iPhone as Medical Alert Device for Elderly Friend?

Greetings TidBiters, I have a 91 year old friend (I’m a mere 59 year old) living alone who, after a fall, was interested in getting a medical alert device. She has sinced changed her mind (“too expensive” “too difficult”). Having tried and failed to change her mind back again, I’m wondering about ways to leverage her iPhone 11 somehow. All I could think of was making sure Siri is always on and showing her how to shout to Siri to call for help. Are there better ways? They’d need to be fairly simple to use/activate, though I can do any set up. [Simple, not because she isn’t smart as a whip, but she’s stubborn as all get out and if it gets complicated refuses to continue! :slight_smile: ]

Apple Watch…even without the cellular it will BT to the phone and has fall detection and she can make a call from the watch.

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What might be a problem is that Apple Watch is water resistant, not waterproof.

Many medical/safety alert systems are waterproof and can be used in the shower. The good ones have 24/7 services that will contact via voice to see if 911 or a designated person should be called, and if nobody answers in a very few minutes, they’ll automatically contact 911. They’ll work inside and outside the home. They’ll also provide a secure lock box to use on an outside door so 911 can get in if the person cannot open the door. They are definitely worth the money.

Here are two good resources about choosing a system here:

AARP members can get a discount from some services:


Try keeping the dialogue open with your friend. Maybe copying some resources to give her. AARP is an excellent one, and here’s just one article of many examples:

If your friend was a US armed services veteran, he or she might be eligible for a free one. In any event, keep politely and friendly reminding your friend about how important an alert system will be to her health, independence and security.


Great idea but I’d be pushing the proverbial uphill to get her to invest in an Apple watch I’m afraid.

True…but they’re IP whatever they are and raved for xx minutes at whatever feet. Numerous people use them for swimming or leave them on while showering…I have no idea what the risk is if s(e showers with one every day or two or whatever r…waterproof would be a better option but water resistant is what we got. I don’t wear mine in the shower either…but perhaps keeping it near enough to the shower (iPhone or watch) to be reached if she falls in the shower and can’t get out would be adequate…or stick the phone in a waterproof bag and put on the shower shelf or something like that. I wonder what Apple:s words are on shower or pool use over time…and google does show a selection of waterproof iPhone and Apple Watch cases as well. None of that is an ideal solution but perhaps good enough is good enough.

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Here’s what Apple has to say:

“Showering with Apple Watch Series 2 and newer is ok, but we recommend not exposing Apple Watch to soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, and perfumes as they can negatively affect water seals and acoustic membranes. Apple Watch should be cleaned with fresh water and dried with a lint free-cloth if it comes in contact with anything other than fresh water.

Water resistance isn’t a permanent condition and may diminish over time. Apple Watch can’t be rechecked or resealed for water resistance. The following may affect the water resistance of your Apple Watch and should be avoided:

  • Dropping Apple Watch or subjecting it to other impacts.
  • Exposing Apple Watch to soap or soapy water (for example, while showering or bathing).
  • Exposing Apple Watch to perfume, solvents, detergent, acids or acidic foods, insect repellent, lotions, sunscreen, oil, or hair dye.
  • Exposing Apple Watch to high-velocity water (for example, while water skiing).
  • Wearing Apple Watch in the sauna or steam room.

Not all bands are appropriate for water use. For example, the stainless steel and leather bands aren’t water resistant and shouldn’t be exposed to liquids.”


The Power Off screen on an iPhone has an Emergency SOS button that calls emergency services and alerts your emergency contacts.

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Yes, I have set that up. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: I was wondering about action at a distance (inside her small house) if say, she fell and couldn’t physically reach the phone. (Again, a dedicated wrist alert bracelet would be best, but per my original post, that has been dismissed.)

I know the phone can listen out for alarms etc and I wondered if there might be some clever set up or app people might know of for this kind of situation.

Most medical alert devices offer different distance options to choose from; of course, prices vary for this. Some also offer buttons that can strategically placed on a wall, floor or other location in a home that will activate with a press. They also offer different necklace options.


My very elderly mother has been wearing an Apple Watch happily since I got her the series 5 after her (first) fall in January 2020. What sold her on it was the ability to “do” texts, phone calls and FaceTime on it. And then there’s the slew of health benefits such as heart rate, ECG, blood oxygen level… (on the latest series 7) that are synced to the Health app on her iPhone. In fact, when she took another fall in August 2021, the paramedics found an Afib alert on the screen of her phone shortly before.

Last but not least, medical data from the Health app on an iPhone can be shared. Thus I receive alerts in the Health app on my iPhone, which can then be shared with her doctor if appropriate/necessary.

