There are a number of factors to consider for seniors looking to increase their safety at home, especially for those that live alone. When it comes to peace of mind for you and your loved ones, you may want to think about investing in a medical alert system.
Medical alert systems differ from home security systems but can be just as important for overall safety. With the press of a button on a pendant or on the wall, medical alert systems notify the proper first responders and send help in the event of a fall or other injury. As with most products, there is a wide range of medical alert companies that offer a number of options to meet your personal lifestyle needs.
Two of the oldest names in the medical alert system business are Life Alert and Philips Lifeline. While they share many similarities in the products they offer, there are some key differences you will want to explore before making the best choice for you.
FYI: The National Council on Aging provides a free online assessment for seniors to help determine their risk of fall-related injury.
Life Alert Overview
Life Alert has been a name in the medical alert systems business since 1987. You may remember seeing their commercials on television. Their I’ve fallen and I can’t get up catchphrase made Life Alert one of the most recognizable names in the field, and they continue to serve Americans across the nation.
They claim to save a life every eleven minutes, and they offer an array of products to provide seniors with added security from falls around the house, in the shower, and even on the go with their GPS feature. While Life Alert has a long history of providing reliable service, they do come at a higher cost than some other comparable systems.
FYI: According to the CDC, some medications can increase the risk of falls in seniors.
Life Alert Systems
|System||Monthly Starting Cost||Connection||For Use||Ideal For|
|Life Alert Basic||starts at $50/mo.||landline or cellular||at home||Individuals that want personal security around the house.|
|Life Alert Basic with Shower Button||starts at $69/mo.||landline or cellular||at home||Individuals that want personal security around the house with added protection against falls in the shower.|
|Life Alert Basic with Shower Button + Mobile||starts at $89/mo.||landline or cellular||at home, on the go||Individuals that want personal security around the house with added protection against falls in the shower, and would like additional coverage outside the home as well.|
What We Love About Life Alert
- Comprehensive Notifications: Life Alert sends help right away when you fall or suffer another injury while at home. They also have a feature where you can choose who else you would like to have notified, such as family members, in the event of an emergency.
- Warranty: While many medical alert systems offer limited warranties (sometimes for an extra cost) all Life Alert services include a free lifetime warranty.
- Wall-Mounted Help Buttons: Some Life Alert plans include help buttons that can be mounted on the wall of the shower or bathtub for extra security against falls in the bathroom.
What We Don't Love About Life Alert
- Lack of Fall-Detection: Life Alert products do not include automatic fall detection technology with any of their plans or services.
- Cost: Life Alert comes at a higher cost than many other medical alert systems, both in terms of start-up costs and in what they charge monthly for their services. In addition, finding out the exact price of their products is difficult: costs are not listed anywhere on their website and the only way to find out pricing information is to call the company and speak with a representative.
- Long-Term Contracts: While many other medical alert systems offer month-to-month options or one-year contracts, Life Alert requires all customers to sign a three-year contract. These contracts can be difficult to cancel.
Philips Lifeline Overview
One of the few companies that has been in the medical alert business even longer than Life Alert is Philips Lifeline. Founded in 1974 by Dr. Andrew Dibner, Lifeline was the first in North America to provide a personal medical alert system. In 2006 Lifeline was purchased by Philips, a globally recognized technology company.
Offering a few options for medical alert systems, Philips Lifeline has an easy-to-navigate website, produces a highly-rated mobile app for iPhone and Android users, and does not require customers to sign a contract but rather operates on a monthly basis. Philips Lifeline does offer fall detection technology options, and some systems come with a choice between a pendant worn around the neck or around the wrist. A drawback to Philips Lifeline is that they do not offer wall-mounted help buttons for the shower.
