How to Talk to Your Parents about a Medical Alert System

Surveys indicate that some older adults won't use medical alert devices if they aren't on board with the idea—even if there's an emergency.1 That means you can't just buy a medical alert for mom or dad and expect their full cooperation—there's likely to be some resistance to needs to be smoothed out first.

You definitely aren't alone if you feel like you're gearing up for battle just to have this conversation. We've compiled some evidence-based strategies you can use to talk to your parents about medical alerts.

Bell
More aging-in-place resources

For more comprehensive guidance on supporting your loved ones, see our Ultimate Guide to Aging in Place.

1. Remember: They're your parents, not your kids

Most older adults start experiencing health troubles around the same time their grown children are parenting children of their own or are new empty nesters. This generational situation sometimes translates to adult children treating their aging parents like their kids.

It's usually more of a subconscious role reversal than an intentional one, but it's important to recognize when it may be happening and to try to be more of an advocate and a partner than a parent.

Before you approach your parent to propose a medical alarm, try to put yourself in their shoes. Imagine one of your children coming to you to suggest a medical alert system. You probably wouldn't want them to take on a parental role or treat you as if you needed constant monitoring. Your parent's response will depend a lot on the amount of respect you show them.

2. Understand their fears

Researchers uncovered some common fears or misconceptions about medical alert systems when interviewing older adults.1,2 Your parent might share some of these apprehensions:

  • Embarrassment about pressing the button and "bothering" or "burdening" the professional monitors
  • Fear of accidentally activating the alarm and bringing strangers to the home
  • Fear of the alarm not working correctly, especially due to battery or range problems
  • Fear that a medical alert service will reduce check-ins from family and friends
  • Embarrassment of admitting that they're losing self-reliance and self-sufficiency

However, the fears of using a medical alert device must be weighed against fears associated with not having a medical alert—like the fear of falling or having another medical emergency when home alone. 

Helping your parents open up about their concerns

Here are some strategies you can take to help your parents open up about their concerns:

  • If your mom or dad is pretty social, ask what their friends are saying about medical alerts. Sometimes it's easier to talk about other people's opinions. 
  • Directly ask your mom or dad about the scenarios above. "Do you think we won't call you as much if you get a medical alert?" 
  • Take the grapevine approach: "I was talking to my co-worker the other day and she said her mom was nervous about accidentally setting off an alarm. But it turns out they're easy to cancel."

Stay in listening mode for as long as possible once your mom or dad opens up. Then you can share what you've researched to do some gentle myth-busting: "Here's what I know."

As you discuss, make note of the areas where you and your parent agree so you can build on those points later.

3. Get a healthcare worker involved

Studies suggest that family members do have the power to convince older adults to use medical alerts, but healthcare workers have the greatest influence of all.1 If your loved one immediately shuts down your attempts to talk about medical alerts, they might open up if a healthcare worker suggests it instead.

If they don't mind you attending their doctor appointments, go with your parent to their next check-up and ask the doctor if a medical alert would benefit them. 

You might still hear some grumbling about the subject, but now your mom or dad can mull over the doctor's words and you can reference their opinion in future conversations. It could help to break the ice.

4. Learn more about the tech

One reason your parent might be resistant to a medical alarm system is because they associate them with the lady in the old Life Alert commercial who had fallen and couldn't get up.

Understanding how far medical monitoring services have come and learning about the high-tech features included in today's alert devices—like GPS location, discreet waterproof pendants, medication reminders, and temperature and carbon monoxide sensors—might open up communication.

You can also talk about how medical alert systems can also be used in any type of emergency—not just medical ones. If someone's trying to break in, the medical alert button can be activated then too.

Start with these resources:

5. Consider a compromise

If time, discussions, and research are still leaving you at an impasse, ask your parent, "Can you help me find a good solution that neither of us has thought of yet but that will make us both happy?"

This approach essentially cancels out both of your positions on medical alert systems and opens a new chapter where you're working together toward a compromise.

Compromises might include keeping the medical alert system in the bathroom, or only wearing it when home alone.

Or, you might check out alternatives to a medical alert system.

Just remember that there are a lot of points on the spectrum between medical alert system and no medical alert system.

Contributing writer: Kasey Tross

FAQ

Most home medical alarms operate as a two-way calling device that your loved one can use to call a response center for assistance. Most also come with battery-operated pendant buttons that act as a remote for the home unit.

When the emergency button is pressed, the monitoring center responds. Depending on the response from the home, the monitoring responders will either contact someone from your parent’s emergency contacts or call emergency responders.

Being patient and friendly is part of the job for medical alert monitoring center staff. We can confirm this through our own experiences testing medical alert systems. Plus, surveys reveal that most medical alert users have had positive interactions with monitoring professionals.1 

And they're used to test calls, since every medical alert system encourages users to test the equipment once per month.

These test calls also help your parent get used to the process of calling the monitoring center when there isn't an emergency, giving them a confidence boost when they do need to call for help. Your parent can also confirm that the system's audio quality and volume is sufficient for their needs, and that the monitors are easy to understand.

If your parent's still a little skeptical, find out if one of their friends has a medical alert system. See if they can come over to watch a test call in action. 

Some medical alert devices (like Aloe Care Health) feature a cancellation button. Others put you through to the monitoring center every single time. All you have to say is tell the monitor that you don't need help. 

You can also set up customized procedures with the monitoring center so that they always call a loved one or caregiver to confirm an alarm. That way, paramedics only arrive to your home when you truly aren't responding, either through the device or through a phone call from your caregiver.

If paramedics do arrive, you can still tell them it was a false alarm—they won't whisk you away to the hospital for no reason. 


Compare the best medical alert systems

Brand
Best for
Lowest monthly price
In-home range
Backup battery
Landline option available
Learn more
Read review
Best overall1000 ft.32 hrs.
Icon Yes  LightYes
Best for fall detection400 ft.Not available
Icon Yes  LightYes
Best value1300 ft.32 hrs.
Icon No  LightNo
Best GPS tracking options1300 ft.32 hrs.
Icon Yes  LightYes
Best smart features200 ft.6 hrs.
Icon No  LightNo
Best basic system1400 ft.24 hrs.
Icon No  LightNo

Data effective as of poste date. Offers and availability subject to change.

Cathy Habas
Written by
Cathy Habas
With over seven years of experience as a content writer, Cathy has a knack for untangling complex information. Her natural curiosity and ability to empathize help Cathy offer insightful, friendly advice. She believes in empowering readers who may not feel confident about a purchase, project, or topic. Cathy earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Indiana University Southeast and began her professional writing career immediately after graduation. She has contributed to sites like Safety.com, Reviews.com, Hunker, and Thumbtack. Cathy’s pride and joy is her Appaloosa “Chacos.” She also likes to crochet while watching stand-up comedy specials on Netflix.

Recent Articles

diy-security-system-on-ipad
Best DIY Home Security Systems of 2022
DIY install home security systems are cost-efficient, effective, and easy to install. See which DIY...
telus-security-platform-on-phone
The Best Home Security Systems in Canada
Find the best home alarm system to protect your house. We looked at price, features,...
padlock on computer keyboard
Best Identity Theft Protection in 2022
We researched the offerings of five leading identity theft protection services, tallying everything from antivirus...
Senior woman hugging dog
8 Best Medical Alert Systems in 2022
See which medical alert system is the best to keep you and your loved one...