Medical Guardian vs Life 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.

Technology can make everyday tasks easier and safer, and that’s especially true when it comes to medical alert systems. These high-tech devices provide added peace of mind to anyone who wants to be sure they can call for help anytime, from anywhere, even if they’re unable to use a telephone.

Basic, entry-level medical alert systems pair a small, wireless wearable help button with a base unit connected to either a landline or cellular phone network. The base unit is equipped with a speaker and microphone to enable two-way conversations between the medical alert customer and the emergency call monitoring center when the help button is activated. A number of advanced personal call button systems can include extra features, such as automatic fall detection, GPS location tracking, medication reminders and activity monitoring.

Which Medical Alert System Is Right For You?

Finding the right medical alert device for yourself or your loved ones can be challenging, especially since many companies offer similar products and services. To help you learn about the ever-growing options and features available on the market today, we’ve conducted in-depth research on the most popular medical alert brands and systems.

In this article you’ll find a head-to-head comparison chart that focuses on the costs, features and performance of Medical Guardian and Life Alert. We’ve also provided an in-depth look at each company that includes a comprehensive pros and cons list.

We found that although both companies offer similar basic services, Medical Guardian has a much better range of devices and features than what Life Alert offers. Medical Guardian’s fees are lower as well, and unlike Life Alert, Medical Guardian doesn’t require subscribers sign a three-year service contract.

Medical Guardian Life Alert

COSTS

Up-Front Equipment

$0-$99

$0

Monthly Monitoring

$29.95-$79.95

$49-$68

Activation Fee

$0

$95-$198

CONTRACT

Long-Term Contract?

No

Yes – three years

Optional Monthly Add-Ons

Fall detection +$10/month

N/A

FEATURES

Water-Resistant Wearable Devices

Yes

Yes

Fall Detection

Yes

No

GPS Location Monitoring Available?

Yes

Yes

Mobile App/Online Dashboard

Yes

Yes

RELIABILITY/PERFORMANCE

Connection

Landline or cellular

Landline or cellular

Range (From in-home base unit for landline service)

Up to 1,300′ on landline-based systems; up to 600′ on cellular in-home systems

Up to 800′

Battery Life on Help Button

N/A

Up to seven years on help button pendant; up to 10 years on wall-mounted HELP button

Battery Back-up on Base Unit

Up to 32 hours

Up to 72 hours

OPTIONAL ACCESSORIES

PIN-protected lockbox

Extra help buttons

Wall-mounted HELP button

Additional wall-mounted waterproof HELP button

Overview of Medical Guardian

Medical Guardian is an established medical alert company headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They offer a wide variety of personal help buttons and systems ranging from basic in-home landline devices up to all-in-one medical smartwatches with GPS locating and SMS messaging capabilities.

All Medical Guardian systems are designed for simple self-installation, and the company provides free next-day shipping throughout the United States. With the exception of a $99 upfront equipment fee for the Freedom Guardian medical smartwatch, there are no activation or equipment costs.

One of the systems that makes Medical Guardian stand out is their Family Guardian package. This system combines a traditional in-home medical alert base unit with a 1,300-foot range and three in-home safety sensors that monitor activity levels. Caregivers can access real-time information from the safety sensors through a secure mobile app or online dashboard to check if their loved one is maintaining their normal everyday routine. The app also sends instant notifications to authorized users when a subscriber activates their help button.

Costs for Medical Guardian systems start at $0.97 per day for the Classic Guardian, while the Family Guardian package costs start at $2.58 per day. To get the lowest possible price and a free PIN-protected lockbox, subscribers need to prepay for either a six or 12-month service package, however, prorated refunds are provided to customers who need to cancel their service.

