It was November 2016.
I found myself in a position all too familiar to many people with elderly parents.
My mother with Alzheimer’s was being cared for in a memory care community, while my father was in assisted living.
Things had unfolded so slowly over the last 5 years, yet so quickly, that I didn’t even realize what was happening until years later. But one clear thought was that I was no longer just a daughter that knew what was going on with her parents on a daily basis.
Instead, I had become responsible for coordinating information flow, including crucial health information and news among several different care teams, my parents and the rest of our family. And frankly, my brother, who was co-Power of Attorney, and I had become the economic decision-makers for a financially substantive amount of senior care services over a seven-year period.
A seemingly simple series of appointments became a day-long trek that necessitated substantial energy and significant time off from work. I began to wonder how I was going to manage to keep my demanding job, manage my own household and life, and still take care of my folks.
The time and resources necessary were truly shocking and a little intimidating to me. (And not much intimidates me anymore.) Trying to communicate with disparate groups that weren’t always talking to each other and not always to me was frustrating, to say the least.
I knew something had to change.
The Dawn of a New Era
My own background paved the road to the creation of Serenity Connect. I had worked at startups much of my career, though I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur. I did, however, have a set of experiences in my career that, combined with skills and training in technology, communication, and psychology, gave me the chance to build something novel. Something that could make a real difference in the senior care world, for both providers and for families of those in their care.
Being a pragmatist, I took a considered approach to the challenges I saw. The first step was to ask the question, “Is this just my issue?”
So, I started talking to people. They were informal conversations and interviews with those across the spectrum of senior care. Doctors, nurses, administrators, care staff, hospice teams, family members and the seniors themselves. In the end, I interviewed more than 350 people across the senior care continuum. I wanted to identify the real problems and be sure that we could solve them.
Once I heard, “That would make my life so much easier,” I knew I was onto something.
Launching Serenity Connect
So many people touch the lives of seniors in care settings. Home care, home health providers, hospice staff all play crucial roles. In addition, the communities’ have executive directors, activities directors, concierges, and dining hall staff, among others. Each had their own perspective and answers to some fundamental questions.
Things like, “How do you communicate? Is it effective and efficient? How could it be easier and just better? And how would that impact your daily life?”
A pilot version of Serenity Connect was tested in my own parents’ room. We set up a tablet in the room with a custom kiosk and simple-use instructions. It was really a test of the functionality of that mode of communication.
Hint: it worked just as intended.
In the early days of the pilot, I heard things from the care teams like, “If I forget to tell you something I can just message you? Anytime? That is incredibly helpful.”
Similar positive feedback from the physical therapists, nurses, and doctors that were rounding on my Mom and Dad. One doctor said, “So often I remember something in the evening that I want to share with the family. Right now I write it down and try to call them the next day during business hours, but we often end up in phone tag. Serenity Connect has been a super time saver for me, as well as a ‘mind’ saver’!”
Using the insights gained from my personal pilot program, I had a clear picture of what was needed. It wasn’t complicated — simply put, it was an easy-to-use platform where everyone involved in a senior’s care could communicate securely, easily, and collaboratively.
The Future of Senior Care
During the final nine days of mom’s stay at hospice, I was there all the time. In those days I saw and experienced so much. Too many inefficiencies, often connected to communication, took time away from staff doing what they need to do — giving direct care.
The data was clear. Care teams were often frustrated and families were out of the loop — with no easy way to keep everyone on the same page.
Don’t get me wrong. There were challenges raised. But every challenge raised was solvable if the core problem solved a big enough problem. And I now had a strong hypothesis with solid data to begin building a product.
I want to make it very clear that I have the deepest respect for care communities and their staff. They are heroes all day, every day and we need more people like them. In my humble opinion, this is not a people problem. It is a systems problem. And the existing systems were not set up to be efficient.
Right now, in almost every case, there is not a good enough structure in place, and communications with individual families are handled as part of a state-required care meeting. These meetings are not designed to be collaborative, information-sharing opportunities. Care levels are determined by guidelines and checklists. States require care meetings at certain intervals and they aren’t like conferences. The fault lies with the system, not the dedicated professionals who make up care teams.
The time I spent asking the right questions and discussing potential solutions with the right people ultimately led me to create what I believe to be the future of senior care. Serenity Connect can be the conduit to connecting families, caregivers, providers, and more.
I was able to make the most of the time I had with my Mom and Dad, thanks to Serenity Engage. My hope is that, with Serenity, more and more families can enjoy this precious time and stay connected with their loved ones.
Learn more about Serenity Engage and how it can make an impact on families in your care facility.