Thursday, 28 July 2016


How many caregivers feel 'less than' and employable after their caring responsibilities are over? As a caregiver activist, I write a lot about how society should value us and our role in society. I write about caregiving as a civic contribution and a public good. But what does that actually mean? How can we persuade others that what we do is important and valuable? How can we convince employers that our skills are transferrable to the workplace after our caregiving roles have ended? 

"It's high time that someone wrote a CV for caregivers", I thought. So, here it is. I created a fictional caregiver who spent eight years caring for an elderly mother suffering from Alzheimer's. Feel free to use this language in your own CV and share with other caregivers who would like to leverage their experience at home to scale up their employability, their social value or just their self-esteem.

The Caregiver CV


Telephone and email



For the past 8 years, I have cared for my mother at home. My mother suffered from Alzheimer's Disease and over time, became increasingly frail and medically complex. Six months ago, she passed away peacefully. The challenges and rewards of this caregiving role have increased my skills set in a myriad of ways. I am a creative problem solver, a brave but polite speaker, and a person who is committed to being a team player. My leadership style is strong and compassionate. I mitigate risk and seek solutions to challenges that work for everyone.


Human Resources: I have managed teams of paid home care service providers from various agencies. I have written training manuals about how to care for my mother, provided hands-on training and supervised where necessary. I have managed complex schedules of care and facilitated communication among the team using online care management tools. I have acted as a 'translator' for my mother, interpreting her needs and preferences to less familiar care providers and members of the wider community. 

Financial Management: I have created financial management systems to pay care providers while ensuring that my mother's financial assets are stewarded carefully. As Power of Attorney, I was responsible for all banking and financial matters relating to my mother including bill payment and investment management. 

Strategic Coordination: I have acted as the bridge between institutions, doctors, insurance, and community providers on a wide range of issues related to my mother's care. As my mother's 'corporate memory', I had responsibility for record keeping and sharing between medical professionals. 

Advocacy: As a solutions-based advocate for my mother, I forged and sustained good working relationships with key allies at my mother's insurance provider. I utilised best practice business strategies in order to win important battles for funding my mother's care needs.

Research Skills: I am a highly efficient researcher. Over the past 8 years, I have honed my research skills using online tools to locate hidden assets in my community, to utilise online discussion forums for information gathering and to broaden my caregiving knowledge bank.  

Information Management: I created filing systems (both online and offline) for ease of tracking and following up all issues related to my mother's complex care. Quick ease of access to key information was a vital aspect of effectiveness in my caregiving role.

Work Ethic: As someone who has the experience of being responsible 24/7 for a loved one, I have a very strong work ethic. I am cause oriented by nature and in my practice. The longevity of my caring has taught me how to sustain my own health and wellbeing in a responsible way. I have learned to stay strong through regular exercise and through the benefits of my personal support networks of family and friends.

Add your educational and professional qualifications, but remember that your caregiving skills and knowledge are just as important. Prospective employers are looking for loyal, smart, creative problem-solvers. Caregiving over time demands real and substantial personal growth in these areas.

And if you haven't done so yet, consider ordering business cards, even if you are not yet looking for a job outside the home. Handing a 'family caregiver' card to your loved one's specialist or any other professional will up your game. And they won't forget you - family caregivers are WORTH remembering!

Saturday, 23 July 2016

How Caregivers Can Spot Elder Abuse

 I am happy to host this guest post from NY lawyer Laurence Banville. In our family, we are blessed that my Mom has never displayed signs of abuse, but we are watchful and I'm glad to know all the signs. 

When elders become physically weak, they are less likely to fight against bullying and attacks, which is why they are most vulnerable to people who take advantage of their weakened state. states that elder abuse has been spreading across America for decades and thousands of seniors or elders fall prey to some type of abuse, whether it is from nursing home staff in professional facilities or from close family members in homes.

The signs of elder abuse are not always easy to identify because sometimes they overlap with regular issues like mental health deterioration and natural aging. According to a report from the National Center on Elder Abuse, nearly 1 in 10 Americans above 60 has gone through some version of elder abuse.

