Medical Alert Tattoos for Seniors with Diabetes

Medical Alert Tattoos for Seniors with Diabetes

time icon 6 min read update icon Sept. 28, 2019


You have just been diagnosed with type II diabetes and are weighing all the options when it comes to medical alert devices. Should you go with a bracelet in the event you have an episode? What about the in-home speaker? Perhaps neither seems to jive with your lifestyle and the increased level of activity you plan on undertaking in the immediate future.

Then it hits you: why not a medical alert tattoo? Read on to learn more about this nascent medical alert option.

Medical Alert Tattoos for Diabetes Overview

Type I and II diabetes come with their own sets of considerations and potential complications. To wit, there is now the need to monitor insulin and blood sugar levels; something you may not have needed to address before. Then there is the fear surrounding the potential of having a diabetic episode, which could lead to a fall or worse.

Having necessary medical details at the ready could aid in your recovery should you fall victim to a spill or a bump to the head. With all of the medical alert options out there, it may be hard to choose one.

While not a standard choice, medical alert tattoos, which are placed on your arm, wrist or chest and detail your condition, are growing in popularity. What’s more is that upkeep is practically non-existent, and the investment is a one-and-done deal.

Advantages of Medical Alert Tattoos

There are a number of advantages, both cost and performance-based when considering a medical alert tattoo over other more traditional medical alert options.

First and foremost is the mobility of an arm or chest tattoo. No matter where you go, it goes with you! There is no need to set a reminder on your smartphone to bring your pendant, and there is no fear of forgetting a bracelet when your critical medical information is stenciled on your wrist.

Medical alert tattoos have no universal standard, which means that you are free to design an image that not only fits your personality, but also provides pertinent details of your diabetic condition. You can also add other important facts such as who to contact in the event of an emergency and how.

Activities become fun again when you do not have to worry about how rugged or fragile your current alert system is when held up against the elements. For example, going for a swim or out on the boat is easy when you do not have to worry about dropping an expensive electronic device overboard. Additionally, a last-minute change of plans requires no further decision-making than asking where and when.

Disadvantages of Medical Alert Tattoos
  • Medical community recognition:  Despite a slight increase in popularity a few years ago, medical alert tattoos are still not widely looked to for information by first responders.
  • Legality:  While a diabetic tattoo is not the same as a DNR inking, medical professionals are still required by law to treat patients and not tattoos. That said, having to ask about tattoos could slow the treatment process.
  • Technology advances:  Medical tattoos are no longer information-only, they are also becoming more and more interactive. Since this technology is still in the testing phase, one may not want to jump the gun if color-alert advances become available.
  • Universal standard:  There is no universal standard for diabetic medical alert tattoos. It’s up to you to make your tattoo both creative and functional, to best suit your needs.
Medical Alert Tattoo Enhancement Options for Medical Alerts
  • Clinical trials:  Consider partnering with a university for the latest and greatest when it comes to new tattoo technology. Despite color-changing technology being in its infancy, there are numerous mental advantages for diabetics when they no longer have to worry about forgetting to measure their insulin levels. Eventually, a medical alert tattoo may be able to remind you.
  • Advocate:  There are numerous diabetic groups that continue to advocate for more standardized and universal tattoo symbols. That said, having a network of friends and family that know you have a tattoo also increases general awareness more broadly.  Who knows, maybe just having a casual conversation about your new ink could encourage others to adopt the practice and increase the likelihood that such art could becoming life-saving.
Cost Consideration Associated with Medical Tattoos
  • Permanence:  Depending on the size and location of your diabetic tattoo, a reputable ink artist could charge upwards of $150 per hour. Do not forget to ask about down payments as well, which can be 25percent of the total cost.
  • Touch-ups:  While you may no longer need batteries for your medical alert device, you may want to consider the cost of tattoo touch-ups, or, if necessary, removal.
  • New technology:  Seeing as how this space continues to change, being left with an outdated tattoo or one that is not universal could leave you with more than buyer’s remorse.
  • Side-effects:  Tattoos can result in allergic reactions, infections, skin problems, infectious disease transmissions or MRI complications, all of which can lead to still more medical costs.
Additional Considerations of Medical Alert Tattoos for Diabetics

Older adults have seen it all and know how to manage pain, fear and the unknown. But as we head into our golden years, a diagnosis of type II diabetes might seem overwhelming or daunting. Warnings about the potential for diabetic shock, vision loss or falls should be just that:  warnings. Do not let fear hold you back from going out on the lake or hiking less than you would like.

Consider a medical alert tattoo that details your condition if it gives you additional peace of mind and if you fear misplacing or losing a costly medical alert device such as a pendant or USB keychain. Having the creative freedom to design your own one-of-kind inking is also pretty neat, and a great conversation piece to help educate family and friends about your condition.

Kate Papenberg - Senior Advisor

Kate is senior researcher with Grandfolk® providing in-depth product and service reviews to empower senior buying decisions.