Co-ordinating care with Jointly - Kate’s story
Kate has been a carer for a long time. In the past she cared for her husband and mum and she is now helping her elderly friend. She has been using Carers UK’s Jointly app to help her co-ordinate care. Here Kate shares her story, reflecting on the role technology can play in caring for a loved one.
“I cared for my late husband over a period of more than 25 years. I can honestly say that for the first 20 years, I did not see myself as a carer, I was just a wife and a mum. Not until I reached desperate circumstances was I forced to accept that I was a carer and that there were services out there that could make a difference, not only to me but to my family as well.
I was also a joint carer for my mother who had advanced Alzheimer's and that too was a time of huge anxiety and concerns as, like many, she did not recognise her difficulties and was not prepared to accept any support until we were forced to take action for her own safety.
Even though, at the time, I was someone who was a keen technology user, and we used some assistive technology to support my husband, it was very much a time when fewer opportunities were available and much more was to follow. Now we have a vast array of incredible choices to change the way we communicate and allow carers to access the information, products, services and support they need.
There are many technologies which I would have given my right arm for, particularly in regard to keeping my mum safe. Oh the times when she came to stay with me and would suddenly decide to take her dog for a walk, just as I was in the midst of hoisting my husband to the bathroom - which one should I help first?
Technology definitely should not be seen as just about the younger generation and we should not make any assumptions that older carers will not use technology.
Beyond my main caring roles for my husband, and my mum, for some years I have been supporting a couple of 98 and 100 years. Their daughter lives in Australia and, despite their age, the couple have continued to use both email and Skype to stay in touch with her.
Sadly, after 75 years of marriage, the husband died just before Christmas and now technology is even more important to allow the wife to learn to live alone and continue to be in touch with, and see, those who are so important to her, as well as ensuring that all her needs are met.
In supporting this couple, we decided to use Carers UK’s app, Jointly. As the likely primary contact in the absence of their daughter, I am frequently the first person to be called in an emergency and I no longer have to worry about having the necessary information to hand as I can access it on Jointly wherever I am.
Previously, I solely had a hard copy of all their conditions and medications which I kept at home. It was always on my mind and did once happen that I went straight to the hospital from work and needed the notes to be able to help. Obviously, since then, I have felt reassured that I could access those details anytime and that was my primary reason for wanting to use Jointly.
More recently, Jointly proved especially useful. After being asked to take my friend to an appointment with a specialist about the use of a potential new drug, which cannot be easily withdrawn once started, I felt extremely responsible and noted during the conversation a passing comment about the drug's interaction with other medications.
Although my friend was encouraged to start the drug with immediate effect, I felt ill at ease and asked for more time. On returning home, I did some research on the internet and discovered that the drug was not compatible with certain antibiotics. This was incredibly significant as my friend is allergic to penicillin and the use of antibiotics is essential.
It suddenly dawned on me that if I looked at our records on Jointly, I would be able to access the history of the antibiotics most frequently used to treat her and, to my shock, they were those that were incompatible with this drug. Without Jointly, I would never have made that discovery, I was then able to advise the daughter in Australia.
Jointly has given me the confidence to be able to give good support at any time, including at a time of crisis and it has helped me to stay on top of things and allowed me to access information, including medication anytime, anywhere.
I think it is fair to say that technology has grown beyond anything we could ever have imagined, even five years ago, and sometimes we fear its use but, when it comes to carers, I personally have heard nothing but positives and hope that we will embrace it wholeheartedly.”
Find out more about Carers UK's app, Jointly here.