How do I get my friend to follow her doctors orders and check in with me everyday?
August 19, 2011 7:20 PM   Subscribe

My friend--who is in her late 60s--just received doctor's orders that she should be checking in with someone, or someone should be checking in with her, every day. The problem is that she refuses to do so.

She suffers from dizzy spells (currently undergoing diagnostic tests, but nothing confirmed yet) and has had a few episodes where she passed out completely with no notice but luckily was sitting down.

She is otherwise super healthy, fiercely independent, and lives alone. I am worried sick that she might pass out and fall but she flat out refuses to allow me to check in with her on a daily basis by phone. I've repeated over and over that it is no inconvenience and that I would much rather check in than worry. When she refused, I offered to buy her a cell phone and text plan so that we wouldn't actually have to talk but that didn't appeal to her either.

She keeps joking about how she doesn't want to be like the woman from those old "I've fallen and I can't get up" commercials so I think she is just too proud.

She does have other friends, but I know that I am the only person she has told about this.

Is there another way?
Is there anyone out there who has dealt with this, maybe with a stubborn older parent: is there a creative or technological solution?

I can understand how she feels; I wouldn't want to have to check in with someone everyday either but what if something bad happens?

One thing to note: I live in a different city. So dropping by is out of the question.
posted by OlivesAndTurkishCoffee to Health & Fitness (21 answers total)
Local police will often do "wellness checks" on older folks living in a community. My mom is living independently but has some health issues. The police call her every day at a pre-set time. If she doesn't answer the phone or they can't get ahold of her [and she hasn't notified them in advance] they have a list of peple to call including my sister and me. It's all very official, not medical-seeming but it puts everyone's mind at ease.

Alternately, she can do nothing and possibly have a situation where she's actually decently healthy but has an awkward fall and isn't found for a few days. This is what happened to my father. I would not wish this situation on anyone.

Maybe you and the friends can work out a compromise, just calling her on a rotating basis every few days instead of reguarly and daily and work on it from there? At some level you don't need her permission to be calling her.
posted by jessamyn at 7:26 PM on August 19, 2011 [5 favorites]

I apologize for the name of this, but could she use a dead man's switch so that if she doesn't respond to an email sent to her every day, it emails you?

You could share with her a story about my grandfather. My grandmother had Alzheimer's. They lived in the country. He had a stroke and fell outside. The fall broke his leg. He waited for hours in the sun, waiting for someone to happen by. Then it started to rain. Nobody wants to be in that kind of situation, and it definitely doesn't make you feel independent.
posted by Houstonian at 7:31 PM on August 19, 2011

I did not know about that service, jessamyn; that's really neat. Wish I'd had it for my mom.

But if the OP can't do that for some reason...

So, what happens if you call her every day...will she refuse to answer? Block you? Yell at you? How often do you talk to her now?

You could try drafting a local friend into the situation to pop by, though if she doesn't want them to know about her issues, that could be dicey.

You might use that to your advantage, though; "If you won't just answer a text/my phone call once a day at [predetermined time you know she'll be home], then I will have to get Vera to come over and make sure you're ok."

Yes, it's pushy, but you aren't trying to rob her of her dignity, you are just making a phone call.
posted by emjaybee at 7:31 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Does she email? How about facebook? What if you set her up on facebook or something and get her hooked on one of those godawful games? Her activity would show up in your newsfeed, at least!

Another thought (and she would see right through this, but maybe it won't feel as hand-holdy), you could make up a reason to call her every day. "Can I get the recipe for that braised pork you brought to the picnic last year?" "I'm regrouting my backsplash, any tips?" "I'm planning a trip to Milwaukee, have you ever been there?" And so on. Something where she'd feel useful rather than burdensome.
posted by phunniemee at 7:31 PM on August 19, 2011

I know this will get groans, but could you get her on Twitter? That would certainly not be "old lady-ish". That's something she could even update from a cell phone (if she has one) and she could follow a few celebrities (@craigyferg, for example). Facebook is a very good idea as well.
posted by maryr at 7:44 PM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

The reality is that you can't force her to comply to what her Dr. is recommending. If I were you, I would just start making daily calls, and if she doesn't answer, stop by, if she doesn't answer the door, call 911. Eventually she'll realize that the least intrusive way to deal with this is to just answer the phone when you call.

