Only Anecdotal

No numbers, just stories

What Do I Do With This?

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A woman I saw last week was trying to figure out a number of important issues, including how to pay for dental work, and what to do about the ambulance bill that evidently was going to collections.

But in the midst of all this was the impending technology that had been given to her, technology that was supposed to make her life better.

Now, she was not in disagreement that it might be nice to use the cell phone. But after a year, it remained in the box, attempts at having put the thing together evident. A neighbor had charged it, but I found the back still in packaging. The woman’s problem, she told me, was how to turn it on.

“And the company keeps calling my home phone, telling me they do not want to lose me as a customer! But no one can show me how to use it.”

The phone was very similar to mine, and I found the power button. A message appeared saying that her minutes had expired, gave a number to call–not the same phone number on the packaging. But by the time I could get a pen, the number had disappeared.

“This is just harassment, don’t you think?” the woman put her head in her hands and put the phone and its cords back into the box. “Maybe later, but right now I just cannot deal with all this.”

A few weeks earlier, she told me, a visiting nurse had appeared at the door with a large piece of equipment to measure her vital signs. They tried to put it into her dining room, which has only one electrical outlet, already filled.

“They wanted me to unplug everything, and this is my dining room! I am sure it is much easier for them this way,” she told me, “but I asked them to take it away.”

Two good ideas, that would undoubtedly have been helpful to this woman, remain unused, unuseful, and furthermore, a source of enormous irritation to a person recovering from a serious illness.

I guess we could make arguments about the need for people, even older people, to adapt to a changing world. But it may always be a fact of life that not everyone will be able to do catch up with the technological advances that seem to come faster and faster as time goes by. I have spoken about the importance of personal contact, the fact that technology cannot replace humanity, and what we experience when we sit down and talk to a person, especially in the home.

But humanity tied to a piece of equipment can go a long way. The woman I visited would have been thrilled with the equipment she had received, if only a caring, thoughtful person had showed her how to use it, or made it easy for her to fit it into her home. It is so easy to assume that everyone can figure out how to use a cell phone, and that it makes sense to put equipment close to the place a person most often sits. But assumptions are often wrong. It is not an issue of noncompliance, or even stubbornness, for a person–any person–to ask for explanations and for accommodations. In fact, this is the greatest demonstration of will and self-determination. We can do much better to honor that.


Written by Only Anecdotal

25 Sep 2012 at 6:58am

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