Adult children wanting to keep aging loved ones safe often suggest that their elders wear a personal emergency device. (personal emergency response system or PERS). With the push of a button, the elder summons emergency help.
Despite that fact that a lot of elders have them but won’t wear them, they are important for those who do put them on every day. Advances in tech for these devices are constantly evolving. Some devices are part of a smart watch and the wearer doesn’t have to feel “old” wearing one. Some resist wearing something like a pendant that to them is conspicuous. They think others will notice and they don’t want to look vulnerable. It is part of their resistance. Putting it on requires forming a new daily habit and they may resist that too.
Alice And Our Failed Efforts
Here’s one example I personally saw in my own family. My mother-in-law, a very independent widow at age 86, lived alone. We were concerned about her. We researched every device that she might use if she had a fall or other emergency. We chose a pendant at first. You could push one button and the paramedics were summoned. We tested it. It seemed to function fine. But she would hang it up in the bathroom and forget about it. That failed, as far as we were concerned.
The next evolution was a watch-type device, quite simple, that she was to wear all the time. She reluctantly agreed, and we got it for her. She thought it was ugly. But that effort was successful nonetheless. She either had it on her person or in her purse when she went out. She knew how to activate it and that gave us peace of mind. But if it needed an upgrade, as these devices may need over time, she would have received a letter from the company that sold it, or perhaps a phone call saying she needed to replace it with the upgraded version. She would not have had a clue about what that meant. Likely she would have ignored the letter or notification. We put the account for the monthly charge for the device in our name so if changes happened we would be informed.
Limitations Of PERS
If your aging loved one does not have a one-touch way to to call for help in case of emergency, here are some considerations.
First, determine whether a PERS device is appropriate. If an elder is too forgetful to remember where she lives, she is not likely to remember to push a button in an emergency. These devices do not help folks with dementia or memory loss problems so advanced that they cannot follow directions about using one. Likewise, if they could not understand how to call 911, a device that requires action on their part is unrealistic.
Other technology in the form of fall detection devices exist. Some are incorporated into watches or other wearables. Consider whether your aging parent would be able to use a device she has to activate in emergency before you spend the money on one. If you choose a device your elder does not have to push to summon help, be sure that multiple persons will receive the alert the device triggers. If only one individual receives the message, and they are away from the phone or computer, it could be too late by the time that person gets the alert.
Smart Watches, Small Watch Faces
A drawback with watches is that the images of numbers and other features may be too small for older eyes to see without reading glasses. That defeats the purpose of one touch. A person has to be able to see where to touch. A side button can work quite well but the elder has to remember, in the stress of an emergency situation, what to press.
We at AgingParents.com, consulting with elders and their families, support the use of personal emergency response devices of all kinds. We encourage families who don’t have one to introduce the idea to aging loved ones and to see how cooperative your loved one is. If they refuse to accept a device, there is no point in wasting your/their money. If they agree to give it a try, do your research to figure out which kind of device is best suited to their needs and capacity to use it. If the purchase is in your name, which we also recommend, you will get notices from the seller as to updates or improvements. If it does work for your aging parent, it is one more way to get some peace of mind about their safety.
If your aging parent or other loved one is less than comfortable with technology, this is the time for family to anticipate the need and step in. Maybe you and they had not thought of this for their safety. It is worth considering, particularly for the estimated 40 million elders who live alone.
Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Attorney, AgingParents.com
Do you have a stubborn aging parent who doesn’t listen to reason for their own good? Get professional guidance from our nurse-lawyer, psychologist team and relieve your stress! Call for an appointment at AgingParents.com, 866-964-4464 today.