Breakfast Smoothie – Remote Elder Care

(If you have never read “Breakfast Smoothies” you might want to read the short introductory page. Explanations about the most blatant lies usually follow the essay.)

Nursing Home“Cindy’s Mom will not stop calling about someone stealing her socks.”

Ben was obviously upset this morning about his mother-in-law’s situation in the nursing home. “Two or three times a day she calls Cindy about it. She doesn’t even remember that she’s called before,” Ben said.

Does she still have her socks? I thought you were going to take them all away from her, I said, as I set this morning’s smoothies on the table in front of Ben and our neighbor, Bob Johnson.

“I think he was kidding about that,” said Bob, “and I know why he’s upset about it. My Mom does the same thing once a week about her medications. She always thinks someone at the home is trying to switch her meds for a cyanide pill. It’s crazy. I visit her every three or four days, but sometimes I think I need to be there more often to calm her down. Then again, sometimes I think I should be there less.”

“What do we have this morning?” said Ben pointing to the smoothie.

Cyanide smoothies. Sorry, that was a bad joke. We have one of Alicia’s standard breakfast smoothies.

Isn’t Bob’s Mom closer than yours, Ben?  I remember when Cindy tried to fix me up with your mother-in-law. She lives about an hour a way, doesn’t she? That makes it more difficult to keep up with her situation.

“Yeah. If only there were a way to keep in better contact.”

“Like the internet,” said Bob.

“What good is the internet going to do me,” asked Ben.

“Well, one of my friends in Southern California leaves his puppy at a puppy day care every day. They have remote viewing cameras around their compound and he can go onto the Internet at work and monitor the puppy all day.”

His network manager must love the bandwidth he’s using, I said.

Bob and Ben both looked at me blankly.

Network bandwidth, I said.

Never mind. Good idea, Bob. The nursing home can mount cameras in each of the rooms, hallways, and cafeteria and we can connect to a certain camera via the Internet and watch what’s going on.

“Right. Then Cindy can tell her Mom, ‘Look, Mom, I’ve been watching your room the entire time you were at the cafeteria and nobody came in and stole your socks,’ something like that,” said Ben.

“Yes,” continued Bob, “and Cindy can call her Mom’s cell phone during dinner and say, shouldn’t you be eating some of that watermelon, Mom? You love watermelon and haven’t eaten any of it.”

Yikes! Isn’t there a privacy issue here, I asked?

Bob ignored me. “The nursing homes should put daily blood pressure, temperature, and current medications on the internet anyway. So we can check every day.”

“IV’s, blood pressure, oxygen, and all that are already monitored electronically,” added Ben. “All they need to do is patch it into their web site so we all can monitor it. With a password, of course. We wouldn’t want just anyone to see Mom’s blood pressure.”

He continued, “Then Cindy could call up and say, ‘you know, Mom’s blood pressure is up a little this morning. Don’t you think she needs a little more of whatever.’ It would even help the staff. I’m sure they would appreciate it.”

I’m sure, I said.

“You wouldn’t have to stop there.” Bob was inspired. “Medication from the IV can already be controlled remotely. Just give us the ability to do it from home, over the Internet. Mom is calling a few too many times about her cyanide pills, we just give her a little more sedation. What a concept.”

What if she’s not on any IV?

“She can be. This is a great idea. The nursing homes and drug companies will both jump on this: decreased staffing and increased IV use. I can see everyone with an IV pole on their wheelchair and a Wi-Fi antenna on the top of the pole. Continuous monitoring and immediate feedback.”

By feedback you mean drug administration.

Ben said, “Hey! They can be on-line with us, too. They’d like that. Ten o’clock in the morning, Cindy goes to the Internet and checks the video feed and the monitor data. ‘Hi Mom. How you doing this morning?’ She pulls down the menu labeled ‘Sedation Meds’.

Click. Click.

‘Not worried about those socks anymore, are you, Mom?’

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