After over 30 years in business — and with more than 45,000 people saved in 2020 alone — Life Alert has a proven track record of dependability. I was eager to determine whether its medical alert systems are truly worth the hype. Overall, Life Alert’s systems provide dependable service, but at a price that may be too high.
Read on for an in-depth discussion of Life Alert, its systems, and who may be better off selecting a different medical alert provider.
Would you prefer a brief overview? Here is what I liked and disliked most about my Life Alert system:
Life Alert Pros
Lightweight design: Life Alert designs its pendants — including its mobile pendant — to be small and lightweight. Most people don’t want to be weighed down by something heavy around their neck, whether it’s a piece of jewelry or a smartphone. I loved that I hardly noticed my Life Alert when I wore it around my neck or my wrist.
Additional help buttons: Since 80 percent of falls occur in the shower, I am thrilled LifeAlert offers the option to add an extra button in the shower. In my role as a professional caregiver, I’ve seen how these added safety elements offer peace of mind for users and their loved ones. They’re especially helpful for older adults who tend to take off their pendant necklace or wristband.
Cellular and landline options: Many medical alert companies are moving to all-cellular services, 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.
Life Alert Cons
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: LifeAlert’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 or one-year 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.
Life Alert Systems Overview
After 10 minutes perusing Life Alert’s website, which appears to be stuck in the 1990s, I was getting nowhere. I decided to bite the bullet and call the company directly, which, perhaps not coincidentally, is the only way to order a system. I wish I could say the woman I spoke with was pleasant, but I found the salespeople a bit abrasive and uninterested in answering questions about the company’s systems.
I was, however, able to gather some information about each of Life Alert‘s three systems. Since I purchased the top-tier package, I tested all Life Alert’s devices. Here’s what Life Alert offers:
Life Alert Basic: The company’s lowest-priced system connects to a landline or cellular network to provide around-the-clock monitoring. Life Alert Basic’s two-way talk capability allows you to communicate with the monitoring center and place calls via its help button. This system would be a good choice for more money-conscious individuals who spend most of their time at home and don’t move around too much.
Life Alert Basic With Help Buttons: Life Alert Basic With Help Buttons is exactly what it sounds like: the main unit plus a help button for home use. You may choose between a wristband and pendant help button, neither of which ever need charging and last up to 10 years. For the help button to work, you must remain within 800 feet of the main unit. The buttons are also waterproof, so you don’t need to take it off when you shower or take a bath.
Life Alert Basic With Help Buttons and Mobile: Life Alert’s top-tier package comes with everything the company has to offer, except wall buttons. It includes a base station, a pendant or wristband, and a mobile pendant. The base station and emergency pendant or wristband are the same as those in the Life Alert Basic With Help Buttons system. This system also includes a second pendant with built-in GPS, which works with cellular networks nationwide to identify your location while outside your home and share it with the company’s monitoring center if you press your button.
Safety recommendation: Place your wall buttons in areas where falls are the most likely, such as the bathroom, kitchen, or stairs. Be sure they’re installed low enough to reach from the ground.
Life Alert Medical Alert Features
Landline or cellular
Average response time
Using Life Alert Medical Alert System
After waiting a few days, I got my Life Alert box in the mail and unboxed it. Inside, I found:
1 base unit
1 help button pendant
1 mobile device with GPS
1 instruction manual
From there, it took only a few minutes to plug in the main unit and test whether my pendants connected to the monitoring center when I pushed the emergency buttons. They did! I was encouraged to learn that my up-front cost covered professional installation, but I decided I didn’t need the help. I understand why someone less mobile may want assistance, though, especially if they purchased extra items such as shower and wall buttons.
Once my installation was complete, including the initial calls to the monitoring center to ensure my system was connected, I began a more thorough test. I first initiated several test calls by pressing the button on my home-based help pendant. I conducted two tests during the day and one in the middle of the night. Each time, I was connected to the Life Alert monitoring center and greeted by agents who got right to the point.
The calls I placed during the day were answered in 22 to 28 seconds, and my wait during the night was about 30 seconds. What I found most impressive was that it took only seconds to transfer me when I asked to speak with a Spanish-speaker. I didn’t have any trouble with my indoor help pendant’s battery, and it always responded quickly when I pushed it.
To test the clarity of communication with the monitoring center, I pushed my button while I was in a bedroom down the hall from my base unit. The agent was slightly harder to hear and I had to repeat something once, but our messages got across. If the monitoring center couldn’t hear me during a true emergency, they would automatically send first responders.
I tested the GPS mobile pendant while at the grocery store, visiting clients, and even during a weekend hike with my husband at a local state park. Each time, the monitoring center picked up within 30 seconds, and they were able to accurately give me the coordinates of my location, which would be essential during an actual emergency.
Life Alert Pricing
Life Alert is one of the most expensive medical alert systems I’ve tested. Its minimum initial cost is $95, and monthly payments start at $49.95. Each subscription includes a free first-aid kit, but it hardly makes up for the cost of entry.
The other drawback to Life Alert’s pricing is its contracts. Typically, medical alert companies 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.
Life Alert is one of the most popular and well-established names in the medical alert industry. Those 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.
For a list of systems that won’t lock you into three years of service agreements, check out my list of this year’s best medical alert systems.
I’d recommend Life Alert if you want:
Long battery life: Life Alert’s home-based and mobile help pendants 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:
Helpful customer service: They did their jobs, but Life Alert’s customer service representatives lacked enthusiasm during most of our interactions. If exceptional customer service is important to 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, take a look at my list of the most affordable medical alert systems.
Life Alert Medical Alert System Frequently Asked Questions
Life Alert has three-year contracts, with no flexible month-to-month options. Many Life Alert customers said they weren’t aware of their long-term contracts, so keep this in mind as you speak with their salespeople.
Life Alert is one of the oldest medical alert companies, with over 30 years of providing lifesaving services to seniors and others in need.
Amie has been writing about senior care products and services for the last decade. She is particularly passionate about new technologies that help improve the quality of life for seniors and their families. Seeing her parents and grandparents age made Amie ask herself, “Would this be good enough for my loved ones?” In her spare time, Amie enjoys outdoor adventures and spontaneous road trips. Learn more about Amie here