Today’s seniors often wish to live independently, aging in place in the comfort of their homes. Yet seniors face a very real risk of falling. The CDC estimates a quarter of all adults fall each year, leading to nearly 3 million seniors treated in the ER for fall-related injuries. Medical alert systems provide a way for seniors and adults with disabilities to live independently, while giving their families peace of mind. These systems connect users to monitoring companies or family members who can assist if they fall or have another type of medical need.
Finding the right medical alert system means comparing different companies and their costs and offerings. The marketing language medical alert companies use can make this difficult for families who aren’t industry experts. We’ve created side-by-side comparisons of some of the top monitoring systems to help families make informed decisions.
Life Alert and Bay Alarm Medical are two popular companies offering medical alert services. These established companies are based in the United States and offer reliable monitoring and customer service. Of the two, Bay Alarm Medical stands out because of its lower price and unique services, but both offer quality medical alert services.
|Life Alert||Bay Alarm Medical|
|Lowest Monthly Cost||$49||$19.95|
|Highest Monthly Cost||$89||$59.95|
|Long-Term Contract||3-year contract||No|
|Start-up Fees||$95 for the home unit, $198 for On-the-Go||None|
|Range||800 feet||1,000 feet|
|Battery life||72-hour backup for the home unit, up to 10 years for On-the-Go||32-hour backup for the home unit, 3-day battery for On the Go and On the Road systems|
|Fall Detection||No||Yes, for $10 a month|
|Water-Resistant||Shower-proof pendant||Shower-proof pendant|
|Connection||Landline or cellular, cellular only for On the Go||Landline or cellular, cellular only for On the Go and On the Road|
|Monthly Add-On Costs||$19 a month for In the Bathroom device, $19 a month for On the Go unit||$10 for fall detection, $5 for Caregiver Tracking|
|GPS||Yes with On the Go system||Yes with On the Go and On the Road systems|
|Call Center||24/7 U.S.-based UL-Listed call center||24/7 U.S.-based call center with a 45-second response|
|Accessories||None||$2.95 for wall button, $1.95 a month for optional lockbox|
Overview of Life Alert
Life Alert is one of the oldest medical alert systems, as it was founded in 1979. Heavy marketing also means it’s one people readily recognize. It stands out because it has its own call center and claims to help someone every 11 seconds.
Life Alert’s main offering is its In the Home medical alert system. For a one-time fee of $95 and a monthly fee of $49, seniors receive a base unit and one waterproof pendant. This cost includes in-house setup by a Life Alert team member. The base station works via a landline or cellular connection. An optional bathroom HELP button is available. The system has a 800-foot range, so the base unit is accessible from anywhere in most homes.
If a senior uses Life Alert to call for help, the operator will stay on the line from the start of the call until help arrives. The call center is based in the United States and is UL-listed with trained operators.
Life Alert has an On the Go system that’s GPS enabled and runs on a cellular connection. Its battery lasts up to 10 years and has unlimited range. As long as it’s within cellular range, it provides protection for the user.
With a Life Alert system, fall detection is unavailable. The company claims that fall alert technology gives too many false alerts, which frustrates customers.
- Trusted company based in the United States
- Start-to-finish support from trained operators
- Bathroom HELP button option
- US, UL-listed call center
- Landline or cellular connectivity
- Available mobile app to connect with monitoring center
- Medical records kept on file with the company to help operators
- Batteries that never need to be recharged
- GPS tracking with mobile unit
- Equipment has lifetime warranty
- Requires 3-year service contract
- Doesn’t offer fall detection
- High cost, with upfront fees
Overview of Bay Alarm Medical
Bay Alarm Medical got its start as a home security business. It later added medical monitoring and has since grown into one of the nation’s most trusted monitoring companies. It partners with U.S.-based call centers to provide around-the-clock monitoring. Bay Alarm Medical guarantees a response within 45 seconds of pushing the help button. Bilingual support is available through this company.
Bay Alarm Medical’s in-home unit costs nothing to set up and is $19.95 a month. It has a sizable 1,000-foot range, and a personal help button that can be worn around the wrist or neck. This waterproof button makes it easy for the wearer to get in contact with the monitoring company when needed.
Families who want On the Go protection can pay $29.95 a month for a GPS-enabled personal help button with a two-way speaker built-in. This system runs on a cellular network. The help button is worn on the belt or around the neck. Bay Alarm also offers an On the Road system that’s designed for in-car use. It plugs into the car and tracks the vehicle’s location. This unique system lets users call for help after a crash. It also has crash detection technology to call for help automatically if a crash occurs.
If a family wants all three systems, they can purchase the 360-Degree Protection plan. This bundles in-home, On the Go and On the Road services for $59.95 a month. Fall detection is available with all systems for $10 extra per month.
Two optional items can be added to a Bay Alarm medical alert system. A lockbox gives emergency care providers an easy way to get into the subscriber’s home in an emergency situation. Wall buttons mount to walls in the home to make it easier to reach the call center in an emergency.
Bay Alarm Medical offers tools for caregivers. A Caregiver Tracking portal lets loved ones view a senior’s location through an app. It can also be used to set up geofencing protection. This costs $5 a month.
- No service contract required
- Fall detection available
- More affordable price
- Car monitoring option
- Waterproof help button
- Included mobile app that lets caregiver update contacts or medical history
- Doesn’t have its own call center
- Doesn’t lock in pricing
- Additional fee for Caregiver Tracking
Bay Alarm Medical and Life Alert offer similar levels of protection. The companies in-home units have long ranges, which provide protection throughout most homes. However, only Bay Alarm Medical offers fall detection as an option. This makes it ideal for families with loved ones at high risk for falls.
Of the two, Bay Alarm Medical is the more affordable. However, its basic system offers few bells and whistles, and all add-ons increase the cost. Yet even with the additional features, it remains a more affordable option.
Life Alert offers professional installation. Seniors who are concerned about getting properly connected will find this a perk. Life Alert also has its own call center and makes its own equipment, which means everything about the system is handled in-house. However, it locks families in with three-year service contracts.
When compared side-by-side, Bay Alarm Medical offers most of the same features as Life Alert, with a lower cost and no long-term commitment. That’s why it’s our pick of these two medical alert systems.