Low Cost Insurance for Elderly--Buy Mom or Dad a Cell Phone
$100 a year insurance
Many of us WWII baby boomers have parents in their 80s and 90s who are independent but who need more care from us than they used to. Some, like me, have family on an opposite coast, a long plane trip away. How do we do anything to insure their safety and well-being?
My dad died recently, so my mom would be alone in her home for the first time in many years for some of the day, every weekday. Fortunately my brother lives in the family home, but I didn't feel comfortable knowing that mom would be alone all day. I thought about one of those emergency services, but decided to get her a simple cell phone instead. The cell phone is insurance for emergencies. Mom always keeps it in her pocket. If she is in the yard, at the store, upstairs or down, she is covered. Since we live on opposite coasts of the U.S. and I can't help her in an emergency, I feel that she is a bit safer.
The cell phone solves 2 problems, instant communication and long distance service. The family had never selected a long distance carrier nor gotten a calling card. Problem solved!
You must buy an unlocked cell phone, one that is not locked into a certain company. These have been available in the U.S. since about mid 2010. In Europe unlocked cell phones have been available for longer. An unlocked phone allows you to choose a cheaper service. I chose T-mobile. There web site let me check coverage for the area where the phone would be used.
I found a simple cell phone that had a big button (a panic button) on the back of it which dials, and keeps dialing, a set of 4 or 5 emergency phone numbers until one is answered. A pre-recorded message tells that she is in need of help. At the same time, her voice can be heard by the callers, so she can be specific about her needs. This phone has a small flashlight and long battery life.
It took a bit of reading and experimenting for my mom to use the phone, but she discovered herself how to use the FM radio. Fortunately, the print instructions were in 12 pt. type, easy to read. I sent it set up with time, date, a phone book of numbers she might use regularly, the emergency numbers and T-mobile service. The service only cost $100 a year for a set amount of minutes, probably more than she would use in a year. It took about a 1/2 hour in the T-mobile store to set up the service. That seems like a long time to me. After explaining why I wanted the phone, the salesman told me that I could buy the service and wait until my mother received the phone to activate it. As soon as it reached the family home, my brother e-mailed me, and I activated the phone with a phone call. Since the service is in my name, I can add minutes whenever needed.
A summary of the steps I took:
1.Researched types of cell phones with features for the elderly, like panic buttons, large numbers, simplicity.
2. Decided on a phone and checked coverage areas and cell plans available
3. Bought the phone on Amazon.com
4. Took phone to T-mobile to buy service
5. Set up phone with time, date, charged it, etc
6. Sent phone to user with note to start charging it. (Used USPS Priority Mail, printed postage on-line, my letter carrier picked it up with daily mail)
7. Activated service when user e-mailed me notice of receipt of phone
Many steps, but worth the peace of mind.
I'm writing the hub to encourage everyone, with elderly parents who do not yet have a cell phone, to do as I did and get this easy insurance for them.