Life Alert Review Summary
Life Alert popularized the idea of home medical alert systems for seniors through their “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!®” TV ads. With such a well-known brand name, and being one of the largest medical alert companies around, does it make them a good choice? Let’s look at the pros and cons. For starters, the Life Alert service is high quality. Life Alert runs their own UL certified monitoring center, where representatives are trained to stay on the line with users until the emergency ends. Customer reviews are generally positive regarding the service level. In addition, they offer additional options for Carbon Monoxide and Fire/Smoke emergencies.
However, the service requires a 3-year upfront contract commitment, compared to numerous other top companies that do not require multi-year contracts. Another point to note is that prospective buyers find themselves having to deal with a number of follow-up sales calls. There are no discounts for advance prepayments, a pricing feature that we see a lot of companies offer. Readers can check out the Compare Medical Alert Systems chart for a side-by-side comparison with other best rated medical alert companies.
On-site Monitoring Center – Life Alert runs their own US-based UL certified dispatch center. This allows the company to more directly manage how emergency response calls are being handled. Call center dispatchers are trained to stay on the line till help arrives, or when the emergency ends.
Carbon Monoxide and Fire/Smoke Alarm Options – The company offers these add-on alert services. CO poisoning and fire are potentially important threats to the safety of the user. With standard medical alert systems, users can still click on the help button when the CO or smoke alarm sets off in their homes. However, these options allow the alarm signals to be directly sent to the monitoring center.
3-year Contract – Life Alert ties the user into a 3-year contract. They do allow for cancellations under very stringent conditions. Users may find their contract terms hard to deal with in case things change.
No Prepayment Discounts – While Life Alert’s base price of $29.95 per month for their standard service is alright, they do not offer any discounts for quarterly or annual pre-payments. Most top medical alert companies are willing to slice a couple of dollars off their monthly fees if you prepay in advance. One or two dollars a month can add up after 3 years.
Life Alert Detailed Review
Life Alert is widely recognized as the second largest medical alert systems company in the US behind Philips Lifeline. They were founded in 1987. Life alert has 8 offices spread across the country in California, New Jersey, New York and Florida, and their headquarters is located in Encino, CA (greater Los Angeles area).
The Life Alert name is very well-known amongst seniors, most likely because of their successful advertising campaigns over the last 2 decades. Their ad slogan “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!®” is an advertising classic, inspiring interest and hope amongst seniors and their loved ones. Their brand is so well-known that medical alert systems in general have been called “life alert” systems.
According to their website, the company’s call center handles over two million calls a year, and employs a staff of 600. Life Alert’s various products are focused on helping the elderly and other users live independently at home with a sense of security and peace. Their company was also endorsed by the late Everett Koop, former U.S. Surgeon General.
How It Works
The Life Alert system allows users to connect with their trained emergency response center dispatcher for help through pressing a help button that is worn as a necklace pendant or a wristband. The help button is wirelessly connected to a base console unit. Seniors can access this help anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Besides their basic system for health and fall emergencies, the company offers additional services for carbon monoxide (CO), smoke and fire detection, as well as mobile and cell phone alert services. They also offer an on-the-go button with GPS that operates when the senior is out of his or her home.
The traditional basic in-home Life Alert system costs $29.95 a month. However, it is unclear if this basic package is still available to new customers in 2017. People appear to be quoted higher level packages that include more options. Life Alert does not list its prices and requires that people call in and ask for a price quote.
Based on our research, there are different packages priced approximately between $49 to $89.95 a month. The monthly costs depend on the included package options and the availability of special offers. There are options like an on-the-go mobile GPS button, carbon monoxide and smoke detection, shower button and others.
Besides the monthly cost, customers also need to pay a price of usually between $95 to $200 for installation to get started. There appears to be some variations in installation pricing. In 2016, several people reported a $96 fee for installation, while others reported fees in the $189 to $200+ range. We were not able to find any definite prices listed on Life Alert’s website. In comparison, most leading medical alert companies offer clearer price listings.
There is a 3-year contract to use the system. That said, they do allow for cancellations under very stringent conditions, possibly when the user dies or moves to a skilled nursing facility. These terms are spelled out in the contract, so be sure to read it carefully if you do sign up.
The Life Alert system equipment is in line with standard industry offers. The base console includes a speakerphone that allows for communications between the user and emergency response center dispatcher. For the help button, they offer options for either a wristband and necklace pendant that can be worn around the neck. This button is waterproof so that it can be worn in the shower as well. The company also provides a guarantee on their equipment in case they fail.
Life Alert also offers an on-the-go mobile GPS button and a separate Help button for shower emergencies.
Phone Line Options
The classic Life Alert in-home system works best with regular phone lines. It will also work with VoIP services such as Vonage. It does not work with Magic Jack, though. The company does warn users that VoIP services could be less reliable. This is because unlike a regular land phone line, a VoIP phone connection depends on the internet connection working properly.
Life Alert also offers newer product options that do not require a home phone line to work. Medical alert systems that do not require a home phone line have gained popularity in recent years, as more and more households have dropped their home phone services.
Installation of the Life Alert service is done through professional technicians. This can be advantageous for users who are not sure about how to hook up the system on their own, or have a family member of friend help them. The downside side is that their service costs $95 to $200 to be installed, and you do not have a choice to forgo this.
The wireless range of the classic home Life Alert system is up to 150 feet. The actual range will vary depending on the environment, physical obstacles and floor plan of the home. This is sufficient for most homes, although it is less than the up to 300 – 400 ft range offered by other top systems.
For seniors on the move, their on-the-go button allows them to a have a button that works while they are outside and traveling. Emergency calls are connected via cellular phone service. Therefore, cellular phone signals must be strong for service to be made available. To learn more about mobile medical alert systems, check out these GPS medical alert reviews.
