4 Tips for Getting Your Loved One to Wear a Medical Alert Pendant
It could be the most important accessory your older parent ever wears
When journalist Daniel Schorr slammed his head on a doorframe in his home several years ago, his wife couldn’t hear his calls for help. So he pushed the button on his medical alert pendant.The emergency response center called his wife, and she rushed him to the emergency room.
None of us wants to imagine a loved one in need of help, yet unable to get it because they can’t physically call for it. Aging parents — especially those with serious medical conditions — can benefit greatly from wearing a medical alert device that could bring emergency help within minutes. Yet many resist the idea of wearing one.
“Elderly people may feel the pendant publicizes to the world that they have a medical condition,” says elder law attorney Sally Hurme, a member of the Health Education Team at AARP in Washington, D.C.
“They may not want to admit that they need help or are frail,” agrees Barbara Ensor, PhD, a licensed psychologistat Stella Maris, a long-term care facility affiliated with Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. “They may also be afraid of who might respond because they don’t know the people.”
But wearing such a pendant may offer a sense of safety, and may even be lifesaving.
Personal emergency response systems (PERS) are typically worn as a pendant, but also come in bracelet or even clip-on styles.Some newer ones work through microchips and global positioning systems (GPS), which can help locate the PERS wearer. Touch a button on the device, and a radio transmitter sends a signal to an emergency response center, which then talks with the person, finding out what she needs. Some devices also have sensors that detect falls, so that a response center can send help even if a person is unconscious and unable to push the button. Others monitor activities, offering a prompting voice message, for instance, if your mom forgets to wear the pendant.
Obviously pendants can’t do everything, but they can provide one more element of safety for seniors who want to stay active. Here are ways to persuade a reluctant pendant wearer that access to 24/7 help is a really good thing.
● Highlight the benefits. “Ask your loved one’s health care provider — doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner — to explain its medical benefits,” says Hurme. Your parent may not understand that this device offers independence, including allowing a person to continue to be active without fear that they won’t be able to call for emergency help if they need it.
● Voice your concerns. “Tell your mom the safety concerns you have related to her health issues,” says Ensor. “Let her know that you would feel more secure knowing that someone would come to help her promptly if she had a heart attack or stroke.” Let her know that in an emergency situation, a delay can really impact the odds of survival.
● Quiet privacy worries. Newer pendants are attractive and less obvious than earlier models. Some systems come as clip-ons that look like a cell phone or pedometer. “Do some comparison shopping together, checking out what is available online,” says Hurme. “If your mom picks an option she finds attractive, she’s more likely to wear it.”
● Don’t nag. “Don’t ridicule, embarrass, or threaten your loved one to make her wear the device,” says Hurme. Instead, look for ways to inspire and motivate her. Tell her to think of her grandchildren, you or her spouse, and to wear if for their sake.
Once this person is on board with wearing a medical pendant, urge 24/7 wear, says Hurme: “Medical emergencies don’t just happen outside the house.” Any device is useless if it’s lying just out of reach.