Photo By: Courtesy of Greg Hartwell
Kelley Poskitt was born and raised in Silicon Valley. For the majority of her adult life, she lived in the Bay Area and was able to participate fully in her aging mother’s life.
But six years ago, Poskitt, her husband and young daughter moved across the country to North Carolina due to a job transfer. Their daughter, 5 years old at the time, was just getting to know her grandma.
The move away from her family was that much harder because Poskitt’s mother suffers from progressive supranuclear palsy, a neuro-degenerative affliction with symptoms similar to those of Parkinson’s disease. Poskitt’s father had long since passed away, and Poskitt was concerned about her ability to take care of her mother from such a distance.
Like most parents of her generation, Poskitt’s mom was fiercely independent, very private and didn’t want her daughter to worry about her. Nonetheless, Poskitt did worry. She never knew exactly how her mom was really doing. The 3,000-mile distance between them was palpable.
The advent of VideoCare
Last May, after a call from her mother’s good friend that her mom had taken two substantial falls, Poskitt became increasingly concerned about the progression of her mother’s condition and its effect on her health.
“I felt it was finally time to do something more substantial to keep mom safe,” Poskitt said.
So Poskitt contacted Home-care California from North Carolina regarding care options for her mother at home. Initially, her mother resisted, but Poskitt flew out from North Carolina to facilitate getting at least a little care in place. It was a start.
Poskitt didn’t realize when she contacted Homecare California that we were implementing a new technology called VideoCare, a service that leverages video-conferencing technology with a large touch screen the size of a small television.
Seniors have no need to understand computers – they just plug in the product and link to an Internet connection. The rest is handled on the back end to set up video chats with family and friends, share photo albums from popular sites, create customized music stations and even install program reminders for things like the timely taking of medications.
“I immediately saw the value of the VideoCare service,” Poskitt said. “But the great thing was that my mom did, too. She realized it was a way for her to connect with us as well, so there wasn’t any resistance.”
Keeping tabs remotely
Poskitt connected the service in early June. She now checks in two or three times a day via VideoCare. The service allows her to supplement the in-person caregiver visits with additional remote visits from Homecare California’s care managers for greater coverage. Poskitt can log in and see any notes taken by the care managers regarding their remote visits with her mother.
“I still worry about my mom, but this service makes the distance less of an issue,” Poskitt said. “For example, on a recent video call, I noticed my mom didn’t look good and that she had a cut on her head. Mom had hit her head on a fall that day but hadn’t told me. If I hadn’t been able to see for myself, I would have never known because she didn’t want me to worry.”
Homecare California is currently testing the service with clients. The response has been enthusiastic. I believe it is just the tip of the iceberg in connecting older adults with their families and providing certain care services that can be delivered remotely. My elderly clients and their families are excited about the possibilities this service presents.
We are taking on a limited number of VideoCare clients beyond our existing client base. There is no cost for the service throughout a test period of approximately four months. Thereafter, clients can choose to keep the service or to discontinue at no charge.
Greg Hartwell is managing director and CEO of Homecare California, a Los Altos-based in-home caregiving agency. He is a frequent guest speaker on elder-care issues.