Customized alerts help caregivers evaluate medication changes

Potted plants drink in the light dappling into Gerry Raymond’s sun porch. He beckons his visitors to the beautiful array of wicker chairs, a floral sofa, and a rocking chair, all adorned with mismatching pillows. He chooses the blue computer chair and pulls out his iPhone, a stark contrast to the house’s vintage furnishings, and immediately starts telling his story.

Gerry and his wife Geneva built their house 52 years ago. Filled with framed photographs, dishes of dark chocolate, and tokens from their world travels, their home is not a place they plan to leave.

Geneva is in the mid stages of dementia, and regularly gets out of bed at night, sometimes as many as ten times in eight hours. Because of hip and joint problems, she has to sleep in a very specific position with the support of several custom-made pillows under her hip, between her knees, behind her back, and under her head. While she is able to get up out of bed on her own, she cannot get back into the position she needs without Gerry’s help.

For the last 23years, Gerry has been a volunteer for Northwood Intouch through the Windsor Rotary Club, travelling to nearby communities and installing medical alerts, stove sensors, and other products from Intouch that help his neighbours maintain their independence. During the last year and a half, Gerry has not only been a dedicated and well-known Intouch volunteer, but also a subscriber.

Constantly worried he would not hear Geneva get out of bed, Gerry installed one of Intouch’s bed alarms. Every time she gets up, the Intouch unit calls Gerry’s cell phone so he knows she is out of bed. Without the bed alarm, Gerry would have to depend on Geneva remembering to wake him up or he would have to stay up during the night anticipating when she might get out of bed.  The alternative is he would need to have someone come in to stay up overnight.

Without the bed alarm, Geneva would eventually have to move into a nursing home, “which I don’t intend to do only as the last possible choice,” Gerry adds.

Gerry easily customizes the bed alarm to suit their situation. Because Geneva only sleeps in one position, the bed alarm doesn’t have to be placed horizontally across her bed beneath the mattress. Instead, Gerry secures it vertically beneath the mattress along the length where Geneva sleeps, maximizing the contact between Geneva’s weight and the sensors.

“It takes about seventeen seconds,” he says during a test run of the alarm, holding his phone up as it starts to ring. In those seventeen seconds, the bed alarm detects that Geneva is no longer in bed and sends a call to the phone that rests on Gerry’s nightstand in the room across the hall.

The alarm also keeps a record of its activations, making a detailed collection of data documenting Geneva’s nighttime activity that goes back months. Gerry takes this information to her healthcare provider, and together they can determine how Geneva’s medications are affecting her sleeping patterns. Gerry points to the list of times his wife has gotten up during the night over the last few months, reciting how many milligrams of medication she is taking and following the increase and decrease of her overnight activity.

Despite getting up multiple times during the night to help Geneva, Gerry says that he actually sleeps more now that they have the bed alarm. Now he can sleep soundly for a few hours in between each activation, knowing that the next time Geneva gets out of bed the bed alarm will notify him.

“It’s a godsend,” he says. Thanks to Northwood Intouch, Gerry and Geneva are able to live in the home they built together for as long as possible without having to have overnight help.  They are able to sit in the dappling light of their sun room and take in the beautiful view of Nova Scotia that they have been taking in for the last 52 years

Written by Libby Schofield, Intouch Summer Student