LifeStation is one of the largest medical alert services in the industry and has been around for a long time. With such longevity and stature, we’d expect more innovation. But in our LifeStation review, you'll read about the same three medical alert systems for seniors that other companies offer -- an in-home landline, in-home cellular, and mobile GPS medical alert.
In many ways, LifeStation stills seems stuck in the past, as you can only purchase a plan by calling the sales phone number. You can’t buy a medical alert system online, as with most services. This results in pricing that is not transparent. And, at least for us, it has resulted in receiving inconsistent quotes from different sales reps for the product.
Medical alert systems
On the LifeStation website, the company features the same in-home medical alert system and mobile medical alert device used by many other services. However, when we ordered the in-home system, we received a system that was not shown on the website. We believe it must have been an older system, as the audio quality was horrendous. Talking to emergency operators through this base station was difficult enough for someone with good hearing, much less someone with age-related hearing loss. The speakers were distorting so much, we often had to ask the operator to repeat themselves, which is not an obstacle you want to encounter in an emergency.
On a positive note, the pendant range was excellent, reaching up to an average of 117 feet. While this was far below the specified range of 1,200 feet (under ideal circumstances), it was one of the longest ranges among the medical alert systems we tested, which was performed in an apartment complex with many walls. Most maxed out at around 75 feet. At 117 feet, you can easily cover a large apartment and house without any issues with the walls or furniture blocking the signal.
The fall detection pendant also performed well, at least by comparison to other pendants. To be clear, none of the fall detection pendants we tested were great. More often than not, the sensors are either too sensitive, resulting in constant false alerts (a common complaint among seniors) or not sensitive enough. LifeStation’s fall detection pendant was better than most at recognizing actual falls while not calling for help on small drops or bumps. That said, it still caused some false alerts. It’s worth noting too that there is a 25 to 30 second delay between when you fall and when it calls for help. We’d prefer it to be immediate.
Emergency response center
The average call response time was roughly 47 seconds on average during the first round of three-week daily tests. This was good enough to be one of the top three fastest recorded times in the test, though still quite a bit slower than GreatCall’s average time of 20 seconds. However, in the second round of three-week testng, LifeStation’s call response time slowed to about 52 seconds, on average. While it was still above average, we were disappointed it didn’t improve.
The downside to the monitoring center was the call quality. Since the audio quality of the in-home system was so poor, we only evaluated calls made on the mobile medical alert device, which had much better audio. Still, we struggled to understand the operators many times, as they either spoke too quickly or had too strong of a regional accent to make for effective communication. In addition, the operators often sounded bored or uninterested. More So than with other services. While none of the calls were egregiously bad, they didn’t compare to most other services we reviewed.
Medical alert service
As mentioned earlier, LifeStation has been around for a long time and is one of the biggest medical alert companies in the industry. While this sort of thing should instil some confidence in the company, we’re disappointed in the customer service and the lack of innovation from a leader in the industry. Namely, the lack of sufficient information is a concern. While there is a basic FAQs page and some buying guide articles, the amount of information you can easily receive pales in comparison to other services, who pour a lot of effort in publishing articles and blogs aimed at helping you live independently.
The fact that you can’t buy a medical alert system online or get a clear look at the pricing is a concern. We called the number multiple times and received contradicting information on pricing, which is always a concern when pricing isn’t transparently listed. In addition, the customer service wasn’t easy to work with, as they seemed focused more on upselling than answering basic questions or helping us cancel our account.
On the surface, LifeStation is competitively priced. The in-home landline system “starts at” about $21 per month and the in-home cellular option “starts at” $30 per month and the mobile device “starts at” $37 per month. Each is competitively priced at those prices. For example, only Bay Alarm Medical has a lower priced in-home landline system and the in-home cellular system is $5 cheaper than Medical Guardian’s in-home cellular system.
However, when we called about pricing the quotes we received differed on both. The quotes weren’t drastically different from each other, but the mere difference is concerning, as it suggests the sales reps can adjust the price on a whim. In addition, the representatives push add-ons, like additional pendants, fall detection pendants, and wall buttons, that are costly and mostly unnecessary.
Despite being one of the biggest and oldest medical alert companies, LifeStation doesn’t do enough to push the market forward. It offers nothing that you can’t get from other medical alert services for better prices. The in-home system they sent us didn’t match the one they show on their website and the quality of the speaker was so bad, it made communicating with emergency responders a chore.
And even though the emergency call response times were good and the fall detection pendant was decent, LifeStation can’t make up for the aging sales model and the lack of pricing transparency. You will learn much more about medical alert systems and aging in place from other medical alert services than you will with LifeStation.