In 2017, Kimber Westmore’s parents unexpectedly shifted from independent lifestyles to fully dependent ones. Despite her long-term career in emergency response training, she felt ill-prepared for this family crisis. Nevertheless, her determination to protect her parents while continuing her full-time career in life safety proved lifesaving not only for her own family but for more people than she likely will ever know.
After losing her husband to a sudden heart attack five years earlier, Kimber focused on enjoying her family, friends and career. Her parents loved to travel and were often gone for six weeks or more at a time. Appreciating life’s unpredictability kindled a travel spirit in Kimber, as well. Then, tragedy struck
Her father, Don, collapsed from a heart problem and was rushed to the hospital. After a long stay, he was discharged but bedridden and suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. He no longer recognized his wife or his own home. He went through many stages of dementia but finally surrendered to a kind and childlike demeaner.
Her mother, Joy, already diagnosed with heart failure earlier that year, fell back and broke her neck, severing two vertebrae in the process. Then, a call came to Kimber during a Christmas party that same night, informing her about yet another family hit. Her brother suffered a massive heart attack and died.
Recognizing that life would be the same, Kimber and her family pulled together and gathered information, grieved, made decisions, educated themselves and comforted each other. As the only daughter, most of the responsibility fell on her shoulders.
The learning curve was huge. The names of treatments and medications were instantly forgettable at first. Similar to a foreign language to lay people who had no previous medical experience, Kimber determined that the goal was clear. Her role was to protect and comfort her parents during this difficult journey while providing them with the best care possible.
She opened her home bi-weekly to other caregivers she encountered at doctors’ offices, the grocery store and church. The women gathered, thankful with an informal forum where they could connect, cry, laugh and learn with other caregivers. The dinners helped curtail Kimber’s isolation. They also provided a valuable source of encouragement and reminders to remember to take care of herself.
Kimber joins us to talk about her caregiving journey with her parents and to share her adventure in creating a simple solution for medication management. She is happy to present her own guide at local hospitals and home health providers. PillMap is a simple, elegant solution to keep patients safe from medication errors, which caregivers know, is invaluable.