January 24th, 2013
As her father grew old and frail, Olivia Judson found a very practical way to keep track of how he was doing:
By the time he was 76, my father was frail. His balance was poor and he had trouble walking. He lived alone in Baltimore in a big house full of stairs, and watching him come tottering down those stairs was terrifying. […] When my brother and his wife invited my father to move in, the invitation was vigorously declined. And we lived in three different cities, far apart.
To try to cope better with this situation, my brother and I created a shared Google calendar – an online calendar in which we could both make entries from wherever we happened to be. Each time either of us spoke to our father, we marked it in the calendar – what time of day it was, how he sounded, what we spoke about. (If one of us called and he did not answer, we marked that, too. Yes, we both have an obsessive streak.)
The focus of the article isn't really about the technology, so much as it is the comfort Judson and her brother could draw from being able to effortlessly share what they knew about how their father was doing. 'Cause in the end it's not about technology, it's about what technology can do for you.1
[Via The Browser]
- As I read her article, the nerd in me was thinking that documenting her father's health in calendar notes as part of a freeform account of their latest phone conversation with their father wasn't very efficient. What you'd really want alongside the ability to write a general note is to have health-specific fields so that metadata about mood, mobility, diet and so on could easily be entered, then searched and summarised to allow the user to spot trends. Then I realised that in the age of the quantified self, there are probably umpteen apps for that. The only thing is, I'd imagine that most of those apps aren't geared up for multi-user data entry, since they're meant to be used for checking your own health, not having multiple users track someone else's health. There's probably a gap in the market there for someone to fill. ↩