After over 30 years in business — and with more than 45,000 people saved in 2022 alone — Life Alert has a proven track record of dependability. We were eager to determine whether its medical alert systems are truly worth the hype.
Overall, Life Alert’s systems provide exceptional service, but its high monthly prices and lengthy contracts make it one of the most expensive medical alerts.
Personalized customer service: When I called to purchase a Life Alert system for my father, I was matched with a care counselor. She not only helped me install my system, but also spoke with me at length about the process of caring for my father.
Lightweight design: Life Alert designs its bracelets and necklaces — including its mobile device — to be small and lightweight. I hardly noticed my Life Alert devices when I wore them around my neck or wrist.
Water-resistant devices: Since a majority of falls occur in the shower, I appreciated that Life Alert’s help buttons (both wearable and wall-mounted) could be worn in the shower.
Cellular and landline options: Many medical alert companies are moving to cellular medical alerts, but Life Alert offers both cellular and landline options. Cellular service may be easier to install without help, but landline service will still work during blackouts.
No fall detection: Since Life Alert bills itself as the best way to protect users who have fallen, I was disappointed that it does not offer fall detection, a standard feature in the medical alert industry.
High prices: Life Alert’s prices — between $50 and $90 per month — are notably higher than the typical medical alert system, which usually costs $25 to $40 monthly.
Minimum three-year contract: Life Alert has archaic contract practices. Most medical alert companies now offer month-to-month contracts, but Life Alert continues to require a three-year contract to initiate service. The only way to escape the contract is through death or transition to a care facility. Since there are medical alerts with no monthly fees, this seems a bit too strict.
Life Alert Video Review
Life Alert Purchasing Process
Unlike other medical alerts, which can be ordered online, Life Alert requires you to order its systems over the phone. When speaking to a sales agent, I was asked:
Who would be using the Life Alert system?
I responded, My father.
Which health issues does he face?
How well can he navigate his home?
Stairs sometimes present an issue.
Does he live with someone or have a loved one nearby?
He lives alone, but he has me nearby.
From these questions, the sales agent suggested I purchase the company’s top-tier system. The package would help protect my father both in his home and on the go.
Life Alert Care Counseling
After speaking with the sales agent, I was connected with a Life Alert “care counselor.” The woman — who, for the sake of privacy, I’ll refer to as Donna — walked me through the process of Life Alert setup. She informed me when the system would arrive at my father’s house, how to go about installation, and even offered some practical tips for helping my father use the device.
When I informed Donna that my father didn’t know I was purchasing the system, for example, she offered some practical tips for broaching the conversation. She also asked about how I was handling my role as a caregiver for my father. Donna even gave me her personal cell phone number, and the two of us still call and text each other to this day — sometimes about life and other times about Life Alert and caregiving.
To my knowledge, Life Alert is the only medical alert provider that offers this type of service. I’ve tested plenty of medical alert systems and know how they work, but I could see this type of care being incredibly helpful for people unfamiliar with the technology.
After waiting a few days, I got my Life Alert package in the mail and unboxed it. Inside, I found:
1 base unit
1 help button necklace
1 wristband attachment
This can be used to wear your help button as a wristband
1 mobile pendant
1 wall-mounted help button
To install my Life Alert system, I plugged in my base unit and called the number noted on the shipping box. From there, an operator walked me through each step of the process. I tested each of my help buttons individually, and the operator affirmed they were working properly.
Since my Life Alert system uses a cellular connection, this step is important to ensure that each of my help calls can connect to the Life Alert dispatch center.
Once my installation was complete, I began more thorough testing of each piece of equipment.
Life Alert Base Unit
To test my Life Alert base unit, I placed several calls using the built-in help button. Each time, my calls were promptly answered and the dispatch agent on the other end of the line asked if there was an emergency. When I informed the agent that I was simply testing my system, they told me the system was functioning properly and asked me to confirm my father’s birthdate as a precautionary measure.
Overall, I was pleased with the prompt responses and voluble speaker on the base unit.
Life Alert Necklace
Similar to the help button on the base unit, my wearable help button also triggered a call to the Life Alert dispatch center. The primary difference is that this lightweight device could come with me around my home, provided I remained within 500 feet of the base unit.
The Life Alert necklace has no speaker or microphone built into it. When you press its button, you initiate a distress call through your base unit, and the base unit serves as the speaker and microphone connecting you to help. Luckily, the base unit’s speakerphone is loud, which allowed me to communicate with dispatchers from multiple rooms away.
I wore the help button as a necklace, but you can remove the button from its string and place it inside the included wristband attachment. That will allow you to wear it as a bracelet.
