Medical Alerts for Seniors with Autism

Medical Alerts for Seniors with Autism

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


Autism is a long-term developmental disorder that impairs one’s ability to communicate and interact. Autism is a relatively new condition and very little is known about the condition’s features or how it affects people as they age. The condition was first described in 1943 and was not regularly diagnosed until the 1970s. In recent years, many types of autism have been discovered. It is believed that this condition is caused by combinations of genetic and environmental influences.

Autism Overview

Autism is an umbrella term used to describe cognitive differences in communication, interests, behavior and social interaction. The differences in autism can vary in many ways from person to person. For example, some individuals that suffer with autism may not recognize sarcasm or non-verbal communication cues that are easily recognized by others; however, many autistic seniors are quite intelligent and high functioning in society.

Many individuals go throughout their lives never identifying themselves to be autistic, as they have adapted coping mechanisms to help them to function successfully. As individuals age, it may become difficult to maintain the coping mechanisms required to live from day to day.

Autism Impairment

Regardless of the social interaction which autistic people may struggle with, they require the same social needs as the average person. It is necessary for society to understand how an autistic individual may socialize and relate to others, and then take the necessary measures to accommodate those needs. Individuals with autism tend to prefer small intimate settings, rather than large groups of people, where they may find themselves feeling stressed and strained.

People with autism may experience a variety of impairments, including:

  • Communication difficulties
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Social challenges
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased irritability
  • Withdrawal from favorite activities
  • Seizure disorders
  • Sleep dysfunctions
  • Sensory processing problems
Medical Alert Benefits

Studies have found that more than 50% of individuals with autism wander from their homes during times of confusion. Medical alert systems can provide a layer of protection for those who many wander or experience a medical emergency. Medical alerts ensure that help will be available 24/7, and can help to reduce the number of incidents suffered by those with autism.

Common symptoms experienced by those with autism include:

  • Difficulty establishing friendships
  • Feelings of awkwardness
  • Repeated actions or ticks
  • Feelings of confusion
  • Insomnia or other sleeping disorders
  • Lack of sharing enjoyment or interest with other people
  • Lack of empathy
  • Wandering
  • Body rocking and hand-flapping
  • Communication difficulties
  • Difficulty relating to others
Safety Without Medical Alerts

It is important for those with autism to seek professional advice regarding their specific condition. Fortunately, based on the severity of the condition, many symptoms can be managed. Below are a few strategies that can help those diagnosed to manage their autism safely.

  • Body rocking and hand flapping: Medication is sometimes used to reduce unwanted behaviors, such as hand-flapping and body rocking. It is also important to explore other options of reducing these behaviors, in case the medications have dangerous side effects. Behavioral interventions have been shown to improve the function of people with autism.  
  • Confusion: Confusion can be reduced by providing a level of daily structure through the use of charts or calendars. When a significant change is going to happen, individuals with autism will be aware and can prepare prior to the event. This preparation can minimize stress and anxiety factors. The utilization of calendars and charts may help to cope with change more easily.
  • Insomnia or other sleeping disorders: Sleep disorders are common in individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Studies estimate that nearly 80% of those with autism have difficulty sleeping throughout the night. There are many practices to help promote a restful night’s sleep. It is critical to adhere to a consistent bedtime or sleep routine, create a restful environment, and minimize sleep disruptors. Finding a comfortable room temperature and sufficient lighting can also make a big difference in a good night’s rest.
Autism Precautions:
  • Secure the home: Some adults with autism wander. Wandering can be dangerous and place a great amount of stress on families. To avoid wandering, the home should be equipped with safety in mind. Doors should be locked from the outside in certain cases, and special latches should be utilized for bathroom doors. Measures should be taken to ensure that access to the attic, basement, or garage is prevented.
  • Get involved: Adults with autism may have difficulty following social rules, which may result in feelings of awkwardness, or feeling “out of place.” Receiving professional treatment can help with feelings of social awkwardness. There are a variety of tools available to help in the management of mild to severe cases of autism. Engaging in meaningful and enjoyable activities can help the individual to feel more focused.
  • Speak up: The communication skills of someone living with autism may vary, depending on the intellectual and social development of the individual. Those suffering with autism may find it uncomfortable to maintain eye contact with others, and often fail in understanding non-verbal communication, such as hand gestures or direct eye contact. Individuals should find what motivates them. They should try to communicate by initiating conversation about topics that interest them, while maintaining eye contact, if possible. This strategy may motivate them and encourage them to talk more.
Autism Medical Alerts Conclusion

Seniors living with autism may have legitimate concerns of being in an accident and being unable to convey information regarding their special needs during an emergency. A medical alert system is a solution that may help ease their minds. Medical alerts can prove to be valuable in an emergency, as these systems can help seniors living with autism avoid unnecessary tests or eliminate the risk of being misdiagnosed. If medical professionals are not aware of the patient’s autism, assumptions may be made that their symptoms are related to other medical conditions. Medical alerts may help a senior to avoid unnecessary tests and possible misdiagnoses when time is of the essence.

T. Mashae Pearson - Senior Advisor

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