Roseann DiFrancesco: Elderly Woman Strangled By Medical Alert Necklace

Roseann DiFrancesco, 86, was strangled to death by a medical alert necklace last month. Although the New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, woman’s death was ruled accidental, authorities noted the necklace did not have a break-away clasp — which may have prevented the tragedy.

County Coroner Charles Hall confirmed Roseann DiFrancesco was in the bathroom of her home when the incident occurred. Although the specific details are unclear, Hall believes the elderly women lost her balance and fell toward to the floor.

PennLive reports Roseann was strangled to death when her medical alert necklace was caught on the handle of her walker.

The Cumberland County Coroner’s Office confirmed the elderly woman’s body was discovered by a visiting nurse, who forcibly entered the home when DiFrancesco failed to answer the door.

Hall could not confirm whether the necklace was purchased from the medical alert service provider. However, medical alert pendants can be attached to most necklaces and lanyards. Although it is recommended, Roseann DiFrancesco’s medical alert necklace did not have a break-away clasp.

Home-based medical alert systems provide patients with a convenient way to call for help in an emergency situation. They are specifically helpful for the elderly, who have limited mobility and are at risk of serious injury during a fall.

The alert systems generally consist of a stationary base with a speaker phone, and a remote pendant with an emergency button. When the emergency button is pushed, an alert is sent to a monitoring call center.

In most cases, a representative will initiate a connection through the speaker phone to determine whether the user needs medical attention. However, some companies alert 911 right away.

Although the range of most models is about 300-feet, advanced models include a GPS device inside the pendant, and can be used away from home.

Medical alert pendants can be worn on bracelets or necklaces. However, necklaces can be hazardous if they do not have a break-away clasp. Medical Alert Systems HQ reports the necklaces are a specific concern, “for senior users who may be using bed guard rails, walkers, wheelchairs and other objects that could get in the way of the button necklace cord.”

Authorities did not disclose the brand of medical alert necklace that strangled Roseann J. DiFrancesco during her fall. However, they did confirm the necklace did not have a break-away clasp.

According to her obituary, Roseann worked as a clerk for the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry for 18 years and the Federal Government for 25 years. She was a member of Prince of Peace Roman Catholic Parish in Steelton, Pennsylvania.


DiFrancesco is survived by two sisters, one brother, and several nieces and nephews.

In 2009, the United States Food and Drug Administration issued a cautionary statement, after six people were seriously injured or killed, “after the cord on the Philips Lifeline Personal Help Button became entangled on other objects… “

CBC reports Elizabeth Bell, 72, was strangled by a medical alert necklace in February, 2013. Following the 2009 FDA statement, Phillips began selling necklaces with break-away clasps. Unfortunately, Bell was given an earlier model which did not have the safety feature.

Although their stories are tragic, Roseann DiFrancesco and Elizabeth Bell’s deaths may raise awareness and prevent someone else from being strangled by a medical alert necklace.

Most companies now provide necklaces and lanyards with break-away clasps. However, as they can be worn on any necklace, some users place the pendants on their own necklaces or ones they purchased elsewhere.

Anyone with a medical alert necklace should check to make sure it has a break-away clasp. Although Roseann DiFrancesco’s death was accidental, it may have been preventable.

[Image via PhotographyByMk/Shutterstock]