Life Alert Medical Alert
Life Alert is one of the biggest names in medical monitoring and offers services that make them worth considering. However, they also lack some great features that other companies offer. For instance, they allow you to add an additional pendant to your plan but for an additional cost. They offer no check-in service, which some companies allow you to buy and others include for free.
However, they do have some excellent features. The system automatically monitors for smoke and gas leaks and sends out an alert if it detects dangerous fumes. This can be a life saver if smoke or gas causes you to pass out, leaving you unable to make the call yourself.
Life Alert comes with a three year contract which is a long time to be locked into a deal, especially since many of the other top providers in the industry have no contracts or very short ones. However, along with this contract is a price lock, which means what you pay more over time.
How it Works
Life Alert utilizes a typical medical monitoring device, a pendant you can wear as a wristband or around your neck. The pendant has a button you push in case of a medical emergency. When you push it, the button sends an alert signal to a base console connected to your phone. The alert is passed along the phone line to Life Alert's monitoring center. The monitoring center staff contacts first responders or other emergency contacts.
Life Alert sends professional technicians to install the system. While this is convenient and efficient, they do charge an installation fee. There is no additional activation fee. Most of their competitors do not charge for installation or activation, and indeed the competition typically offers a self-installation option.
Life Alert Equipment & Service
The basic equipment package from Life Alert is fairly standard in the medical alert industry, including a base console that is a speakerphone. It allows for communication between the user and monitoring center staff. The wrist or necklace pendant is equipped with a help button, and is waterproof. It can even be worn in the shower. All equipment is guaranteed. You can purchase additional buttons for other users at $49 each.
The basic Life Alert service works best with traditional land lines. It will work with VoIP services such as Skype or Vonage, but may not be 100% reliable. VoIP service depends on your internet connection working properly, so there is more of a risk of a break in service. Life Alert does not work with all VoIP service providers, check to see if it works with yours before signing up.
The system has a wireless range of about 150 feet, with the exact range depending on the design and layout of the home, as well as the materials used. While the 150 foot range is adequate for most homes, it's less than the range of 300 – 400 feet offered by most of Life Alert's competitors.
Should there be a power failure, the system's backup battery lasts up to 48 hours. The system continues to function until power is restored.
Life Alert's Complete Plan
The company does not offer some of the optional products available from other medical alert providers, such as a lockbox. However they do include a 911 phone designed to contact emergency services as part of their Complete Plan. The 911 phone works with Life Alert's GPS mobile service, allowing you to go out and about and still be connected. There is a GPS tracker in the phone that pinpoints your location. The unit has a 10-year battery life. It's a great option for active seniors. The Complete plan also offers fire and carbon monoxide monitoring.
Monitoring at Life Alert
Life Alert operates and staffs their own medical monitoring centers, ensuring quality customer service standards in handling emergency medical calls. The monitoring centers run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Incoming emergency calls are answered within 30 to 50 seconds. Dispatchers stay on the phone with clients until help arrives, or in some cases until the emergency situation is ended or resolved. They provide assurance to callers to let them know help is on the way, and they are being looked after. The dispatcher functions as a life line during the crisis while the caller waits for help to arrive.
Carbon Monoxide, Fire & Smoke Monitoring
A great feature of Life Alert's Complete plan is their carbon monoxide (CO), smoke and fire detection alerts. Whenever CO2, smoke or fire are detected, an alert zips to the monitoring center. The dispatcher checks with the user to assess the situation and bring in help if it's needed. Fire, police and medical personnel are called in as needed in these situations.
Fees and Contracts
The standard billing practice in the medical alert industry is to charge by the month. The basic Life Alert service cost comes in slightly above average at about $30 per month. If you elect the Complete plan, you are up around $50 per month. You'll also pay in the $100 range for installation. Some sales representatives will quote a much higher installation rate. You may want to bargain the rate down if you run into a high installation quote. Tell the sales person you know the rate should be around $100.
Life Alert requires a 3-year contract for their medical alert services. Check the contract carefully before signing to be sure you understand it's terms. Keep an eye out for an auto-renew clause to tie you in for another 3 years once the term of service is up. If you do not cancel within 6 months of the expiration of your first contract, you may be up for automatic renewal for another 3 years with Life Alert.
The good news here is that you lock in your rates for the duration of the contract, your price will not rise during the contract period.
You can reach Life Alert via their toll free customer service phone number. There is a menu of articles at their site about medical alert services, but no FAQ section. The website is geared more to marketing than providing customer service. They have a lot of positive testimonials at their site, but it's a good idea to seek out customer reviews from independent sources.
Verdict - Good
Although, it is missing some great features, Life Alert offers enough quality service that it is worth considering.
Although the base console Life Alert system has the smallest range of the major medical alert providers, it's still adequate at 150 feet. The company has a portable GPS option for when you need to leave the house and the console behind. The top tier service from Life Alert offers additional monitoring options, such as for fire and carbon monoxide. Overall, they are a reliable company providing professional medical monitoring at fair rates.