Security for seniors living alone: Vtech's Careline Home Safety Telephone System

My mother-in-law was always a strong, independent woman, even into her late seventies. She lived alone and no one could tell her what to do nor when to do it. She accepted help and assistance reluctantly, if at all. Unfortunately, her determination to manage on her own left her fully dependent on the staff of an assisted living center, unable to care for herself.

One night a few years ago, after a medical scare that sent her to the hospital, my mother-in-law was determined to return home, determined to change the tank of her required oxygen on her own. Sometime in the wee morning hours — the family isn't sure, as she was alone and can no longer remember herself what happened — my mother-in-law got up to change her oxygen tank, had a stroke with violent seizures in which she hit her head on the wall with tremendous force. No one is sure exactly how long she was unconscious nor on the floor as she was discovered only when my sister-in-law arrived to check on her hours later.

There's certainly no guarantee that if my mother-in-law were equipped with a device such as the Careline telephone system that she would be back to her old self again, but she surely would have fared better. With such a system, calling for help would have been as easy as pushing a button. Unfortunately, the what ifs are many yet of little consequence as there's no way to turn back time to change the outcome.

There is a way, though, to avoid a similar circumstance with my own mother, who also lives alone. One of my sisters currently stays with her occasionally, as she's in the midst of a residence change. But on most days and nights, my mom is by herself.

My mom suffered a stroke several years ago, so the fact she lives on her own is of huge concern not only to her but to her adult children. She worries about what may happen if she falls during the day, has medical issues during the night. My siblings and I worry about the same. That said, she's a young senior — in her early 70s — and wants to live on her own, have her own home. Being relatively healthy and of sound mind, there's no reason for her not to, as long as a few precautions are in place.

Enter the CarelineTM Home Safety Telephone System. I was offered the opportunity to try out the Careline system from Vtech and knew immediately my mom would be the perfect one to try out the product.

Together we followed the quick installation guide and had the Careline up and running in no time. The answering system was easy to set up, as was programming speed dial for four folks my mom can call by pressing one button (with a spot for a photo for each of those buttons, for easily remembering which number belongs to whom). We set one button as 911, another is her dear friend and neighbor, who would come running if called.

The display on the base, handset and pendant are easy to see, easy to figure out their function. "They're big numbers, big letters, big words," Mom said. "I won't have any problem being able to see."

She also won't have trouble paying a monthly fee for the system as there is no monthly fee. It simply connects to the phone jack, like any other land-line phone.

The pendant, which she can wear around her neck or clipped onto her waistband or pocket, features two buttons that correspond to those programmed as first and second speed-dial numbers on the base. The pendant can be controlled by voice, but no matter how we tried saying "What is the time?" or such, the recorded woman's response was that she couldn't understand us.

Also frustrating was that the clasp easily comes undone and needs to be reinforced with SuperGlue or tape. Overall, though, I'm pleased my mom won't be headed out to work in the yard without the pendant, and that if any unfortunate slips, stumbles or worse were to take place, with the touch of one button she'd have a neighbor at her side.

Between the base and its plentiful and helpful functions, the handset and the pendant, my mom and I are more confident about her safety while alone, day or night.

"This makes me feel secure and modern," Mom says. "It'll help stop a lot of worries of going to sleep at night alone."

It'll help stop her kids from worrying about the exact same thing.

Disclosure: I wrote this blog post while participating in a campaign by BOOMboxNetwork.com on behalf VTech Communications, Inc. and received payment for my participation. All opinions stated within are
my own.