Everything is on the Internet, and that’s the problem. Because everything is there, it makes the one thing you’re looking for hard to find. It’s somewhat easier if you’re looking for a particular item that’s a paid for business service. Flights and hotels bookings are pretty straightforward and we could all find a flight from London to Paris. However, despite the simplicity of this search, there are numerous aggregators of services. Some show all of the flights, others all of the hotels. Some put both together.
But the sites that attract most views are those that curate the search experience. These sites ask for or understand our requirements. They answer questions like Winter Sun or Short City Breaks.
This is not a common approach in local government, perhaps this is the next area where curation might help the someone find the things they need. A citizen might need to view all the local government services for a family living in a house, or services for a single person living on their own in a flat. This curation should aim to make sure that citizens understand what is available to them.
For older people, this is even more important. Services should be simple to find and in one place, curated for need and provide access to health, social care, voluntary and commercial provision. They need to be appropriately segmented to keep things simple. There are plenty of designs for that. “people that booked A also booked B.”
Should local government only choose to provide answers to citizens needs from their own resources they will fail to access the less costly and sometimes more effective voluntary and commercial services. At BriteLives that’s our mission, put all the services in one place and make them easy to find and book.
I have been looking for service directories in Ealing. Everyone says they have one, but in reality, they’re mainly out of date. I had great hopes of the Ealing Times and their Independent living service.
Can you help, do you know of any good service directories in the UK?
Hello, we’ve had an idea that may change the way older people access local services. It stems from the challenges I faced caring for my Mother, but I guess you may have spotted that. We have been at it for eight weeks now and we have learnt a thing or two.
Lesson 1: Read The Lean Startup and once you have done that, read it again. It’s not about Startups it’s about constant innovation. It will save you time and more importantly money.
Lesson 2: Work out, as concisely as possible, how to describe your idea.
We started with:
“The leading marketplace to make the provision of personal, household and community services easier and more accessible, helping older people and their families live happier and more connected lives“.
We are now:
“BriteLives.com is the place where you can find and review local and personal services for older people.“
Cutting out those words was a great deal harder than writing them in the first place.
Pitch it to friends and to yourself. Make sure you do it slowly, accent the name of the Business. Something like:
“BriteLives.com (pause) is the place where you can find and review (pause) local and personal services (pause) for older people.“
Lesson 3: Join an innovation accelerator. You may be sceptical about the value, don’t be. You can’t think of everything, so let someone else force you to think about the relevant things and set some deadlines for you. It will accelerate the development of the idea more than you could imagine. We are part of BGV and wow what a difference they have made already.
Quick Test: Can you guess what BriteLives.com does?
In my fourth blog, I look at finding support for my Mother in the last few years of her life.
Well, this may be the most surprising thing that I learnt. Finding help and support is hard. I don’t mean health or social care; we will come to that in my next blog. I mean all the stuff that made my Mums life more fulfilled, more connected and happier. Despite all of the years of the internet, no one has cracked this one. Maybe the reason older people don’t use the internet is that there is little for them to use.
I began to look for three types of services close to my Mother’s home:
- Personal – finding a hairdresser that would come to Mum, someone to do her nails and perhaps bring some clothes for her to try. A dentist that does not have steps into the surgery.
- Household – cleaning services, a handyman, painters and general helpers.
- Community – lunch clubs, trips out and art and social events for older people.
There’s no database of this stuff, well not one that worked for me for services local to my Mother lived. The local council would not make recommendations; the GP knew nothing, notice boards were generally out of date. No one seemed to know anything. Try it for yourself, see if you can find services for someone in your area. The authorities are quick to complain about older people falling into statutory care, but they seem to no idea how to provide an alternative solution.
I realised that I was going to have to make a plan and there are my top tips:
- When I went to see Mum, I would always look around for services. I had an Evernote notebook on my Phone and recorded any useful information
- I used my camera to take photos of noticeboards so I could look for any relevant services.
- Don’t expect to find any sensible databases of service you are going to have to create your own
- If you have the opportunity to ask someone about services, always ask, everyone now and then you will find someone that knows who provides services.
- Use the web to find what you can, sometimes some areas have good resources, in my Mum’s case there was no such resource, but I used the good ones as a key to the things I might be able to find.
- Find out where older people go for coffee, sometimes the café owner has an excellent idea of what is going on locally.
- Local charities and their shops are sometimes a good source of information. But don’t expect much.
This third blog highlights the things I learnt looking after my Mother during the last few years of her life.
