What If Mom Doesn’t Want a Medical Alert? Here’s What to Do!

What If Mom Doesn’t Want a Medical Alert?

So many seniors don’t want to use a medical alert or PERS. It’s easy to see why, but first let’s look at what PERS is. It stands for Personal Emergency Response System. Still don’t recognize it? Maybe this will place it for you: “HELP! I’VE FALLEN AND CAN’T GET UP!!!” Now you know what it is, right? A medical alert button, often worn as a pendant or wristband, that alerts nearby friends, family or emergency personnel in case of need.

So, back to why seniors don’t want to use Medical Alert services. The first reason is hinted at in the first paragraph. The TV ads make the seniors seem like imbeciles. Nobody likes to be treated as if they are helpless. Yet the makers of these units often prey on fear to sell their products. No doubt that fear sells. They suggest that if you don’t buy their product, you will be like the helpless imbeciles in the commercials.

Before we set aside the commercials… they also use snippets of stats that talk about dying so the service feels like an end-of-life service. I heard an analogy the other day that fits. Thinking ahead to buy a medical alert is a lot like Mom pre-purchasing a coffin. Using a medical alert is like using a coffin. No one gets excited about buying a coffin but pre-purchasing a coffin can bring peace of mind by having an important task out of the way. The analogy breaks down pretty quick because buying a coffin is mostly a private, one-time activity. Wearing a medical alert can feel a bit like wearing a coffin around… announcing to the world that Mom has prepared for the worst. And actually pushing the emergency button, may feel a bit like climbing into the coffin. No wonder the companies put such an emotional push into their commercials.

Another reason Mom doesn’t want to wear one of those things is that many manufacturers don’t care how ugly the console or pendant is. And yes… some of them look really bad. Wearing one screams out, “I’m just like those seniors you see on TV that have fallen and can’t get up”. It gives off the impression of lack of independence.

Now you can start to see why Mom doesn’t want a medical alert. You’d probably feel the same way in her shoes.

Are We Really In Control?

Here’s why Mom might want to change her mind. Risk is difficult to get our arms around. Things we think are big worries are often not very likely, or totally outside our capacity to do anything about. War in the Middle-East? Sure it could happen… it’s happened before. But can we personally do anything about it? Nope. That worry ought to be swapped to observation mode only.

What about Mom falling? What’s the likelihood of that happening? Seems remote, but in reality, it’s VERY common. What’s more, the results are often devastating.

Here are some stats that Mom probably doesn’t know:

* Approximately 33% of adults over 65 fall each year

* Over 31% of those that fell sustained an injury

* 31.8% of older adults who sustained a fall-related injury required help with activities of daily living as a result, and among them, 58.5% were expected to require help for at least 6 months

* Falls are the leading cause of injury death among people over 65 – nearly 4 times more likely than car accidents

* In the next 17 seconds, an older adult will be treated in a hospital emergency department for injuries related to a fall

* In the next 30 minutes, an older adult will die from injuries sustained in a fall

Now, these stats can seem frightening, but I’m not trying to scare anyone. I’m just trying to point out that the likelihood of a fall is very high, and the results of a fall can be disastrous. The great thing about these stats is that there are things Mom can do so she’s not part of next year’s stats.


It’s all about attitude. Hers and yours. Instead of her either fretting about, or ignoring the high likelihood of getting injured in a fall, Mom can be proactive. She can be in control. She can research ways to make her home safer. She can make plans if something were to happen. This will help her feel more in control and more peaceful. Since the chance of falling is so great, she ought to think about wearing protective gear against falling and becoming incapacitated.

Proactive Protection

Mom thinks nothing of wearing shoes everyday to protect her feet from injury… a Medical Alert is very similar to shoes. However, if the only shoes available were ugly, and shouted to the world that she is afraid of falling, she might not wear them either. No one ever said the pendant needs to be worn as a piece of jewelry. It’s not meant to be. It ought to be worn on the inside of clothing, or carried in a pocket. It just needs to be there in case of an injury from a fall.

I mentioned your attitude matters too. The way you talk with Mom will determine how she responds to the idea. If you are respectful and show concern for her well-being while helping her feel that you really care, she will most likely be open to discussing the issue. Help her understand that the cost of the risk is high, and the likelihood of a fall happening is high. Help her research products and services so she feels buy in.

Do some prep work before hand so you can help her find the resources to do the research. Be aware that some companies require long contracts and very high monthly charges. Contracts are not needed… Month-to-month is the only right answer. Buying the equipment can lower the monthly cost, but can turn out to cost more if Mom doesn’t use the service long enough to make up the difference. Unless you are buying for an institution, purchasing the equipment makes no sense.

One last thing. Because medical alert systems seems so “end-of-life”, it might help to have a console that does more than just a medical alert. Some Medical Alert consoles have a one-touch-button access to a registered nurse, 24 hours a day/seven days a week. Push the Emergency button, and an emergency worker will ask questions to determine if a paramedic is needed or if friends or family should be called to help. Push the Nurse button, and a qualified health care worker will answer. Any medical question Mom has will be answered. She can ask about blood pressure, diabetes, depression… anything she wants, as many times a day as she wants. Adding Nurse Care might just be the sugar that makes the Medical Alert service go down!