The Fearless Caregiver



Gary Barg - Editor-in-Chief, Today's Caregiver Magazine

Dancing Betty

When I returned home to South Florida after college in the early 80’s, my close group of new friends and neighbors included Betty. Betty was more than 20 years older than the rest of us, but could outthink, out dance and had more energy than any of us. 

Fast forward to a few years ago when I received a call from Betty’s daughter, Donna, who lives in a neighboring county. She told me a horrific story that culminated with Betty’s hospitalization and admittance into a nursing home for rehabilitation.  The week earlier, Betty had fallen in the bathroom and found herself jammed between the bathtub and the commode. Betty was in her mid 70s and fiercely independent; she did not have a medical alert system and even refused to give Donna a key to her apartment. After two days of not hearing from her mom, Donna broke down her mother’s front door to find her weak and dehydrated in the bathroom.

Unfortunately, Betty had become part of a frightening statistic.  Last year, 13.3 million seniors have fallen at home and most in the bathroom.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls account for 25 percent of all hospital admissions and 40 percent of all nursing home admissions. Tragically, 40 percent of those admitted do not return to independent living and 25 percent die within a year.

Thankfully, Betty will recover. But the greatest damage the fall caused was not to her body, but to her confidence. Since the fall, Betty has not ventured far from her apartment.  She seems frailer than ever before and, even though the therapist insists that she does not need the walker anymore, she refuses to give it up. Lifeline with Autoalert - 1-800-480-0696

The challenge we face as family members with senior loved ones living at home, or even alone, is what I call “Transparent Caregiving.” They need the security that a quality medical alert system offers, including fall monitoring and automatic call systems.  We need to communicate to them that such systems are not because we don’t trust them to live alone; rather, we want them to stay independent as long as possible.

I hope Betty will regain her confidence and that the only tripping she will be doing from now on is the light fantastic.  I can do no more than wish Betty had a medical alert system in place when she fell, but am grateful she has one today. My holiday wish for you is that you take the time to analyze if your loved one is in need of “Transparent Caregiving” and if so, that you start the conversation with them about installing a system.  It’s one conversation that shouldn’t wait for the New Year.   



Gary Barg
Today's Caregiver magazine
Wednesday December 15,  2010
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