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How To Convince a Loved One to Use a Medical Alert Device

Aging in place is one of the last bastions of independence for many seniors. If your aging loved ones have been determined to hold onto their independence equipping them with a medical alert system can help them achieve this goal. Investing in a personal medical alert device is a way to let your loved one maintain independence!

Many individuals will say they don’t want to wear a personal medical device because they believe it will mean they are “unfit” or “not healthy enough” to live alone. If you share with them that these devices are worn as a preventative measure in the event they suffer a medical emergency or a trip or fall (which is a very real and startling statistic for individuals aged 65 and older) they may see the benefit of wearing one.

How can you appeal to the emotional side of this conversation? Here are some tips:
  • “It’s a fact of life, Mom and Dad, that people over the age of 65 are more likely to experience a trip or fall”. Let them know that if they have a personal medical alert device, a simple push of the button will provide access to medical care and treatment. Statistics show that fast response during an emergency helps create a better chance at recovery.
  • “We worry about you.” This statement could be especially true if your parent is widowed or lives alone. Even if both parents are still living, each of them can have a personal medical alert pendant and this will provide peace of mind for the family.
  • “It’s for peace of mind.” If you let your aging loved ones know it’s as much for your peace of mind as it is for them, they may agree to the device as a way to not only allow them to remain independent in their own home, but as a way to provide you peace of mind. It’s a win-win.

  • If your loved ones are more logical than emotional, here are some logical arguments you can share with them for the importance of having a personal medical device in their home (and on their person):
  • One out of three individuals aged 65 and older will fall in the home. The longer they lie there without receiving medical care, the more serious the medical complications could become.
  • A personal medical alert device will allow you to age in place. These devices offer you the ability to remain independent while providing access to medical care if needed. In the event of a medical emergency, you may not be able to reach a phone and with one of these devices, you won’t have to worry.
  • If your parents do not want to move into an assisted living facility, you should stress to them that one of these devices may mean they won’t have to. A personal medical device can perhaps delay that move for years, or perhaps for the duration of their lives.

  • If you can explain the viability of a personal medical alert device and equate it to an insurance policy – it’s something you pay for and hope you never need to use, but you are grateful it’s there if the time arises that you need it – your loved ones may see the benefit.

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    Important Facts About Falls

    Each year, millions of older people—those 65 and older—fall. In fact, one out of three older people falls each year, but less than half tell their doctor. Falling once doubles your chances of falling again.

    Falls Are Serious
  • One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury.
  • Each year, 2.5 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.
  • Over 700,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture.
  • Each year at least 250,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures.
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways.
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

  • What Can Happen After a Fall?
    Many falls do not cause injuries. But one out of five falls does cause a serious injury such as a broken bone or a head injury.1,2 These injuries can make it hard for a person to get around, do everyday activities, or live on their own.
  • Falls can cause broken bones, like wrist, arm, ankle, and hip fractures.
  • Falls can cause head injuries. These can be very serious, especially if the person is taking certain medicines (like blood thinners). An older person who falls and hits their head should see their doctor right away to make sure they don’t have a brain injury.
  • Many people who fall, even if they’re not injured, become afraid of falling. This fear may cause a person to cut down on their everyday activities. When a person is less active, they become weaker and this increases their chances of falling.9

  • What Conditions Make You More Likely to Fall?
    Research has identified many conditions that contribute to falling. These are called risk factors. Many risk factors can be changed or modified to help prevent falls. They include:
  • Lower body weakness
  • Vitamin D deficiency (that is, not enough vitamin D in your system)
  • Difficulties with walking and balance
  • Use of medicines, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, or antidepressants. Even some over-the-counter medicines can affect balance and how steady you are on your feet.
  • Vision problems
  • Foot pain or poor footwear
  • Home Hazards and Dangers: broken or uneven steps, throw rugs or clutter that can be tripped over, and no handrails along stairs or in the bathroom.

  • Most falls are caused by a combination of risk factors. The more risk factors a person has, the greater their chances of falling. Healthcare providers can help cut down a person’s risk by reducing the fall risk factors listed above. Download 10 Fall Safety Tips from SafeZone Senior Care for additional help preventing falls for your loved ones.

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    What You Can Do to Prevent Falls

    Falls can be prevented. These are some simple things you can do to keep yourself from falling.
    Talk to Your Doctor
  • Ask your doctor or healthcare provider to evaluate your risk for falling and talk with them about specific things you can do.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines to see if any might make you dizzy or sleepy. This should include prescription medicines and over-the counter medicines.
  • Ask your doctor or healthcare provider about taking vitamin D supplements with calcium.

