Rose O’Donnell’s mum, Aida, had always been an independent person, living on her own in the Sydney suburb of Lane Cove for many years. Sadly, after suffering a few falls and finally ending up in the emergency room, this was no longer an option.
Rose’s mum didn’t want to move into the unfamiliar territory of a nursing home. Instead, for the last four years, Rose has been her carer.
“I live on the ground floor and with a few modifications like extra railings to help prevent falls, it was suitable for mum to move in here,” Rose says. “She’ll be 93 in November and she’s still going strong. Mum likes to play Scrabble on the computer and sings karaoke on Friday night at the local club. She likes to laugh, she likes company and she likes talking to people.”
While Rose and her mum are close, the move was an adjustment. Rose was used to her own space, having lived on her own for more than 10 years after her children left home. And while Aida is very active for her age, she still relies on Rose to manage her many chronic health needs.
Aida has neuropathy which means she has no use of her left hand. She has problems with her trachea, dry eyes and a number of allergies. She also has high blood pressure and cholesterol, which requires medication to be taken at a specific time each morning.
“She needs help taking the tablets out of the container because she can’t use her left hand. So I have to pop those pills into her container so she can take them,” Rose says. “I prepare her meals, I comb her hair when she’s ready to go out and I help her when she calls on me. But the main concern with mum is her fear of falling.”
That’s why Rose has signed up to My Health Record – to ensure that no matter what happens, her mum’s health information will be visible when it’s needed.
While Aida has been doing well, and despite the many home modifications added to improve her safety, she recently hit her head and ended up in hospital.
“Every time we’re in emergency, they ask the same questions,” Rose says. “I always take a bag full of her medications and vitamins with me – I’m always prepared. But it would be good to have it there for everybody to see so I don’t have to remember it all.”
Caring is tough and often involves putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own. There’s also the constant pressure of being responsible for someone else’s health information. Rose says My Health Record will make it easier to manage.
Previously, when her mother was taken to hospital, Rose would be given two or three copies of the discharge notes to send to different people.
“A month later, she’s back in hospital and you get the same discharge notes,” Rose says. “It would save a lot on the paperwork and make life easier if her GP could just get the updates he needs on his computer.”
Improving the system of care
The other benefit Rose anticipates with My Health Record is improving the experience of healthcare for her mother. Currently, the process of getting a new medication or changing dosages involves trialing medications, and Aida has experienced allergic reactions in the past.
“If all of this information was on a computer, it would make it easier for doctors to see what drugs she could be allergic to,” Rose says.
It’s this that Rose is most excited about – better and more cohesive healthcare, not just for her mum but for all Australians.
“You never know what will happen,” Rose says. “For people who are afraid to get My Health Record up and running, think about how it will help you in the long run. It’s the healthcare of the future.”