Sarah's story

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Mother of eight Sarah Spence from Newtownards is 79. She has diabetes and requires constant monitoring. Sarah has had telemontoring in her home for the past two years. Sarah’s main carer is one of her seven daughters, Sandra. She takes her Mum’s blood sugar reading four times a day. She also takes her temperature, her weight, her SPO2 and measures her ankles for sign of fluid retention every morning. These readings are then transmitted back to base and circulated to her diabetes nurse Ruth and other health professionals who might need access to them. Sandra and her sister Agnes also keep their own records so that all five sisters who share a rota for night time care can see the readings. Sandra says...

How has telemonitoring helped?

“Telemonitoring is absolutely brilliant. Two years ago we were in the dark about dealing with Mum’s condition. It was horrendous. We were constantly up in the Ulster, in and out of hospital. Then Ruth, Mum’s Diabetic  nurse, told us we would benefit from telemonitoring. We decided to try it and the engineer came out, was very helpful, set it all up and showed us how to use it. I find it easy enough to use and my sisters are happy also. If any of the readings are not normal, they will contact us straight away and advise us what to do, or who to call. Telemonitoring has helped take the stress out of all of us. We are now able to keep a close eye on Mum’s blood pressure, pulse and oxygen levels so if her weight goes up we know that she is retaining fluid which prompts us to l contact heart failure nurse who will call round and keep a check on her. Mum is also on the Virtual Ward and the best thing of all is that I now know exactly who to contact for help. The last six months have been the best for years in terms of Mum’s health and stability. Telemonitoring has been a godsend.

Sandra said: “Mum’s not stressed, we are not stressed, because help is at hand. I also have gained much more confidence because I feel I know a lot more about her illness.”

Sarah said: “I hate hospitals. I used to tell my family I was OK when I wasn’t, because I wanted to stay at home. Now I tell my daughter when I am not feeling well, and she contacts one of the nurses.”

Would you recommend telemonitoring?

Sandra says: “I would recommend anyone with an illness like COPD, heart failure and asthma to think about getting telemonitoring. It has helped us and has made my Mum feel a lot happier, and a lot safer, knowing that there is a lot of help and support at all times.”

Ruth Orr, Specialist Diabetes Nurse said:

Diabetes is a chronic long-term condition with varying treatment options depending on the patient’s type of diabetes and medical history, including the presence of other long-term conditions.

All patients are individual and the way they are supported is driven by their willingness to be involved or type of support they require. Diabetes care can include setting self-care goals and using telemonitoring supports and helps patients develop these skills. I have found telemonitoring complements the work of the Diabetes nurse, offering support and reassurance for some patients and for others it can be used as a motivational tool helping them recognise patterns and changes that are required in either diet or lifestyle.

Telemonitoring importantly enables educational opportunities through phone calls between the professional and patient, allowing time for reflection with opening for opportunistic teaching and learning, by recognising how certain lifestyle or diet can affect blood sugars. This consequently empowers the patient and/or their carer, hence enabling and enhancing living with a long-term condition.“

Telemonitoring can also help in reduction of hospital admissions, as early recognition of deterioration can prompt a phone call from either the professional or the patient. Unfortunately it is not always suited for all patients with diabetes so the Diabetes Nurse must select them carefully to ensure it’s effective.