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What to do if your loved one won't wear a personal alarm

Aug 07, 2020

A Personal Alarm can be a huge source of comfort and security to many people with limited mobility and/or health concerns, but the trouble is that it only works if you remember to wear it.

Sometimes older users quite simply do not want to wear something that they view as a symbol of getting older and the loss of their independence, plus conditions such as Dementia can make it difficult to ensure the alarm is worn regularly.

Sometimes older users quite simply do not want to wear something that they view as a symbol of getting older and the loss of their independence, plus conditions such as Dementia can make it difficult to ensure the alarm is worn regularly.

Buying an alarm for an elderly relative that’s going to sit in a drawer is a waste of money and fails to alleviate the concerns that drove you to buy one in the first place. And so, as well as choosing the right alarm, you will also need to take some steps to relieve any worries or health barriers that might prevent the alarm from being used.

Read on for some advice and considerations that may help.

My Loved One Doesn’t Think They Need a Personal Alarm 

Some elderly people see a Personal Alarm as a sign of lost independence or of being incapable, and so take insult at the suggestion of wearing one. This can be a tricky scenario for everyone involved and can easily lead to ill-feeling if not handled with care.

Talk it through

First and foremost, it’s crucial that you talk through your concerns with your loved one and give them the chance to have their say too. If you can, try to consider the following during your conversation:

1. Pick a good time and place. Somewhere quiet where you’re not likely to be interrupted, and somewhere you both feel comfortable is ideal. Try to avoid picking a moment when either of you is emotional or stressed.

2. Try to stick to facts. Assumptions and unfair assessments of their capabilities will just make things worse, so base your concerns on indisputable facts such as previous incidents or diagnosed symptoms.

3. Don’t patronise. You might feel frustrated if your loved one is reacting negatively to the idea of a personal alarm, but be careful not to let it show in your tone. Unintentionally patronising phrases will make the person feel like accepting the alarm will equate to accepting this patronising view of themselves.

4. Don’t scare or upset them. Constantly reminding a loved one of health risks or being overly dramatic about your concerns will just serve to upset them. Gently ensure that they understand the risks and be grounded when explaining how an alarm could get them help quicker, rather than creating fearful scenarios to scare them into buying one.

5. Be prepared for defeat. If your loved one is not ready for an alarm, then they’re simply not ready. Keep honest dialogue open and keep the conversation of their safety and well-being a rolling discussion that you can both bring up at any time. If the time comes that they feel an alarm could make things easier, then they’ll know that you’re ready to help them get one.

Address all concerns

If your loved one has a worry that stops them from wearing or using their alarm, then it’s not going to be able to provide the support it’s designed for. It’s important that you talk as openly as possible about any worries and take the time to address them properly. Here are some common concerns that put people off personal alarms and some fact-checks that might reduce your worries:

  • It will be obvious that I’m wearing a personal alarm. While most of us don’t object to wearing the alarm itself, we don’t necessarily want to advertise that we’ve got one or have to explain what it is to people. With this in mind, Age UK Personal Alarms have two available designs; one that is worn around the wrist like a watch, and one that is hung around the neck like a pendant. Both designs are easy to tuck out of sight underneath clothes. It’s important to find a design that you’re comfortable with if you’re concerned about it being seen.
  • I don’t want to carry a bulky or heavy alarm around with me all day. If you’re going to be wearing your personal alarm all day then you need to make sure it’s not going to become an annoyance. At just 4.5cms and less than 10g, Age UK personal alarms weigh less than a £2 coin and shouldn’t be noticeable in day-to-day life.
  • A personal alarm confirms that I’m no longer independent or self-sufficient. We understand why some people can’t help but feel that a personal alarm is a threat to their independence. But we actually find that the opposite is true, and a personal alarm provides the assurance to carry on living independently. You will most likely find that it’s easily forgotten about and makes no difference to your loved ones’ perception of you, but that its presence gives you a little mental boost to do things without the worries that you might have had in the past.
  • I don’t want to waste anyone’s time by accidentally pressing the alarm or not knowing what situations I can use it in. We can absolutely assure you that you will not be wasting anyone’s time when it comes to your personal alarm. Accidental calls happen all the time and the call centre staff will simply be relieved to hear that you’re safe and well if it turns out to be a mistake. You will even be asked to press your alarm once a month just to check that it’s working correctly and that you’re familiar with the process. No one likes to be a nuisance but staff would always rather that you called unnecessarily than you were worried about wasting anyone's time.
  • I won’t be able to press the alarm in time as I usually pass out. Some health problems do involve a loss of consciousness and obviously you won’t be able press the alarm if you’re not awake. After-care is very important in these scenarios however, especially if you hurt yourself as you fall unconscious or are unable to get up when you come back around. A personal alarm will allow you to request help as soon as you regain consciousness and will ensure that your keyholder and/or Key Safe will be used to gain access to the property should you fall unconscious again.
  • I’m worried about accidentally breaking it. A personal alarm is not an everyday purchase and you don’t want to be replacing it every time it gets caught in the rain or dropped. Therefore, Age UK Personal Alarms have been designed to be secure so that you don’t need to worry about it falling off, and water-resistant so that you can even wear it in the bathroom.
  • I don't get on with technology. Some seniors feel uncomfortable learning new technology, having not grown up with it from a young age. The Age UK Personal Alarm features just one button to press and doesn't require a battery change or charging. You'll be asked to press your alarm once a month to ensure that it's working correctly, and the call centre respondent will check everything for you then.