Philips Lifeline Systems
|System||Monthly Starting Cost||Connection||For Use||Ideal For|
|HomeSafe Standard||$29.95/mo. plus $50 activation fee||landline or cellular||at home||For those who want standard protection at home.|
|HomeSafe with AutoAlert||$44.95/mo. plus $50 activation fee||landline or cellular||at home||For those who want standard protection at home, and would like the added protection of fall detection.|
|GoSafe 2||$49.95/mo. plus $99.95 device fee||cellular||at home and away||For those that would like medical alert protection while both home and on the go.|
What We Love About Phillips Lifeline
- Fall Detection Technology: Philips Lifeline with AutoAlert comes with automatic fall detection, which notifies first responders when it detects a fall without the need for a button to be pressed. This feature is especially useful in the event that a fall results in the loss of consciousness.
- Philips Cares: Philips Lifeline products come with access to Philips Cares. You are able to manage your information, payments, and maintenance from their online portal which also includes the ability to choose who–in addition to first responders–will be contacted in the event of an emergency. Philips Cares also has compatible mobile apps for iPhone and Android.
- No Long-Term Contracts: Unlike Life Alert, Philips Lifeline does not require you to lock into long-term contracts, meaning you can cancel your subscription at any time and only pay the remainder of your monthly contract.
What We Don't Love About Phillips Lifeline
- One-Year Guarantee: Philips Lifeline only guarantees their products for a year, after which users will be charged for replacements.
- No Wall-Mounted Help Buttons: Philips Lifeline does not offer buttons to mount on the wall of your shower or bathtub for added protection against falls in the bathroom.
- Activation/Device Fees: The start-up fees to get Philips Lifeline working in your home are higher than many other comparable medical alert system companies.
Philips Lifeline and Life Alert Similarities
Two of the oldest, most trusted names in medical alert systems, Philips Lifeline and Life Alert share many similarities. These include 24/7 nationwide coverage, two-way talk capability, wearable pendants, and short response times.
Some other similarities include:
- GPS: Both Life Alert and Philips Lifeline offer options for on-the-go use that allow users to call for help when away from home using GPS technology to get help to their location no matter where the emergency occurs.
- Water-Resistant Devices: Life Alert and Philips Lifeline both offer water-resistant devices for use in the bath or shower.
- Activation/Device Fees: When it comes to cost, both start-up and monthly prices for Life Alert and Philips Lifeline are noticeably higher than systems offered by other companies that include similar features.
- Fall Detection: Philips Lifeline products include fall detection, which is a feature not offered with any Life Alert devices.
- Wristband Option: Philips Lifeline offers a wristband option in addition to the pendants worn around the neck offered by Life Alert.
- Wall-Mounted Help Buttons: As far as physical safety and fall prevention goes, bathrooms can pose an added risk. Life Alert provides a wall-mounted help button for the shower that is not available through Philips Lifeline.
- Contracts: Life Alert requires a three-year contract while Philips Lifeline operates on a month-to-month basis.
- Mobile App: Both of these medical alert companies offer mobile apps; however, Philips Lifeline is more accessible and user-friendly both through their mobile app for cellular phones and through their website.
Life Alert and Philips Lifeline Differences
Emergency Response & Call Centers
Both Life Alert and Philips Lifeline offer nationwide, 24/7 coverage in the event of an emergency. Each of these companies boasts short response times and operators that are fluent in Spanish as well as English. Life Alert’s monitoring center is Five Diamond Certified, while Philips Lifeline offers translator services to provide help in over 140 languages.
FYI: The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has a number of suggestions on how to create a safer living space for older adults.
When exploring which is the best option for your needs, there are a number of factors that come into play. Life Alert and Philips Lifeline both have decades of experience in providing protection in the event of a medical emergency at home. They offer comparable plans and products and they both charge higher set-up and monthly costs than some other companies out there.
Life Alert and Philips Lifeline offer basic plans for around the house and on-the-go protection. However, It is important to consider additional specific needs when choosing a medical alert system, as some other companies offer services that cater to conditions such as disability or Alzheimer’s and dementia.