All posts in Technology

Need Help With Managing Care Of An Elderly Loved One?

For several years I cared for my elderly parents at home. At times I found the challenge of juggling my own life and demanding job with their complex and growing needs overwhelming. I consider myself fortunate in having a brother and sister who were willing to help, but sharing tasks, when my brother worked shifts and my sister lived over 50 miles away and didn’t drive, wasn’t always easy to organise.

There are currently over 2 million people caring for elderly relatives in the UK. With an ageing population and rising life expectancies for those with illness or disability, caring for our elderly loved ones presents a huge and growing challenge.

Something I would have found helpful myself is a new tool that has been developed by Carers UK called Jointly,  to help families manage care for loved ones alongside their increasingly complex lives

What is Jointly? MC900433934-2

Jointly is a simple solution to sharing care for a loved one. It is a mobile and online application (often called an app) that is available for mobile phones, tablets and computers. It offers a simple, practical way to share information and co-ordinate tasks amongst an invited circle who are helping look after a loved one.

Jointly is designed to make caring a little easier, less stressful and a lot more organised. It combines group messaging with other useful features including to-do and medication lists, a calendar and more.

You can create a circle of care around the person you are looking after and invite people to join you and share the caring. Alternatively, you can use Jointly on your own to organise the care around someone.

Creating a circle

The Circle will comprise of people who have accepted an invitation to join your Jointly circle (sent by you or another member of your circle). All members of your Jointly circle can view the content posted on Jointly, so make sure to take this into account when you post.

The Profile

The Profile enables you to keep all the information about the person in one place. Use it to store information about the person you are looking after and be able to access it at any time at a click of a button! Make a note of their date of birth, disability, illness or condition, their caring needs, the things that are important to them, likes and dislikes, how they like to be cared for and anything else you may think is relevant.

Messages

Communicate with everyone in your Jointly circle at a touch of a button! Simply post a message or upload an image. Members of your circle will receive a notification and can respond.

Tasks

Keep organised and on top of things by using tasks and task lists. Simply create a task and assign it to any member of your Jointly circle, including yourself, and monitor its status.

The Tasks page gives you a summary of all tasks. They are divided into Tasks (for stand alone tasks, such as: Pick up Mum’s medication) and Task lists (for tasks that belong to a list, such as: Mum’s weekly groceries list -under which you can store more items such as Buy milk, dog food, etc.).

Calendar

Use the calendar to create date/time specific events and invite anyone in your circle. You can also use the field provided to invite people outside your Jointly circle. You can keep tabs of all planned events in Jointly’s calendar while at the same time sending and accepting invitations in your personal calendar.

Medications

Use the medications feature to keep track of current and past medication of the person you are caring for. You can see today’s medication with an indication of the time it should be taken as well as the dose (Today view) and see all current and past medication in a list (All medications view)

You can also upload an image to quickly recognise a medicine.

Contacts

Nothing helps more than having the right contact details at the right time! Jointly stores the contact details of the members of your circle and also allows you to store other useful contacts e.g. their GP, chiropodist and a local plumber and you can access their details anytime, anywhere! You just have to click on someone’s phone number to place a call or on their email address to send an email.

Notes section

Here you can store longer text notes or images and assign them categories so that they can be easily found later.

How to order Jointly

Jointly is available to download as a mobile app from Apple and at Google Play stores for a one-off payment of £2.99. A PC/Laptop version is also available from jointlyapp.com

Once you have purchased Jointly you can invite as many people as you want to share the care with you. There is no additional cost for the people you invite to join you.

A personalised response to dementia care

When my mother was first diagnosed with dementia over 20 years ago, our world was turned upside down and presented one of the greatest challenges we have ever had to face. My father was in good health at the time and managed to minimise its effects on the rest of the family. However,  as the years rolled by and his own health began to deteriorate, I became increasingly involved with managing their care until it all got too much for my father and my mother had to move into a specialist care home for people with dementia.

One of the most Important things we did for my mother was to personalise her care plan and keep it updated..

It is so important for people with dementia to have a good person-centred care plan, regardless of whether their care is being delivered in their own home or in a residential setting. It is a vital tool for carers who rely on care plans to inform them about the individual.

When we recently updated my mother’s care plan, we included brief information about her personal history such as her previous occupation, hobbies and interests, likes and dislikes as well as how her health and well being needs will be met.