Perhaps these other benefits might be further ‘enticements’ for your friend, in addition to fall detection? (My mother is a couple of years older than she!)


I’ll raise the Apple watch idea…you’re all very persuasive on this. :grin:

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I also saw on cult of Mac.com yesterday another watch and medical alert thing combined. Seemed to have a longer battery life between charges but not as capable overall as an Apple Watch.

Oh one more thing. Even though the cellular model is more expensive (and would entail a $10 monthly charge with your friend’s cellular carrier if you opt for the additional service), IMHO it is worth the extra cost.

For starters, it allows my mother to work in her garden even when not within BT range of her phone. (Haha! I mean of course she can work in her garden not within BT range, but the cellular model will connect her to 911 and her emergency contacts directly without going through her phone.) And the peace of mind it gives us kids is invaluable.

Also, if you put it to your friend that her life is worth far more than several hundred dollars (for the Apple Watch) and the $10 per month, it may prove a far easier sell.

HTH and Bon courage to you as the French would say!

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Just a stray thought. Maybe the shower problem can be solved with some kind of thin plastic sleeve to slip over the Apple watch?

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Just anecdotally, my Series 2 is now over 5 years old. I’ve never showered with it on, but I swam a lot with it on, I had sunscreen and bug spray on (which Apple also cautions can reduce water resistance.) The Series 2 remains the watch I wear to the beach for salt water swimming (and exposure to sand), and I swam with it as recently as January, and it continues working well. My Series 5 now does all the fresh water swimming and remains fine after 2y9m.

So I’d say detecting shower falls is a lot more important than avoiding potential reduction in water resistance in this case, and you/she can use AppleCare+ as a way to quickly mitigate an issue if it arises. In the US anyway it’s a $69 deductible for an AppleCare repair and you are entitled to two incidents each year of the two year coverage, and they can offer express replacement, where they ship you a replacement plus a box to ship the old watch back, so it will minimize the time without a watch (if the issue arises in the first place.)


The non-cellular Apple Watch has wi-fi, so you are in reach with it as far as your wi-fi extends, including for phone calls (if your cell carrier allows wi-fi calling). The recent models are increasingly water resistant. I dunked mine into the hot tub recently by mistake with no ill effects, and showering with it has not been an issue.

Siri on the watch means it is always at hand, really nice to have. Plus alarms and reminders are right there tapping you on the wrist (sound optional) and not on a phone in another room.

Mine (series 4) does need to be charged daily with the magnetic wireless charger - not to hard for someone capable of basic cell phone use. It will remind you when it needs to be charged.

I like the idea of sharing the health data with you so you can get a sense of her activity.

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I don’t have, haven’t yet had an Apple watch. How was it for your mother learning how to use it?

One concern regarding the Apple Watch - if your older relative has a pacemaker they should NOT wear the watch when laying down, especially at bedtime. The magnetic field is dangerous for pacemakers and cardiologists (if they know their electronics lol) strongly recommend they not be anywhere near the pacemaker.

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True, but “anywhere near” is defined as “within six inches,” at least according to Apple. So definitely don’t keep your iPhone in your shirt pocket. The watch…I guess different people sleep in different positions, but I can’t see mine (at least) getting within 6" while sleeping. But it’s an important point; a pacemaker may be in my future, so I’ll definitely bring this up with my cardiologist.

My mom had no trouble learning to use it. The trick is to make it simple and forego multiple watch faces. I set up only one (permanent) watch face, with the heart rate, ECG and blood oxygen apps as ‘complications’ (apps that are accessed directly from the watch face), in addition to telephone (for voice calls) and messages (for texts). There are also two contacts on the watch face (with their photos), which makes reaching them a cinch. And oh, the date and day of the week, plus another complication that shows the next upcoming appointment from the calendar.

Here’s a screenshot of the watch face as mentioned above:

Top left and top right circles (faces blurred): direct contacts
Lower left icon for voice calls
Lower right icon for messages

Arc across top of clock: upcoming appointment
Just below that: day of week and date
Heart icon: heart rate app
“Squiggle” icon: ECG app
“Broken circle” with red and blue: blood oxygen app

With such a set up, you only need to show your friend how to use the 3 health apps. Both the Heart Rate and Blood Oxygen apps will then measure automatically from there on.

With the ECG, your friend would have to touch the squiggle icon then put her finger to the Digital Crown to start the ECG. (I don’t think the AW measures ECG automatically since a finger needs to remain on the Digital Crown for 30 seconds for that purpose.)

I hope this helps, but by all means post back with any questions!