My mother, born before the Great Depression, was an early and avid fan of technology. As far back as I can remember, we were always the first family on the block to have new-fangled gadgets and gizmos like a television set and a telephone answering machine. Ours was the size of a small refrigerator. We had a mobile phone long before flip phones or iPhones were even fathomed and our car air conditioner was a huge success, even though it was so big, it was nearly impossible for passengers to fit in the front seat.
Mom intuitively understood technology’s value and its application for making life easier and more comfortable. This was particularly true as my parents aged, as my father’s dementia progressed and as mom became a full-time caregiver. I still remember her discovery of something she called a “pop-up chair.” With the push of a button the seat lifted and mom no longer had to call the local police to help get dad out of his chair and into bed. “A phenomenal piece of equipment,” she said.
Mom’s fervor for all-things-tech rubbed off on me personally and professionally. Once I realized that technology could make my mother’s caregiving responsibilities easier, I started to look for products that would help her. One of the first was an electronic rolodex that allowed her to enter contact information for friends, neighbors and all the members of her extensive health care network. She finally got rid of that little black address book with the missing pages held together by a rubber band.
At CaringKind, we are carrying on mom’s legacy and embracing technology with enthusiasm. Our staff routinely uses an variety of electronic and mobile devices to make their work even more effective. And earlier this year, we hosted an inaugural Technology Fair to showcase the possibilities of “Caring for Today with the Technology of Tomorrow.” More than a dozen vendors put their innovative ideas on display, showcasing a broad array of products to assist people with Alzheimer’s and dementia and their caregivers. Inspired by the Tech Fair’s success, we will replicate it – bigger and better – at our annual CaringKind Alzheimer’s Walk on October 15th in Riverside Park. Vendors will be on hand with exciting new products that are specifically designed for our community.
I’m particularly proud of CaringKind’s contribution to the second generation of an app called Balance: for Alzheimer’s Caregiving. Now available in the app Store, it was created by the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, to assist family caregivers. The Balance app facilitates tracking and sharing daily activities among those caring for a person with dementia. This includes meals, medication, medical appointments and family visits, ensuring that every involved and responsible person has the most up-to-date information.
CaringKind has added critical resources to the Balance app including access to our 24-hour Helpline, our MedicAlert® NYC Wanderer’s Safety Program and Together We Care™, a program that matches trained and certified home health aides with families looking for a dementia trained aide.
CaringKind has also partnered with Pratt students and professors to create a host of new and very creative products for people with dementia and their caregivers. Among my favorites is a hat with built in headphones that automatically play music when the hat is worn.
Every one of these innovative ideas was generated from a personal observation by a social worker or caregiver identifying a real need. And we know that caregivers have extraordinary needs, so we want to hear from you. Let us know what would make your job as a caregiver easier. We are working with some very talented people who just might be able to turn your idea into a product to help you and others facing the same challenges.
Finally, an important reminder; as great as technology is, even mom knew that it wasn’t the only game in town. It’s no substitute for a knowledgeable, caring, trained professional who listens. Remember, you can pick up the phone and find one at any time. Just call CaringKind at 646-744-2900. We are always here for you — to listen and to learn.