He's fallen, and we want to help him up
July 10, 2019 5:18 PM   Subscribe

My father, who lives with us (me, husband, two adult daughters), has Parkinson's, which has reached the early part of Stage 4. No dementia, just mobility problems, but those are growing. He regularly needs help shifting between sitting and standing, or help to go from standing to lying down. We'd like some kind of device he could use to notify us, instead of yelling for whoever's closest right now.

Ideally, I want to get him a "beeper" with three buttons: one for each of me and my (NEET) daughters, and related "beeper-receivers" for the three of us. (My husband has disabilities of his own, and can't help with this.) A phone-app device won't work; our phones aren't really loud enough, and we don't always have them on us.

Medical/Health Background Details: He's in his late 70s, and other than constant tremors and occasional lockups (stops and can't move), he mostly gets around okay. He and my younger daughter regularly walk to the nearby stores to shop for milk and bread. But his hands shake constantly, and last week he fell down on the sidewalk and broke his nose - tripped because he didn't lift his foot enough, and couldn't move his hands fast enough to stop it. (He's fine now. Or, fine as these things go. ) A couple months ago, he fell down while walking around the house - no injury, just inconvenience. But we know this isn't going to improve.

He needs help getting dressed and undressed, and help getting adjusted in bed - he can sit on his own, but can't always move his legs up to the bed, and can't adjust pillows once he's there. I'm not sure if he can get from lying down to standing on his own at all; I know he usually calls for help.

The Problem: Normally, he yells for the "kid on call," whichever that is. But if she doesn't hear him, he has to yell two or three more times, and then yell for the other one, which may be even hard to catch because she's not listening for it. (He doesn't yell for my help much; I'm at work all day and often too tired to help when I get home. I'm the backup.) If nobody hears him right away, he can be stuck yelling for a while. ("Yelling" may be the wrong word. Or it's just a big house and his voice doesn't carry well.)

What I Want is something like those "fallen and I can't get up" warning necklaces, only one that goes to receivers that the three of us can wear. Ideally, I want something where he can beep one of us without notifying all three at the same time, so we're not all trying to reply at once. A quick google-and-amazon search around didn't turn up anything, possibly because I don't know what keywords to use.

If we can't find the "right" kind of device, we may be looking at baby monitor options, and I'd be happy to hear suggestions about those. Key aspects:

* 1 person who needs help, 3 potential respondents;
* Person who needs help can be presumed to be lucid and able to move, just not able to sit/stand/change clothes etc.;
* Respondents are not always in the same place; the notifiers need to be mobile;
* He doesn't have or want a smartphone (and I'm not sure he could operate one, given how his hands shake);
* None of us care what anything looks like - if the only option is covered in pink-and-blue bunnies and says "Baby Safe-a-Lot" that's fine;
* While I won't say "cost is not an option," we could put a few hundred dollars into something we knew would work.

We know that eventually he's likely to need some kind of nursing home, but for now, he's in a home that's never empty and everyone there loves him. His insurance might cover some home visits, but it won't cover "needs help getting to the bathroom at 2 AM." So we're looking into devices that can wake someone else up at 2 AM without waking up the whole house.
posted by ErisLordFreedom to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Could walkie-talkies work for you? The kid who's "on duty" carries one, and hands it off when she's not available?
posted by hydra77 at 5:44 PM on July 10 [2 favorites]

I feel like a keyfinder system might work for you. Dad hangs on to the receiver. Each button has a person's name by it. Each person carries one of the fobs which will make a noise when dad rings. You probably want one with pretty distinct buttons (and not a touch screen etc) so you may want to dig around but something like this was what I was thinking about. That one only reaches 100 feet so you may want one with more range.
posted by jessamyn at 5:52 PM on July 10 [5 favorites]

I love the key fob idea for the daytime, and a wireless doorbell would probably work for waking people up at night. Dad keeps the button, and whoever is on duty plugs the receiver in in their bedroom, with the volume set relatively low.
posted by teremala at 6:07 PM on July 10 [5 favorites]

This isn’t perfect for your needs, but may be doable if you can’t find something else. My family has used a wireless doorbell for people who might need help. (First time was wired. My brother rigged it up for me in 1977 when I was 17 and stuck in bed.)

On preview, what teremala said.
posted by FencingGal at 6:10 PM on July 10

A quick look on amazon show there are a number of systems (at various cost points, some sub 50$) which could work for you. an example. Some have a portabl receiver option or a multiple plug in receiver option, so you'd need to figure out what works better for your physical space. I search under caregiver pager and found quite a few choices.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 6:35 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]

Have you considered Echo Dots? We have them in most rooms of our house. You can 'drop in' on other rooms like an intercom or 'make an announcement' and it will go throughout the house. You can also call people on the phone if you have your contacts connected.

I am currently recovering from ankle surgery and am completely non-weightbearing on one foot. It's been a HUGE life saver for me.

Amazon Prime Day is next week; I'm sure the prices will drop considerably. You can sometimes score the dots for as cheap as $20-25/ea.
posted by dancinglamb at 5:38 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]

The thing that my family did after my father's mobility became limited was to get a cordless phone system with an intercom/paging function. They can function without needing to be connected to a phone network or cellphone. Main downside to this is that it isn't as simple as a button; typically you'll need to choose an "intercom" menu option and then select from a list of phones to ring, so it might not be a good option if his hands can't reliably press individual buttons on a handset, in which case I'd look at one of the more single-purpose paging options people have already suggested instead.
posted by Aleyn at 5:11 PM on July 11

We picked up some keyfinder tokens for under $20, put them on necklaces so they'd be easy to carry around and not lose, and labeled the buttons for my dad. They work great, when we can convince him to use them.

He sometimes puts it out of reach. Other times, it's in reach, but he seems to think it's more polite to call someone's name. (It's not. A person listening to music on headphones can't hear their name called from another room.)

Thanks everyone!
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:10 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]

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