We’ve all been in situations where we’ve had to choose between two unappealing options. Often, these decisions are of no real consequence. Other times, they impact us in the short term.
And then there are those choices that change everything. In a moment’s time, our lives are dramatically different.
Recently, a family caregiver faced a serious dilemma. The stakes were high. Her brother’s health and wellbeing were at risk – as were her own.
But in a surprise twist, it was a choice made by her chronically-ill sibling that ensured they would be both safe. Were it not for his decisiveness – along with the aid of an Upper Canada Health Links care coordinator and the Aetonix app – events could have ended very differently.
Every so often, we hear a user story that we simply have to share. It’s not just a sense of pride that motivates us – though of course, that’s part of it. It’s the people involved.
These individuals could be nurses or personal support workers; they could be family caregivers or patients receiving care. In each case, we’re inspired by their acts of bravery and kindness.
This is one of those stories. Because it’s deeply personal, we’ve changed the names of the patient and caregiver involved.
A family caregiver – let’s call her Alice – provides support for her brother, whom we’ll call Ben. Alice and Ben share a home. They both have complex health conditions, and they’re both Upper Canada Health Links patients.
A few months ago, Ben’s health began to decline. He became increasingly frail. He also forgot how to perform certain cognitive tasks – like operating a phone.
These changes worried Alice, who started feeling more pressure to stay at home. Unfortunately, being there to care for Ben wasn’t enough to ward off potential danger.
When a Family Caregiver Needs Help – Urgently
One day, Alice received what should have been a routine shot from her family doctor. Later that night, she found herself in severe pain – and unable to communicate how she was feeling with her brother.
Usually, a patient in serious physical distress shouldn’t hesitate to go to the doctor. This is especially true when conditions such as heart disease are at play.
But Alice didn’t feel she had that option. She couldn’t leave her brother alone in the house. Instead of seeking medical help, she stayed at the kitchen table, where she tried to wait out the pain.
Tough choices like this one aren’t as unusual as we’d like to believe. Here’s an unfortunate reality: many family caregivers are dealing with health problems of their own. Combined with the psychological stress of caregiving, physical ailments make it extremely difficult to carry out duties at home.
They can also create hazardous situations for both caregiver and care recipient.
What would you do in Alice’s situation? For her part, she did the only thing she could imagine doing. She took care of her brother. And her brother, in turn, took care of her.
A Lifeline When It’s Needed
As Ben watched his sister moan in pain, he realized he had to get help. Luckily, his Health Links care coordinator had taken steps to help him reach out to those within his circle of care. As a result, Ben had a Samsung tablet loaded with the Aetonix app.
With Aetonix, patients who have difficulty operating a phone can easily contact the people involved in their care. It’s as easy as touching a caregiver’s picture on a tablet screen.
Ben called his care coordinator, and the two were instantly connected, face-to-face. Over the video feed, it was clear that Alice’s pain was serious, and that her arm was swollen.
The coordinator took immediate action, coaching Ben through the process of calling 911. Shortly afterwards, Ben received a home visit to ensure that he was okay while his sister was away.
It’s a very good thing that Alice received help. As it turns out, her swelling was caused by an infection, which (given her heart disease) could have led to serious complications.
A disastrous outcome is easy to imagine. If Alice hadn’t been treated quickly, she might have wound up hospitalized for an extended period of time. Her health might have suffered. Most likely, Ben would have had to receive long-term respite care.
The monetary costs – to both Alice and the health care system – might have been very significant. But the human cost would have been even greater. Fortunately, both siblings were able to maintain their existing quality of life.
Working Better, Together
What would have happened if Ben hadn’t made the decision to seek help? How might events have unfolded if his Health Links care coordinator hadn’t recognized the seriousness of the situation?
This story is a perfect example of how patients and health care professionals can work together to achieve responsive at-home care. By taking action to help someone in need, all three participants acted admirably.
At Aetonix, we couldn’t be prouder of the role our system played in keeping Ben and Alice safe.
Feature image courtesy of Cohen Van der Velde