Rajiv Mehta on the need to ‘outfit’ families for the caregiving journey

When people look back in the future at the circuitous route of technological progress in the caregiving space, Rajiv Mehta will probably garner a decent mention. A tireless advocate on the topic, he’s devoted his considerable energy, and brain, to bringing about easier and simpler ways to manage the challenging, often misunderstood and frequently overwhelming issues around family caregiving.

While there are many career paths that a NASA scientist with heady degrees from Princeton, Stanford and Columbia and four years as a product manager at Apple could have chosen, he’s devoted himself to sharpening the cutting edge of technology and caregiving, working with the Quantified Self movement, developing Tonic, a mobile-based self care assistant and joining the board of the Family Caregiving Alliance. Now he’s getting ready to launch the next version of his caregiving tools (called Unfrazzle). He gave a talk recently in Australia about the ‘journey’ that caregivers (even though they don’t know that’s what they are) set off on, and his sensible advice was to think of this as an adventure, and spend the time and effort necessary to outfit yourself for the journey. What I like about that analogy is that it effectively focuses the mind on the need to prepare, without triggering shutdown in the listener from calamitous tales of woe and horror that are never an easy sell. Looking forward to seeing the next rev when it’s live and hearing Rajiv present at a future Aging2.0 event

Anyway, here’s Rajiv’s description of the context to the story, and the slides are on SlideShare:

When outfitting an expedition, one has to plan for everything: from the rare but potentially catastrophic dangers (raging lions, swollen rivers, thunderous storms) to the mundane, commonplace annoyances (fleas, thorns, thirst, hunger) that can be just as deadly. Caregiving is also often a long and difficult journey. There are harrowing crises mixed in with the mundane challenges of everyday caregiving. Both can be overwhelming, but the latter has been neglected. We can and must do better in outfitting caregivers — with technologies, services and support — for all aspects of their journey.

At Australia’s Health Informatics Conference 2012 in Sydney recently, I gave a keynote address on “Outfitting Families for Caregiving Journeys” highlighting the importance and challenges of dealing with the mundane aspects of caregiving — the overwhelming, and seemingly never-ending, torrent of widely varying, trivial tasks shared amongst a loose network of family and friends. Through stories of actual caregiving situations I make these issues “real”. In the talk I also describe my own efforts over the past few years to address this issue, and the opportunity for healthcare professionals to better prepare families for caregiving crises via addressing the mundane.

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