This post first appeared on Happy, Healthy Caregiver.
by Kimber Westmore, PillMap Founder
My Caregiving Nightmare
“What do you mean I’ve been giving my mom twice the dosage prescribed?” I could hardly keep my composure as I sat in the examining room next to my wheelchair-bound mother. She could barely catch her breath. “Yes, you should have been cutting her pill in half and giving her one half of the pill each morning. Not the entire pill. The pill lowers her blood pressure. Why have you not been cutting the pill in half?” The doctor waited for my reply. Did I just hear the doctor right? Had I been overmedicating my mom, inadvertently reducing her blood pressure to dangerous levels?
My Caregiving Medication-Management Success
The pill regimen proved challenging from the start. The names were instantly forgettable. So, I began referring to each by the first letter. Prodaxa was the P pill, Metropolol the M. When I spilled some and accidently mixed them, I had to look back into each bottle to figure out what each pill was. Yikes! My anxiety rose as the clock ticked and I knew how important it was to get it right. Out of sheer frustration, my brother started taping each pill to a piece of paper, recording the name and time-to-dispense next to each. It was a desperate move to get our family all on the same page.
Early PillMap Iterations
Surprisingly, this wrinkled, eventually food-stained sheet of paper became my trusted partner. It served as the daily directive for home healthcare partners and gave me peace of mind when I was not on scene to administer the medication myself. I used the sheet as a guide so I could accurately fill the weekly pill boxes and I asked caregivers to refer to it before dispensing pills with each meal.
For planned doctor appointments and unplanned emergency room visits, the handmade tool provided the answers to the first questions medical professionals always asked: “What medications is your mother taking?” Armed with the list which included the actual pills, I was no longer forced to guess, in the face of potentially devastating associated consequences. I simply handed over the stained, pill-taped, wrinkled paper, providing them with all the information they needed. Confusion was eliminated. The fog lifted. This tool helped me protect my mom, as well as the admissions personnel, from reacting without all the necessary information. Too many emergency rooms team members face similar dilemmas.
I saw this play out, possibly saving my mom from a fatal operation when she broke her neck after falling and hitting her back on the refrigerator. Thankfully, the fall miraculously did not kill or paralyze her. Nevertheless, she might have quite possibly bled to death during emergency neck surgery, if the surgeons had not had access to the pill sheet. The information revealed that she was on multiple heart medications. The information helped them reverse their initial decision to operate. Instead, they chose to wait three days to let the medications which thin her blood leave her system.
Caregiver Turned Inventor
My simple taped list of pills evolved over time. Each emergency room visit enlightened me to the importance of additional information needed, such as dosages and daily regimens. I also experienced a noticeably seamless intake process when compared to the others who rolled in on a gurney with a family member holding a bag of pills. I watched as the frustrated nurse lined up bottle after bottle in a row, to read each label and determine if this was a current medication or not. Surprisingly, and often, medical staff raved about my simple guide.
Renewed Caregiver Vision
I’m not sure when the guide actually became “PillMap” or how many iterations I went through before going to production, however, it was an exciting process. Suddenly, even as I was caregiving, I had this happy energy and a vision! I was thankful I could pour my heart into this business while caring for my parents. Filling my notebook with drawings, I searched for ways to piece together a working sample to take to a manufacturer. I pulled my adult children in to play significant roles, based on their gifts and talents.
Sunday dinners suddenly became board meetings. I avoided many crucial mistakes in design and implementation by including them in my passion project.
I’m thankful for my caregiving journey. I hope my story about PillMap will inspire you to use your unique journey to open a door to a thrilling ride as an entrepreneur. Your experiences may lead to a creative solution with financial benefits. It could be time for you to improve a broken system. Take a chance and see where it leads! Make this season a victory in more ways than one!