to 5 days for the battery in the 4G/LTE button|
Overview of Life Alert
Life Alert launched in 1987 and currently has more than 600 employees who tackle millions of subscriber calls each year. Best known for its “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” slogan, Life Alert claims to save the life of a senior every 11 minutes. Though Life Alert pendants lack many of the popular features other companies offer, the devices boast a battery lifespan of up to 10 years. The company has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and online customer reviews are generally favorable.
Prices are on the high end for Life Alert when compared with other medical alert systems. Expect to spend at least $49.00 per month for basic services, plus a one-time activation fee ranging from $95 to $198. Subscribers are locked into a 3-year contract, so keep that in mind to budget accordingly.
Life Alert products don’t offer fall protection, but you can get monitoring with the HELP On the Go with GPS device. Seniors who spend most of their time at home may appreciate the wall-mounted HELP button, which is powered by a battery that lasts up to 10 years. Landline and cellular connections are available, and the devices cover a range up to 1,000 feet.
Life Alert Pros:
- Dependable batteries last up to 10 years
- U.S.-based call center known for its excellent customer service
- Water-resistant wall-mounted HELP button
- Mobile app for subscribers lets seniors call for help via phone in addition to using their pendant or wall-mounted button
- A+ Better Business Bureau rating
Life Alert Cons
- No fall protection
- No special features or accessories
- No device protection plan
- No option for contract-free coverage
- High monthly costs and start-up fees when compared with other providers
- No wristbands
Overview of Bay Alarm Medical
Bay Alarm Medical is a popular option for budget-minded seniors and their caretakers. Unlike most other medical alert companies, Bay Alarm Medical markets its device toward teens and parents, not just the elderly. Monitoring options include a pendant or a wristband, but you can also request the plug-in On The Road device for vehicle monitoring. The On the Road GPS device features integrated crash detection, and it contacts the call center if an accident occurs.
Shipping is free for Bay Alarm Medical devices, and there are no start-up costs. You aren’t locked into a contract, so you can switch providers at any time. If you prepay services, you can request a full refund when you terminate your month-to-month subscription.
Monthly monitoring fees range from $19.95 to $39.95 per month for basic services. Optional add-ons typically range from $3 to $10 per month and include 4G/LTE connection for the in-home medical alert system, a device protection plan, PIN-protected lock box, wall-mounted button, an additional medical alert button and a caregiver tracking app. Fall detection monitoring is available for $10 per month.
Landline and cellular connections are available, and Bay Alarm Medical devices have a range of up to 1,000 feet. The non-rechargeable battery in the in-home base unit lasts up to five years, but the 4G/LTE battery button only lasts up to five days.
Bay Alarm Medical Pros:
- Affordable subscription options
- Great for kids and teens as well as seniors
- The only medical alert system that offers a plug-in device with automatic crash detection
- Free monitoring for spouses and roommates
- Numerous features and add-ons available
- Call centers are staffed with certified emergency dispatchers
- No contracts or installation fees
- Lifetime warranty for all LifeFone units
Bay Alarm Medical Cons:
- Add-ons can quickly raise monthly expenses
- Some seniors may prefer a basic device with fewer features
- The mobile app can be confusing for users who aren’t tech savvy
Both companies offer dependable devices and are ranked highly by reviewers when it comes to customer service and response times. However, we still chose Bay Alarm Medical as our top pick. Without add-ons, even the priciest Bay Alarm Medical subscription still costs less than the cheapest Life Alert subscription. There are no installation fees or shipping costs for Bay Alarm Medical devices, and users aren’t locked into a 3-year contract like Life Alert subscribers.
Bay Alarm Medical devices are staffed by certified emergency dispatchers, many of whom are bilingual. Service is available in dozens of languages. Free monitoring is available for significant others and roommates via a caregiver app, which is another feature Life Alert lacks.
Life Alert is still a solid company, but it’s best for seniors who prefer simple devices without any extras. Bay Alert Medical is an affordable option for seniors, but it’s also great for parents of children and teens. The GPS car plug-in device provides peace of mind for parents of newly licensed drivers and also helps adults feel confident traveling alone. Bay Alert Medical also provides a fall-detection option, which is something Life Alert lacks.
Compare Other Medical Alert Options
After reading this guide, you may still want to review other options for medical alert units before making a decision. Here are some other reviews we’ve created to help seniors and caretakers choose the right medical alert device.