Sandwich carers: Christopher speaks about caring for his father in this, the first in a series of YooToo app case studies.
"To see this once peerless athlete & capable man struggling with his crutches as he tried to get out of his wheelchair was tough.”
⏱️ 4 minute read
In February of 2019, I drove my dad, Graham, to the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank. A keen (and for much of it elite) runner all his life, he’d suffered his worst injury at the age of 72 with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Before February, Dad was able to drive himself around to attend GP appointments and consultations, but on this occasion, he was going to have surgery and would be bedbound for at least 6 weeks.
Following the successful surgery, it was tough seeing my dad immobilised. As a child, I’d watched him finish ultramarathons in world class times, he was superhuman to me. So to see this once peerless athlete and capable man struggling with his crutches as he tried to get out of his wheelchair was tough.
My dad had overcome every physical challenge ever set, but this was going to be his biggest test by far. Training and a protein rich diet weren’t going to cut it this time, only his family would get him across this particular finish line.
My work was based in Edinburgh, but I had the option of working remotely, so I moved to North East Fife for 3 weeks to help Dad with everything he was going to need. He had to keep his leg elevated and would only be getting out of bed to visit the toilet. Initially, we set him up in the downstairs spare bedroom with a mobile commode as well as using disposable cardboard urine bottles. We’d need to give him bed baths and keep him fed. Other than that, it was just a case of making sure he was entertained.
As well as being a keen runner, he was a superb artist and he took the attitude that if he had to stay in bed for an extended period, then it was an opportunity to do some painting. So, as well as books, Netflix, newspapers, crosswords and such, art materials had to be within arm’s reach.
Despite separating in 1999, my parents still get on. Christmas with us all together feels very normal, it’s almost as if my mum and dad are siblings rather than ex-spouses. My mum and aunt said that they’d certainly help - which was a welcome offer. I still had to work, I had my girlfriend and, of course, my own life to lead.
My sister lived 30 minutes away, but as a single parent with a demanding job as a research fellow at St Andrews University, her availability was limited. There were my dad’s friends too, they could help, but more on an ‘as and when’ basis. It quickly became clear that most of my father’s care was going to fall to me.
It was a daunting prospect, to say the least. When you’re used to having the freedom to do what you want, whenever you like, 3 weeks of caring for a bedbound person was going to be a huge challenge. But, he was my dad, I was never NOT going to help him. I had just wished that there had been an easy way to structure a plan where everyone could be assigned tasks within a schedule so that all concerned knew what was required, when they’d be needed and what was going on. It would have been especially handy if I had been able to throw tasks out there to see if anyone could, I dunno, do a food shop if they happened to be visiting a supermarket.
Unfortunately, the YooToo app wasn’t invented in February of 2019, it was perhaps being thought of, but a concept was of no use to me. My mum and others assured me that everything would be fine and that everyone would muck in, but that didn’t lessen the pressure. I felt selfish, this was my dad – the person who had provided for me, who’d given me a safe and secure upbringing, who’d subbed me many a tenner until payday. I certainly wasn’t going to let him down, but I didn’t want him to know the strain that I felt.
Knowing what I know now, YooToo would have been a huge difference-maker. One central place for any and all information where everybody is in the loop and can identify when and where they can chip-in to lighten the load. Nothing was going to speed up my Dad’s recovery, that he was bedbound for an extended period was a given. But there’s no doubt that YooToo would have made the entire spell significantly easier. This person could have driven him to that appointment, his medication could have been recorded so that everyone knew what dose needed to be taken when, the mood tracker would have let all concerned know how my dad’s morale was and for me, knowing that tasks were being shared out would have undoubtably helped me.
As I mentioned at the beginning, my Dad’s surgery took place in February 2019 when YooToo wasn’t even a thing. But here we are now. The YooToo app was created specifically for people like myself and the situation my Dad and my family faced. There’s a misconception that older people aren’t tech-savvy, but my dad, mum and aunt – all Septuagenarians – each use a smartphone, we all communicate via WhatsApp, we all do our banking online et cetera. In a potentially stressful situation, the last thing you want to do is learn complicated app features, but YooToo has deliberately been designed for ease of use. Whilst the technology behind YooToo is obviously sophisticated, the user experience is not – it’s immediately simple and how the features work, as well as their purpose, is obvious.
My dad was back running in December of 2019. To look at him now, you’d never guess that he’d suffered a major injury. He now goes about his daily life just as he always did. But other people aren’t so lucky. Life can deal some cruel and heartbreaking cards, some people will need help from their loved ones for the rest of their days be it down to illness, disability or old age. YooToo is there for anyone facing the daunting prospect of caring for a loved one.
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I was actually quite lucky, many people now have to look after a loved one as well as a young family. They’re what’s known as ‘sandwich carers’.
These days, it’s not uncommon to see families or groups of friends in a pub all sat at the same table, but all looking at their smartphones. Technology has, in many ways, made us insular, disconnected and, ironically, uncommunicative. But when a person needs help with their personal care, compassion, loyalty, empathy and above all, love come to the fore.
When someone needs the people that matter most to rally round, YooToo is a smartphone app that, for once, enables and enhances the very best of human values at a time when they count the most.
Read next: Why YooToo is better than WhatsApp when it comes to your family
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