The Life Alert system is probably the most well known medical alert system in the USA. Everyone, by now should be familiar with the “Help, I can’t get up.” commercials and yes, they have brought attention to a real need that many seniors worldwide experience.
But, is the Life Alert system worth it? – There are pros and cons to all the medical alert systems available today. Whichever one you choose depends on what your budget will allow and what features you are in most need of.
How Much Does Life Alert Really Cost?
The breakdown of the Life Alert medical device system is as follows:
- The Life Alert equipment plus installation and activation cost between $95.00 and $198.00
- The monitoring service costs between $49.95 to $89.95 per month
- The minimum required contract is 36 months
- If you decide to also add a mobile GPS option (so you can call for help when you are away from home) then that is an additional $20.00 per month
You can read more about Life Alert costs and how insurance and medicare cover these costs in our article on How Much Is A Life Alert System?
Does Life Alert Work?
In a nutshell – yes – it works!
The peace of mind that medical alert systems like Life Alert can give you is priceless. When Dad called to tell us what had happened to Mom, he was in tears, and so was I by the time he’d finished telling me about her fall.
People often think that they are covered in an emergency as long as they have a cell phone. But Mom literally couldn’t roll off her side to get up off the floor. She was helpless despite the fact that the cell phone was on the counter just a couple feet above her. Imagine how beneficial it would have been if she’d had a Life Alert system to call 911 that day.
Every second of every day in the United States an older adult falls, making falls the number one cause of injuries and deaths from injury among older Americans. – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Okay, so medical alert systems are there for medical emergencies, but they are also beneficial for a senior who might be the victim of a home invasion or who is out and about and gets approached by a mugger or robber. As long as the senior has a GPS enabled alert device on them, they can just press the button to summon emergency help.
Details About Life Alert
Below are some details about the benefits and drawbacks of the Life Alert medical device system.
Life Alert Benefits:
- They operate their own nationwide monitoring system.
- When a senior calls for help, their emergency operators will stay on the phone with the person until help arrives.
- The company will store and provide the senior’s medical history to paramedics.
- Life Alert will respond even if there isn’t an emergency, which helps seniors feel safer.
- They will refund 100 percent of all equipment and monitoring fees if the person passes away at home.
- The battery doesn’t need changing for 10 years and the equipment is maintenance-free.
Life Alert Drawbacks:
- They do not provide fall detection devices.
- They are expensive compared to other medical alert systems.
- No trial period is available so if a senior starts the service, they are locked into it for three years even they aren’t happy with it.
Does Life Alert Need Wifi?
The short answer is “No”. The Life Alert products work best with a landline BUT the products can work with Wifi.
It’s generally recommended (by the Life Alert company) to use a landline with their product simply because it’s more reliable than a WiFi connection.
Can You Cancel Life Alert?
One thing to know about Life Alert is that you will be locked into a 3 year, upfront contract if you opt for their services. It is difficult to find information on their website about whether you can cancel Life Alert before the contract period has ended because they want to speak with you. After all, by talking to you, they can try to convince you not to cancel!
That being said, they will allow you to cancel your contract under certain, very stringent conditions – like moving into a skilled nursing facility.
For this reason, you may want to look for Life Alert alternatives, such as the ones we have listed in the following section.
Can You Wear Life Alert In The Shower?
Yes, the pendant that everyone is familiar with is wireless and waterproof so it can be worn in the shower. The wireless system in the pendant is connected to a base console unit that is physically connected to your home’s landline. It can also be connected via WiFi to your home’s Internet service.
What Is The Best Medical Alert System For Seniors?
As I said earlier in this article – what constitutes as “best” depends on what your budget allows for and what kinds of features you are looking for.
“Anyone who is at risk of falling or having a medical emergency” may benefit from such a device, says Leah Bellman, M.S., an occupational therapist and a healthcare process improvement analyst with Commonwealth Care Alliance in Boston, Mass. – ConsumerReports.org
So, with that being said, let’s take a look at some other medical alert devices that you may be interested in.
1. The first company we will look at is LifeFone Medical Alarm – Only $24.95 per month, no long term contract.
- 30 day money back guarantee
- Pendant alert button available, as well as a wristband version.
- The devices are waterproof so they can be used by the shower or in a bathroom. LifeFone does not have an independent help button like Life Alert’s – the senior would simply take their LifeFone pendant/wristband into the bathroom with them.
- Pushing the alert button connects the senior directly to an emergency care agent at a central monitoring station.
- The LifeFone product has a 1300 foot range (this is 61 percent larger than Life Alert’s 800 foot range).
- Lifetime warranty on the equipment.
- Optional automatic fall detection is available for an extra $10.00 per month.
- Capability of adding 24/7 monitored fire, smoke, and carbon monoxide detection.
- Works with landline or cellular service (a plan with cell service runs $30.95 per month).
- Can add GPS (additional cost per month of about $10.00).
- The senior can designate who should be alerted in an emergency, so family members or friends (or even their physician) will know there is a concern.
Info You Should Know:
The basic system is only going to work INSIDE your home. It probably won’t be able to follow you out to the garden and definitely not to the grocery store or to a friend’s home. If you want that capability, you will need to upgrade to the GPS-enabled device, which runs about $10.00 extra per month.
2. The next company is Freedom Guardian Medical Alert System by Medical Guardian™ – Starting at $44.95 per month, plus a one time equipment charge of $99.00. *NOTE – The Freedom Guardian ONLY works through AT&Ts cellular service! It will NOT work on any other phone system.
- The Freedom Guardian is a wearable medical alert device that doubles as a watch.