Warning Signs Of Elder Abuse
Mental health impairments, loneliness, physical disabilities and social isolation can trigger vulnerability to abuse. Some warning signs of elder abuse that caregivers can spot are:
  • Neglect and physical abuse leading to pressure marks, bruises, abrasions, burns and broken bones.
  • Inexplicable withdrawal from regular activities, unusual depression, strained relationships and regular arguments as a result of emotional abuse.
  • Drastic and unexplained changes in financial circumstances because of financial abuse.
  • Implausible explanation about financial changes or money disappearing from bank accounts without any explanations.
  • More frequent cash withdrawals.
  • Dirty clothes, soiled diapers and lack of proper medication for extended periods.
  • Bedsores, poor hygiene and unattended medical assistance due to neglect.
  • Constant yells and threats leading to depression and social retreat.
Elder abuse can result in physical, mental and emotional scars - ranging from minor bruises to death. For older people, abuse can be especially serious because of their heightened vulnerability. In some instances, even minor injuries can lead to permanent repercussions. Data from the World Health Organization indicated that elder abuse victims are likely to die twice more than those who didn't report abuse according to a 13-year follow-up study.

Elder abuse may be deliberate in many instances while in some it is because of sheer negligence or incompetence of a person. Caregivers must be concerned about the possibility of elder abuse by all sorts of people and should look for these warning signs in the elders they look after.

Understanding Elder Abuse
An elder abuse study in New York State established that 76 out of every 1,000 New Yorkers were victimized because of elder abuse within a one-year timeframe. The same study also found a huge gap between the amount of elder abuse cases reported by older New Yorkers and the number of cases served in the system. The incidence of reporting was nearly 24 times more than the number of referred cases in the system. This indicates that elders are not getting the justice they need.

Most states have penalties for victimizing older adults, including New York, but the situation remains a problem until adequate measures are undertaken to bring the guilty to justice. For this, family members and caregivers must be able to spot the signs of abuse in order to take action against the perpetrators.

Protecting Victims Of Elder Abuse
Most seniors don't report abuse because they fear the consequences later. Some fear retaliation, while others are worried that there is no one to care for them.
Identifying the warning signs of elder abuse in nursing homes or at home is important for caregivers so that they can take the first step towards protection of the elderly. If someone faces signs of physical, emotional, mental, sexual and financial abuse, then caregivers must report this information to the relevant authorities to prevent this from recurring over and over again.

Caregivers should watch out for these warning signs of elder abuse so that they can report it if necessary. it is recommended to call 911 if caregivers feel that elderly people are in life threatening danger. Never assume that someone else will handle the problem or the fact that the older person can take care of himself/herself because this simply may not be possible.

Author Bio: Laurence Banville, Esquire
Laurence Banville is the managing partner of Nursing Home Legal NY and Banville Law.  He has a reputation for thorough preparation and a balanced approach to his clients. He is a down-to earth bright young attorney who has been honored with the Top 40 under 40 award. This recognition is given to the top 40 ranked attorneys across the United States who are under 40 years of age. He represents plaintiffs and in particular of nursing home abuse.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016


Breaking the Boundaries of Complex Care for Children

Complex care is a real interest of mine. We gave complex care at home to our son for 23 years and now his care is delivered by one to one nurses at a nearby care home. My Mom's care is becoming increasingly complex - she is 94 and progressively more frail. Complex care is described this way by one Ontario hospital group: Complex Care is a part of the health services continuum designed to provide medical management, skilled nursing and a range of interdisciplinary, diagnostic, therapeutic and technological services to achieve patient identified goals and optimize the quality of life of individuals who have a chronic complex condition.

The Complex Care Initiative at Sick Kids began in 2006, by the late pediatrician Dr. Norman Saunders. For ten years it has opened its doors to children with multiple and complex health challenges, often to those who could not find adequate care anywhere else.

For Ian Brown’s 19-year-old son, Walker who was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder at birth, the care provided more than just resources to manage his health. It was the first time his son was not just treated as a patient, or problem to be fixed, but a human being.

Dr. Denis Daneman, paediatrician-in-chief at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and expert advisor with, explains what the initiative tries to achieve.

Ian Brown is a Canadian journalist and author, winner of several national magazine and newspaper awards.

Interview by Dane Wanniarachige, journalist intern at

Tuesday, 12 July 2016


Protect Your Senior From Identity Theft

Maria is a frequent guest blogger here at The Caregivers' Living Room. Today, I'm happy that she's chosen to write about fraud and identity theft, largely because I see warnings about these scams in my Mom's residence elevator every time I visit and I'd like to better protect my family from fraud. It's a real issue for caregivers and our vulnerable loved ones.