Life Alert Wall-Mounted Help Button
This help button works similarly to the wearable help button. When I pressed it, I was connected to Life Alert’s dispatch center. Unlike the wearable help button, however, the wall-mounted help button has its own speaker, microphone, and LTE connection. When I pressed it, I could take the whole call from this device as opposed to speaking into the base unit.
Because the wall-mounted help button has its own speaker and microphone, it is ideally placed in the shower or another area that may be out of reach of the base unit. The wall-mounted help button also has an adhesive strip on its backside — as well as a mounting bracket — allowing you to place it anywhere you see fit.
The wall-mounted help button is also water resistant.
Life Alert Mobile Pendant
By now, you probably get the gist of how my Life Alert buttons function. I pressed the button, waited about 30 seconds, and received a response from a dispatch agent. The Life Alert mobile pendant works in a similar fashion. Similar to the wall-mounted button, the mobile pendant has a built-in microphone and speaker.
What differentiates this device, however, is its ability to travel anywhere. With its built-in GPS, dispatch agents could accurately track my location when I placed distress calls. If I were in an emergency, dispatchers could use the location information to send help to the right place.
Life Alert claims the mobile pendant has a battery life of up to 10 years. I have no way of testing that, but my device still has power after a month of testing. For a mobile medical alert, that battery life is unprecedented. Most devices like this use rechargeable batteries that must be recharged every couple days.
What’s Missing With Life Alert?
All my Life Alert equipment worked exceptionally well, but I couldn’t help but notice the company neglected to include some useful features.
Life Alert currently offers no fall-detection capabilities. With a fall-detection device, which are most often worn around the neck, your medical alert system can automatically contact the dispatch center if you’re unable to physically place the call on your own.
Life Alert also has no features for caregiver tracking. Systems from Aloe Care Health, for example, allow loved ones to track a user’s location, activity levels, and home temperature.
Life Alert Pricing
Life Alert is easily the most expensive medical alert system I’ve tested. Monthly payments start at $49.95, and you’ll also be required to pay activation fees. In total, my Life Alert system cost $82.36 per month with a $198 activation fee. Normally, my system would have cost $89.95 per month, but since I paid annually — as opposed to monthly — I got one month of service for free.
The other drawback to Life Alert’s pricing is its contracts. Medical alert companies typically offer discounts if you pay on an annual basis, but they don’t require you to pay for more than a month in advance. Life Alert, however, locks you into a three-year contract.
For more information about Life Alerts costs and contracts, check out my guide to Life Alert costs.
Final Thoughts on Life Alert
Life Alert is one of the most popular and well-established names in the medical alert industry. People who may enjoy Life Alert most are older adults who prioritize battery life, caregiver resources, and warranties. It’s hard to wholeheartedly recommend Life Alert, though, because of its lengthy contracts.
I’d recommend Life Alert if you want:
Long battery life. Life Alert’s home-based and mobile help necklaces never require charging, and they last up to 10 years. The base unit, which is usually plugged into a wall outlet, has an automatic backup battery that lasts up to 72 hours in case of a power outage.
Nationwide coverage. Whether you’re traveling, moving, or visiting a seasonal home, Life Alert connects to cellular networks in every state and keeps you protected just about anywhere.
Reliable in-home protection. Life Alert’s costs are high, but it works very well and offers protection with minimal wait times.
I wouldn’t recommend Life Alert if you want:
Fall detection. Life Alert’s buttons work well, but they require you to press them in order to trigger a call. If automatic fall detection is an important feature for you, then I’d recommend looking into LifeFone or Bay Alarm Medical.
Flexible contracts. Three-year contracts are outliers in the medical alert community. Most companies use shorter contracts, and many, including ResponseNow and Medical Guardian, offer flexible options that don’t require lengthy commitments.
An affordable system. Life Alert is among the most expensive emergency response system providers. If you need a medical alert that will fit a tighter budget, then take a look at my list of the most affordable medical alert systems.
To learn more about medical alert systems, check out our helpful guides.
Life Alert and other medical alert systems are not considered durable medical equipment and are therefore not covered by Medicare. Many private insurers, however, offer discounts or coverage for medical alert systems.
Medicare won’t cover medical alert bracelets, but you can contact your insurance provider or local Area Agency on Aging for free or discounted medical alert bracelets.
Ryan has years of experience researching and testing products that help people successfully age in place. After years of working for various publications such as Boston Magazine and The Believer, he has found his home at The Senior List, writing about all things related to caregiving and senior healthcare.