Saturday, December 5, 2009

Using The Internet To Transform Elder Care

Wicked Local Concord

Concord resident Jim Reynolds last month opened Caring Companion Connections, a home services agency that adds a 21st century twist to in-home elder care.

CCC’s caregivers, known as Companions, use smartphones, such as BlackBerrys, to upload photos, activity logs and daily reports to a Web portal tied into a landline at the client’s location and viewable by loved ones in other cities or towns.

Reynolds has hired Debbie Bier as district director of the Concord office. She is responsible for day-to-day operations of Caring Companion Connections, which covers Metrowest, a 45-minute radius around Concord by Reynolds’ definition.

He also plans to open offices in the Falmouth area, which would cover the Cape and South Shore, and on the North Shore around Salem or Gloucester. But Reynolds, whose family operates large non-medical home care agencies in Florida and Kansas, expects Caring Companion Connections will grow beyond Massachusetts.

Tell me about your business.

This is a family business, me and my family. We provide flexible, reliable homecare services to elders who want to remain in their homes as long as they can and stay independent rather than move into a nursing home. My dad started this business 17 years ago, but we have added in as new a feature here in Concord, a Web communications portal, which is unique in the industry. And this allows family members, especially adult children who are far away, to log on at work, or during the day from home, or on a business trip, wherever they are and see the status, to get a window into the living room, of what’s going on at the parents’ house. They know when we log in. They know the activities, meals and medication reminders. That kind of thing.

Why is the Web communications portal so important?

That’s important because typically, in this industry, that information is kept on a logbook on the kitchen table, and it’s useful if you’re standing at the kitchen table. The problem is that in most families the person who needs the information is not at the kitchen table — they’re usually in another city. If their loved one gets ill, or is not taking medications or having trouble moving — any information that needs to be noted — the information doesn’t get where it needs to be as quickly as it should. And even then, only one person has it and you wind up with a range of telephone calls and e-mails and voicemails. So this provides one place, that’s instantaneous, that everyone can go for access to the same information and make decisions and take actions as quickly as possible. Or, even, if no action is required, simply to know that everything’s OK.
Can you talk about who your clients are and what kind of care they require?

There’s a particular phrase in this industry, activities of daily living, or ADLs, and those can range from things like trips to the grocery store to help getting to doctor’s visits to medication reminders and meal separation to more personal things like help with grooming, or help in the bathroom. If someone has limited mobility, and can’t move easily, we can help. If someone has lost use of a limb because of a stroke we can help. If someone is a risk to walk because of dementia, we can help. Typically, the clients are someone in their retirement years, most of them live alone and it’s important for these people to live where they want to live, a place that is familiar, where they have often lived for decades. Statistics bare out that people who live where they want to live have much better healthy, happy retirement years, and people who are involuntarily moved do poorly medically and have much more depression and report being less happy.

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