calling Dick Tracy…

My mother is 91 and has Alzheimer’s. She lives in a little apartment that we built within our home. Her condition over the last several years has deteriorated at a slow and steady rate until the last couple of months. Her decline is now accelerated at a more rapid pace. Last week I had a personal alert system installed in her apartment so that she could call for help if she fell or needed help.

The device that she wears is one that fits on her wrist. It’s a simple band with a button in the center that she can push to send an alarm signal to the monitoring company. They will then come on the speaker that is installed in the apartment. It’s a great system and I can see where it provides tremendous peace of mind for the times when I’m not physically with her.

In theory this system is outstanding but even during her best days my mother was anti-technology. Toaster ovens totally baffled her. Microwave ovens? Terrifying. Her kitchen timer had to be the old-fashioned sand-filled egg timer because she could never get the hang of using the wind-up timer. A digital timer was out of the question. So when I was considering a personal alert system for her I had to choose one that seemed the most mom-friendly. A single button on a wristband looked like an ideal solution.

When explaining how the system worked to my mother, we tried to keep it as basic as possible. Push the button if you need help and the alarm company will talk to you from the speaker on the kitchen counter. No need to try to move from wherever you are – just speak. Mom was convinced that she had to speak into the button on the wristband. No amount of convincing changed her mind. Every day I remind her how the system works and every day she doesn’t remember. The monitoring device will still hear her if she speaks into her wristband so we’re going to leave it at that.

Many times when I go into my mother’s apartment I see her holding her hand up and talking into her wrist. She’s not asking for help when she talks; she’s narrating her actions and giving weather reports.

For a woman who never embraced modern technology, she has mastered the Dick Tracy two-way wrist radio.


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