Medical Alert Systems for Seniors: 5 Tips for Caregivers

5 Tips for Caregivers: Discussing Medical Alert Systems with Seniors

By Denise Montgomery

Importance of Senior Safety at Home

I will never forget the afternoon my 67-year-old mother and I dropped in to visit my 92-year-old grandma and discovered her dusting the top of her refrigerator—standing atop a wobbly dining room chair. Panic doesn’t begin to cover it. That was the day we sat down and had The Talk. The one about wearable medical alert systems. We’d never had to have The Talk about car keys, because Grandma never learned to drive, so we were in uncharted waters. And frankly, we didn’t do so well. Mom and I got a great deal wrong. Objections were raised and ignored. Feelings were hurt. Voices were raised. In the end, Grandma did agree to get a fall detection medical alert system. But I wish we’d have taken a few minutes to settle our emotions and had done a bit of research on how to communicate with seniors and approach the issue with more sensitivity and compassion. There are ways to make such discussions easier for everybody. I tucked away several lessons that day for future difficult caregiver conversations. As the only child, I’ll eventually assume the role with Mom, but for now, that day still looks a long way off.

Having The Talk: How to Talk to Seniors for Best Results

1. Overcoming Objections by Listening

Deal with objections by listening to what they mean, not just what they say. I don’t need it. It’s too much money. So much fuss! All of Grandma’s objections to a wearable personal emergency response system (PERS) were short, but that didn’t mean they were simple. We had to listen past what she said to get to the heart of what she meant.
  • “I don’t need” it meant “I don’t want to feel old and vulnerable.” That was a tough one to overcome, honestly. In the end, we settled on “We love you and we want you around for a long, long time.”
  • “It’s too much money” meant “I worry about my bills.” We pointed out that medical alert systems and devices were so much more affordable than hospitalization, and that everybody’s peace of mind was priceless.
  • “So much fuss” meant “You’re coming in too fast and too hot right now. Let’s talk about it later.”

2. Focus on Unknowns and Gaps

I used The Talk as an opportunity to remind Grandma how she used to worry when I visited her from two states away back in college, and how she’d wait up until midnight until I finally called to assure her I’d arrived home safely. Meanwhile, Mom said that, while she was comforted that Grandma’s neighbors checked up on each other every day, she was concerned about long gaps between early dinners and late morning check-ins. A lot could happen in 16 long, lonely hours.

3. Present Facts, Figures, and Evidence

Don’t try to argue, and don’t base your side of the discussion on logic alone. Why not? Because that’s a recipe for the backfire effect—a curious phenomenon that causes folks to resist changing their minds when data conflicts with their original position. Instead, try to incorporate evidence about personal medical alert systems within the context of a loving, caring conversation in different ways.

4. Use I-Statements as Much as Possible

While it’s easy to dismiss facts and figures, it’s harder to argue with a caregiver’s feelings. Keeping the focus on you and your fears and hopes may create a graceful opening for cooperation: OK, I’m not getting this medical alert device this for me. I’m doing it for you, my caregiver. “Mom, I saw on the news that hospitals see somebody who has fallen down every 11 seconds and that really worried me. If something happens in the middle of the night, a phone with built-in urgent response could send help in just a couple of minutes. That would really ease my mind.” “Uncle Joe, I read the other day that half of people over 80 fall every year. That made me sad because I hate to think of you losing your independence. I also learned that when people do fall, they often don’t actually get hurt and just need a little help getting up. This is why I’d like to talk to you about getting a medical alert device that could help keep you safe no matter where you are.”

