Medical alert systems are wearable devices that allow the user to press a button for immediate help if an emergency happens. Being alone, traveling, or simply taking a walk can be worrisome for seniors and people with health issues. Often, aging means losing proper balance or mobility due to declining health. Knowing help can be quickly summoned allows anyone with medical conditions to live their lives more independently.
There are numerous medical alert systems on the market, and each has its own set of options. With a variety of features, styles, fees and service choices, it’s often challenging to decide on the best brand. Some of the important options are not only the cost but the functionality based on the senior’s needs. Some of the questions to ask are:
Two companies that manufacture medical alert systems are Life Alert and Bay Alarm Medical, each offering their own features and styles. Both of these brands have basic options but pricing, features, device designs and support are different. Read this guide to compare the choices to see which may fit your needs the best.
|Feature||Life Alert||Bay Alarm Medical|
|Up-Front Fee||$95 to $198||$0|
|Monthly Fee||$49 to $89||$19.95 to $29.95|
|Add-Ons||$49 one-time fee for spouse monitoring||Free spouse monitoring with a small fee for an extra pendant|
|Connection Type||Landline or cellular, mobile + GPS||Landline or cellular, mobile + GPS|
|Battery Life||72-hour backup for an in-home device, up to 7 years for In the Home pendant battery, up to 10 years for the wall-mounted HELP button and 7 years for the HELP On the Go with GPS device||Up to 5 years for the non-rechargeable in-home call button, up to 5 days for the battery in the 4G/LTE button|
|Fall Detection||N/A||Yes, $10 per month|
|GPS||Included with the HELP On-The-Go GPS device||Included with On-The-Go devices|
|Outdoor Cover||Included with HELP On-The-Go||N/A|
|Call Center||24/7 support, USA-based||24/7 support, USA-based|
|Range from Base Center||Up to 800 feet||Up to 1,000 feet|
|2-Way Voice Communication||Included as standard||Included as standard|
|Optional Extras||Wall-mounted HELP button, app to contact Life-Alert center, in-home cellular unit||Wall help button, in-home cellular unit, caregiver tracking app, a device protection plan, PIN-protected lockbox|
Life Alert began as the most prominent medical alert system company over 30 years ago and is still a trusted brand. Their protection packages include a waterproof pendant that can be worn on a lanyard or the wristband provided, and they hold a high reputation for quick emergency response times. For seniors without a landline at home, Life Alert offers wireless options utilizing 4G/LTE cellular technology.
Many seniors prefer to stay at home and the Life Alert home-base station has a high-quality speaker to make hearing two-way communication easier. Wall buttons are waterproof so they can be placed in the bathtub, shower or anywhere there may be moisture. When the emergency button is pressed, the call center picks up within 15 to 20 seconds and family members or friends are telephoned or sent a text notification.
Although Life Alert is well-known and has a Better Business Bureau rating of A+, the company does not offer fall detection, which is an important feature. Life Alert has a higher startup price range and requires a minimum three-year contract. Seniors and their family members may not like being locked into a contract.
Life Alert includes personal security with a separate button to call for help if an intruder is trying to break in. The home-base has loud enough audio for the security dispatcher to yell out that police are on their way providing an extra layer of protection for seniors at home alone.
When a budget is important, Bay Alarm Medical has zero startup costs, cheaper monthly fees and ships all equipment free. Seniors can take advantage of all the in-home options such as wall buttons and a PIN-protected lockbox for the front door. This allows easy access for emergency personnel and family or friends to enter their home.
For seniors who enjoy car-trips, On the Road GPS includes location services and will detect crashes and notify the call center automatically. The caregiver phone app allows family and friends to easily locate their loved one in the case of an accident or a senior who may be lost. Bay Alarm Medical offers many features, but for some, these options may be too complicated.
While the home-base battery lasts up to five years, the 4G/LTE button battery only holds a charge for up to five days. Bay Alarm Medical has quite a few additional options and services such as fall detection for $10 a month, an equipment protection plan for $5 a month, 4G LTE cellular for $10 a month and more. These monthly charges drive the cost up higher than other companies.
There is no monthly contract with Bay Alarm Medical and even if you pre-pay for monthly services and want to change or cancel a service, you’ll receive a refund for any prepaid time.
When shopping for the best medical alert systems, both Life Alert and Bay Alarm Medical are great choices and offer excellent service. Because of Life Alert’s three-year contract and not having an option for fall detection, we feel Bay Alarm Medical is the better of the two companies.
Bay Alarm Medical has month-to-month billing and no contract, plus they offer lower pricing for the basic monthly fee and zero startup costs. The home-base reaches further, 1,000 feet vs. 800 feet for Life Alert, and wall buttons have a recessed alert button to avoid accidental emergency help calls. Bay Alarm Medical has more options and services to choose from.
Life Alert is still a well-known medical alert services company and has a solid reputation, but Bay Alarm Medical provides more stylish designs and devices and incorporates contemporary technology in the systems they offer.