Stephen and spencer: managing medications together

A new tool called spencer can help people living with Parkinson’s to manage their daily pill intake. (CTV News Barrie)

Stephen Dubois knew something was wrong years before his neurologist diagnosed him with Parkinson’s. Even though he wasn’t surprised with the diagnosis, it was a frightening period since he didn’t know what to expect. Whether it was the loss of balance, the trembling, or the many other symptoms that come along with this diagnosis; it was a difficult process to go through.

While difficult, Stephen knew that he had to start treatment and begin actively engaging with his diagnosis. He decided to get involved with Parkinson Canada and Fox Insights in the United States. He’s been an ambassador for Parkinson Canada for seven years now and has been involved in several trials and studies that were funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Until this day Stephen tries to remain positive and active by helping others.

Stephen has a history of helping others. After retirement, he ended up in the fire, ambulance, and police services to work as the chief fire prevention officer in Ontario.

“A lot of that comes from my background, my career in the fire and ambulance service,” Stephen said. “I was always helping and being involved in the community. So, I wanted to give back.” He travelled to Northern Ontario, Michigan and Wisconsin to set up fire safety programs for their departments of public schooling.

Stephen definitely isn’t shying away from advocating for Parkinson’s and recognizes that it’s difficult to keep up with the many prescription pills that have to be taken in order for his body to function properly.

He has tried many different ways to sort his pills: phone reminders, app operators, pill dispensers, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, he still found that he wasn’t taking the pills when he should. Now, an important part of his community outreach is spreading the word about a new tool that has helped him manage his medications.

“I was getting more confused because I wasn’t sure if I had taken a specific pill or not,” Stephen said. “That’s when all the problems started… there’s got to be a better way.” After several weeks of searching the internet for a solution, he found spencer by Catalyst Healthcare, an in-home medication dispenser that manages medication adherence and connects patients, caregivers and pharmacists via two-way communications and notifications.

Timeliness of medication is a priority for individuals with Parkinson’s. Stephen is not timely when it comes to remembering schedules of complex doses to get his medication on time, every time. It is imperative to ensure complex doses of medication are taken in a timely and precise manner. Parkinson Canada’s Act on Time campaign emphasizes this for people with Parkinson’s and health care professionals alike.

Stephen is noticeably excited about this medication dispenser and highly recommends spencer to anyone who takes multiple pills a day because this smart device takes care of everything. The prescription medications are packaged at the pharmacy in a cassette (instead of pill bottles), so the person doesn’t have to go through the hassle of counting their prescriptions or doses. All the person has to do is open the lid of spencer and enter the cassette. Spencer can also send reminders to your phone, although you must have Bluetooth on to connect to spencer.

This smart device also has the ability to record your blood sugar, spo2, blood pressure and weight. Then it sends this information to your doctor(s) and pharmacist. Stephen was very excited to talk about spencer because, if he can show others a little bit of how to manage symptoms to make things easier, he has done his job properly.

The one thing that Stephen can’t stress enough is to remain positive and as active as possible. “Some days, you feel so bad you want to give up,” Stephen said. “Sometimes, you can’t tell people have Parkinson’s. But it’s on the inside because they go through a lot of pain and stiffness.” Stephen does his own physical activities to minimize the symptoms as well.

The best advice Stephen can give someone recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s is not to be afraid, embarrassed, or to give up. There are many support groups available who will be able to guide you. Surround yourself with great people and medical professionals that can help you through your journey with Parkinson’s. You are not alone.

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