Some High Street Tech Buys that are Making My Home Dialysis Experience Better
I’m not a very techy person. DVD players passed me by. I was gifted a Blu-ray player and used it once. I never had an iPod and haven't got an iPhone. The only gaming system that's been in the house was a Mega Drive II when the kids were little, but they weren't really into it either, so it never got upgraded. But all of a sudden I’m getting more and more tech to ease some of the issues I’ve come across with home dialysis.
I’ve been doing home HD for 3 years, and when I started, I opted for treatment on 6 days and did my treatments solo while my wife was out at work. This meant I had to leave the front door unlocked, so if I had a problem someone could get in and rescue/help me. This made me feel extremely vulnerable, because if an intruder came in—well, it wouldn’t take much of a confrontation for me to be in dire straits. Losing a needle is a constant worry, too.
I switched to nocturnal last year, so that’s less of a problem now, as my wife is home when I have my treatments—and for 15 months she’s been working from home because of the pandemic. But, that’s going to revert back sooner or later, and if my nurse is wanting me to take bloods or add drugs into the treatment, or even just give me some training or do a review while I’m hooked up, I switch back to days temporarily so that it fits with her work schedule.
Against this backdrop we’ve made some recent purchases:
The first thing we bought was a smart speaker. Ours is an Echo Dot, and we also got the charging base for it. Our thinking was that I like to listen to music, but cannot reach the radio to change stations/volume etc once I’m connected to the dialysis machine. With the smart speaker being voice activated, that’s a problem solved. Its real benefit showed up the first time I forgot to turn it on before washing my hands. Not a problem! “Alexa, play some rock music.” Job done and hands still hygienically clean! The charging base means it can come out into the garden with us at non treatment times, and it’s brought a ton of new enjoyment to the outdoors as a bonus. It also comes into the bathroom while I shower, sort my dressings, or any where I want, so long as it’s in range of our WIFI network.
Our next purchase was a video door bell. It connects to the Echo dot and to my mobile phone, so I can see who’s at the door—and, more importantly—speak to them from the treatment chair. Our house has a lockable exterior door that leads to an entrance porch with a second lockable door into the house. This has been a great success, as now parcel deliveries can be left in the porch, and the house is still secure. We’ve even been away from the house and told a delivery driver where to leave parcels. Thats a huge improvement on me shouting out through the window, “I can’t get to the door!” In dialysis terms, it means I can speak to a nurse or paramedic without leaving the chair. But, of course, this still left the hurdle of the locked door to overcome. We’ve managed that with a key safe mounted on the wall in the porch, so I can give the code to someone at the door and give them access, while I now feel much more safe & secure. This combination of high & low tech has worked really well. My nurse has the security code for the key safe in her file, so she can open the door if she needs to get in while I am on treatment. It’s also had a bonus result: I can go out for a walk and not have to take keys with me, as there’s a key always available when I get back home. We’ve since doubled up on the key safe and have an outside one hidden behind a drainpipe with both the exterior door key and the interior door keys in it.
We ran with the Ring doorbell/Echo dot/wall safe combination for a few months then upgraded to an Amazon Echo Show. The upgrade includes a display monitor on the smart speaker that shows the access to our property. It detects motion approaching the doorbell, so now we can see who’s coming to the door before they get to it. This is now connected to the Echo Dots (we have a second Dot now), which has effectively created a voice-activated intercom system through the house, and all of them can answer the video doorbell. This also means the house can be bouncing with music by asking Alexa to play music everywhere. There is a downside of course. My 4-year-old granddaughter doesn't like my music & tells Alexa to “Play Frozen” or “Play Moana,” on entering the house!
We’ve added some of our lights to our network too. It’s so easy to hook up, get into bed for nocturnal treatment, and say “Alexa, turn the treatment room lights off.” No stretching, no touching, and out the lights go. If we are out at night, as we get to the drive my wife turns on the porch lights from her phone while I park the car, so we’re not getting out in the dark.
Moving away from access and entertainment (but only briefly) and onto cleaning, we’ve added a robot cleaner. Not the Roomba made famous in Breaking Bad, but a purchase inspired by it. We call ours Jesse, and it, too is connected to the network. So the command, “Alexa, start Jesse working” sets the cleaner off around the house, which is a Godsend. On the days I don’t feel up to doing the cleaning, it still gets done.
Finally, our last tech buy with big impact has been a steam mop. It gets the treatment room floor (lino flooring in the UK; I think it’s called oilcloth in the USA) hygienically clean, and also breaks down to a handheld cleaner that I’ve found has been brilliant for cleaning the machine. The steam gets into all the nooks and crannies I struggle to reach with a cleaning cloth, especially the crust that builds up around the bicarb ports. Sadly, at the moment that’s not connected to the network, so I can’t just ask Alexa to do it, meaning I have to get up and actually clean, but a man can dream…