Identity theft has become a common, pervasive and destructive form of crime in recent decades, and it's an unfortunate fact of life that senior citizens are a frequently targeted demographic. Because many seniors are more inclined to trust seemingly well-meaning strangers, are less tech-savvy than younger people and are potentially suffering from dementia or age-related memory loss, identity thieves view the elderly as easy targets.

While technologies such as self-driving cars, home automation products and other innovations have reduced some of the burden on seniors, the growth of technology has also made it easier than ever for criminals to prey on vulnerable people. In fact, 2.6 million seniors were victims of some form of identity theft in 2014 alone. Fortunately, as a caregiver, there are several steps you can take to help prevent this type of theft.

Be Wary of Common Scams

Most people are aware that the Internet can be a breeding ground for various scams, but many instances of fraud and identity theft still occur as a result of phone or door-to-door scams. Seniors should never comply with requests to provide sensitive personal or financial information over the phone, particularly to unexpected callers with whom they are not familiar. When in doubt, seniors should verify information requests with their caregiver before proceeding. Similarly, caregivers should explain the risks posed by door-to-door salesmen and encourage their seniors to simply not engage.

Practice Safe Password Etiquette

A password is often all that stands between a would-be thief and a person's bank account, credit cards and other sensitive information. Passwords for technology in the house should also be secure as a tech-savvy hacker can get their hands on personal information that way as well. This includes your internet and home security system. Multiple resources offer more information on how hackers can get into your personal information and how to protect yourself from being a victim.

Indeed, passwords may be all that stand in the way of a person's entire identity being stolen. For that reason, it's extremely important that seniors take basic steps to improve their security. Passwords should always contain a combination of numbers and letters, uppercase and lowercase, and even symbols when possible. Each account should use a separate password, and passwords should be changed on a regular basis. This is also true of home security passwords, which should ideally be changed once per month.

Monitor Credit Reports

Monitoring every detail of a person's financial life can be difficult, but a credit report makes the process much easier. Fortunately, the three major credit reporting companies are legally required to provide a copy of a person's credit report once every 12 months upon request. This is a tremendous benefit for seniors and their caregivers, as it provides a simple way to review any suspicious activity or erroneous information without manually wading through old statements and other paperwork. Requesting a report from one of the three agencies every four months will provide consistent, year-round access to the most recent information.

Destroy Nonessential Documents

Saving financial documents and other important papers is a beneficial habit, but most documents need not be saved for very long. Documents that are no longer essential should be properly destroyed on a regular basis, whether through burning or with a shredder. A cross-cut shredder is sufficient for most purposes, though a micro-cut shredder provides an added level of security for especially sensitive documents. Shredding or otherwise destroying papers such as old banking slips, bills, credit card statements and sensitive mail will ensure that the information they contain cannot fall into the wrong hands.

Protect Credit Cards

It's no secret that credit cards are especially vulnerable to fraud and theft, which is why seniors should have as few as necessary. Canceled or expired cards should be shredded or otherwise destroyed, and current cards should be kept in a secure location whenever they are not in use. In situations where another person may need to handle a credit card, such as a gas station attendant or wait staff in a restaurant, seniors should keep an eye on their card at all times.

Identity theft and fraud can be a devastating blow, and seniors are at greater risk than nearly any other group. Criminals are always searching for new ways to exploit the elderly, but there is much a well-informed senior can do to minimize the risk. By following the steps presented above, you and the senior you care for can take comfort in knowing that their personal information is well protected.

Saturday, 9 July 2016


Nearly two weeks ago, everything was going along smoothly. Writing was coming easily and I'd just had a visit with my Mom in Montreal, buying her fresh flowers for her balcony pots.  I'd done grocery shopping for our holiday at the cottage and the car was packed. I arrived up north and as I opened the old wooden door, I could hear the phone ringing. It was Jim who'd stayed home an extra day because of a cold. "Your Mom's had a fall and she's on her way to the hospital", he said.  My sister was away on holiday and her daughters were managing the crisis, thank goodness. My sister's three girls are not girls anymore - they are adults who know how to pitch in with my Mom.

Quickly, I made a plan. I decided to stay the night at the cottage and arrive at the hospital very early the next morning in order to take over the daily care with my Mom. I knew that too many people in the ER would confuse matters and I knew my nieces needed to work come Monday. I ended up staying with Mom morning till night for a week until I got a call from Ottawa that Nick was sick with the flu. He was vomiting and not tolerating his feeds. Luckily, my sister arrived home from holiday the day I left for home and Nick.

