Monday, February 23, 2009

When commercials hurt the products they promote

Remember the commercial with the poor, pitiful women crying, "Help I've fallen and I can't get up?" Of course you do - it was so obnoxious and aired so frequently it is hard to forget.

The product on the other hand, is a wonderful idea for anyone - especially someone with medical issues. As a medical social worker, I often recommended some kind of personal alarm (PA) for my patients.

Before the commercial aired, the suggestion of a PA was received with enthusiasm. Having a PA can mean the difference between feeling secure and independent or worrying about a situation that might lead to crisis if alone and unable to use the phone. The PA gave both the patient and the family peace of mind.

After the commercial aired, I noticed a lot more resistance to the suggestion of getting a PA , but at least they knew about the product. I understand, it is difficult to admit that you need help. People don't want to be seen as frail, or elderly - which is the image left by that obnoxious commercial.

My sister used to live alone, 15 mles out of Redding, with acreage, horses and other animals. I worried about her getting hurt and not being able to get to the phone. She could yell for help until the cows came home, but she was not close enough for neighbors to hear.

So one year, when Sis was in her early fifties, I got her a PA that connected to her phone (okay, maybe I shouldn't have got it for her birthday).
This particular brand did not require a monthly fee for monitoring. If she pushed the button on her PA (worn on a pendant around the neck), the phone would automatically dial a neighbor, then me, then 911 -if a human did not answer one of the first two calls. A message was broadcast, in her voice, "this is Sis, I need assistance and can't get to the phone.

Sis was offended by this gift. I have always admired her strong independence; she was/is NOT a pitiful, frail, person. I tried to explain how much I worried about her. Maybe it was more of a gift for me than for her. Using it is such a simple thing - just wear a pendent around your neck tucked into the shirt - but she wanted nothing to do with it.

Several months later, Sis "just went out to feed the horses". When she was walking back up to the house, she stepped in a gopher hole, twisting her ankle and breaking a leg. Of course she was not wearing the PA. Luckily, Sis was strong enough to crawl up to the house and call for help. But I keep thinking about how scary and painful it must have been for her and how much longer it took for help to arrive.

Why am I thinking about this now?
I swore then, that if I thought a PA might be useful, I would not let the stigma of the device influence my decision to use one. It is a reasonable safety measure for anyone alone or with medical issues.

We don't bulk at other safety precautions, like wearing a bike helmet, saftey goggles or fastening a seat belt. Yet, the likelihood of being sick or injured at home is a much greater risk. Unfortunately, that stupid commercial made us think differently about a PAs.

Our new house came wired for a burglar alarm. Last week we decided to connect the alarm system. I asked the company about a PA and was surprised to learn a monitored PA is included in the price - but only if you ask!

I wonder how many people have an alarm system and don't know that a PA might be included in the monitoring fee. How many others could get both a security alarm and PA for less than the 'national brand' of just a PA.

Our service costs $20.00 per month. However, now that we are connected, our home owners insurance is also reduced.

I don't care about the stigma. But I was surprised by how much more confident I feel knowing that should another medical emergency arise, I just need to push the button.

I hope my family and friends feel reassured now too.

No comments:

Post a Comment