Darlene Pagan was thrown into the caregiver role so violently we don’t know how she’s handling it all. For the past few years, she’s been in the charge of her 87-year-old mother and 89-year-old stepfather. Her mother has dementia, cancer and diabetes. Her stepfather has had a double amputation of his feet due to his diabetes and is starting to have dementia-related issues.
She didn’t get to ease into it the way most people get to ease into caregiving. Once someone has a double amputation, it’s pretty much ensured they will need round-the-clock care. Darlene, her husband and her daughter all have to work full time just to keep their heads above water with all the bills, appointments and prescriptions.
Every doctor’s visit requires one of them to take off work. They need to pick up every prescription. With three people working together, they need a way to share information, keep up with medications and stay on top of all the many, many doctor’s appointments.
“While they do need medical care and periodical check-ups, we feel like there is no one working with us to manage the situation better,” Darlene said.
The Pagan family might be alone in their day-to-day tasks, but their story is far from unusual.
If you’ve ever been the primary caregiver for an elderly person, you know how hard it is to keep up with the medicine, doctors appointments, symptoms and nutrition. To make things easier, there are several apps and devices to keep you on top of everything — and help you keep your sanity in the process.
Apps for Caregivers
Elder care is a $400 billion industry, so it should come as no surprise that app developers are diving in to see if they can simplify life and make a little profit at the same time. CareZone is the top-rated elder care app with 4.6 stars and over 17,000 reviews. The app will let you keep track of prescriptions, symptoms and notes. Multiple users can use the same account, so if you share responsibility with other family members, you can exchange information easily.
The American Red Cross offers a first aid app that helps in the event of an emergency. With several categories of information — including burns, choking, bleeding and asthma — you can act quickly and confidently if something happens. The app also has integrated 911 features, so you don’t have to leave the app if you need to make an emergency call. This app works without internet or cell phone access, so you could use it even if you don’t have cell reception.
Symple, a tracking app, allows users to input symptoms each day to see if trends appear over time. You can track up to five symptoms per day and add one photo each day in the free version, or upgrade to add more photos. This app works with Apple’s Health app to import sleep, caloric and heart data from outside sources.
If you need something more tangible to keep track of people in your care, there are several options. Gone are the days of “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.” These days, you can order a GPS tracker on Amazon and have it on your doorstep in two days.
The KKBear wearable GPS transmitter looks like an Apple watch but allows caregivers to track locations, set alarms and monitor step counts for seniors. You can also purchase a SIM card from a cell phone provider and enable the bracelet to make emergency calls. The bracelet is $90 on Amazon.
The Primetracking GPS locator is a smaller device that goes in a pocket or purse to track locations. This GPS comes with information on speed, so you can see how fast the tracker is moving at any given time. It’s $50 on Amazon, but you have to buy an additional subscription to keep up with monitoring.
For those with breathing problems, a pulse oximeter is a small device that measures oxygen saturation and pulse rate. These run anywhere from $10 to $30 on Amazon.
If you’re looking for emotional support, there’s a hotline that allows you to speak with a real person who understands what you’re going through.
The Caregiver Action Network has developed a hotline for caregivers who need advice or just a safe space to talk.
“Caregivers themselves go through feelings of depression or anger because this is not what you signed up for,” said the CEO of the Caregiver Action Network. “Or guilt that you’re not giving the proper amount of care to a loved one.”
You can call the hotline at 1-855-227-3640.
Whatever you choose — using technology to help or going old school and just trying to get by — be sure to seek out help when you need it. We sure hope the Pagans do.