Pros of Medical Guardian:

  • No long-term contracts — customers can cancel at any time and receive a prorated refund on any unused service
  • Wrist-worn help buttons come in either black or white
  • Fall detection is available on all Medical Guardian systems (additional fees may apply)
  • The range between the Classic and Family Guardian base units and the help buttons is 1,300 feet, which is among the best in the industry
  • PIN-protected lockbox provided free with semiannual and annual subscriptions
  • Time-limited offers are often available
  • The Family Guardian system provides advanced activity monitoring combined with instant email or smartphone notifications
  • No cell phone is needed — cellular connection is included
  • The Active Guardian and Freedom Guardian use GPS and WiFi to pinpoint the exact location of a subscriber in an emergency
  • No activation fees or equipment costs for most systems/devices

Cons of Medical Guardian:

  • Customers must prepay for 12 months of monitoring in order to get the lowest available daily monitoring cost
  • The Freedom Guardian medical smart watch costs $99 in addition to monthly monitoring fees
  • The Home Guardian system has a limited range (600 feet) between the base unit and the help button
  • The Mobile Guardian device must be recharged daily
  • The Freedom Guardian has a two-day battery life, and the Active Guardian has a five-day battery life

Overview of Life Alert

As the company behind the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” advertising campaign, Life Alert is arguably one of the most recognized names in the medical alert industry. They have been in business since 1987, and their U.S. monitoring center handles more that two million calls from subscribers each year.

Life Alert has three medical alert systems, including a basic in-home system that operates on a landline telephone connection, and it has a range of 800 feet between the waterproof call button and the base unit. Users can purchase an extra wireless help button for use in the bathroom, bedroom, or anywhere else within range of the base unit.

The Life Alert Mobile device is an all-in-one medical alert pendant with GPS that works off of GSM cellular networks. It includes a non-rechargeable battery that’s rated for up to 10 years, and it can be safely used in wet environments, such as the shower.

Costs for Life Alert systems range from $49-$68 per month, and there’s an activation fee of $98-$198 for each new subscriber. Fall detection is not offered through Life Alert.

Despite the fact that Life Alert is one of the best known and most established names in medical alert systems, there are numerous consumer complaints and negative reviews related to the service, devices and consumer policies. In order to obtain pricing information, prospective subscribers must call the Life Alert sales center, and a number of reviewers have commented that they feel pressured to enter into a contract with Life Alert.

Unlike most other medical alert providers, Life Alert requires that its customers sign a three-year service contract that’s exceptionally difficult to cancel, even if the subscriber is institutionalized or passes away. Despite the complaints and lengthy contract, Life Alert does have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

Life Alert Pros:

  • Waterproof, non-rechargeable wearable emergency help buttons
  • Company has been in business for more than 30 years
  • The Life Alert Mobile device is smaller than many similar devices offered by competitors
  • The base units have a built-in battery back-up that lasts up to 72 hours
  • Customers can pick either a wrist-worn or pendant help button for use with the in-home systems
  • The call center is located in the United States

Life Alert Cons:

  • All Life Alert plans require a three-year service contract that’s exceptionally difficult to cancel
  • Fall detection isn’t offered
  • The cellular-connected devices rely on GSM networks, which are slower than LTE/4G cellular networks
  • Activation fees starting at $95 apply to all new customers
  • Pricing isn’t available online

Our Pick

When comparing Medical Guardian with Life Alert, it’s clear that Medical Guardian offers superior devices, better service and has consumer-friendly policies. On the other hand, Life Alert’s devices are somewhat outdated, lack common features, such as fall detection, and are priced significantly higher that comparable systems.

We like the fact that Medical Guardian’s prices are clearly listed on their website, making it easy for seniors and their caregivers to review costs without dealing with high-pressured phone salespeople. We also appreciate that Medical Guardian offers a number of different devices that meet the needs of a variety of medical alert customers, including those who are looking for a medical alert smartwatch.

Although Life Alert is one of the original medical alert providers, we are disappointed that this company continues to use three-year service contracts, particularly when their target market is seniors. We also dislike the fact that Life Alert won’t publish their prices online, and their cellular devices rely on technology that is quickly becoming obsolete.

Compare Other Medical Alert Options

Because there are so many options, devices and features to choose from, finding the right medical alert system requires some time and research. To learn more about the different companies and services, be sure to take a look at our other medical alert system comparison articles.