How to talk to aging parents about medical alert systemsShare on Pinterest
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Medical alert systems are devices that are either carried with a person or placed around the home to keep somebody safe.

With most systems, you’ll plug in the base unit and then carry the help button with you, or place buttons around the house. If anything happens, you can press the button to notify a dispatcher who can get you help, such as sending local EMS services or notifying connected caretakers.

These systems are especially helpful for people who are aging in place or staying in their own home instead of moving to an assisted living facility.

These devices aren’t intended to make aging parents feel bad or incapable of taking care of themselves. They’re simply for safety precautions. But, it can be difficult for both you and your parents to admit they may need additional assistance, especially for conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, or Parkinson’s disease.

Some people are concerned that they are being watched or followed if they use these devices. However, the monitoring service cannot see where you are unless you start a call for help and they can only hear you if you press the button.

Medical alert devices can benefit older adults in a variety of ways. Your parent may want to consider a medical alert system if:

  • They live alone.
  • One or more parent has a medical condition.
  • They’ve had prior medical events, such as a stroke or heart attack.
  • They’ve fallen or had accidents before.
  • They don’t have family or neighbors close by.
  • They’re experiencing changes in their mental state, like forgetfulness or confusion.
  • You feel constant worry about their well-being.

The older somebody gets, the more likely they are to benefit from this kind of support. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that one in four people over the age of 65 have a fall each year. One out of five falls causes a serious injury.

But age isn’t the only factor you should consider. If you’re choosing a medical alert system for your parents, you should look at it as a whole to understand the benefits it can offer. For instance, some systems offer extra add-ons like medication or appointment reminders. This can be a helpful feature for someone who takes several important medications throughout the day. Medical alert systems sometimes even do double duty as home security.

Healthline-approved medical alert systems

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Approaching your parents about using a medical alert system can be a difficult conversation. Many senior adults may be fiercely protective of their independence. It can be hard for them to admit they need help.

Here are a few tips to help the conversation flow as smoothly as possible.

Present the facts

If you think your parents will be receptive to numbers and data, consider sharing some statistics that demonstrate how medical alert systems can help older adults.

The CDC states that falls are the leading cause of injury and injury death in adults age 65 and older. These falls can cause expensive visits to the emergency room or hospital stays for issues like a head injury or fractured hip.

Explain your reasoning

It’s also important to ensure that your parents understand that you aren’t trying to invade their privacy or make them feel bad. You can reiterate the fact that you still respect them and believe they’re capable and strong — but all of us need a little help from time to time, especially because you care about them and want them to be safe.

More often than not, the reason you’re suggesting a medical alert system is out of love. By using this system, you can explain that you’ll be able to feel less worry and experience a greater peace of mind.

Understand their objections

If your parents are reluctant about using a medical alert system, gently ask why. What, specifically, makes them disinclined to accept the idea? What have they heard about medical alert systems to form the opinion they have?

Many older adults may fear that:

  • Friends won’t check in as often if they have a medical alert system.
  • They might accidentally set off the alarm.
  • The alarm may not work correctly when they need it.
  • Accepting a medical alert system means they’re becoming less independent.

Listen to their concerns. Then gently explain how the system will actually work.

For example: “It sounds like you’d be embarrassed to actually press the button if needed. But that’s what the dispatchers are there for. You won’t be bothering them.”

Get a professional involved

If your parents are still hesitant about getting a medical alert system, you can ask a neutral third party to explain the benefits. Chances are, if you feel that your parents need a medical alert system, a healthcare provider will agree once they understand the situation.

You can say “Next time you have a checkup with your doctor, why don’t you ask them about medical alert systems and see what they think?”

You can also ask to attend the appointment if you don’t think your parents will actually bring it up, but try not to pressure them into accompanying them.

Discuss their options

Today, there are dozens of medical alert systems on the market. You can help your parents research the many options that are out there and even help them choose one. From subtle bracelets to devices with affordable monthly subscription plans, it’s easier than ever to find a customized system that works for each individual’s lifestyle and needs.

At the end of the day, the most important thing to reiterate for an older adult aging in place is that a medical alert system will allow them to stay in their own home.

Examples of statements to tell your parents

If you’re having difficulty coming up with ways to discuss this subject with your parents, here are some examples to keep in mind:

  • “I love and care about you and want you to be safe.”
  • “This is for my mental well-being, too — I would feel better knowing you can access help at any time.”
  • “This doesn’t mean that you can’t be independent or take care of yourself.”
  • “This doesn’t change anything about who you are or what you’re capable of.”
  • “A medical alert system can help you maintain your independence.”
  • “People can only see you if you start a call, and they can only hear you when you press the button.”
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If you aren’t sure where to start, take a look at this list of the best medical alert systems.

  • Life Alert: Life Alert has four alert button options: a base station, an in-home pendant, an on-the-go help button, and a waterproof shower help button. Each one comes with GPS tracking in the United States and dispatches authorities when pressed.
  • Bay Alarm Medical: Bay Alarm Medical offers a home system, mobile system, and smartwatch option. You can pay a monthly fee for 24/7 emergency help plus automatic fall detection.
  • One Call Alert: Choose from One Call Alert’s in-home landline, mobile on-the-go system, or in-home wireless. The devices monitor your location, and when you press the help button, you can choose whether to contact a loved one or emergency responders.
  • Wellbe Medical Alert: The Wellbe Medical Alert watch uses GPS to send emergency services to your location if needed, and also includes extra health and fitness features.

Does Medicare cover senior alert systems?

Original Medicare (Parts A and B) doesn’t cover medical alert systems. However, you may be able to get coverage from Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) depending on your plan, or from Medicaid depending on your state.

What is the average cost of a medical alert system?

Most medical alert systems use a monthly subscription payment structure. You can likely expect to pay a monthly fee that’s between $20 and $50 depending on the plan you choose. But be on the lookout for any additional costs, like annual maintenance fees or one-time startup costs.

What is the best alarm system for the elderly?

Some of the best medical alert systems on the market for older adults include Life Alert, Bay Alarm Medical, One Call Alert, and Wellbe Medical Alert.

Do I need to worry about privacy?

Many people don’t want to use a GPS system for fear that someone is watching them or listening to their conversations.

In fact, the person at the other end can only hear your conversations when you press the button, and monitoring companies can only see where you are when you activate a call. Manufacturers design devices with this in mind, as they are bound to follow strict privacy regulations.

With technology continually evolving, safely aging in place is a realistic possibility for many older adults. But sometimes, getting aging parents to accept help is easier said than done.

Have patience and love as you walk through this process with your parents. It isn’t easy for anyone involved. At the end of the day, however, you and your parents will both rest easy knowing they’re safe and taken care of.