And, continue to be kind to her and make sure she knows you love her...
posted by tomswift at 7:53 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Would she be more amenable if you professionalized it, rather than doing it as a friend? Police departments and etc. will do this, as mentioned above, and so do some faith organizations (if that's applicable) and probably different in home care providers.
posted by MadamM at 7:57 PM on August 19, 2011

Try to find out what her preferred method of communication is. She may find it a lot less intrusive to communicate by text or email. Maybe you could buy her a lap top or cell phone she likes for these purposes (I-pad?). Does she like any games, like Scrabble? You could have an ongoing scrabble game with her or something, where you know what time she has played.
posted by bearette at 8:03 PM on August 19, 2011

does she like scrabble? play words with friends. i know my mom is frustrated with me when she doesn't play for a few days. often she and i play multiple times a day. your can play it on facebook and you can play it on your phone. then if she doesn't play you can call her to be all like "you have to play! i am dying to use my V!"
posted by nadawi at 8:07 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

When my grandmother was still alive, my uncles arranged with a neighbor of hers to just come over every evening to watch "Wheel of Fortune" together. It was mostly a social thing, but it did serve as a check in, and it was the neighbor who noticed when my grandmother had a stroke. Is there something similar that she just enjoys doing, that could be combined in a similar manner?
posted by ambrosia at 8:36 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Does she live in a house or apartment building? Does she have neighbors next door?
posted by jbenben at 8:38 PM on August 19, 2011

(I should add that my grandmother was extremely independent and ferociously difficult, and the stroke was noticed because her personality changed to much more agreeable. Just saying.)
posted by ambrosia at 8:38 PM on August 19, 2011

Just make the daily call ... but turn it into "joke of the day" or something similar that she would like or smile at ... and ... don't say anything else! Wait til she answers, then tell the joke, chucklie with her or groan, or whatever, then say "love you, bye" or whatever, lather rinse repeat ... every day. Vary times or do it regularly. Make it fun.

Two of my elderly relatives (25 years apart) fell and laid for days. One (85) ended up in a nursing home from the stroke. The other died while lying on her back porch. She was 70. Good for you for trying to insure this does not happen to your friend.
posted by batikrose at 8:51 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Does she have eldery friends who might need checking on or errands running? My grandad used to do the neighbour's shopping and fetch him a newspaper each day (the neighbor has since gone to a nursing home). A side effect of that, of course, was that if something happened tonmy grandad, the neighbour would notice because he wouldn't have gotten his paper.
posted by hoyland at 8:59 PM on August 19, 2011

When my grandmother lived alone and didn't want people bugging her every day, the family set up a system with the neighbors in which my grandmother had to open her living room drapes by a certain time every morning. If she didn't, they'd know to check up on her or call a family member.

It worked well for her because it incorporated a task she was already doing; if your friend already has some sort of daily routine (getting the paper, etc.) it might be more palatable to her to use that as her "I'm OK" signal rather than a phone call.
posted by stefanie at 9:50 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

No one can make her do anything she doesn't want to do and yet there's nothing stopping you from calling her every day. Don't make it into a thing - just call to say hello.
posted by mleigh at 12:02 AM on August 20, 2011

Late 60s is rather young for this kind of concern, and I'm sure that is part of her resistance.

I, too, thought of Twitter. A single post every day, saying anything she wants.
posted by megatherium at 5:35 AM on August 20, 2011

What about she has to call YOU every day to see how YOU are?
posted by radioamy at 7:55 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

She keeps joking about how she doesn't want to be like the woman from those old "I've fallen and I can't get up" commercials

Exactly why she should subscribe to the Life Alert or Life line service. My mom had it for a while, and it can be very unobtrusive, Sure, they can call her everyday, or she can just push the button if she needs help. This could give her the comfort that she is still in control of her life. Explain it to her "It's like carrying around 911 on speed dial."
posted by Gungho at 8:25 AM on August 20, 2011

Jane, I'm a worrier, so I hope you'll allow me to call frequently to reassure myself that you're okay. I took the liberty of getting you a pay-as-you-go mobile phone that will fit in your pocket, just in case. I know I'm being a little bossy, but I'm so fond of you and I hate the thought of anything happening to you.

Apparently the major carriers offer no-contract plans. PAYG phones often require a daily activation amount, but a mobile phone in the pocket is a pretty handy thing.
posted by theora55 at 12:49 PM on August 20, 2011

How about Skype (assuming she has a computer)? You can do text IM as well as video calls. My mum and I talk about once a week (usually video) and she's 71.
posted by deborah at 2:33 PM on August 20, 2011

« Older indie/college music song filter: what song is this...   |   Neurostar TMS therapy (depression)? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.