Medical Alerts for Seniors with Dementia

Medical Alerts for Seniors with Dementia

time icon 5 min read update icon Sept. 28, 2019


Worldwide, around 50 million people have dementia. Dementia is not a normal part of aging, but is rather a deterioration in memory, behavior, thinking and the ability to perform daily activities. Dementia is a progressive disease that affects the brain. It is one of the major causes of disability and dependency in elderly people worldwide.

Dementia Overview

Dementia is a term that is used to describe a decline in mental ability that is severe enough to interfere with daily life. There are several types of dementia, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia is caused by brain tissue damage, which interferes with the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other. This often occurs in one area of the brain, which reduces the functioning of that area. Dementia is a progressive disease that currently cannot be cured.

Dementia Impairment

Dementia is usually diagnosed when two core mental functions are disrupted. These core functions include memory, communication and language, ability to focus, reasoning and judgment, and visual perception.

Warning signs of dementia are commonly put in two groups:

  1. Cognitive changes: Memory loss, difficulty communicating, confusion, difficulty with planning and organization, difficulty with reasoning or problem-solving, difficulty with complex tasks
  2. Psychological changes: Personality changes, depression, anxiety, paranoia, agitation, hallucinations

These symptoms can also be related to the aging process, so it should not be assumed that someone who has a couple of these symptoms or experiences a symptom on an irregular basis, has Alzheimer’s disease.

Medical Alert Benefits

Dementia is a disease that progresses slowly, often taking years from onset to advanced stages. Many of the issues that arise with dementia are not an emergency. However, during certain stages of the disease, the person may experience psychological changes may lead to an emergency. 
If the person is in pain, tired or hungry, but cannot adequately communicate, he or she may become aggressive or agitated.

  • Environmental factors can also cause the person to react aggressively. The person may be overstimulated by loud noises or large crowds. Agitation can also be the result of an inability to understand instructions.

Being calm and ruling out obvious problems is usually the best way to handle these situations. However, if the person is being physically aggressive, you should call 911. In these situations, it would be beneficial to have a medical alert system. Just the push of a button and emergency help will be summoned. In many cases, the person can be calmed, but always be concerned about the safety of the person and his or her caregivers.

Safety Without Medical Alerts

Dementia does not often cause emergency situations, but they can arise when the person becomes aggressive, angry, anxious or agitated. The best way to deal with these situations is to:

  • Maintain a calm environment
  • Avoid triggers such as noise and background distraction
  • Provide an opportunity for exercise
  • Monitor the person’s personal comfort (pain, hunger, thirst, infections, full bladder, fatigue, etc.)

If the person does become upset, be reassuring, listen to them, modify the environment, or involve them in activities which will engage them. Don’t get upset or raise your voice. Make sure the person is safe and allow the caregiver some space to have a break.

Dementia Precautions:

Dementia arises when nerve cells in the brain are damaged and eventually die. There is no cure for dementia, but there are ways to reduce the risk. Be sure to exercise, maintain a healthy diet, keep your brain active, avoid head injuries, and maintain a social lifestyle. Relaxing, reducing stress, controlling blood pressure, and maintaining a healthy weight will also decrease your risk for dementia. These steps can also slow the progression of the disease.

Dementia Medical Alerts Conclusion

Dementia affects each person differently. Due to the slow progress of the disease, it does not often cause emergency situations. However, some people can become agitated, anxious and aggressive when they cannot communicate their needs to those around them. For this reason, medical alerts may be helpful when those situations become a safety concern. A medical alert system is nice to have for people who are concerned about the effects of dementia on their loved ones, but is not a necessity. 

Donna McDurfee - Senior Advisor

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