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Page Reviewed / Updated – December 09, 2020

Medical alert systems help keep seniors safe in their homes and on the road by enabling communication with caregivers and emergency services. These systems can be home or cellular-based and offer an array of features, from fall detection to voice-to-text messaging. The wide variety of devices and plans available can make medical alert systems a challenging purchase. Our itemized comparisons are designed to make the choice easier by presenting the most important facts about some of the most popular systems.

In Comparing GreatCall vs. Medical Guardian, we found that both companies offer unique device options. While GreatCall offers simplified cellphones designed especially for seniors, Medical Guardian has a wider choice of wearable options as well as a total in-home safety system equipped with motion sensors. Unlike its competitor, Medical Guardian charges no activation fees and offers most of its devices, with the exception of the Freedom Guardian smartwatch, at no charge. Because of its wider range of tech and because it is the only company here to offer landline-based options, Medical Guardian came out as the winner in this comparison.

Category Side By Side Comparison GreatCall

Medical Guardian

COSTS
Up-Front Equipment $49.99 per device $0 – $249.99 for Freedom Guardian
Monthly Monitoring $24.99 – $39.99 $29.95 – $79.95
Activation Fee $35 $0
Contract No contracts; month-to-month plans with no cancellation fees and prorated refunds in case of early cancellation No contracts; month-to-month, quarterly and annual plans
Optional Monthly Add-On Services Device protection insurance – $5 Caregiver tracking app – up to $5 depending on the device Fall detection – $10 per month in capable devices
FEATURES
Water-Resistant Wearable Devices Pendant, wristband or smartwatch Pendant, wristband and smartwatch
Connection Cellular only (Verizon network) Landline or cellular
2-Way Voice Communication Enabled in all devices Via home base stations, wearable pendant and Freedom Guardian smartwatch
Range (From in-home base unit for landline service) No landline service available, unlimited range within service areas for all devices Up to 1300′ for landline-based systems; up to 600′ for cellular-based Home Guardian
Battery Life Up to 24 hours of rechargeable battery life in the Lively Mobile Plus Up to 4 months of rechargeable battery life in the Lively Wearable2, although functionality is dependent on connectivity to a powered-on smartphone Up to 30 hours of backup battery life in Home Guardian base units Up to 32 hours of backup battery life in Classic and Family Guardian base stations Up to 24 hours of battery life in mobile pendants Up to 48 hours of battery life in Freedom Guardian smartwatch
FALL DETECTION, LOCATION and RESPONSE SERVICE
Fall Detection Available only with the Ultimate Health & Safety Package Available as an add-on with enabled units
GPS Locator Included with all devices Included with cellular and mobile devices
Coverage Away From Home Included with all devices Included with cellular and mobile devices
24/7 USA Call Center Yes; translators available for service in several languages Yes; service in English and Spanish
OPTIONAL ACCESSORIES
The Urgent Care program is an around-the-clock helpline staffed by registered nurses who can offer minor health advice and refill routine prescriptions over the phone. GreatCall Link shares locations and activity levels with family and caregivers PIN-protected hanging lockboxes Car charger for mobile devices Fall detection monitoring Additional wireless wall buttons Specialized fall detection pendants Limitless Icons Collection offers decorative options for wearable pendants

Overview of GreatCall

GreatCall, a subsidiary of Best Buy, offers a range of fully mobile medical alert systems for seniors. The Lively Mobile is a basic medical alert device with GPS and fall detection capabilities, and the Lively Wearable2 is a smartwatch-style device that can be connected to any smartphone for medical alert functionality. GreatCall offers two senior-friendly mobile phones — the Jitterbug Flip, an easy-to-use cellphone with large buttons, and the Jitterbug Smart2, a simplified smartphone designed specifically for elders.

Each of GreatCall’s devices has an upfront purchase price of $49.99 and an activation fee of $35. Its basic plans start at $24.99 per month and can go as high as $39.99. This company offers unique care features like on-the-go wellness advice and a caregiver monitoring app that also collects data about activity levels.

Pros:

  • Lower monthly monitoring fees than Medical Guardian
  • Minor health advice and prescription refills available over the phone
  • Caregiver tracking app reports user activity levels
  • Multilingual service via third-party translation

Cons:

  • Upfront cost of $49.99 per device
  • Activation fee of $35
  • No aesthetic customization options for wearables
  • Fall detection monitoring can be unreliable — recalls occurred in 2019
  • Smartwatch-style device requires connectivity to a smartphone for alert functionality

Overview of Medical Guardian

Medical Guardian is a highly established medical alert company offering a wide array of technological options for seniors, including the Family Guardian, a full in-home system with motion sensors and a caregiver monitoring dashboard. This company’s Freedom Guardian is a simplified smartwatch with voice-to-text capabilities, GPS monitoring and a mobile companion app.

Its systems come with no activation fees, and all devices come at no cost except for the Freedom Guardian smartwatch, which costs $249.95 upfront. Monthly monitoring plans start at $29.99 per month for basic services and can go all the way up to $79.95 per month for total home monitoring with the Family Guardian system.

Pros:

  • Wearable pendants can be customized with decorative cabochons from the Limitless Icons Collection
  • Comprehensive home monitoring system includes motion sensors
  • This company’s smartwatch alert system functions without the need for the user to be carrying a cell phone
  • Free spousal monitoring and additional call buttons under select plans
  • No activation fees; most devices come free

Cons:

  • High monthly monitoring fees
  • Service in only English and Spanish
  • Very high $249.95 device fee for Freedom Guardian smartwatch

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Our Pick

Both GreatCall and Medical Guardian offer unique modern medical alert solutions. While GreatCall offers a line of elder-friendly cellphones great for seniors who use tech to keep in touch on the go, Medical Guardian offers a total home monitoring system with motion sensors which is more suited to homebodies. While each company offers a smartwatch-style option, Medical Guardian’s Freedom Guardian has a few more features, including voice-to-text communication and medical alert capabilities even without an adjacent phone.

While GreatCall has lower monthly monitoring fees, it has a smaller range of devices and lacks any landline-based plans. It also had to recall many of its products in 2019 due to defective safety features. Because of Medical Guardian’s increased safety ratings and wider choice of devices, it takes the winning spot in this comparison. Check out our ranking of the top medical alert systems for even more device options at even more affordable prices.

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