Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Warning about emergency dialing pendants

If any of you have an elderly friend, neighbor or relative who has a pendant that can be used to summon emergency help, pay attention.
Last weekend I visited an old lady (my mother) who was wearing the pendant in her house, and kept it on when we drove to a restaurant about five miles away.
When I asked Mom if she meant to keep it on, she said she needed it so she could call for help if she fell.
I tried to explain to her that it has to send a radio signal to a box connected to the phone line in her den, and it was extremely unlikely that the signal would reach five miles.
I also told her that even if the signal was strong enough to activate the automatic dialer, there was no way she'd hear a voice coming out of the box back at home. Nor would the dispatcher hear her voice if she tried to speak.
And finally I told her that even if the signal was strong enough to activate the automatic dialer, and a dispatcher did not hear her voice and sent an ambulance, the paramedics would go to her house -- not the Chinese restaurant where we were eating.
I made the mistake of asking her how she thought it worked, and she (the mother of the phone maven), replied: "magic."
Throughout our unpleasant interrogation, she kept insisting that the salesman told her it would work "outside."
I told her that "outside" probably meant her front driveway or back yard. Typical range on these things is 75- 200 feet. I urged her to keep a cellphone in her pocketbook.
BUT WAIT. IT GETS WORSE. The next day I visited my aunt. It turns out that Mom had told her about the magical lifesaver that works outside, and my Aunt in turn told some of her friends about it and some want to replace their indoors-only pendants for one like Mom has.
Mom also had trouble with her TV remote control.

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