- It comes in either black (shown) or white and is made with seniors in mind.
- It has larger screen icons and an analog watch face plus a HELP touch screen and an emergency button.
- It features alerts and reminders so the owner can remember things like taking their medications on time or going to their doctor’s appointment.
- The Freedom Guardian also has text-to-speech capability so the senior can talk to a loved one through the watch (ala Dick Tracy) – there is no keyboard required.
- It reads the date, time, messages, and calendar alerts aloud so seniors can hear it better.
- The alert device also gives the weather for up to 3 days.
- Has advanced location tracking through GPS so a senior who gets lost can be found even if they aren’t sure where they are.
Info You Should Know:
Again, the Freedom Guardian Medical Alert System ONLY works through AT&Ts cell service. If you have another carrier, such as Verizon or TMobile, this system WILL NOT WORK.
3. The On-The-Go Guardian by Medical Guardian™ is getting some very good reviews on Amazon and at a cost of $49.95 per month, it seems affordable.
It works without needing to have a smartphone or WiFi service in the home. It has it’s own proprietary WiFi location service which means that you can use it at home or when you are out and about without having to pay an extra fee (like you do with Life Alert).
You can wear this unit on a lanyard as a necklace and/or you can clip it onto your belt or pocket.
It has a 30 day battery life and yes, it is shower proof!
In my opinion, it’s a good low cost alternative to a more expensive medical alert device.
4. Ripple 24/7 Personal Safety Monitoring – about $40 to buy (as of 2019), which includes 3 months of monitoring.
This is a very small unit and because of that – it may not be suitable for every older adult.
- It is tiny and can be worn on a charm bracelet or necklace (or hung on a ring of keys).
- Ripple is cost effective, coming in at less than 25 percent the cost of most medical alert systems.
- It features 24/7 professional monitoring and reviews suggest that the response from the monitoring team is fast – they seem to be calling within about 15 seconds of pressing the alert button.
- It is waterproof (which is good if you forget you are wearing it on a necklace and hop into the shower).
- The battery lasts up to 6 months. Monthly subscribers get a new device in the mail once the battery begins to run low.
- It is tiny – I mean really tiny (remember I said it could be worn on a charm bracelet?). I can see where it might be difficult for a senior who has fallen and is hurt or in panic mode to grab hold of this device.
- To get emergency help, the senior must press the device at least three times to have help dispatched or it won’t activate. Again, if someone is in pain or upset, will they remember to press the device 3 times? *NOTE – if the person clicks it just once, the monitoring team will still call them or text them to see if there is an actual emergency – but an ambulance won’t be sent until after the team talks to the user.
- It can only be set to alert the police or an ambulance.
- It uses Bluetooth to connect with the owner’s smartphone to send a distress signal, then GPS locates the smartphone. This means the smartphone must be nearby to work (within 30 – 50 feet of the device).
- Reviewers have noted that it seems to automatically disconnect from the phone app after a certain time frame, which means the senior might have to go into the app often to and re-pair it – which might prove difficult for a person who is not tech-savvy.
5. The Invisawear Smart Jewelry is one of the newest alert devices on the market today. But note, it is NOT a medical alert device. Meaning that it is not connected to a support team who can then call for an ambulance for you. (But, that also means there is no monthly fee as well).
What makes this product so amazing is that it’s a decorative small charm that can be worn on a necklace or a bracelet. It’s the smart new way to wear a medical alert device without looking as if you are wearing one.
It’s free to use – no monthly fee. It’s a GPS device to alert your contact list and / or 911 (which is optional and also free) of an emergency and also to provide them with your GPS location.
One additional item that I can recommend for older adults is to add a magnetic clasp to the Invisawear necklace. This makes it much easier to put on and take off for anyone who has problems managing small jewelry clasps. I know that I do so this makes it quick and easy for me to wear my Invisawear necklace.
This elegant alert device has the following features:
- You activate the alarm by simply double pressing the back of the pendant. This sends a text message along with your GPS coordinates immediately to the individuals you designated on your emergency contact list.
- When you set it up you can add up to 5 individuals to be contacted when you activate the alarm.
- You can also set up the option to contact 911 Dispatchers in your area. There is no cost for this and it’s an option in addition to contacting your personal contact list.
- It’s sweat and weather resistant.
- Because it’s a Bluetooth paired item – it will only work if the smartphone it’s paired to is nearby.
- There is no battery to charge.
- There is no monthly fee.
- It currently only works within the USA
- For more information about Invisawear – check their website FAQs here.
6. Alexa’s Buddy Skill and 911 Capabilities – okay so yes, Alexa is NOT a medical alert device but it CAN function as an alert device if you are within distance of it hearing you (I guess that’s why having multiple Alexa devices around the home would be good for seniors!)
Anyway – if you or your senior loved one is homebound – then you can use Alexa to contact your list of contacts that you put into a skill called Alert A Buddy.
Basically, if you fall or injure yourself and you need help you simply say “Alexa, ask my buddy to send help.” It will then send an email, a voice message and a text to the people you already designated on your list.
Of course – you can also use Alexa to call 911 as well – you can read how to do that here.
Are medical alert systems tax deductible? No, as of 2019, the IRS does not consider medical alert systems to be tax deductible. If the device stores medical information in a computer and makes it available to a physician, you may be able to claim it under the Medical Information Plan.
Does Apple watch have medical alert? Apple watches have a built-in Emergency SOS app that calls 911 when the watch’s side button is pushed. The Apple Watch Series 4 has SOS and fall detection. It calls 911 if the wearer does not respond after a fall. To work, the phone must be nearby if the watch doesn’t have cellular (is GPS only).