Getting a medical alarm is a big decision, and it makes sense that older adults have a few concerns that make them wary of an alert system. A common worry that we hear from seniors and their caregivers is that using an emergency button will result in unnecessary hospital visits. For this reason, setting up a personalized response plan can be very important.
Why Seniors Should Avoid Hospitals Unless Absolutely Necessary
It’s understandable that seniors are concerned about staying in hospital unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Firstly, a hospital stay is inconvenient. It disrupts normal routines, and takes seniors away from social activities, or regular contact with their family and friends. This disruption to daily life is distressing and can have a negative impact on mental health.
However, the negative effects of staying in hospital go beyond mere inconvenience. Seniors who have a stay in hospital may find themselves feeling worse than when they went in. There are several factors that contribute to this, including:
- Isolation and disruption of routine, as mentioned above.
- A serious reduction in sleep quality due to the unfamiliar environment, stress and anxiety, or disruptions and noise from the busy hospital surroundings and other patients.
- Unappetizing food, or food that doesn’t meet dietary requirements or allergies. This makes it harder for seniors to eat well and get the nutrition they need. This can result in weight loss and malnutrition.
- Exposure to different illnesses and bugs puts a senior’s immune system at risk. This can increases the chance of them coming down with an illness that might turn dangerous.
- Hospital tests and procedures are stressful and frightening for some seniors, leading to an increase in stress and anxiety.
- Bed rest and lack of mobility lead to loss of muscle tone, stiffness, and more difficulty than usual in mobilizing.
All of this adds up to reduced physical health and strength, and increased stress. Seniors who have a hospital stay might find it takes them a long time to recover from it, and some might struggle to regain their previous levels of health and independence.
Being hospitalized could pose a serious health risk to older adults and decrease their quality of life, and is therefore best avoided unless absolutely necessary.
What If They Take Me To Hospital When I Don’t Really Need To Go?
This is a question most seniors have asked about their medical alerts. Not all falls require a hospital trip. Sometimes the most damage is a slight sprain, a bruise, or a fright – all of which could be handled at home or by a quick visit to a doctor’s surgery.
For seniors who are concerned about unnecessary hospital visits there is a very effective solution – a personalized response plan.
Many medical alert companies offer a personalized response plan as part of their service. The exact details vary between providers, but the basic idea is the same: seniors or their caregivers set up a personalized response plan with the medical alert provider. Whenever a senior presses their help button, call center staff can see their personalized response plan right on their screens, and take action accordingly.
What Goes Into A Personalized Response Plan?
A personalized response plan sets out the best course of action to take when a senior presses their emergency button. Seniors may choose to list family members, caregivers or neighbors as emergency contacts, for example. Most plans allow members to list more than one person, and choose who to call first in an emergency. Seniors can also choose the order in which to call each person.
Say for example a senior lists their nearby son as their first contact, and then a caring neighbor as their second, with emergency services third. In the event that they should fall and press their button, the call center will either ask them who they should call first, or call their emergency contacts in the order listed. If they cannot contact the son, they’ll call the neighbor. If they can help, great. Otherwise, that’s when they call emergency services.
Some providers also offer email or text alerts, so listed caregivers or family know when the button is pressed and can respond accordingly.
A Personalized Response Plan Cuts Down Hospital Visits
A personalized response plan helps cut down on hospital visits. In the case of relatively minor injuries – such as a bruise – a visit from a neighbor, family member or caregiver is often enough. At the very least, the person attending can figure out if hospital intervention is required, and contact emergency services accordingly.
Knowing that pressing the button doesn’t automatically mean a hospital visit can be very reassuring for concerned seniors. It helps to know that if they don’t need to go to the hospital, they can have a neighbor or family member stop by instead.
Deciding Who To List on the Plan
To get the most out of a personalized action plan, take some time to decide who is best to list. If you choose people who live quite far away, aren’t easily reachable by phone, or who lead very busy lives, it’s going to be harder for call center staff to get hold of them.
Choosing the best contacts is the key to success with a personalized action plan.
Ask Your Provider What Their Protocol Is
Different providers have different protocols when a button is pressed. Some might go through the listed contacts in order as a matter of course. Others will hop straight to the emergency services if they can’t get a verbal response from the button holder. Some will talk with the senior and figure out with them which would be the most helpful at that moment.
Call your provider to ask for their protocol, and how to set up an action plan for yourself or the senior in your life, if there isn’t one in place already. If you’re currently shopping around for a medical alert provider, talk to your top contenders about action plans to find out their policies.
A personalized action plan makes it easier for seniors to get the help they need without necessarily going to the hospital straight away. This is reassuring for caregivers who want to be sure that help is always on hand, and gives peace of mind to seniors who would like some support but are wary of unnecessary hospital visits.