Expert Interview: The Importance of Medical Alert Systems for Retirees

The idea of falling in your home and being unable to call for help is a nerve-wracking prospect. Every year, over 250,000 people over the age of 65 are hospitalized for hip fractures, with 95% of those being caused by falling.

medical alert systems

Make sure you will be able to get the help you need.

From weakened bones to dizziness caused by medication, there are countless reasons a retiree could fall around the home, making them unable to reach a telephone and alert emergency services. Medical alert systems provide peace of mind for people advancing in age, as well as their loved ones.

We talked to Alan Wu of Bay Alarm Medical to learn the ins-and-outs of medical alert systems.

For people who aren’t familiar with them, what are medical alert systems and how do they work?

Remember those “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” commercials in the 80’s and 90’s? That’s pretty much what a medical alert system is. In the event of a fall or any situation requiring rapid medical response, the user simply pushes a button and the system connects him or her to a live 24/7 operator that will contact and send family members, neighbors, and paramedics.

In 2010, the CDC reported over 2 million injuries admitted into ERs due to falling. What are some common causes for falling around the house?

More than 80% of elderly-related falls happen in bathrooms, the part of the home that’s most commonly prone to wet floors. Falls frequently happen when seniors are stepping in/out of the shower, and also when seniors suddenly feel faint or weak during a bath and lose stability on a bathtub floor.

Other common causes of falls are as follows:

  • Too much clutter on the floor, causing tripping hazards
  • Unsafe or too many stairs
  • Incorrect medicine dosages, leading to dizziness or drowsiness
  • An out-of-date eye prescription
  • Not enough exercise
  • A lack of calcium and vitamin D, leading to weaker bones

What are some worst-case scenarios if a person of retirement age would happen to fall in their home and be unable to call for help?

If help is received within the “golden hour,” it’s likely that the senior will make a full recovery and not have to endure any long-term hospital stays. As each moment passes, however, things get exponentially worse.

  • 2-3 hours: Seniors are stuck in uncomfortable positions and unable to take scheduled medication
  • 4-5 hours: Injuries are aggravated by immobilization. Long-term hospitalization is almost certain.
  • 6-11 hours: Extensive hospitalization and long-term assisted living may be required.
  • 12-17 hours: Health threats start to emerge: Pressure sores, carpet burns, dehydration, hypothermia, and pneumonia.
  • 18-23 hours: The above threats increase and the resulting problems are exacerbated.
  • 24+ hours: Probability of death greatly increases.

At a time when nearly everybody has a cellphone, what are some reasons a retiree might want to still have a medical alert system?

Ease of use, 24/7 call center, and reliability are why medical alert systems shine during an emergency. Medical alert systems are made to be simple to use. Just one push of a button will get you the help you need. No need to swipe, tap, or dial.

Having your personal information on file is also huge. When you call 911, the most the operator can do is send emergency services to you; but most of the time, all you need is for a family member or neighbor to help you up. Having your emergency contacts on file is a big advantage with a medical alert system.

Finally, there’s reliability. We put together a fun, short video illustrating 6 reasons why landlines are still extremely reliable.

When a medical emergency occurs, early intervention makes a huge difference in making a full recovery. What are some situations where a medical alert device could literally mean the difference between life and death?

Whether it was a heart attack, stroke, or severe fall, we have countless stories of our customers contacting us after they’ve come home from the hospital to thank us for the service we provided. In almost every incident, the doctors or nurses told their loved ones that if the client hadn’t gotten the help they needed as fast as they did, the consequences would have been a lot different.

Medical alert systems are also useful due to how easy they are to use. What are some situations where it might not be possible to use a telephone in case of emergency?

You could possibly argue that if a senior were to fall, they could somehow manage to crawl their way to a nearby telephone and dial 911. The problem is, telephones are rarely placed on the floor; and even if the victim is able to crawl, the issue is that they’re not able to get up on their knees or feet. The power of a medical alert system is that the buttons is designed to be worn around the person’s neck or wrist at all times.

Fear of accidents has a tendency to actually cause accidents. How can the peace of mind alone make a medical alert device worth having?

After most severe and traumatic falls, seniors usually develop a “fear of falling.” The feeling is completely understandable because the chances of the senior falling again dramatically increases. Most victims of falls report a loss of confidence and self-imposed restriction on activities. They no longer exercise how they use to, go on their daily walks, or even get up to stretch. Bones start to weaken and muscles start to deteriorate, thus leading to an ever higher chance of falling.

Confidence is key, so it’s important to have things around the home to negate the effects of this fear. Install grab bars in the bathroom; place rubber, high-grip mats in the kitchen; clean up the home to eliminate clutter; wear non-slip socks and slippers; make sure hallways are well-lit; and install some type of alert system just in case an accident happens again.

If someone is considering getting a medical alert system for a loved one, do you have any advice on how they can discuss the topic sensitively, without offending the other person?

It’s always tough to have that talk with your parents or older loved ones. By far, the best method that we’ve seen from our customers to their parents that “It’s not for you, it’s for me.” Avoid making your elders feel like they’re getting old; instead, make it so that they’re doing you a favor by providing you with peace of mind. Conversely, it’s never a good idea to scare your parents by giving them stats and horror stories.

We invite you to read our Top 3 Do’s and Don’ts on how to convince your loved ones that it might be time for a medical alert system.

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