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Dad Refuses to Wear a Medical Alert Device



"This may sound like a small problem, but my father does not want to wear an alert device that summons help should he fall. I’ve tried and tried to convince him of the need, to no avail. 

Dad is 95 years old! He lives alone and still drives. He does whatever he pleases and, on many levels, I’m very happy for him. He doesn’t take proper precautions, though. He’s always been a live-on-the-edge type of guy, and he continues to live life that way.

Now that he is quite elderly, we kids think he should have an alert system to summon us if he needs to. He doesn’t even use a cell phone--too expensive in his mind.

Any tricks or techniques we might try?"



You have to love the independent 90 plus crowd. They’re so inspiring and determined. They’re also quite vulnerable and represent a comparatively high percentage of falls. The odds of him needing emergency care at his age are very high. 

Convincing your father to make some adaptations will likely require compromise. He sounds like the kind of guy who never does, though. In his case, I’d drop the safety lecture for now. He’s clearly signaled to you that he is not interested. 

Instead, figure out what interests him and offer related solutions. I can only conjecture what those might be, but I’ll try. Since he won’t wear an alert system or get a cell phone due to cost, look for less obvious solutions. Here are a few:

  • Burner phones are very cheap. No contract, no subscription. You could get one for him to keep in his car for emergencies. A simple one with no frills might be best.
  • There are some very masculine satellite hiking/skiing alert devices that might appeal to him, used for avalanches and getting lost in the woods. They look tough and rugged.
  • There are smart watches for seniors that look like trendy brand watches he might like.
  • There are tracking chips that can be placed in a shoe. They’re simple, small, and discrete. I don’t recommend you place it without his knowledge, though, and he’s very likely to balk at the suggestion.
  • A road emergency kit for his car is essential.
  • Going low-tech, I suggest a loud whistle for his keychain that he can use to summon help.

Dad isn’t likely to respond positively to a gift of anything I’ve listed if you’ve been bringing the subject up frequently as of late. Only you can judge when the time is right to revisit.

For the near term I recommend backing away and resetting your expectations. Your father is independent—lucky you! He indeed will decline someday, so for now enjoy the ride and let him live his life the way he wants to. You’re projecting into the future, and he’s living in the present. Who can fault him? I agree that someone his age could be a little bit more protective and that there are wonderful tools available to us these days with which to do that. You cannot, though, at this point force them upon him.