Entrepreneurs … Get Cracking! Please.

The Emergency Call system in Assisted Living doesn’t make sense to someone with dementia.

My brother and I were visiting my Mom and as we were sitting in her apartment, I heard a noise that sounded like a cat in distress.  I jump up to investigate and we find it’s one of my Mom’s neighbors who has slipped from her walker. We enter her apartment to find her bent over her walker and wearing a very short house coat.

“Help!” she pleads. We run in and try to get her seated in her walker. She struggles against us and wants us to change the television channel before letting us help her sit. She has dementia and most of her sentences stopped mid-thought. My brother is holding her up under her arms as she directed me on how to change the channel. Once we got the station changed, she allowed my brother to help her get seated. Within seconds, she issues her first full sentence “I need to use the restroom.”

I send my brother off to get the staff to come help her. We are way beyond our skill set here.

A staffer returns and smiles at my Mom’s neighbor. She asks her why she didn’t pull the emergency cord so she could come help her?

My Mom has had this question asked of her as well. The staff told her to use the red cord that is available in every room in her apartment to call them whenever she wanted help, I’ve also shown her the cord and told her it will bring help to her right away. My Mom is unable to remember to use this system. Apparently, many others with dementia are also unable to learn that they need to pull the red wall cord to call for help.


We need some innovation here. Why don’t they make the tool a little wireless bell?  I think we all grew up with a bell by the bedside — we could just ring it and Mom would come help us. Would innovating around more common tools that are familiar be a way to better serve this growing population?

The staff is overwhelmed and the residents want to help themselves. Let’s give those with dementia tools that would let them stay as independent as possible by putting just a little time and effort in the design of the tools offered to help them Displeased.

Readers: Are there other simple solutions that could help those with dementia feel more empowered?  

11 thoughts on “Entrepreneurs … Get Cracking! Please.

  1. Well you know… the red cord is for emergencies, and going to the bathroom is not an emergency, I can do that perfectly fine by myself, I really don’t need your help, so why should I pull the cord, that’s going to call the ambulance, and I don’t need an ambulance, I just want to go to the bathroom, but they moved it, and my walker is in my way, and someone stole my sneakers.

    1. Yes, that logic keeps coming through when it’s most inconvenient — and not so logical. In my Mom’s community, they are trying to get the residents to use the red cord to call them for ANY type of request. My Mom is never going to pull that cord!

    1. Supposedly, there is technology out there — but mostly being implemented in those that are “aging in place” not in the Assisted Living communities. However, they need it there too. My Mom had a difficult time because she was trying to help my Dad get to the bathroom and move around the apartment in his final days. She wouldn’t use the cord — even when he feel and hit his head so hard they called 911. She ran out into the hallway to yelled for help.

      In my Mom’s community, they encourage the residents to pull the cord for any help – big or small.

  2. Amen. Same at my Mum’s residence. They have an emergency device around their necks, but my Mum cannot remember what it is for, and she usually takes it off and wraps it up in something. The truth is they need more humans around to help sort their day than devices. She is on an Alzheimer’s floor at a very expensive residence because we with work cannot be with her all day, so I do remind them that they are to prompt my Mum, not rely on instructions or devices provided. It is frustrating!

    1. Thank you for the note. Interesting … my Mom wraps up things she wants to “hide” like her apartment keys. We have enjoyed quite a few games of hide and seek for her items. They are the experts … you would think they get that you can’t expect someone with dementia (and no short term memory) to learn to use something so foreign. But maybe it’s bigger than that and they don’t want to ask for help, no matter what tool you give them.

    1. here are some devices out there and even some exercise companies are working to modify their products to help seniors knowing the numbers are only moving in that direction.

      This one is something you put into the home and monitors the indivudual
      BeClose: http://www.beclose.com

      This is a fitness device that the user would have to put on and manage – so really not ideal, but my husband loved it as a fitness tool and it would help if someone is at home to help see how much they are moving around during the day: Fitbit http://www.fitbit.com

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