Life Alert runs their own UL and CSAA 5-Diamond certified monitoring center. They manage their monitoring center in-house to ensure good quality standards when handling emergency phone calls. Monitoring is provided 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Calls are generally answered within 30 to 50 seconds.
Their dispatchers are trained to stay on the phone with users until help arrives, or when the emergency is over. This is a good practice because the dispatcher is following through to make sure that help arrives. At the same time, they can also provide assurance to the senior to let them know that they are not alone. Someone knows that they are hurt and will get them the help they need.
In case of power failures, Life Alert offers a battery backup of up to 48 hours. This allows the system to continue functioning until power is restored.
Carbon Monoxide, Fire/Smoke Monitoring
Besides the main medical alert system for health emergencies, Life Alert offers other additional monitoring services that protects seniors in other emergencies. This includes carbon monoxide (CO), smoke and fire detection alerts. With these services, whenever instances of CO, smoke or fire is detected, an alert is automatically registered at the 24/7 emergency monitoring center. A dispatcher will address the situation according to Life Alert’s procedures.
According to the CDC, the elderly aged 65 and older is more susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning than people from younger age groups. Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas. It can cause people breathing it unknowingly to become dizzy and weak, unable to press the help button on their medical alert pendant. It helps to have the alert go directly to a live monitoring center dispatcher standing by and ready to call the authorities for help.
Having smoke and fire detection connected to a monitoring call center is also helpful because the senior user may have passed out or be deep asleep, and unaware of the danger that is encircling him or her. With these additional services, the monthly price of the medical alarm system will be $49.95 or more a month.
The main Life Alert complaints were not about the quality of their service, but difficult experiences with aggressive sales people and cancellations.
Some prospective customers were taken aback by the aggressive attitude of certain sales people or the numerous follow-up sales calls. Life Alert’s website contains limited information and no price quotes, so most interested prospects are obliged to interact with a sales rep to learn more. In some instances, the interactions did not go as well. A few went through the trouble of filing BBB complaints.
Fortunately, the company addressed their complaints and agreed to place them on their do not call list. It should be noted that these complainants voluntarily contacted Life Alert for information in the first place. They were not recipients of unsolicited cold calls.
Another area that drew some dissatisfaction is the existence of 3-year contracts. Some customers may not have understood that a long term contract is required. Others assume that they could cancel more easily or were caught in unforeseen circumstances. This was the case described in a BBB complaint filed in August 2016. A senior lady was susceptible to strokes and seizures and worried that she will not be able to push her button if she became unconscious. After a seizure episode, on the advice of her doctors, she decided that she needed a fall detection unit. Life Alert was unable to provide this.
Subsequently, the subscriber sought to cancel her service but found herself bound by more than 2 1/2 years of a 3-year contract. As a compromise, the company offered to reduce her commitment term drastically. She remained unhappy, citing that she was not aware that a 3-year contract was in place. The company disputed this and named the numerous times that this fact had been presented to her.
On a positive note, these complaints could potentially be minimized or eliminated if consumers were to understand what they are signing up for. If you are considering this system, we recommend that you take your time with researching, and speak in detail with the sales representative helping you.
Despite these negatives, in general, customers appear satisfied with the level of service provided by Life Alert. On the Consumer Affairs.com website, the company has scored a high 4.9 out of 5 star rating from 575 reviews (as of Feb ’17). In one example, a customer said his dad fell and pushed his Life Alert button. The ambulance arrived in good time to take his dad to hospital, where he was treated for a fractured pelvis. The customer was really glad that Life Alert worked as it was supposed to work.
Life Alert has a Better Business Bureau rating of A+ (as of Feb 2017). As a BBB member business, it means that they will strive to adhere to the standards of the BBB and answer to complaints brought through the BBB. This is a good thing for customers as the BBB provides standards and a middle-man platform for addressing complaints.
Their BBB report indicated 224 complaints in the last 3 years (as of Feb 2017). All 224 complaints were answered to, and 56 complaints were resolved to the satisfaction of customers. The rest 168 complaints were also answered to, but either the customer remained dissatisfied, or they were satisfied but did not respond back.
This appears to be a significantly higher number of complaints compared to Philips Lifeline, which is often referred to as the largest company in the medical alerts industry. As a comparison, Lifeline showed a total of 26 complaints within the same 3 year period (as of Feb 2017). That’s almost 90% less than Life Alert’s complaints.
911 Cell Phone
Life Alert’s 911 cell phone is a special small standalone cell phone unit that connects the user to 911 by pressing on a red button. This is a great add-on option for any elderly user who may also require protection outside of their homes. A quick press of the help button will connect the user to a 911 operator. There is no GPS included. They have a separate mobile GPS alert button available.
Unlike a regular cell, this device only dials to 911. However, there are no extra subscription fees to a cell phone provider. The battery also lasts for up to 7 to 10 years, so there are no worries about charging it up.
Life Alert Cell Phone Alert Service
Life Alert offers a mobile service that connects users to their monitoring center via cell phones. This works for both smartphones or older feature phones. At the press of a keypad button or through a smartphone app, the user is connected to the Life Alert emergency response center to ask for help. This service is applicable for seniors needing help outside of their homes. It is also useful for people of all ages who need the security and protection.
If a user is ever caught in a threatening situation, whether it is an emergency or something else (eg. being followed by suspicious characters), they can call on a monitoring center dispatcher to stay on the line with them until they are safe.
To compare Life Alert with other medical alert companies, check out the Compare Medical Alert Systems chart.
While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this review, the information is supplied without warranties of any kind. We advise all readers to do careful due diligence before purchasing. Take time to visit the company’s website or speak with their representatives.