We developed the care plan together in a pretty album that includes photographs to illustrate her life and the things that are important to her as well as the things that are important for her. Here are some of the things we included. 

  • The need to keep calm around my mother as she can become anxious. Staff are reminded that people with dementia are generally very sensitive to feelings and can sense if others are in a rush.
  • As my mother has been plagued with depression for most of her life and especially low since my father passed away, she needs help to focus on the good times and happy memories. To help with this we put together a life storybook with carefully chosen photographs of family holidays, Christmas, birthdays and other significant events, in chronological order. Staff are encouraged to go through this with her when her mood is low, to help focus her mind on more positive memories.
  • Terminology is very important to my mother. Her dislike of the care home where she lives being referred to as her ‘home’ is documented in her care plan and carers requested to avoid using the term as it upsets her.
  • My parents enjoyed a glass of wine with their meal for many years and carers are reminded to give her a glass of wine (provided by family) with her main meal each day.
  • Staff are reminded to put my mother’s iPad on charge at night and remove it when they get her dressed in the morning. We use “Mindings’ a software programme that enables the family to remotely update her calendar, send photos and text messages and see what the family are up to on Facebook. Social tele-care helps older people keep up to date with family life.

These are just a few of the many issues that combine to make my mother’s care personal. She, like every other older person with dementia, deserves nothing less.

 

Caring for your elderly parents – how to give back their time and care

Our parents are people we remember as the ones who have done everything for us. Just being pregnant with us is tough on mum, as anyone with children will know. The birth is usually very painful, and then we are born. Mum and Dad then feed us up, dress us, change our dirty nappies when we make a mess, and take pride in teaching us about the world we live in. We play together, laugh together, and cry together.

As we get older, they continue this care, teaching us independence, taking us to school, and making our lives special, spoiling us at Christmas and for our birthdays. They take us on holidays, and give us everything we need to enjoy our early lives. Progressing into teenage years, they tolerate our hormones and mood swings, and guide us through our exams, pushing us just enough to try and encourage us to work hard for our future, and we moan and complain and tell them we hate them for being so bossy. They take it with a smile, and are patient with us. They ferry us from party to party without complaint or thanks, and we just expect it.

For most of our adult lives, they bail us out financially, help us to get our first home or our first car, help us pay for our wedding, and then look after our children when we start a family. 

As they get older, the tables begin to turn. Mum and Dad’s health often declines, as does mobility and independence. They become less able to do the things they have always enjoyed, like taking holidays, for fear they will not manage while they are away.

This does not have to be the case! Our parents have done so much for us, what can we do to ever repay them for everything? By visiting regularly, you will notice any changes as soon as they happen. Anxiety or nervousness is often a problem, as they begin to feel less confident, especially if they take a fall, or have a bad experience that exploits their increasing vulnerability. You can help them by reassuring them, or accompanying them out if they become concerned.

Taking a load off for them once in a while is an excellent way to support them. Offer to do their laundry, or make them a meal and take it over. Even doing a little bit of housework just reminds them that you care, and allows them to rest and enjoy their retirement.

If they become unable to leave the house, or prefer not to go out alone, take them shopping, or go out and get it in for them. A bit of fresh air is great for keeping the blues away, so take outings together, or even a holiday if they wish to go. There are plenty of fabulous places in the UK that can give a lovely holiday without the worry of being too far from home.

Keeping their independence will be a big issue for your elderly parents so try and help them find ways around doing the things they struggle with. There are many care home products, mobility aids, and household items that can be purchased to manage simple problems. For example, if they have trouble getting the lid off the lemonade, a bottle cap-gripping tool will take the struggle away. If bending or stretching is a problem, a stick with a grabbing mechanism might help them to reach things that are just that bit out of reach.

Our parents have loved and nurtured us since birth, and it is only right that we should do the same in order for them to retain their dignity, self-respect, and independence.

The Care Shop has produced this blog. Relative Matters does not endorse this or any other provider and merely seeks to make readers aware of the different options available.

