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Giving Caregivers a Hand

A variety of social media apps can lighten the workload for caregivers by making it easier to recruit help from friends and family.
BY Melissa Silverberg
PUBLISHED August 25, 2015
Managing your time and the health care needs of your loved one can feel like a monumental task, but advances in technology and mobile apps are working to make the job easier for patients and caregivers alike.

Experts say a major component of strong time management is staying organized. Web-based technology like Google Calendar, which is free, can be accessed by multiple people at the same time and shared to create a more accessible schedule of doctor’s appointments and daily tasks.

Another sophisticated option that may appeal to caregivers is Lotsa Helping Hands. The free app was specifically designed to help caregivers delegate tasks to the many friends and family who are willing to help in their time of need. You can post requests for support on a calendar, such as a need for groceries or a ride to an appointment. Other family members can log on and mark their availability and sign up to help.

There are plenty of time management applications available that don’t have to do with cancer. In Wunderlist, you can create to-do lists, share them with collaborators and set up reminders that work on your desktop, phone or Apple watch, making sure nothing gets forgotten no matter what other responsibilities come up. Using the free version of Wunderlist, users can assign up to 25 tasks on any shared list.

Keeping track of multiple medications can be made easy with apps such as CareZone, which allows you to scan prescription bottles with the camera on your phone; then, the app will create a complete list of medications and dosages that you can keep with you at all times, with reminders and a way to document symptoms and other health updates.

Patients can even take control of their own health using programs such as better, a paid subscription app that connects them with a personal health assistant who will help them to file insurance claims, schedule appointments and stick to an overall health plan, as well as coaching them in stress management; the app also allows users to ask health questions of nurses at the Mayo Clinic right from their phones. Better helps keep patients organized when there are multiple doctors involved in care, as is often the case with cancer. A subscription costs $19.99 a month for individuals and $49.99 a month for families.

“That would have been very helpful when I was going through this,” says Pam Pilch, a mother of three who went through a cancer battle with her youngest son a few years before apps were as advanced as they are today.

Local librarians may be able to help you search the app store, and more and more hospitals are employing specialists to help support caregivers, as Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is doing via its Caregiver Clinic.

Just as it’s important to not be afraid to ask for help with caregiving, experts emphasize that caregivers shouldn’t hesitate to get assistance with simply getting organized and staying that way.
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