National Family Caregivers Month which runs all of November is our day, so fellow caregivers, let’s celebrate! According to AARP, we are 40 million strong, so we deserve it. This campaign, themed #BeCareCurious, focuses on recognizing the sacrifice of family caregivers while it emphasizes those sometimes, hard-earned rewards.
Philips is joining in this recognition, as well. The company has been involved in family caregiving though their Philips Lifeline personal alert service, but is now expanding to provide even more help through their new app, Philips Cares. This is a place where subscribers can organize care circles that include family and friends as well as stay on top of their older adult’s current health situation and changing needs.
These are all important aspects of being a caregiver. Any product that makes our administration tasks easier is welcome because it helps us be better caregivers while also taking care of ourselves.
I know how daunting caregiving can be because I lived it for two decades as I provided care for a total of seven older adults. Keeping tabs on everyone was a huge challenge. I used the technology available at the time, which was incredibly valuable, but I’m delighted to see these improvements because I know how much it all can help smooth our path.
The first person who needed my daily attention was my neighbor, Joe, who was recently widowed. Since he was 100 percent deaf, we needed to find a way to communicate, which was very low tech. Joe talked and I wrote my responses on a big legal pad. After Joe took a fall that sent him the ER, I learned about personal alarm systems that had recently come on the market. Wearing one of these little gems would, eventually, save him an agonizing night on his kitchen floor after a fall that broke his hip. I spent five gratifying years as Joe’s primary caregiver.
Not long after Joe’s death, my uncle had a massive stroke. Then, his wife, my aunt, developed cancer, my dad had brain surgery that threw him into instant dementia, and mom needed joint replacements. It was enough of a circus that one day I actually forgot to go to my paying job!
I spent time in various locations caring for my older adults’ needs, but I wanted them to be able to stay in their own homes as long as they could, so I traveled to each location daily.
That meant, of course, being available to tend to emergencies, as well, which was made easier since personal alarms were my go-to tool. I was the designated contact for them all, so I was never far from the phone, but at least I could go home in the evening to be with my kids.
My mom, particularly, fell often. Knowing that she wore her personal alarm was a great comfort to me. I made a few runs to check on her because she’d set off her alarm without meaning to, but that was a small price to pay considering all of the times that I was able to help her because she really had fallen and couldn’t get herself up.
When I answer questions from my newspaper column readers, I often recommend personal alarms or some other high-tech advancement, depending on the condition of their loved ones.
I know that I’d have loved to have a companion to personal alerts like this new Phillips Cares app, especially because of its ability to provide me with meaningful insights about my loved one’s well-being, incident reports from the personal alert service, and alerts about their current situation, and a streamlined way to set up care with others who could help out. A digital tool like this that I could have accessed by computer (and now phone) would have been an incredible blessing. I’m thrilled that this is available for you.
While family caregiving may be one of the most difficult things that you’ve ever attempted to do, in the end, most family caregivers say that they would do it again in a flash. They know that the payoff exceeds the price that they’ve paid.
The added closeness that many feel as their parents grow frail and need their help, the satisfaction of knowing that you stepped up and did what was needed; those are rewards that will last the rest of your life.
This is what National Family Caregivers Month is about, and what Philips Cares wants to do: Celebrate the family caregiver as well as help make their life more streamlined, and therefore easier and less stressful.
Happy National Family Caregiver’s Month to you!