Age UK Personal Alarms

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Consider the benefits of a personal alarm

It’s important that your loved one understands the true benefits of personal alarms. It’s easy to dismiss them as something only elderly people use, and let’s face it, no one likes to think of themselves as “elderly”. But once we stop all the negative connotations and see them for what they are – a quick and convenient method of getting help in an emergency – they suddenly make sense as a solution to a lot of concerns and problems that older people experience. Here are just some of the benefits that your loved one might not have considered:

You can carry on with the activities that you love. Mobility problems can make certain activities such as gardening or having a relaxing bath more challenging, and some older people will give them up rather than risk running into trouble. A personal alarm can offer the confidence to continue, safe in the knowledge that if you experience a problem, you can press your alarm and a trusted loved one will be there to help you.

You can stop family members from worrying. It’s natural that loved ones will worry about you if you live alone or have had a health scare in the past, but it can bring on unwelcome emotions such as guilt at the amount of time they spend checking up on you, or even annoyance at their lack of faith in your capabilities. A personal alarm can put all that to rest, and visits from your loved one can return to being a joyful catch-up rather than a health check.

You can speak to the right person first time. Sometimes it can be difficult to know whether your health concern is an emergency and you might put off getting help until later. Especially at night when you don’t want to worry anyone. By pressing your alarm, you can speak to a friendly call centre staff member who will help you assess whether you need medical help urgently, or can give you some reassurance and advice if your case is less serious.

You can feel safer in your home. According to a 2017 survey by Age UK, over 35% of over 65s know someone that has been burgled*, and so it’s understandable that some older residents might feel nervous about safety when answering the door or when locking the house up for the night. A personal alarm can give you the assurance that you can easily call for the emergency services wherever you are in the house or garden.

My Loved One Will Forget to Wear Their Personal Alarm

It can be frustrating if your loved one forgets to put their alarm on in the morning, but nagging and arguments are unlikely to make much difference other than to cause bad feeling between you. Remember that they can’t help it and certainly aren’t doing it on purpose.

Place gentle cues around the house

Try putting yourself in their shoes and have a go at coming up with helpful cues that may remind your forgetful friend to wear their alarm. For example, if they prefer to take their alarm off to sleep but then forget to put it back on in the morning, consider putting a post-it note on the bedroom door reminding them to grab their alarm before they leave. Or if one of the main concerns is a trip or fall on the stairs, then consider putting notes at the top and bottom of the staircase so that your loved one is always reminded to check that they’re wearing their alarm before climbing them.

Make it part of the routine

Slotting the alarm into an established routine can also help those with poor memory to remember to put it on. For example, try putting a routine item such as a hairbrush and the alarm in the same place each night, ideally somewhere easy to access first thing and last thing in the day, such as a bedside table. When they reach this part of their routine, brushing their hair in this case, then they should spot the alarm and be reminded to put it on.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and you may need to try several different tactics before you find one that works. Don’t forget to ask your loved one for their input on what might help them to remember too. And most importantly, be patient. Some days might be worse than others, some efforts might take time to work and some might stop working after a while.

The bottom line is that your loved one must have the final say on whether a personal alarm is right for them. If you feel strongly that they could benefit from one then be honest, understanding and sympathetic when bringing it up with them. But be aware that they may need time to come around to the idea and they might need to address their concerns in their own way.

Age UK Personal Alarms

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