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Every caregiver needs their own system of keeping track of care tasks. This is mine.

My son Max has spinal muscular atrophy. (www.maxstrength.org) He requires round-the-clock care. If one of our nurses calls out, my wife and I split the nights. I like to use this time to get other things done, which means I set alarms to remind me when it's time to do the next thing.

This Instructable explains how I used Google Calendar, Zapier, and Remember the Milk to create a shared caregiver reminder system, turning my iPhone into a Caregiver Totem which has shared access (so my wife can update changes to medications, etc and I'll get them automatically), to-do list style interactions, alarms and email notifications, and is easily enabled/disabled depending on whether I'm using it.

Step 1: What I started with vs what I wanted

What I started with:

My wife and I created a "Hourly Cares" document in Google Docs for training new nurses which lists all our son's cares step by step (so that they have documentation of what they need to do and where everything is). I had put the times for these cares (and brief summaries) into alarms on my phone (at 11pm, 1am, 2:45am, 3am, etc). When it was my turn to care for Max, I would enable all these alarms. However, if something changed, there was no convenient way for my wife to update my alarms (since they were on my phone).

Updating the Google Doc was useful when training new nurses, but it would be convenient if my wife could just add a reminder to a calendar or to-do list and know that I would get it.

The problem:

Max's cares change regularly (small adjustments to diet, new medications, etc), and I am not the primary daily caregiver. (That task falls to my wife, while I work outside the home.) When it's my turn to care for Max, I find myself at a disadvantage in two ways:

  1. I don't have as much repetition on doing his cares, which means it takes longer for adjustmentsto get locked into my brain / routine.
  2. When things change, I'm less likely to find out or remember -- I need to be notified and even reminded.

Also, if all Max's cares were stored as alarms on my phone, I needed to remember to turn all them on and make sure they were synced up with the latest cares. If something wasn't on the cares document (because my wife and Max's regular nurses didn't need to use it), I might not hear about it...or be told but forget to put it in my phone.

What I wanted:

Here are some descriptions of what I was going for with my "Caregiver Totem":

  • Shared access - both my wife and I need to be able to view and access the official listing of Max's cares. That way when things change, we can input those changes immediately onto that listing and have confidence that those reminders will go to me.
  • To-do list style interaction - I have used a to-do list app called Remember the Milk since college and prefer to interact with TODO lists in this sort of way (e.g. prompts you when it's time, gives you the ability to check it off once its done, plus a record of the fact that you checked it off).
  • Alarms - this was a must. Max's typical nights are very calm -- he sleeps through the night, and the caregiver can have stretches of uninterrupted time. I want to be able to concentrate on some other task and just have a reminder go off when it's time.
  • Easy to enable/disable - I'm not Max's primary caregiver, and on a typical day while I'm at work I don't want those reminders coming to me through all hours of the day. I wanted a simple way to turn this system on and off, so that at whatever time I became Max's caregiver (say, Sunday afternoon while Kristen is going out to an exercise class), I could just turn the system on and be confident that I was going to get my reminders.

My solution:

Make it so that any event on a "Max Cares" Google calendar gets automatically turned into a to-do list item shortly before it's due.

Read on to find out how...

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