Starting a conversation about medical alert systems is tough.
You’re basically telling someone you don’t think they can take care of themselves anymore.
It’s not something any of us, young or old, want to hear.
So if you’re like me, it’s a conversation you’re doing a good job of putting off.
Like the conversation I had with my parents about grab rails.
My dad had a hip replacement a few years ago and he’s not as strong as he used to be. Every day he’s up and down from the second floor to the basement, and the path is littered with pitfalls.
It was a hard conversation to start. I couldn’t just come right out and say, “Look dad, you’re taking your life in your hands ever time you head down to your office.”
So I tried for a soft open instead. I said something along the lines of,
“You know, guys, I’ve been learning a lot about the risk of falls as people age, and it’s made me see this house with new eyes. There are a lot of places where I find I’m reaching for the wall because there’s no handrail. I think this might become an issue for the two of you as the years pass.”
Maybe not the perfect opener, but no one’s feelings got hurt, and it was only about a year later that they got the handrails and grab bars installed. In the end they took ownership of the project and it was almost as if it was their idea all along.
The house is a lot safer now. Hopefully that means they’ll be able to stay in it longer.
With my experience in mind, here are some ideas for how you can handle this conversation.
Hey, I was wasting time on the internet the other day and I stumbled across a site about medical alert systems. You’ve seen those ads on TV, right…?
Then see what happens. Your mom could say, “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I need one of those.”
If that happens, breathe a sigh of relief.
But you’re more likely to get a neutral or negative response.
So if that happens, try something like this…
It was interesting. I used to think they were dumb, but this site had information about new designs that actually look pretty good. I can see how they would make someone living alone feel a lot more confident and be able to be more independent.
Again, wait and see what happens.
If your parent says they would never in a million years get one of those stupid things, move on. It’s their life and they have the right to make choices, even if they’re bad ones.
But more than likely you’ve opened a door and started a conversation.
You don’t have to finish in one sitting:
Likely as not, you’re not going to resolve this issue in one conversation. So don’t pressure it. If you got things started without it blowing up in your face, you’re on your way.
Low pressure tactics:
The obnoxious high-pressure medical alarm sales people will tell you you’re putting yourself at terrible risk if you don’t buy a system right away. And they’ll try to lock you into a long-term contract.
But there’s a much more graceful option. Most companies offer a 30-day trial period. All you’re really risking is the mailing fee to return the unit, and the time and energy to box it up and do the paperwork. Some of the best companies have terrific return policies after those 30 days, so even if you decide after 2 months it’s not right, all you’re responsible for is those 2 months of service.
So if your parent is interested but wavering, help them find a company that doesn’t lock them in. This means they can just “try it out” rather than committing. They might find they like having a system more than they thought they would.
So how did it go?
Please share your experience in the comments so others can learn.