Cell Phones and Life-Alert Systems

The cliché “I've fallen and I can't get up” scenario is a reality for many senior citizens every day. They may have actually fallen and can't get themselves up, or they may have gotten into the bathtub and can't get out. Whatever the situation, it can be a very dangerous one.

Lying or sitting in a tub for many hours can cause a serious condition called rhabdomyolysis. This condition is caused by the breakdown of muscular tissue from exposure. Lying on a cold floor or bathtub can expose the muscles to cold and cause them to deteriorate. This can lead to organ failure and become a very serious issue.

There are several manufacturers of life-alert systems, which utilize a device that either hangs around the neck or is worn on the wrist like a watch. It has a button that is pushed in case of an emergency, which alerts a central response system. The system then begins a rolling call system to notify a specified number of emergency responders and family members or friends that the system has been activated.

Since falls are a major problem for seniors, being able to summon help is vital to their recovery. If your parent lives alone and no one visits on a regular basis, it could be possible for her to remain on the floor or stuck in the bathtub for days until someone realizes.

Some of these systems offer a two-way radio communication system whereby the response center can actually communicate with the senior to determine the nature of the emergency and to remain in contact until help arrives. These, of course, are more expensive.

A cell phone can mimic this system somewhat if the senior keeps the cell phone turned on and with him at all times. Phone numbers can be preprogrammed and speed-dial services set up for contacting emergency response systems as well as calling specified loved ones. This requires the person to be alert enough to push the speed-dial numbers and to communicate with responders.

There is a set-up fee and a monthly service fee for these monitoring services. The success depends on whether the device is worn or sits in a drawer somewhere. Obviously, it also depends on whether or not the person remains conscious and able to push the button.

A Senior Watch program can be utilized, or simply ask a neighbor to watch for signs of trouble and notify you. If they don't see or hear from your parents in a couple of days, have them contact you. Piled-up newspapers or mail can be telltale signs something isn't right as well. Don't forget to say thank you. Send them a gift basket occasionally, or make a financial arrangement with them so they remain a willing participant.

While some signals can be used to alert you to trouble, they can also alert criminals that the house may be an easy mark. Telltale signs of disrepair or lawns and gardens not kept up or manicured are usually a good indication that an elderly or infirm person lives there. Hiring a gardener and keeping up with house maintenance issues can go a long way in keeping your loved ones safe.

Enlist the assistance of your siblings to make regular phone calls or visits to your parents to keep tabs on them to make sure they don't end up lying on the floor for days. A daily phone call can be delegated to a sibling who lives far away or claims to be too busy to help with other tasks.

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