• I still smile when I think of my neighbor Joe and how hard I worked to get him to wear his emergency medical alert necklace. Personal alarm or help systems are worn as a piece of jewelry and have a button that a person can push when he or she needs help.

    This act sends a signal to a transmitter in the home or facility, and that transmitter in turn alerts trained personnel in a call center. These people will call a designated person – in Joe’s case, that was me, his neighbor – who can check on the welfare of the person who pushed the emergency button.

    Today, there are a number of personal alarm systems on the market, a testament to how important people have found them. Nevertheless, they still are not always something people think of when looking for ways to ensure the safety of an elder.
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    My uncle had gotten a personal medical alert system after my aunt died, one called Lifeline, so he could summon help when his home health worker or a family member wasn’t there. That was my first introduction to personal alarm and medical alert services.

    My neighbor Joe lived alone in his house next door to mine. I wanted a way to know when he fell – it wasn’t a matter of if – but when. I told him about my uncle’s personal alarm. It took some doing, but I wore Joe’s resistance down (he didn’t want the “bother”) and he allowed me to call and have a one installed.

    The only problem was, Joe didn’t really “get” what it was about. I wanted him to wear it all the time, especially when I wasn’t there. I’d go over to visit at noon each day. Rarely was he wearing it. I’d put it on him and scold him abut being without it.

    Yet, when I picked him up to go visit his sister (who lived an hour’s drive away) he’d always have his personal alarm around his neck. I’d write – Joe was deaf, so I always had to write – “How come you’re wearing your Lifeline now? We’re leaving town and I’m with you.” He’d look at me and squawk, “We’re going out of town, Honey! I need it now.” So much for logic. I think he just liked being contrary.

    Each day, when I visited, I’d put his personal alarm necklace on him. Thank God I did. The evening of his most recent fall, that small act kept him from lying all night with a broken hip. I had left Joe’s house, as always, mid-afternoon, after my visit. He fell around supper time. He was wearing the Lifeline I’d dropped around his neck that day.

    When he fell, even through the pain, he knew to push the button on the necklace. The signal was sent to the dispatcher, who called me. I ran over and was able to get help. We got an ambulance and I rode with Joe to the hospital. That one time was the only time he used it – and it was worth all of the months we’d subscribed.

    Not long after this, I talked my mom into getting a personal alarm system. My dad had been in a nursing home since his brain operation, and she lived alone. I visited daily. Like Joe, my mom fell often. Unlike with Joe, I made many a trip to her home, after the dispatch center called me to tell me Mom’s lifeline had gone off and she wasn’t responding. She pushed the button regularly.

  • A couple of times, she set it off by accident, and she wasn’t hearing their response calls. If the dispatch center gets no response, they call the contact. That would be me. Unfortunately, the calls were usually legitimate, and mom had fallen and needed help. I was always grateful for her personal alarm.
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    Now, whenever someone tells me about an elder living alone – even an elder in pretty good shape – I ask if they have one of these devices. If an elder resists, I ask them to do it for their loved ones. It helps them have some peace of mind.

    A number of medical alert services are available on the market and include:

    - Alert One medical alarm
    - American Medical Alarms
    - Lifeline
    - Medical Alarm by ConnectAmerican.com
Published On: December 01, 2006