Editor Steve reflects on a disturbing experience and its implications for telecare.
In the ’80s I saw a fire training film where people were jumping from a tall, burning hotel in Brazil. Reinforced by images from 9/11, having to make such a leap had always been my worst nightmare. You know…you are falling and think “this wasn’t such a good idea…I’ve changed my mind…” But there’s no pause button. You are totally out of control AND there is time to contemplate it…
That was my idea of horror until eight weeks, three days, six and a half hours ago from the time of writing. At that time something else became my worst nightmare…
Some Telecare Aware readers will know that a few houses I let are my main source of income (goodness knows, Telecare Aware doesn’t generate any!) and from time to time I have landlord’s duties to perform, such as making house repairs between tenants. Which is what I was doing on the day my nightmare changed.
I’m on the top floor of a three-storey house in a bathroom with no window. I finish putting up a new shower curtain. I turn to the door that I’d closed casually as I went in. The handle, which is loose and which I need to fix is on the floor – the floor on the other side of the door! I am trapped. The bathroom, empty for the next tenants, contains nothing that can be used as a tool with which to spring the lock.
My phone is in my jacket pocket.
My jacket is two flights of stairs away, next to the front door.
I hammer the door with my fists. There is no point in banging on the walls. The neighbouring houses are empty, awaiting renovation.
A wave of panic hits me. Me! Me! But look, I am not a person who panics! I am not claustrophobic! If I were stuck in a lift (elevator) I’d be the calm one who sits quietly and awaits rescue. Or so I’d always thought until now…
The panic takes form. I’ll not see the people I love again. I’ll never be able to visit my favourite places again. The life to come that I had been taking for granted flashes before my eyes, snatched away in a moment.
Panic. Kidnapped and hidden in a trunk.
Desperation. Trapped in a mine collapse.
Banging. The prison guards decide to ignore you. Permanently.
Screaming. A traitor immured.
Loneliness. Deep. Deeper. Deepest. Waking up in a coffin and realising it has been buried.
The Grim Reaper preparing to reap my future. A person alone in their home. Fallen. On the floor, unable to reach the phone.
My wife, who surely decided to go shopping while I was hanging the shower curtain and has been knocked down and is suffering from amnesia comes in from the garden a few minutes later and hears my shouts and hammering.
However… if you meet me one of these mornings and I look more bleary-eyed than usual it may be that I’d had a hard time fighting down flashbacks when trying to get to sleep. Pass the coffee and don’t ask.
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Shall we call it…
Medic alert? No!
Social alarm? No!
Pendant alarm? No!
Panic alarm? Yes!
The time you need it is when you panic. But the chances are that you will not have the pendant with you. My experience taught me that only a telecare system that does not depend on the person’s active participation will do. That means forget anything body-worn or that needs the user to be conscious to raise an alarm.
What’s the minimum that would do that?
In-home you’d go for safety confirmation (à la Alertacall in the UK) and/or, if more frequent monitoring is required, an open fridge sensor for the daytime and a bed (or bedside rug) pressure sensor for the night time.
Finally, for people who forget where they are when they go out, then at the present state of technology some degree of participation is necessary to carry or to wear a tracking device.
3 October 2011