My mother always keeps the doors locked. If she has an accident and uses her medical alert system, how is the ambulance crew going to get into the house?
Great question. A few years ago, when my 98 year old grandmother fell on her stairs (a problem that could have been avoided if she’d understood that she could install a stairlift without damaging her walls) and broke her hip, it was the middle of the night. She didn’t have a medical alert system, so she obviously couldn’t just press a button to get help. Instead she had to spend the night on the landing, in agony, waiting until a friend was due to arrive for a midday visit.
But the question arises, what if she had had a medical alert button? The ambulance crew wouldn’t have been able to get in the door. Now, this wasn’t a life-threatening emergency like a stroke or heart attack, but the crew wouldn’t have known that.
Would they have tried to bash down the door? According to my sources, they would have tried to force entry into the home. Not only does this do a lot of damage (something my grandmother would have fretted about for years) but it also delays the crew from finishing this call and going on to help the next person who is having an emergency.
The solution is to install a key safe on the outside of the house. Key safes are those small boxes with pushbutton combinations. They hold one or two keys.
But how do the emergency crews know the combination for the safe?
This is where things can break down.
Imagine that you’re stuck on the landing, far from the base station of your medical alert system. The base station has dialed 911, but you’re not able to tell them what’s wrong, or how to get into the house. In the end this is really no different than if the lockbox wasn’t there.
In order to make the key safe work, you need to cover your bases a little better. There are a few solutions.
First, and most expensive, is to get a medalert system that calls into to a monitoring center. The staff can find out the nature of your problem and then dispatch an ambulance, and they can tell the crew the combination to the lockbox.
Second, you can use a system that automatically dials family or neighbors to alert them of the problem. If these people know the code, they can provide it when they call 911.
Third, you could give the code to neighbors you trust and put a note on the box instructing emergency personnel to ask those neighbors for the code.
It’s natural for seniors to want to keep their doors locked. But it’s very important to make sure that emergency crews have a way of getting into the home.