Ten Smart Apps for Older People to Use on Their iPad – Part Two

In my previous posts Digital Technology, Social Media and Older PeopleTen Reasons Why iPads are Magic for Older People, The Arrival of an iPad, Ten Smart Apps For Older People to Use on Their iPad – Part One I outlined the benefits an iPad can offer in connecting older people to the digital world and how its appeal is enhanced by the clever and useful soft ware applications, universally known as ‘apps’

My 85 year old mother’s iPad has proved to be a source of pleasure and entertainment for her, as well as providing a very effective communication tool. Of course it isn’t always plain sailing because of her dementia and she sometimes forgets what to do next and becomes anxious. I have also had to remind staff in her care home, to put her iPad on charge when they put her to bed and remind her to check for messages when they get her up in the morning. Mum’s biggest challenge has been the fear that she will break her iPad and we continue to reassure her that it’s very tough she is unlikely to break it. Notwithstanding these issues, she is generally making good progress and even sends me the occasional email.

I have found the best way to get an older person comfortable with using the keyboard and switching apps, is to use games. There are loads to choose from as well as crossword puzzles and Sudoku. Think about the hobbies and interests your elderly loved one had and search for the word/s in the App Store search bar to find apps related to that topic. Here are some of my favourites for older people.

1. Newspapers for iPad  (Free)

A lot of older people enjoy reading a newspaper. This app offers a comprehensive and easy to use directory of thousands of local newspapers with free on-line content. The Daily Mirror, The Times, Sunday Times and Mail on Sunday Crossword also offer free apps. It is also possible to subscribe to any newspaper if there is a particular one your loved one enjoys.

2. Pillboxie (£0.69)

This app reminds people to take their medication. Enter the name of their pill, dosage and frequency and what times of the day and they will be reminded to take it. It was designed and developed by a registered nurse, is easy to use and enables the person to ‘visually’ manage their medication.

3. Google Earth (Free)

This app is fantastic for engaging older people as it can show them in great detail anywhere they choose in the world. They will love seeing where they went to school, used to live and work as well as places they visited while on holiday. With the iPad’s GPS capabilities they can always know where they are, although they will probably need help with this function.

4. SingFit  (Free)

This app makes it easy for older people, who enjoy singing, to instantly sing and record their favourite songs. Developed by a music therapist, SingFit software was created to help increase health & wellness by enabling successful singing experiences for everyone, including those with dementia, special needs and low/no vision.

5. WhereToGo (Free)

Points of interest finder helps find the closest pharmacy, hospital, taxi firm, restaurant, dentist, clinic and many more, to wherever your elderly loved happens to be.

I wish you the very best of luck if you decide to get your elderly loved one an iPad and would love to hear about the apps you find that are likely to be of interest to older people. There are literally thousands to choose from and more are being developed all the time.

Ten Smart Apps for Older People to Use on Their iPad – Part One

Would you like to be able to send regular text messages and photos to your elderly parents to keep them engaged with family life? Perhaps you live a long way from them or lead a busy life with multiple demands on your time?

In my previous posts Digital Technology, Social Media and Older PeopleTen Reasons Why iPads are Magic for Older People, The Arrival of an iPad, I outlined the benefits an iPad can offer in connecting older people to the digital world and how its appeal is enhanced by the clever and useful soft ware applications, universally known as ‘apps’ These help older people customise the iPad to their specific needs. I explained how, by getting my 86-year-old mother who has dementia an iPad, I have been able to enhance her quality of life by enabling her to keep in touch with her family on a day-to-day basis.

Here are five of my favourite top ten apps for older people.

1. Healthful Apps (£1.69)

This app is basically a catalogue of apps to help you quickly identify great quality-of-life apps for older people without having to download and pay for many to find a few. Current categories include:

• Mood Lifters

• Relaxing Apps

• Memory & Focus

• Alzheimer’s Apps

• Communication/Autism Apps

• Health Tracker
• Caregiver Apps

• Diabetes Apps

2. Days Until (Free)

This enables you to input special events for the older person such as, birthdays, Christmas, outings, etc. to show them a countdown of the number of days left until the event. 

3. IMutt (Free)

Animals provide great companionship for older people but they are also expensive and need an owner who is fit to take them for walks. This app has been developed for The Dogs Trust and allows users to feed walk and play with their virtual pooch without the need to pay a vet’s bill or have to take them for a walk in the rain.

4. Red Panic Button (£1.99)

When an older person is in trouble, they just have to press the Red Panic Button and it will send a message to a pre determined phone number or email address which contains the older person’s address and location. Neat eh!

