My dear Mum kept her falls alarm un-used in a kitchen drawer for years. Furious when Dad bought it for her, it lay dormant amongst old lipsticks, diaries and elastic bands. She was furious because of the implication that she was an old dodderer who needed to be monitored; furious because it implied that she was unable to look after herself. Generally just furious. Poor Dad. Poor Mum.
Mum was increasingly unsteady on her feet. A few contortionist tumbles resulting in black eyes, arms and knees still didn’t encourage her to open the kitchen drawer. Dad was more and more anxious about leaving her for any period of time on her own at home.
Finally, connected 24/7
I’m not sure what finally made her try it out, that little wrist pendant with a big red alarm button. From the day she first put it on, she rarely took it off. The transformation – for them both – was extraordinary. Mum suddenly was whirling round the house on her rolater, confident that the ladies at the other end of the red button in the 24/7 call centre would metaphorically speaking catch her if she fell; Dad could at last go about his business once again without worrying if Mum would be on the kitchen floor when he returned home some time later.
It was a lifesaver. It gave them both freedom. A long time coming!
Resistance is real
I’ve thought a lot about her fury and resistance to it and totally understand. There’s so much associated with accepting help and care.
Whether it’s someone to do the shopping or a piece of useful tech, encouraging parents and relatives to get more help can be a nigh on impossible task.
Alarms and other tech in particular seem difficult. It’s all in the language. Mum felt the alarm would infact constrain her activities and make her feel watched. Not that she was sliding down the bannisters or hoovering naked…. or at least I don’t think she was.
So, how best to turn the idea of Big Brother watching over Mum or Dad into a welcome prospect?
The vast majority of people want to stay in their own homes; a little bit of tech such as an alarm can make this a very cost effective reality compared to the alternatives of downsizing, moving to sheltered accommodation or hiring a carer.
2)Freedom for them
Fear of falling alone either at home or out and about won’t perhaps entirely disappear; but how comforting to know that at the press of a button help can be summoned; so a wander down the garden, to the shops, can continue to be an everyday activity.
3)Freedom for spouses
Not to be under-estimated; caring for a spouse or partner is exhausting, and time out is hugely important; an alarm can be the difference between a very quick timed trip to the post office, or a nice relaxing lunch out with friends;
4) No more nagging from you
If parents or relatives feel you’re constantly “fussing” over them – then an alarm will certainly keep you off their backs.
5)The fear of hospital
Falls at home are one of the biggest reasons for hospital admissions among the elderly: as said before, an alarm may not prevent the fall, but if they do fall, then help can be summoned fast, including medical intervention which could negate or at least minimise a stay in hospital.
6) Peace of mind for you
Worrying about what they’re getting up to, or worse what they’re no longer getting up to becomes a constant with elderly parents and relatives; they know you are busy with your own life, so them having an alarm would in-fact be very helpful for you….
The art of persuasion...
As we head into shorter days and autumn now might be a good time to start these conversations. If I’m honest I’m not sure which of these arguments would have encouraged Mum to get the alarm out of the kitchen drawer. But it was worth her fury and indignation when eventually she did.
Annabel James is the founder of Age Space, her views are her own.