Last week, Mrs. Lydia, the great-grandmother of a close family friend, fell and broke her hip. Few injuries are more emotionally distressing and physically painful than muscle strains and broken bones. Even for a chronologically young and active person, recovering from a fall can take a great deal of time. For an elderly person like Lydia, who is 85, a fall can be devastating. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 2.8 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries; not only can these injuries make it difficult to get around and participate in everyday activities but they can result in the need for rehabilitation and, in some cases, warrant a permanent stay in a long-term care facility.1
What is most surprising is that, although Lydia had a fully functioning emergency response system, at the time of her fall, she had long since stopped wearing it, because, she said, “the device is just getting in the way. Especially when I am sewing.” Feeling safe because she was living in the basement apartment and her daughter in the unit upstairs, Lydia devised a more personalized solution to notify her daughter that she needed assistance, which included her cat. Should she fall, her plan was to initiate a call for help by alerting the cat to scratch the door that separated the upstairs and downstairs apartments, which, in her estimation, would trigger her daughter’s dogs to start barking, thereby alerting her daughter that Mrs. Lydia needed help. Unfortunately, when Mrs. Lydia fell, this system did not work, and she spent two hours injured and inching her way to the basement door.

The introduction of the Personal Emergency Response System

Prior to the introduction of what are termed personal emergency response systems, many seniors and individuals with disabilities had to rely on a family member being present full time if they wanted to feel safe. Personal emergency response systems changed the need for constant supervision and opened the door for seniors to live independently and feel safe in an emergency. Offering a senior the convenience of calling for help without having to make it to a phone, emergency response devices feature a button that, once pushed, prompts a live response over the intercom that is part of the personal emergency response system. If assistance is needed, the person on the other end of the system calls for help and also connects to a caregiver and/or designated family member. Your loved one is therefore protected from the possibility of being left in distress for hours or days following a fall or other medical emergency.

They work if you use them

Traditional emergency response systems work really well, if your loved one is willing to wear and use the device. The challenge is that sometimes a loved one, like Mrs. Lydia, refuses to wear the very device that will help him or her in an emergency. For some very active seniors, there are concerns about the necklace or wristband getting in the way of physical activity, for others, concerns associated with ageism and not wanting to be judged or viewed as old. The good news is that a variety of emergency response systems are available, depending on your loved one’s needs and his or her preferences.

Rapid SOS and Caregiver Support Services

One such option is the Haven app offered by RapidSOS. RapidSOS was formed by a team of MIT, Harvard, and Stanford grad students who had personal experiences with the challenges of the existing emergency communication infrastructure. RapidSOS has partnered with Caregiver Support Services to support caregivers and their families by providing peace of mind that emergency help is one touch away when they need it. With one tap on Haven, the app connects the user with the nearest dispatch center anywhere in the contiguous United States, while providing a voice connection and a data pipeline to 9-1-1. Even if a user doesn’t know his or her exact location or can’t speak, Haven helps the user communicate with emergency personnel. Haven also keeps families and friends better connected by notifying emergency contacts after an alert has been triggered. You are invited to download the free RapidSOS app by visiting Caregiver Support Services.

You are also invited to join us for a free one hour webinar titled Innovative Technology for Emergency Situations. The webinar is scheduled for February 22nd from 1-2pm CST.  Please register now to reserve your spot.

Mrs. Lydia’s fall resulted in a broken hip, but thankfully, she is OK and currently recovering. However, it is no less distressing to know that she suffered for two hours trying to get help when an emergency response system would have prompted an immediate response. A wide range of emergency response solutions are available to you and your loved one; therefore, it is hopeful that you will be empowered to have an open and honest conversation with your loved one so that, together, you can identify what will work best for your caregiving situation.


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1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Home and Recreational Safety: Important Facts about Falls,” February 10, 2017, https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html.