Will some of your older patients be on their own these holidays?

November 16, 2023

Nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals can play a key role in helping to ensure the continued wellbeing of older patients. Sometimes, it’s as simple as just checking in about their holiday plans.



Independence is considered extremely important for older adults, around 95 per cent of whom still live in their own homes rather than in aged residential care.1


But such independence can come with its own challenges, especially at times such as summer holidays.

When beaches or overseas destinations lure away their families or friends, older patients may end up on their own for extended periods of time.

That’s not necessarily a problem, unless … well, you know how it can be with ageing.


As your patients age, the more challenging it can be. Falls, cardiovascular events and respiratory disorders are among the most common risk factors for older adults who live independently.

Falls: One in three seniors aged 65+ experience a fall yearly, and this risk doubles for those 80 and above.2 In 2018, over 190,000 New Zealanders aged 65+ were injured from falls, with two-thirds of all ACC claims for those 85+ being fall-related.3

Cardiovascular events: Conditions such as stroke and heart failure can lead to long-term disabilities.4 Hospitalisation for a medical event, such as a heart attack or stroke, is a risk factor for functional decline (inability to perform the basic tasks of daily living) in older adults.5,6 Maintaining daily living skills is essential for longevity, independence, and quality of life.7

Respiratory issues: Ageing can make seniors more prone to breathing difficulties due to changes in the lungs and cardiovascular system.8

In fact, these three issues together represent the most common reasons for the activation of medical alarms9 and ambulance call-outs.10

And the risks can be heightened at holiday times, particularly when friends and family aren’t around to check in and see that everything’s ok.

The Vital Role That Nurses Can Play

Nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals can play a key role in helping to ensure the continued wellbeing of older patients. Sometimes, it’s as simple as just checking in about their holiday plans. Would they be open to the suggestion of a medical alarm? Older adults do not appear averse to using technology to support their wellbeing and independence if they consider it safe, user-friendly and relevant to their personal needs.11

As a healthcare professional, you can support your senior patients to live independently at home and when in the community by referring them for a St John Medical Alarm. This can help your older patients maintain their independence by ensuring that (if anything does go wrong), they can have access to help around the clock if necessary.

According to Clarity Insight research,12 37 per cent of those considering a medical alarm identified their GP or healthcare professional as having the most influence on their decision.

In other words, at least a third of your older patients are likely to look to you for advice when deciding how to safeguard their independence and determining if a medical alarm would be an appropriate solution.

Being Proactive Before the Holidays

Assessing the holiday plans of your senior patients (and their support network) can provide a clearer picture of vulnerability and potential isolation which can help in determining the urgency and necessity of a St John Medical Alarm.

The use of a personal medical alarm by community-living older adults has been associated with shortened hospital stays and quality of life improvements.13

While you can’t always be there for your patients, if their friends and families aren’t around, a St John Medical Alarm provides 24/7 support, giving seniors the confidence and peace of mind to live independently.

A St John Medical Alarm is the only medical alarm that connects directly to Hato Hone St John. Your patients have access to a free trial and can be referred simply through stjohnalarms.org.nz/hcp.

For more information visit stjohnalarms.org.nz/hcp.

PS: If you’re interested in learning more about supporting independence in older adults, you might like to read the recent guide published in association with New Zealand Doctor Rata Aotearoa. You may find it useful when you’re considering appropriate support strategies for your older patients. You can access a digital copy right here: https://www.nzdoctor.co.nz/educate/independence


  1. Eldernet Knowledge Lab. (2023). Statistics about ageing.
  2. Soriano, T. A., DeCherrie, L. V., & Thomas, D. C. (2007). Falls in the community-dwelling older adult: A review for primary-care providers. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 2(4), 545-554.
  3. ACC. (2019). What’s tripping us up? How Kiwis are falling over.
  4. Matza, L. S., Stewart, K. D., Gandra, S. R., Delio, P. R, Fenster, B. E., Davies, E. W., Jordan, J. B., Lothgren, M., & Feeny, D. H. (2015). Acute and chronic impact of cardiovascular events on health state utilities. BMC Health Services Research, 15, 173.
  5. Covinsky, K. E., Palmer, R. M., Fortinsky, R. H., Counsell, S. R., Stewart, A. L., Kresevic, D., Burant, C. J., & Landefeld. (2003). Loss of independence in activities of daily living in older adults hospitalized with medical illnesses: increased vulnerability with age. Journal of the American Geriatric Society, 51(4), 451-8.
  6. Dharmarajan, K., Han, L., Gahbauer, E. A., Leo-Summers, L. S., & Gill, T. M. (2020). Disability and recovery after hospitalization for medical illness among community-living older persons: a prospective cohort study. Journal of the American Geriatric Society, 68(3), 486-95.
  7. Goyal, P., Kwak, M. J., Al Malouf, C., Kumar, M., Rohant, N., Damluji, A. A., Denfeld, Q. E., Bircher, K. K., Krishnaswami, A., Alexander, K. P., Forman, D. E., Rich, M. W., Wenger, N. K., Kirkpatrick, J. N., & Fleg, J. L. (2022). Geriatic cardiology: coming of age. Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Advances, 1(3), 100070.
  8. Barbera, A.R., & Jones, M. P. (2016). Dyspnoea in the elderly. Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America, 34(3), 543-58
  9. Hato Hone St John. (2021). Data on file.
  10. Hato Hone St John. (2021). St John releases ambulance data for 2021.
  11. Moyle, W.,  Pu,, L., Murfield, J., Sung, B., Sriram, D., Liddle, J., Estai, M., Lion, K., & AACT Collaborative. (2022). Consumer and provider perspectives on technologies used within aged care: an Australian qualitative needs assessment survey. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 41(12), 2557-65.
  12. Hato Hone St John. (2016). Data on file, medical alarms segment research, Clarity Insight.
  13. Ong, N. W. R., Ho, A.E.W., Chakraborty, B., Fook-Chong, S., Yogeswary, P., Lian, S., Xin, X., Poh, J., Chiew, K. K. Y., & Ong M. E. H. (2018). Utility of a medical alert protection system compared to telephone follow-up only for home-alone elderly presenting to the ED —  a randomized controlled trial. American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 36(4), 594-601.

This advertising content was paid for by Hato Hone St John. Hosted content may not represent the views of Kaitiaki Nursing New Zealand or the New Zealand Nurses Organisation.