  • Do Strength and Balance Exercises
    Do exercises that make your legs stronger and improve your balance. Tai Chi is a good example of this kind of exercise.

    Have Your Eyes Checked
    Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year, and be sure to update your eyeglasses if needed. If you have bifocal or progressive lenses, you may want to get a pair of glasses with only your distance prescription for outdoor activities, such as walking. Sometimes these types of lenses can make things seem closer or farther away than they really are.

    Make Your Home Safe
  • Get rid of things you could trip over.
  • Add grab bars inside and outside your tub or shower and next to the toilet.
  • Put railings on both sides of stairs.
  • Make sure your home has lots of light by adding more or brighter light bulbs.
  • Have a fall detection system for emergency.

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    Afraid to Fall? You're Not Alone

    Since falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths and third leading cause of poor health among older adults, it makes perfect sense that basiphobia — otherwise known as the fear of falling — is at the top of many people’s phobia list.

    Unfortunately, it can lead to a fear of walking, standing and living your life — all of which may actually increase your chances of falling. Talk about a catch-22.

    Why We Develop a Fear of Falling
    Many doctors used to think that people who’d already taken a tumble or two, even if they weren’t injured, developed a fear of falling. However, research published in Age and Ageing indicates that a fear of falling is actually quite common among older adults.

    Why? Well, the connection between falling and loss of independence is pretty clear. And even if a fall itself isn’t immediately fatal, a broken bone, brain injury or other serious injury that results from a fall could be.

    “For so many of us, avoiding a serious fall can literally mean the difference between life and death,” says Berry Pierre, a doctor of osteopathic medicine in West Palm Beach, FL. “It can be a daily learning process, with a balance of fear and adventure wrapped into one.”

    Joseph Brence, a physical therapist, educator and researcher in Pittsburgh, PA, adds: “If you’re over 65 and fearful of falling, you’re not alone. Many older adults report they’re fearful because they’ve already experienced a fall, or had a friend or family member who experienced a fall.”

    Something as simple as a stumble off the curb could set off a domino effect of injury, immobility, loss of independence and more. That’s a lot to be afraid of and, for patients who’ve had a stroke, cancer or for those who live with a life-altering condition, research suggests a fear of falling is even more prevalent.

    Falling and The Differences Between Men and Women
    Studies show that women report a fear of falling more often than men. Not surprisingly, men are less likely to report being afraid, and underestimate how much risk they’re actually in. The men and women who worried least about falling were those who reported being physically and socially active. While these statistics sound somewhat predictable, what’s startling is that men actually could stand to worry a little more than they do.

    According to the World Health Organization, while women are more likely to break a bone in a fall, men are more likely to die from fall-related injuries.

    The Fear of Falling Cycle
    If your fear of falling is severe, you might take preventative measures too far and begin to limit your physical activity. This can have a negative impact on your health.

    “The fear of falling cycle frequently goes like this,” says Natalie Sanders, doctor of osteopathic medicine at the Faint and Fall Clinic, Division of Geriatrics, at the University of Utah. “A person develops a fear of falling. Because of this fear, they begin to restrict their activity. Unfortunately, this just makes the problem worse because the activity restriction leads to deconditioning. Then, when they do stand up and walk, they are weak and their balance is poor . . . this unsteadiness along with other factors can actually cause a fall. Then, of course, we’re back to square one.”

    Often, adds Sanders, the initial deconditioning occurs after hospitalization for an unrelated problem, such as pneumonia. In the hospital, the patient becomes weaker, which increases their risk of falling, then the cycle begins again.

    How to Overcome Your Fear
    The aforementioned cycle is hard to break. Doing so, requires us to face our fears and determine how much of our fear is real and how much is overblown. Start by asking your doctor for help. Although more than one out of four older people falls each year, fewer than half tell their doctor. Opening up and having a conversation with your doctor about a fall could save your life.

    If your risks are high (perhaps you take prescription medications that affects your balance, strength and gait), then you and your doctor should come up with a plan to reduce those risks. If your risks are low (you exercise regularly, strength train and take few, if any medications) take some preventative measures, but continue to live your life.

    If that’s not enough to put a fear of falling to rest, talk to your physician about having a home health nurse, occupational or physical therapist brainstorm ways you can reduce your risks and manage your fear of falling.