NAVIGATING THE CARER MAZE
Caring for a vulnerable loved one can be rewarding but challenging. Technology can help. Darren Crosbie, the founder of Bridgit Care explains.
How much tech do you have lying around your house? There’s the mobile, the tablet, the smart TV - the list goes on. But how much of it are you using to help you in your role as a carer?
Stress levels for family carers - especially those supporting their parents and offspring at the same time - spiked during the pandemic according to the Centre for Population Change.
No surprise there, when you consider how complex that role can be.
That’s what helped inspire Darren Crosbie to set up Bridgit Care - the social enterprise offering bespoke advice and technology to carers.
YOU’RE THE MANAGER
He points out that the wide range of professionals you have to deal with can be dizzying.
“The doctors, nurses, the social workers , the homecare workers, the therapists, the physios, the mental health professionals are all part of this massive consortium of people all doing a great job individually, but having no management across them all. So it actually ends up being the family carers. “
Darren has seen this in action in his own family, with his mother managing the disparate team looking after his grandfather..
“My mum sat in a session with the physio, the social care worker and the response team to actually educate them on what was going on with granddad, but also to educate them on what all their roles are and how they need to be more joined up in what they do. “
NAVIGATING THE MAZE
The whole idea of Bridgit Care is to guide you through the maze of caring and offer technology to help ease your way.
The organisation is big on using social media to reach carers.
“You could be browsing on your Facebook feed and see an advertisement [from Bridgit Care ] saying ‘ are you looking after a friend or family member? Are these the kind of tasks that you do? Then then you’re probably a carer and there's support out there for you. “
What follows next is a virtual guided tour of help that’s available.
“We've got pre-recorded videos that take you through a conversation. So you get a doctor explaining what the hospital discharge process looks like . Then you move onto the physio and they could talk to you about some exercises you can do . Then you move onto occupational therapists for advice on home design. “
The series of recorded videos lasts about 15 minutes - leading to a bespoke care plan with actionable advice, including contact details for local groups. The service is free to users.
There’s a tendency for those supporting others to just see themselves as simply helping out a friend or family member. It can be hard getting them to recognise themselves as carers.
“If you're going around and setting up a laptop for grandad, then you’re providing support, “ Darren says. “If you're sorting bills and doing financial support … if you're sitting with grandad an hour each week to help with mental health, then you're you're a carer. “
AVOIDING CRISIS POINTS
If it’s difficult getting people to recognise themselves as carers, it can be even more difficult getting them to acknowledge when they start to need a little help in their role. All too often they muddle along, until a difficult situation becomes impossible.
Darren says it’s important to act early to forestall a crisis.
This is where technology can help make a difference . Bridgit works with the health technology trade body to assesses the suitability of innovations for carers.
It also sells a wide range of devices - from fall pendants to smartphones. It’s even developed its own innovations, like the Home Hub monitoring system.
“Our idea was, rather than having loads of different [devices] around the property to monitor somebody, develop a simple box that has lots and lots of smarts”
The Home Hub will monitor your loved one’s home environment, physical health and even emotional wellbeing via an app - without them needing to have a wifi connection of even a phone line.
“It’s a simple box with a simple interface on the front so [the carer] can send messages out to granddad. And he can also respond back , even though we can't use a mobile phone and he has no internet,” The device collects health and home environment data to feed back to the carer.
“So [you] can look at the last six weeks and see grandad’s been getting up three minutes later each day…or his heating hasn’t been on for two days or his home care staff haven't turned up “
There’s also a smartwatch that acts as a fall detector, health monitor and personal alarm that can operate outside of the house - bolstering your loved one’s safety when they venture away from home.
REASSURING LOVED ONES
These and other monitoring innovations may reassure family carers. But how do you persuade your loved ones they aren’t being snooped on?
”It's about saying [to your loved one] this isn't about spying on you, “ says Darren. “ This is about just reassuring your family that everything is absolutely alright . So actually, by using this technology in your house, you're helping your family be reassured that you're okay”
INNOVATIONS FOR CARERS
The degree to which the tech industry and public bodies invest in developing innovations for carers will be determined by how much value society places on their work.
“Four years ago when when I was looking at this area, there was a lot less recognition of carers than there is today. “ says Darren.
“Carers are getting a lot more audience. But we're not yet seeing that translate into increased funding which is going to be needed to change the service models and the support we provide.”
You can find out more about the work of Bridgit Care here https://bridgit.care/