Medical Alert Watch?
September 15, 2019 9:05 AM   Subscribe

My 91 year old mother-in-law lives alone (California) and is in great shape considering her age, but we are very worried about falls. She has had different medical alert devices (phone and wearable/around the neck), but will never carry them with her - she currently has a Great Call Jitterbug phone. She says if we can find a watch that is a standalone device and does not require any other components she will use it, otherwise she just prefers to take her chances and not worry about it.

I read this recent post - LINK - but am still confused. It sound like maybe there is a cellular version of the Apple Watch that would not require an iPhone?

Thank you very much in advance for any help; especially specific product names we can research further. Please assume that despite her age she is fine living alone. We really just want to find something that she is comfortable wearing, so she will use it. The only watch type device she found herself was a two component design the required a second device(?) to be carried or nearby.
posted by The Architect to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
There is a cellular apple watch - it needs charged, do charging cables count as extra components ? and I don't know if if works without iPhone.
posted by Mistress at 9:19 AM on September 15, 2019

an elderly friend of the family who had had a stroke had a virtual assistant device; idk if it was siri or alexa
posted by brujita at 9:48 AM on September 15, 2019

There are some watches for kids that connect to the cell network. No idea if they're good or not.

You'd want to check if there are any parts of her house that don't have good cell reception though. If she falls in the basement and the watch can't connect then it's useless. Some of the dedicated safety call products have their own home base stations which presumably are powerful enough to cover the whole house.

Edited to add a link to a similar watch that looks a bit better.
posted by duoshao at 9:53 AM on September 15, 2019

Check out the review for the Apple Watch Series 4 on Wirecutter.
posted by pinochiette at 10:30 AM on September 15, 2019

Actually, never mind, I guess it would only work if she's connected to wifi, if she doesn't want an iPhone.
posted by pinochiette at 10:34 AM on September 15, 2019

Best answer: All Apple Watches need to be paired with an iPhone, but if you have the budget for it, and if your mother might be willing to swap the Jitterbug for a new phone, the fall notification and other health features on the Series 5 could work well -- and it's less bulky/more aesthetically pleasing than a lot of alert options, too. She would have to charge it, but she wouldn't need to carry the phone with her if you got an LTE model.

Edited to add: the iPhone would have to be a 6 or newer, but 7s can be had pretty cheaply at this point, and she could use it similarly to the way she might use the Jitterbug. She can ignore the apps and just set up Favorites for calling, if she likes.
posted by halation at 10:43 AM on September 15, 2019

So you can eliminate them if it pops up in your searching: some Garmin running watches have "incident detection", but it requires that the watch be paired with your phone and that there be an "activity" underway. (Same for its "summon help" function.)
posted by hoyland at 10:59 AM on September 15, 2019

For my father, we used a combination of a daily call and a webcam positioned to view the favorite chair (with his permission). In one case, missing the daily phone call caught one fall. For another, we could see him on the floor from the webcam within minutes after he fell.

We helped set up and pay for the WiFi and webcam. He also used the internet so he paid a bit too.

It was the only thing we could get to work from 2,000 miles away. He lived on his own until 97.

Not sure about your MIL, but we found that a willingness and even ability to learn and use new tech diminished over time.
posted by rw at 11:52 AM on September 15, 2019

Make the phone more appealing. Android with a good camera, some music she likes and a decent set of head phones, cool apps. I have a heart rate monitor on my phone, very useful, and you can set up Google Fit. If you know when she's likely to be on a walk, call her; missing calls is a big motivator. My carrier is Republic Wireless, cheap, no frills, Google Fi is also an option.

The webcam is not a bad idea.
posted by theora55 at 1:28 PM on September 15, 2019

Best answer: Looks like Mobile Help has both a version that pops into a watch band or necklace AND a smart watch. Medical Guardian has a watch - unclear if it needs to be paired at any point.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:33 PM on September 15, 2019

If it's a matter of not liking something worn about the neck, could the current one-component necklace become a bracelet?
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:47 PM on September 15, 2019

Best answer: You need to have an iPhone to set up an Apple Watch, but you don't need to have an iPhone nearby to use an iPhone. You can get an Apple Watch with cellular service, and the Apple Watch can also function independently if it has access to wifi.

Apple has a page describing how to use your Apple Watch without your iPhone nearby.

It should be possible for you to buy an Apple Watch for your mom, set it up using your iPhone (or an inexpensive used iPhone purchased for this purpose), and then give it to your mom. It will work fine as a watch; it will automatically call 911 and/or call you if your mother falls; as a bonus, she can make phone calls with it.

Your mom will need to charge it nightly and put it on her wrist each day. You could set up the watch face to have photos of her kids (and grandkids?) to encourage her to wear it.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 6:37 AM on September 16, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses. I marked a few we found most helpful, but all were good suggestions. I will try to remember to post our final solution when we have figured it out.
posted by The Architect at 7:29 PM on September 17, 2019

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