5. Timing is Everything

In retrospect, we should have turned the medical alert device into a gift, with bows and glitter and a message that we were giving it to her to celebrate and preserve her independence. Instead, The Talk was tied to our freak-out over finding her standing on a chair. Poor choice, caregivers. Poor choice. That turned the personal emergency response system into something punitive rather than what it is–something incredibly empowering. Finally, I’ve also begun to realize that medical alert devices aren’t just for aunts, uncles, moms and dads. As a woman who lives alone and is (true story) an enormous klutz, it’s only a matter of time. I trip over dust mites. I stumble over my own toenails. I took a crashing headlong dive over a piece of furniture at a friend’s house recently. Luckily, the only things bruised were my ego and a knee. But if I fall one night over the one tiny little step from my living room to my kitchen? And my phone is upstairs charging on my computer? What then? Maybe it’s time for somebody to have The Talk with me, too. Please be gentle.

Tagged with: active aging, aging, aging in place, caregiver, caregivers, caregiving, dad, dementia, elderly, family caregiving, independent living, medical alert, medical alert device, medical alert system, mom, mPERS, PERS, resources, safety, seniors, support, tech for aging, technology

14 thoughts on “Medical Alert Systems for Seniors: 5 Tips for Caregivers

  1. Lynne Knorr
    May 5, 2018 at 9:19 pm

    If a person living alone falls and injures his/herself, can’t get up, etc., and activates the urgent response mechanism, how do emergency responders get in the home, presuming that doors and windows are locked? Is there some type of system whereby they can bypass locks, security alarms, etc, short of destroying the security equipment?

    1. May 8, 2018 at 8:35 pm

      Great question, Lynne. In these cases, emergency responders will follow protocol and attempt to enter the home through any available means. But with a medical alert service like Lively Mobile, you can create a personal profile that can contain security codes, location of a spare key, medical allergies, or any other pertinent information that will assist emergency responders in assisting the user.

  2. George a. Selepec
    June 20, 2018 at 2:00 am

    Great call would be wonderful for my husband can he keep his number?

    1. June 22, 2018 at 10:10 pm

      We are happy to help port over existing numbers to a new Jitterbug phone. Be sure to not cancel your old service before giving us a call. We are available at 1-800-733-6632, 5am to 8pm PT, 7 days a week.

  3. Barbara radke
    July 24, 2018 at 10:27 pm

    When a person has Alzheimer’s what device like a gps product can they use when they wander away to find them and what is the cost and monthly cost?

    1. July 26, 2018 at 9:20 pm

      Great questions, Barbara. We recommend looking into the Lively Mobile, a medical alert device which also allows for location checking through GPS. Learn more at the link below or please feel free to give us a call at 1-877-567-0675.

  4. Bob
    December 27, 2018 at 1:21 am

    Is the Lively Mobile unit safe to use with a pacemaker?

    1. December 27, 2018 at 9:21 pm

      Great question, Bob. Persons with pacemakers should always keep the Lively Mobile more than 15 cm (6 inches) from their pacemaker when it is switched on, and should speak with their physician before using any new electronic device near their pacemaker.

  5. Trudy
    February 3, 2019 at 3:34 pm

    How can I get my phone to canncet to my husband great call phone so I can keep track of where he is

    1. February 14, 2019 at 6:05 pm

      We can help you set up our Link app, Trudy. Please give us a call at 1-800-733-6632, 5am to 8pm PT, 7 days a week.

  6. Anonymous
    February 18, 2019 at 8:28 am


  7. Rochelle
    March 15, 2019 at 6:22 pm

    Can you be outside with this device or is it only good to use in ones’ place of residence? Like should I take long walk to the store and trip or worse can this device assist me then?

    1. March 15, 2019 at 6:40 pm

      Great question. The Lively Mobile is designed to work anywhere, and doesn’t require a phone or a base station! Here is a link to some more information.

  8. Anonymous
    March 31, 2019 at 3:53 am

    I have had the Great Call device for almost 2 yrs. I never ever go anywhere by myself without it. I have had about 40 concussions from falling. But once I got my Great Call “necklace” with fall protection, I know that if I fall, I can get help right away. Recently I had a situation where I accidentally banged the unit on the cabinet too hard. Within a few minutes my daughter, son & husband were called. It gave all of us comfort.

Comments are closed.

Back to Top