 5. iBooks (Free)

This is Apple’s version of the Kindle. (You can also get the Kindle App for free) Use it’s controls to change type size and lighting to see if online reading is something your elderly loved one might enjoy. Look for free iBooks that you can download from the iTunes store.

There is lots of on-line help available from Apple and I have also found staff in their shops very helpful. When I bought Mum’s iPad and told the assistant it was for an 86 year old who has dementia, she told me that they are receiving an increasing number of enquiries on behalf of older people.  If you decide to buy an older person you care about an iPad I wish you and them, the very best of luck.

The Arrival of an iPad

It’s arrived!! At 10am on Thursday 16th August after a long labour, a new iPad weighing in at 1.44 pounds was delivered safely to my mother. I thought it was never going to happen because of all the problems we had with getting Mum a WiFi connection.

As mentioned in my last two posts, Digital Technology, Social Media and Older People and Ten Reasons Why iPads are Magic for Older People my 86 year old mother who  lives in a care home and has dementia, said she would like an iPad. Here is an update of how she is getting on.

Unfortunately the signal from the WiFi system at the care home did not reach Mum’s room so the manager had the whole system upgraded and still no luck. This went on so long that I carried out some research and bought her a MiFi for her room. This little darling effectively creates a a ‘hot spot’ for her WiFi connection. I also had to get a sim card, which I got from GiffGaff, both of which were recommended by ‘Mindings’ www.mindings.com We leave the MiFi in the doc so it is always charged and ready to do its job.

Now Mindings is a little gem I found for Mum’s iPad, although this too has not been without it’s problems (the issues only relate to Apple products and the developer is working hard to iron them out) It is very much ‘work in progress’ but is brilliant for older people as it has been designed especially for them. Mindings enables you to send captioned photos, text messages, calendar reminders and social media content in a user friendly way for older people. It can be used with a  digital photo frame, a web browser on almost any PC or laptop or like Mum, you can run Mindings on an iPad.

Charging Mum’s iPad became an issue until I asked the Manager in her care home to include putting it on charge every night when they help Mum get ready for bed in her care plan. It  turns on and off instantly in the smart purple (Mums favourite colour) cover I purchased from www.mobilefun.com at a third of the cost of an Apple cover.

Mum is understandably finding her new iPad easier to use when a member of staff or one of the family are able to do it with her. I keep reinforcing that she will not break it and she just has to press the home button if she gets stuck and start again. She will clearly take time to master her iPad independently but time is something she has plenty of living in a care home.

To make things easier I have only put Mindings on her main home screen. As soon as she understands how to use it, we will move on to help her understand the other apps, one at a time at a pace she can manage. I know she is looking forward to learning about Google Earth. This will enable Mum to revisit places she lived and went to school as a child, Jamaica where my parents lived for four years while my father was in charge of building the Jamaica Pegasus hotel, Australia where they visited many times to see family and friends and other places across the globe on their many holidays abroad, in Scotland and the UK.

Mum is also using her iPad to email the family, short messages. Imagine my surprise when I received an email from her asking what her Apple username and password was! I suspect she had someone with her when she sent it. When I asked her why she wanted it (well I was curious!) she couldn’t remember. The important thing is that she is having to stimulate her brain which provides important mental exercise.

My brother, sister and I, as well as her grandchildren, keep Mum’s calendar updated remotely and regularly send her text-o-grams and photos to keep her in touch and involved with our lives. I find the ability to send her text reminders especially useful.

Overall Mum is making good progress with her iPad and showing great interest in learning more. She has been blown away by its capabilities and loves the way it helps keep her keep in touch with our day to day lives. Digital technology is something we all take for granted to keep in touch with each other. I believe older people have been left out of the loop  far too long and I intend playing my part in helping them connect with others as a way of reducing loneliness and isolation. After all if older people who are housebound or live in a care home are unable to go out into the world any longer, we need to bring the world to them. iPad’s offer an opportunity to do just that.

Ten Reasons Why iPads are Magic for Older People

As you know I am a self confessed tech junkie and plan to purchase an iPad for my 86 year old mother who has dementia and lives in a care home. I have been having fun finding out about how iPads can be useful for older people and want to share my findings with you. In my next posts I will report the best apps I found for older people and keep you updated about how Mum gets on with her new ‘toy’, so watch this space.

Here are the reasons why I think iPads are good news for older people.

1. It’s really easy to use. Unlike a desktop computer or even a portable notebook, the wireless iPad bypasses the brain numbing computer learning curve.

