Medical alert systems are designed to give seniors and those who have a disability greater security in their homes. These devices, either an in-home alarm system or a wearable device, usually a pendant, connect the subscriber to emergency services with one touch. Being able to push a button and connect to a 24-hour monitoring system can help those who have fallen out of reach of a phone are unable to speak to ask for assistance. Some of the wearable devices use a combination of GPS and cellular technology, which can pinpoint the wearer’s location and benefit seniors who are prone to wandering.
Several prominent companies manufacture wearable and in-home medical alert devices, and many have several different products and subscription plans. While the plans and benefits share many similarities, choosing the right fit for an individual can be confusing. Plus, medical alarm companies use marketing language that presents each product in the best light, further confusing many people who aren’t familiar with the intricacies of each type of device.
This guide aims to present a fair comparison of two popular systems, Medical Guardian and Life Alert, using straightforward terms to help readers find the best fit for themselves or a loved one. Both companies create high-quality products and have wearable and in-home devices, although Medical Guardian has a better assortment of options for users.
|Category||Side-By-Side Comparison||Medical Guardian||Life Alert|
|Up-Front Equipment||$99 for Freedom Guardian $0 for all other models||$0|
|Monthly Monitoring||$29.95 for Classic Guardian $34.95 for Home Guardian $79.95 for Family Guardian $39.95 for Mobile Guardian $49.95 for Active Guardian $44.95 for Freedom Guardian||$49 – $89|
|Activation Fee||None||$95 – $198|
|Contract||Contracts available on a monthly, quarterly, semi-annual or annual basis Discounts on all contracts except monthly||3 year|
|Optional Monthly Add-On Services||$10/month for fall detection||N/A|
|FEATURES||Water-Resistant Wearable Devices||Mobile and Active Guardian Freedom Guardian is not water-resistant N/A for other models||Yes|
|Connection||Landline for Classic Guardian All others – cellular connection||Landline and cellular|
|Two-Way Voice Communication||Yes for Home Guardian and Family Guardian, through the device speaker Yes for Mobile Guardian A companion app for Freedom Guardian||Yes|
|Range (from the in-home base unit for landline service)||1,300 feet for Classic and Family Guardian 600 feet for Home Guardian Unlimited for Mobile, Active and Freedom Guardian||800 feet for In the Home and In the Bathroom plans Unlimited for On the Go plan|
|Battery Life||32-hour backup for Classic Guardian 30-hour backup for Home Guardian 32-hour backup for Family Guardian 24 hours for Mobile Guardian 5 days for Active Guardian 2 days for Freedom Guardian||72-hour backup for In the Home and In the Bathroom plans Up to 10 years for On the Go plan|
|FALL DETECTION, LOCATION and RESPONSE SERVICE|
|Fall Detection||$10/month for Classic, Home, Family and Active Guardian N/A for Mobile and Freedom Guardian||No|
|GPS Locator||GPS for Mobile Guardian Wi-Fi for Active and Freedom Guardian N/A for all other models||Yes, with In the Bathroom and On the Go plans|
|Coverage Away From Home||Yes for Mobile, Active and Freedom Guardian No for Classic, Home and Family Guardian||Yes, for On the Go|
|24/7 USA Call Center||Yes||Yes|
|OPTIONAL ACCESSORIES||$2/month for lockbox services to allow EMS access to the home $2/month per button for manual wall-mounted buttons $5 for a voice-activated wall-mounted button (only for Family and Classic Guardian models)||None|
Medical Guardian Overview
Medical Guardian is a company specifically created to address the needs of the elderly, with a wide range of medical alert plans and devices to cover individual requirements. Each device and plan’s characteristics are made to help the elderly age in place, in their communities, with dignity and security.
We like Medical Guardian because it has more plans and types of devices than many other companies, including whole-home monitoring and the flexibility of smartwatch styles with talk-to-text. Plus, subscribers aren’t locked into a certain type of plan and so may change their device type and plan as their needs change. However, pricing for Medical Guardian plans is higher than many other brands.
Medical Guardian’s Classic Guardian, Home Guardian and Family Guardian are in-home alert systems capable of monitoring everyone in the house, which may be useful for caretakers or seniors who are aging in place together. These devices are labeled in braille and have large buttons, easy for seniors to read and operate. Two-way communication from the wearer to either a U.S.-based monitoring system or preloaded contacts, such as a caregiver or family member, are also included. Caregivers can monitor the location of wearable device owners through a portal and communicate with them through voice-to-text. Wearers can also summon assistance from a friend when an emergency service response isn’t necessary.
Medical Guardian Pros
- No upfront fees for most plan and devices
- Smartwatch style available for Freedom Guardian
- Large selection of plans and devices
- Two-way communication
Medical Guardian Cons
- High plan costs
- Freedom Guardian doesn’t have fall detection
- A limited number of languages spoken by operators
Life Alert Overview
Life Alert has been in business for over 30 years and has consistently embraced developing technology to improve its products. Life Alert was the first company to design a wearable pendant with extended battery life. In fact, the devices don’t need to be recharged, and with care, can easily last 10 years, which can benefit seniors who may forget to charge a phone or smartwatch.
The company has three types of plans: On The Go (a wearable device), In The Bathroom and In The Home. Each device plan has emergency services available at the push of a button and communication with a U.S.-based monitoring service, with operators trained to determine the level of response each incident requires. The Life Alert customer care center can also be accessed through an app compatible with iOS and Android mobile devices.
Life Alert Pros
- Lifetime guarantee on all products
- 10+ years of battery life for In The Bathroom and On The Go devices
- Established, well-regarded company
- Cell phone apps are available at no extra cost
- 24-7 live support
Life Alert Cons
- One-time sign-up fee
- Mandatory three-year contract
- Wearable devices don’t have the sleek smartwatch design
- No fall detection service
- Monthly fees higher than many other companies
- No medical monitoring system
Both companies have durable devices and a reliable service using cellular towers to pinpoint the location of subscribers. Both companies offer plans that have two-way communication, which can help monitoring operators or caregivers lend assistance without calling an ambulance. Medical Guardian has high monthly fees, and for the Freedom Guardian, the $99 fee for the device may be difficult for seniors on a fixed income to afford. However, comparing the costs for plans from the two companies, both are among the highest in the industry. However, the number of plans that Medical Guardian offers lets seniors find one that more specifically meets their needs.
While both companies have an excellent track record for high-quality devices and responsiveness, the multitude of options from Medical Guardian makes it our winner. Many subscribers appreciate a wearable alert device with smartwatch capabilities, which Life Alert doesn’t have and Medical Guardian does. Plus, Medical Guardian has two-way communication so the wearer can summon nonemergency assistance from a caregiver or family member.