genusConnect™ was fueled by our own experiences and a true desire to care better for our loved ones. For me, it all started when my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Like many people, before seeing it firsthand, I thought that an Alzheimer’s diagnosis meant my dad would be leaving his keys in the fridge, and forgetting what day it was. I, and my entire family, were in for the surprise of our lives.
My father, challenged with Alzheimer’s.
My dad was a loving father and husband, and a talented businessman who made us all proud. A man of his word, Dad lived by the standards he set for himself and others. When Alzheimer’s began to set in, he was at a loss for what was happening to his once impenetrable mind. He tried to cover it up, and my mom did too – afraid to confront the reality of this new stage of their life together.
My six brothers and sisters and I wanted to believe the situation wasn’t dire. We wanted to hold out hope that a cure would come along and return to us the strong, proud father we knew and loved. None of us were trained to be givers of care. At times, we pulled away, leaned on one another too much, or fell off the grid altogether.
We needed a better way to stay connected.
I suppose that’s one of the reasons genusConnect™ is focused on helping caregivers stay connected – so they can jump back in anytime, from anywhere. We had, and have, a strong, extensive family of loving individuals, but as hard as we tried, we couldn’t figure out a way for our siblings, spouses and children to work together to provide the best possible care for a father and grandfather we loved dearly.
In our desperation, we tried everything, from online calendars to Google Docs and family meetings to conference calls. We wanted to know, at a glance, who was spending time with Dad and relieving Mom of her caregiving duties, and whether we should stop by. We quickly realized the need to integrate home care services, task lists, grocery needs and planning documents – even more complex projects like financial planning and power of attorney.
genusConnect™ takeaway: A need for coordinated communications
Last inTouch: One of the first features you’ll see when you use genusConnect™, Last inTouch ensures that at a glance, you’ll know last time anyone in your community has visited or called the person of care, as well as your own Last inTouch.
Smart scheduler: To help encourage check-ins, genusConnect™ will prompt caregivers to call or stop in, taking into account others’ activities and our own defined goals of contacts.
Calendar: With a shared community calendar, genusConnect™ allows you to stay organized, view social engagements, medical visits and more.
Task lists: Task and grocery lists allow users to clearly communicate needs, allowing all members of the community of care to be more effective and efficient.
The great escape, a midnight run.
While Alzheimer’s is no laughing matter, nearly every family who has been through it can tell you there are times when if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. As a large Irish family, we did more laughing that I care to admit.
One night, when Mom was out of town and my sisters were staying with Dad to make sure he got through the night without any trouble. Nan and Jane spent the evening with Dad, ensuring he got to bed ok – he was anxious with Mom out of town, but eventually calmed down enough to go to sleep. After he was in bed, they stayed up chatting and reminiscing about the good old days. Eventually, they went to bed themselves, in the bedroom next to Dad’s. Just a couple of hours later, at 1:00 a.m., they were awoken to the bright beams of flashlights in their eyes.
It was the police.
Dad had been so anxious that he left the house in the middle of the night looking for Mom. Fortunately, the police had found him just a couple of blocks away and were kind enough to return him home. Needless to say, Nan and Jane didn’t sleep lightly for many nights after that.
Home Safety module: Incorporate data from door sensors and motion monitors, so those in the community of care will be notified when a sensor is triggered.
‘I want to go home.’
As my father’s memories and comprehension began to fade, his ability to express his needs diminished. In his moments of greatest frustration, he always retreated to the phrase “I want to go home.” It wasn’t until my young daughter repeated that same phrase to me in her own terms, that I finally understood what he meant.
At the same time as my kids and I were slowly losing my father, my ex-wife left us. One night, my daughter, who was nine at the time, was inconsolable. Over and over, she repeated that familiar phrase, “I want to go home.”
Attempting to reason with her, I asked if she meant she wanted to see her mom. With baited breath, she said “No Dad, I want to go home, back when everything was ok. When we were camping, singing and kayaking.”
It still pains me to tell this story, but I’m grateful for the newfound understanding it brought me. Anna had communicated what my dad couldn’t. “I want to go home” meant more than a physical location, it meant the return to a happier time, when life was less complicated.
The realization offered us a new tool to help Dad through those moments. Because the oldest memories are typically the last to go, we used those moments to walk down memory lane and share our happiest stories, old photos and even music that he had enjoyed with Mom 20 years earlier.
Moments: With this feature, users can easily send photos and audio messages directly to the person of care, or a digital photo frame in their home.
My mom, in assisted living.
Mame is 87-years-old as of this writing, and going strong. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t need our help. She uses a walker to get around, and has no trouble making friends. Still, she recently ended up in the emergency room with high blood pressure, and has frequent doctor’s appointments and chronic conditions that need tending to. With seven siblings, there’s no shortage of people willing to help, but communicating the need is sometimes the most difficult of all.
In some ways she’s part of our “in-the-field” testing.
Although Mame has never used a computer (she had a failed stint with an iPad), she enjoys the Nest thermostat, for monitoring humidity and temperature in her unit, Amazon’s Alexa, for making grocery lists, a digital photo frame, which we can all send images to, and a VOIP phone that helps keep her safe from scammers.
Open Platform: We built genusConnect™as an open platform, meaning that developers across the globe can offer their resources and services to genusConnect™ users. The latest technology – Alexa, Nest, or whatever new invention comes next – integrates easily into the app, offering users unprecedented access to resources, all in one place.
It’s my hope that genusConnect™ will help my family, and yours too, care better, together, for years to come.