Friends and Family
I thought I was alone in sorting out the increasing complexities of my Mother’s life. Focusing entirely on the needs of my Mother meant that I forgot that she had a loyal and capable group of friends. They had been helping her with all sorts of tasks and running errands for her for years, and I needed to include them in my plans and activities.
Neighbours and their role
Neighbours are as worried as you are. They can often see what you can’t see, the gentle deterioration of Mum’s general health, that fact that she was getting out less and less. I quickly found that neighbours were a great source of information, support and help, I always made sure I dropped in on at least one of them each time I visited Mum. If they had helped in some specific way that week, I might take flowers or a bottle of wine, to thank them for their help. I felt that the key was to reach out early and tell them what was going on.
Is there a Doctor in the Family?
If you’re very lucky, you may have a healthcare professional in your family. I have a relative that had been a GP; he understood ageing and the likely issues my Mother would face. I found that if I carefully noted my Mother’s symptoms and relayed them to him, I could get an understanding of what might be the issue. I cannot tell you why, but when Mum had a urinary tract infection, she would quickly become confused and paranoid. Now some reading this will know the reason, but at no time did any of the healthcare professionals working with us made such a connection. They all seemed too busy and too hurried to encourage our involvement in my Mother’s care. (see my earlier blog about decision making).
Access and Security
On a couple of occasions, someone wanted access to the house. If the key holding neighbour was away, then this could be an issue. I bought a LockMaster key safe and screwed it to the door frame and put my mobile number on it. Then should someone need access I could tell them the code and they could get the key? It meant that neighbours knew they would not have to force entry. Later I learnt that this was a very useful thing, and although no one said it at the time neighbours were worried what would happen if they had to get access quickly, the key safe removed their anxiety.
- Tell friends and neighbours what is going on as early as possible.
- Ask neighbours what has been happening, they will be happy to update you.
- Find someone you can discuss medical issues.
- Thank neighbours early and often.
- Use a key safe for house keys.
It may seem an odd thing to Blog about the death of one’s Mother but I have learnt so much in the last two years it seems nonsensical to keep the journey to myself. We all miss Mum a great deal. As a teacher, she knew the power of knowledge and the empowerment it brought.
Today, in London there are more than 250,000 people in the last five years of their life. In the UK, there are now 11.4 million people aged 65. There are over 23.2 million people aged 50 years and over, over a third of the total UK population. The number of people aged 65+ is projected to rise by over 40 per cent in the next 17 years to over 16 million. And most worrying of all, like my Mother, 3.5 million 65+ live alone.
Unless we do something, we are condemning generations of older people to a chaotic and unhappy last few of life. We can all do better! This is not about service redesign, apps or productivity this is about happiness. So over the next few weeks, I intend to focus on some of the lessons I learnt.
My Mother died just after Christmas 2015; she was 90. She had survived three bouts of cancer, two knee replacements, World War 2 and a career as a teacher. She was a pillar in her village community, helping the young ones, all in their 70s, access services. In the last few years of her life, she found it harder and harder to make sense of the services she needed. This was not because she was confused, it was mainly the lack of coordination between the service providers. These providers were public sector, commercial, charity and church organisations. We had to coordinate and manage all of these services, visits and appointments.
So these are the lessons:
- The five things you should know now
- Engaging with friends and family
- Finding Support
- Coordination of Services
- Role of local NHS and Social Services
- Hospitalisation and Blue Lights
- Mini Mental Health Assessment
- The chaos at the heart of the NHS
- Access and Control
Over the last month, I have pimped by mobile phone podcast experience. Having used a fruit based product as my mobile for some years, I was happy to see the native Podcast app arrive with a recent upgrade. It has the advantage of being free (never underestimate the power of free in any marketing plan).
But I now prefer the heterogeneous world Android, so I have spent some time choosing an App. The best review I could find was on The Verge so my choice is Shift Jelly’s Pocket Cast. If you don’t want to pay for an App then I think Stitcher is the best option. Now it’s just a matter of which casts? Here is my somewhat eclectic list:
From the BBC – http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/radio
- In Our Time – has an extra bit on the end
- Thinking Allowed
- The Media Show
- Front Row
- Kermode & Mayo’s Film review – much more than just a repeat of the radio show
From The Economist – http://www.economist.com/audio-edition
From Penguin – https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/book-talk/
- Penguin Podcast with Richard E Grant
Independent – http://www.stitcher.com/stitcher-list/all-podcasts-top-shows
- The Journal by Kevin Rose
- The Pen Addict