How to Talk to Your Senior Loved One About Getting a Medical Alert System

button alarm

What happens when you know that your elderly loved one should have a medical alert system, but they are stubborn in their refusal to accept one? Unfortunately, many family caregivers have fought this battle with their loved ones. There are many misconceptions about medical alert technology, and it can be tough to get past those long-held beliefs – but perhaps a careful approach, coupled with solid evidence of how good these devices are for seniors, can help your loved one see the light.

How to Approach the Discussion

One of the biggest pushbacks you will get about an emergency button alarm is some version of this: “I don’t need one of those! I’m fine. I’m not in danger of falling or getting hurt!” And they might even admonish you for suggesting otherwise.

The truth is, many of Alert1’s members never had a history of falling. And then, one day, they fell unexpectedly. And some were not able to get help for several hours, when someone finally found them or heard their cries for help. We have heard many heart-wrenching stories from seniors calling to get service after a painful, frightening, or traumatic experience has occurred.

That’s why approaching the discussion the right way, and at the right time, is essential. Here are some tips to get you to that just-right place to discuss the situation.

·         Choose a relaxed and content moment. When you’re going to have an important conversation, not just any old time will do. Have this discussion when your loved one is relaxed, content, and happy.

·         Express how concerned you are about them. While a medical alert is technically for them, make it clear that they are also doing it for you. Let them know that you have trouble walking away from them, concentrating at work, or sleeping at night, because you’re worried about what might happen to them—especially when they are alone. Frame the option of an emergency alert system as a gift they could give you. If you’re not sure how to start the conversation, MyHealthFinder offers a few good ideas.

·         Ask about their concerns. What is it about a panic button alarm that bothers them? They might think it signals a loss of independence (when in fact it’s just the opposite, as it allows them to stay independent for longer). They might think it’s old-fashioned, clunky, and unattractive (today’s styles have come a long way, such as an alert watch that doesn’t even look like a medical alert system). Whatever their concerns are, listen to them with compassion.

·         Compare it to other aging in place solutions. Seniors might not hesitate to add additional lighting in their home if they are having trouble with vision. They might not balk at the idea of a grab bar in the bathroom. They might even be okay with using a cane. There are many elements that help people age in place, and a medical alert pendant or bracelet is just one of those elements.

·         Make it clear this is a preventative measure. Your loved one might be upset at the idea that they are “at risk” just because of their age. Impress upon them the fact that a senior life-saving alert system is supposed to be there before you need it, not after. Emergencies happen unexpectedly, every day. An alert bracelet is like an insurance policy for their health and well-being.

·         Ask them for a trial run. If your elderly loved one is still resistant, ask them if they would be willing to take a medical alert device for a test run by trying it out for a few months. If they are open to it, they will see how lightweight and comfortable these devices are, and how secure they feel with help standing by even in the wee hours of the morning, and they will likely keep it after the test is over.

·         Request a compromise. Perhaps there is something your loved one wants you to do that would be better for your health, such as quitting smoking or getting more exercise. Make a deal – if they are willing to get a medical alert wireless device, you are willing to do what they want in exchange. And you can keep each other accountable. Win-win!

·         Be ready to revisit the issue. The first mention of medical alert systems with fall detection might invoke fear and even anger, as they might see their independence as being threatened. So be ready to revisit the issue again. The fact is, may seniors use medical alarms to maintain their independence and to continue living in their own homes as long as possible.

Bring the Facts to the Table

For those who are open to the idea after your initial discussions, you can approach your next discussion armed with even more facts:

·         Every year, one out of four older adults will suffer a fall, according to the CDC. And one out of five of those falls causes a serious injury, such as a broken bone.

·         Falls for an elderly person are much more serious than a fall suffered by someone younger. In a study by the Journal of Trauma-Injury, Infection, and Critical Care, researchers found that those aged 65 and older who suffered a fall were seven times more likely to die from it.

·         Falls on the same level (such as tripping over a cord versus falling down the stairs) were just as deadly, with a mortality rate for the elderly that is 10 times higher than that of someone younger[1].

·         A study in the British Medical Journal found that 80% of older individuals were unable to get up from the floor by themselves, and 30% of them wound up lying on the floor for an hour or more.

·         Lying on the floor for a long period of time was strongly related to a poor recovery, admission to the hospital, and an eventual move into long-term care[2].

·         In 2019, falls were the leading cause of injury death among those aged 65 and older[3].

·         According to the National Institute on Aging, fear of falling can lead to seniors avoiding their normal activities, which can make them physically weaker, which can then lead to even more falls. It’s a truly vicious cycle. If your loved one has already suffered a fall, this fact can be what it takes to encourage them to get an Alert1 Medical Alert.

Other Options for a Loved One on the Fence

Sometimes it takes a little more convincing to get to where everyone needs to be. To break through the resistance, try these tips:

·         Take a fall risk assessment. This assessment from the Ohio Department of Aging consists of 12 questions that help determine what your fall risk might be. It could be a powerful tool for helping your loved one see that they need an emergency button alarm.

·         Discuss anecdotal evidence. As we get older, falls begin happening more frequently. It’s likely that your loved one has a friend, family member, or old acquaintance who has suffered a fall and then seen the consequences – perhaps they have wound up in long-term care, unable to stay home and independent because their injuries were too severe. Perhaps there is even someone who has passed away as a result of lying on the floor for too long after a fall injury. Though these issues are not pleasant to talk about, they are a reality.

·         Help them mitigate fall risk. Do everything possible to mitigate their risk of falls, but make it clear that this is not an all-around solution. Even if you add in handrails at stairs, grab bars in the bathroom, lift chairs to help them stand safely, and other aging in place home modifications, the risk of injury can be reduced, but never eliminated. A fall detection alarm is for those emergencies that happen despite your best efforts.

·         Visit their doctor with them. Their doctor might be able to impress upon them the importance of having assistance right there at your fingertips. Your loved one might scoff at your requests that they wear a fall detection sensor, but they will likely have much more difficulty doing that when they are talking to a medical professional who is armed with all sorts of statistics and facts.

Gift a Medical Alert Device for a Senior Loved One

If all else fails, give the device as a gift. It could literally save the life of the ones you love.

Show them how easy it is to get assistance right away. Point out that on-the-go models actually encourage them to be active, to get out with friends and family, and to enjoy their outdoor hobbies to the fullest. Select from pendants, medical alert watches or wristbands.

Alert1 is here to help. If your loved one isn’t quite sure yet, show them our website and let them choose the emergency alarm for seniors that is most attractive to them. The more they think about their options, the more likely they will be to say it’s okay to give it a shot – why not? – and the sooner you can get them the protection they need. Life and health are precious, and we need to take care of ourselves and our loved ones as best we can.