Medical Alert Devices to the Rescue

Medical Alert DeviceVeteran journalist Daniel Schorr was putting his shoes on when the stool collapsed, slamming his head into the bedroom door frame at his Washington, D.C., home. Bleeding profusely, he called out to his wife several times, but she was making breakfast downstairs with the radio on and didn’t hear him.

Schorr, then 93 and a senior news analyst for National Public Radio, pushed the button on his medical emergency alert pendant. Within seconds his wife, Lisbeth, 79, received a call from a George Washington University Hospital operator who said, “We got an alert signal. Is anything wrong?” Lisbeth ran upstairs and found Daniel lying in a growing pool of blood. The operator stayed on the line while Lisbeth stanched the bleeding enough to help her husband into the car and to the emergency room.

The device really proved its worth, says Lisbeth, recalling that morning in April 2010, three months before her husband’s death from unrelated causes. He had worn it every day for several years. “The kids and I insisted,” she says, referring to the couple’s two grown children. “He was getting frail. That caused us to worry.”

Personal emergency alert devices can help older adults to remain independent and in their own homes. The devices also are reassuring to adult children who know that if an aging parent suffers a fall or, worse, a stroke or heart attack, immediate help and medical attention will be summoned.

But doctors, aging experts and even company officials emphasize that while medical alert systems can save lives, the key to their success is a motivated user. The much-mimicked “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” TV commercials raised awareness of the problem but also created a stigma, they say.

Falling and the fear of falling

Falls among older people are a huge problem. More than one in three adults 65 and older will fall in a given year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two-thirds will fall again within six months. Falls can result in debilitating injuries such as broken hips and head trauma. Moreover, people who fall and lie helpless for hours or days can suffer serious complications, including dehydration, hypothermia, pressure ulcers, muscle breakdown and renal failure, says geriatrician and associate professor Bruce Kinosian, of the University of Pennsylvania.

The elderly mother of Ventura County, Calif., psychiatrist Marc Rosenthal, 58, was discovered alone in her bedroom, dehydrated, injured and barely conscious a full day after she suffered a fall and stroke last June.

Because of the delayed discovery, “she had missed the window in which strokes can be aggressively treated to minimize or counter the effects of interrupted blood flow to the brain,” Dr. Rosenthal says. His mother, who before the stroke had no serious health conditions, now lives with him and his wife.

Credit: AARP Blog

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Long Term Care Planning

November is full of awareness – diabetes, lung cancer/COPD, The Great American Smoke Out, and Alzheimer’s.  BUT did you know it is also Long-Term Care Planning month?

Do you have a long-term care plan in place for your loved ones? For yourself?  There are many websites available to help you make these decisions and I will link you to several at the end of this post.

Some of the key points to think about would include family history, did your grandma have Alzheimer’s? Was there cancer issues in your family tree?  Do you prefer to have someone stay with you in your home? Do you want your children to care for you? Perhaps you also need to discuss finances and possibly meet with a financial planner in order to set up a trust or estate account rather than keeping in your name or your loved one’s name.

There is an increase in technological devices to help you or your loved one stay at home longer, obviously one of those would be our life assist system, which consists of a base unit that contacts our call center and a button that is worn on the wrist or around the neck to signal the base unit.  There are also a wide variety of scooters, chair lifts, and medicine reminders available for use.  These are all things that people might need a little help with as they get older.

What else have you seen on the market that would be useful as we age?

National Clearing House for Long-Term Care Information – http://www.longtermcare.gov/LTC/Main_Site/Index.aspx

Medicare’s Long-Term Care page – http://www.medicare.gov/longtermcare/static/home.asp

National Care Planning Council – http://www.longtermcarelink.net/

Care Conversations – http://careconversations.org/home.aspx