2. It is totally wireless and easy for older people to handle. There is nothing to plug in other than the battery charger.

3. It is lightweight and easy to carry around. This makes it especially easy for older people with sore joints.

4. It has great accessibility, with no mouse or stylus to confuse older people.

5. It has a sensitive touch screen that lets older people, including those with minor disabilities access programmes and features easily.

6. There are no computer access codes and typed commands to remember.

7. There are a multitude of clever and useful applications (called Apps) that enable older people to: follow their favourite hobby or interest, explore areas they lived in or went to school as a child, make notes, communicate with family and friends including those living abroad or a long way away, call for help in an emergency, remember their medication, turn the alarm system to their house on and off, lift their mood, help them relax, improve their memory, track their health, read books and newspapers, play games, share photos with family and friends and there are many more. They can be easily downloaded directly onto the iPad. All you need to do is set up an account in iTunes for the older person to use. Most cost under £3 and many are free.

8. Reading can be made easier because text can be made bigger to help people with poor eyesight. In fact a German study found that older people are able to read faster using an iPad than a book.

9. Family members can manage the older person’s calendar remotely to keep their visits, appointments etc. up to date.

10. Family and friends can send text and picture messages and make our dominant means of communicating, accessible for older people.

For me, the most beneficial aspects of the iPad and the increasing number of apps suitable for older people that are being developed, is the creation of a new common ground between older people, their children, and their grandchildren and their ability to connect families living across across the globe in a way that would never have been possible a few years ago. This has to be good news!

Finally, I want my mother to have an iPad so that she can benefit from keeping in touch with us in real time, the same way we do with family and friends by sending texts, picture messages and emails on our mobile phones. I hope this will make her feel even more loved and valued than she already is.

Digital Technology, Social Media and Older People

Anyone who knows me, will know I am a gizmo diva. I love my gadgets. I find this amazing as I am useless at DIY and lack the desire and motivation to change the status quo. I consider myself a people person and the digital world enables me to connect with people all over the world. As I grow older (I am already of an age where I am described as a ‘pensioner’ Oh, how I hate labels!) I have come to the conclusion that my world will shrink and when that happens, my digital products will provide a lifeline for staying in touch with people wherever they are as well as maintaining my independence by shopping online etc.

I find it ironic that the technology that makes us better connected, is actually making older people (I am thinking of those in their 80s and 90s) more isolated and vulnerable. New technology offers great potential for social interaction and it is important that we find a way for older, older people to use on-line devices to connect and participate with the rest of us.

I am a huge Apple fan, a love affair that began when my sons bought me an iPod for Christmas a few years ago. I find the products intuitive and easy to use which is why I like them and why I believe they are suitable for many older people.

My iPod was put to good use when I was on holiday in Australia a couple of years ago. My cousin’s wife took me to visit her elderly mother who had Alzheimer’s and lived in a nursing home. As I have worked with older people for most of my working life and visited many care homes over the years, I was interested to see inside an Australian care home. 

We picked up her sister on the way and off we went. The elderly lady was bedridden, had lost her communication skills and didn’t recognise her daughters. When one of the nurses asked if she could have a word with them, I stayed with their mother. Not knowing this disengaged lady, I wondered how best to communicate with her after I had squeezed her arm gently, by way of introducing myself. Suddenly I remembered I had my iPod in my bag so I found some cheerful (country and western) music and put the earphones in her ears. When her daughters returned, they couldn’t believe the sight in front of them. Their mother was smiling and rocking her arms to the music with me. Music is a wonderful medium to use when verbal communication is difficult and iPods make it easy to store suitable playlists for everyone’s taste.

Now my iPad is one of my best friends and I use it daily, several times in fact. I took it with me on a recent visit to see my own 86 year old mother who has Dementia and lives in a care home, to show her some photographs. I saw her look at it wistfully as she reminded me that she had been a senior secretary when she was younger. I told her that an iPad is different to a typewriter and to demonstrate the point, gave it to her and suggested she type my name. I couldn’t believe my eyes as she typed ‘Christine’  exuding triumph with every tap. I found myself thinking, what a great way to connect older people who are lonely and isolated, to the digital world and social media.

I am now on a mission to get my mother an iPad and will let you know how we get on.

What challenges or successes have you had with an older person and digital technology? Do share them with our growing community.