As your loved ones age, especially if they live alone or spend a lot of time alone, there will come a time when you worry about their safety at home. If you live nearby, you may be able to visit and check in on them, or have a neighbor pop in every day. But it’s impossible to keep your mind at ease all the time. This is where medical alert devices come in. A wearable medical device can link your loved one to emergency services, and you, if they need help while alone. If you’re starting to think about shopping for medical alert devices for your aging parent, here are some tips to help you know if it’s time to get one and what to look for.
Are they unsteady on their feet?
Falls are one of the most common injuries for elderly people at home; one third of adults over 65 fall every year. If your parent has already fallen once, or you suspect they have, talk to them about it – and suggest a medical alert device. Don’t wait for a more serious accident to happen. If you’ve noticed your parent seeming unsteady or unstable on their feet, it may be time to introduce a medical alert device. Also remember to remove or remedy possible obstacles in their home, like loose rugs or bathtubs and toilets with no rails.
Does their medication make them dizzy?
Unsteadiness can come from a medical condition or from medication – either can lead to a fall. Talk to your parent’s doctor about possible side effects like dizziness that can come from their medications. As you research medical alert devices, remember that some come with automatic fall detection features and some do not. Neal Alexander, M.D., a professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Michigan noted that fall detection isn’t “fully refined” yet and may falsely register an action – like the device falling from a table – as a fall. Still, if you’re concerned about your parent being at risk for a fall, look into automatic fall detection features.
Are they often alone?
If your parent lives alone and doesn’t have family or neighbors nearby to check in on them often, it may be time for a medical alert device. Quick medical attention after a fall is crucial. If elderly people have to stay on the floor, immobilized, for a long time, any injuries received in the fall will be aggravated, leading to a higher chance of both hospitalizations and future falls.
Are you worrying a lot?
Growing old isn’t easy, but it’s not easy to be the caregiver, either. If you are constantly worrying or feeling guilty about your parent or loved one, and you’re finding yourself taking a lot of time away your job, family, or other responsibilities, it may be time to consider a medical alert device.
There’s a lot of home-based and wearable technology out there right now. As you compare and shop for medical alert devices, you might come across some systems that have similar features. For example, voice activated home assistants like Alexa and Google Home can come in handy for elderly relatives. They can contact you in an emergency, but they can’t call 911. Smart phones, like iPhones, can’t replace a wearable device because it’s too easy for your parent to leave the phone on a table instead of keeping it with them all the time.
Make sure your parent is on board as you decide on a medical alert device, too. Mindy Renfro, PhD., assistant professor at Touro University Nevada wrote that your parent should be in on the conversation and help decide which features they want and will use. After all, if your parent never wears the wearable device, it’s not really doing much good.