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Life Alert vs Medical Alert

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.

As people age they face an increased risk of falling, which can lead to catastrophic injuries or even death. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four seniors aged 65 and older suffer from one or more falls each year, and the length of time it takes to get help is closely linked to the prognosis for the fall victim.

When the elderly live on their own, they can’t always call for help when they need it, particularly if they’ve fallen or experienced a medical emergency — that’s why medical alert systems are gaining popularity among older adults and those who care for them.

These wireless systems pair a wearable help button with either a landline or cell phone connection that provides instant access to an emergency call center when the button is pressed. Emergency operators are able to speak with the caller through a speakerphone to determine what help is needed and dispatch a trusted neighbor, family member or ambulance.

Picking the medical alert system that’s best suited to your particular needs can be difficult, given the fact that there are dozens of companies offering a wide variety of personal call buttons, monitoring services and options. To help you narrow down your choices we’ve conducted in-depth research into the top medical alert services, reviewed their devices and collected up-to-date information on costs.

Life Alert vs Medical Alert – Which One is Better?

In this article you’ll find a head-to-head comparison between Life Alert and Medical Alert. Despite their similar names, there’s a number of significant differences between these two companies, the devices they offer and their services.

We discovered that despite the fact that Life Alert is by far the more established of the two companies, Medical Alert has notably lower costs and a wider variety of services and devices, and unlike Life Alert, Medical Alert doesn’t require customers to sign a three-year contract. Keep reading to review our comparison chart, in-depth profile of each company and the reasons why our senior care experts recommend Medical Alert over Life Alert.

Medical Alert Life Alert
Up-Front Equipment $0 $0
Monthly Monitoring $22.95-$37.95 $49-$68
Activation Fee $0 $95-$198
Long-Term Contract? No – customers can choose month-to-month, semiannual or annual plans with full refunds on any unused service Yes – three year
Optional Monthly Add-Ons Fall detection (+$10 per month on compatible devices)

Device protection plan (+$5 per month)

Water-Resistant Wearable Devices Yes Yes
Fall Detection Yes No
GPS Location Monitoring Available? Yes – on cellular-connected systems Yes
Mobile App/Online Dashboard Yes Yes
Connection Landline or cellular Landline or cellular
Range (From in-home base unit for landline service) N/A Up to 800′
Battery Life on Help Button Non-rechargeable, rated for up to 10 years Up to seven years on help button pendant; up to 10 years on wall-mounted HELP button
Battery Back-up on Base Unit N/A Up to 72 hours
PIN-protected lockbox (included free with annual plans) Additional wall-mounted waterproof HELP button

Overview of Life Alert

Life Alert is the company behind the well-known tagline, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” They’ve been in business for more than 30 years, and their U.S.-based, UL-listed command center handles more than two million calls for help each year.

Life Alert offers two in-home medical alert systems and one mobile help button that’s equipped with a GPS locator and connects via existing cellular networks. All of the help buttons are waterproof for use in the shower, and users never need to recharge their wearable devices. The in-home base units are equipped with a battery back-up that lasts up to 72 hours in the event of a power outage, and subscribers can choose between a landline or cellular-based home medical alert system.

Unlike many other medical alert companies, Life Alert doesn’t offer automatic fall detection. It’s also important to know that Life Alert subscribers must agree to a three-year service contract that can only be cancelled if the subscriber is institutionalized or passes away, and up-front costs include a $95-$198 activation fee. Monthly monitoring costs are notably higher than the industry average, with prices starting at $49 per month for basic service.

Life Alert Pros:

  • The back-up battery in the base unit lasts much longer than it does in most other medical alert systems
  • Life Alert’s call center is Five Diamond CSAA certified
  • The waterproof pendants and wrist buttons never need charging
  • Customers can pick either a neck- or wrist-worn call button
  • GPS tracking is provided with the Life Alert Mobile device
  • Subscribers can call the emergency response center directly from their cell phones using a special number provided by Life Alert

Life Alert Cons:

  • No option to add fall detection
  • Wearable devices only come in white/off-white color
  • Prospective customers must phone a sales center for information on pricing and options
  • Activation fees range from $95-$198
  • Monthly monitoring fees are much higher than the industry average
  • Life Alert customers must sign a three-year service contract
  • Customers who want to cancel their service can only do so under specific circumstances, which includes providing detailed medical documentation

Overview of Medical Alert

Medical Alert is a specialized company that started out in the patient monitoring business. They operate numerous UL-listed call centers throughout the U.S., and service is available in over 140 languages through a third-party translation service.

Costs start at $19.95 per month for a basic in-home, landline medical alert system that includes a base unit and either a help button pendant or bracelet. The in-home cellular system starts at $27.45 per month, while the on-the-go GPS system starts at $32.04 per month.

Unlike many other companies that have relatively large on-the-go pendant help buttons, Medical Alert’s mobile system includes a light, low-profile help button that can be worn on the wrist or on a pendant. This button is paired with a small, handheld device equipped with a speakerphone that’s activated when the button is pressed.

Pros of Medical Alert:

  • No long-term contracts and subscribers can cancel at any time without penalty
  • No activation fees
  • Shipping is free when purchasing a semiannual or annual plan
  • Multiple U.S. call centers ensure no call goes unanswered
  • The Medical Alert app lets authorized users contact a subscriber, track their location and get instant notification is the help button is activated
  • Subscribers can change their service plan at any time
  • Fall detection is available
  • A free PIN-protected lockbox comes with every annual plan

Cons of Medical Alert:

  • To use the MobileElite service, subscribers must carry an additional device in their purse or pocket as well as their wearable help button
  • Customers pay more for month-to-month service than they do when paying for an annual plan

Our Pick

At first glance it might look like these two medical alert companies offer similar devices and monitoring services, but there are significant differences in the monthly costs, cancellation policies and features that make Medical Alert a much better option over Life Alert.

Our reviewers like the fact that Medical Alert lists all of their prices right on their website, so seniors and their loved ones can review the features, costs and services at their leisure. By comparison, Life Alert only discloses their pricing on the phone, which can make prospective customers feel pressured into subscribing to a service that may not meet their needs or fit their budget.

Life Alert’s three-year service contract was also a red flag, since most medical alert companies, including Medical Alert, allow subscribers to pay month-to-month and offer full prorated refunds when a customer cancels their service. We also dislike the fact that Life Alert charges a minimum $95 activation fee on top of their high monthly monitoring fees.

Given that Medical Alert has lower monthly monitoring costs, no activation or delivery fees, consumer-friendly cancellation policies and optional fall detection, we recommend Medical Alert over Life Alert.

Compare Other Medical Alert Options

To find out more about the various medical alert companies and systems, take a look at our other side-by-side medical alert system articles. We’ve reviewed all the leading companies and the latest devices to help you find the best solution for yourself or your loved ones.