Nicholas is much better now and is back to his normal shenanigans. Mom is still in hospital and waiting for a convalescent bed. Nothing's broken, but she's still sore and weakened by her bedrest. Everything feels fairly calm again. I've just arrived back at the cottage with a plan to travel back and forth to Mom and Nick as needed. In the meantime, my sister is with Mom and Nick's with his carers.

I've been reflecting on the recent crises in our family. No one is seriously ill, but it felt like a crisis to me anyway. I dropped everything to be with my Mom and later with Nick. I thought of nothing else, but had trouble remembering details days later. Life felt extreme in the moment and blurry in the whole. I relished the slow time and open-ended conversation with my Mom. Yet going home from the hospital in the evening, I felt a sense of incompetence and failure wash over me. There was nothing I could do to prevent future falls.  When I received the message that Nick was ill, I felt badly that I wasn't with him. Love alone cannot mitigate the risks of frailty.

I've had to have a long chat with myself. I've had to accept that I cannot protect those I love most in life and I cannot be with them at all times. I've had to accept that there are no happy endings to old age and although love in the family helps, it won't change the final outcome.

Still, it felt good to drop everything, press pause on my life and surrender myself to people I love who needed me. I'm glad I can do it - I just wish I had superpowers to slow aging, prevent accidents and provide protection from illness. Maybe the lesson is that caregiving is about the doing, not the outcome.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Consumer Report: Best Medical Alert Systems

Last Thursday, I had just arrived at the cottage to begin our summer holiday when the telephone rang. It was my niece. Mom had fallen and was in an ambulance on the way to hospital.  As it happened, my sister was out of the country, so I quickly put what food I could into the freezer and drove south to Montreal where my mother lives. When things settle down a bit (Mom's still in the hospital, now waiting for a convalescent bed), I'll blog about the last week and what it's meant to me. But in the meantime, here is something that came to my attention recently - I've been thinking a lot about fall prevention and alert systems a lot, naturally! There's loads of great consumer advice in the unabridged article - you can read it in full HERE. But here's a snippet:

Our Picks for the Best Medical Alert Systems in 2016: Best Overall

Bay Alarm MedicalBay Alarm Medical is our top pick for its superior customer service and caring bedside manner.

It started with the little things: Web ordering was painless, and its crisp website has video demonstrations, a weekly blog, and clear pricing and terms. When our unit arrived, it came with a pair of spiffy striped socks, and setup was simple: just flip up its antennae and plug it in.
But where Bay Alarm really shines is the human element. When we talked to the monitoring representatives, there was a genuine warmth and calm — it was like calling your fourth-grade teacher. When we told them we were just testing the device, the rep always said some version of “I’m glad to hear that everything is okay.”
We unplugged the Bay Alarm Medical device to test its backup battery and within 20 minutes, Joseph at Central Station called to notify us that there was a loss of power signal. No other provider did this.
Bay Alarm’s cellular base station doesn’t win for its looks. It’s clunky, with just a big red “Help” button. Other cellular base stations we tested have a screen that displays the time, the strength of your cellular signal, and the status of the backup battery. Bay Alarm tells you your cellular signal by calling out “Two bars” or “Three bars,” sometimes when you aren’t expecting it — not particularly helpful, especially since we don’t know Bay Alarm’s maximum number of bars. And on average, it took 60 seconds to connect us to a monitoring center, which was slightly longer than Medical Guardian and MobileHelp.
Bay Alarm Medical’s base station isn’t subtle, but setting it up is easy and their call-center support blew us away.
However, Bay Alarm had exceptionally high backup battery life during our hands-on testing phase (52 hours compared to 30–36 hours for the competitors we tested). And while the design is very basic, it isn’t difficult to set up or operate, and it passed our range tests. Ultimately, it comes down to substance over style: We felt like Bay Alarm would best see us through an emergency.

Thursday, 30 June 2016


There's something about caring for a child with disabilities that takes the "red" out of "hot" in the marital bed.  The arrival of a baby, healthy or not, can often put a damper on sex in the city.  I remember comparing notes with other young Mums when my kids were brand new - so much nursing and cuddling and living through the needs of a tiny, totally vulnerable person has that effect.  Perhaps it's just nature's way of helping parents keep staring at their vulnerable charge like a biological safety measure to ensure the next feed and change.

But what happens when the needs of that vulnerable charge never really diminish?  We keep our parental eye firmly fixed on our son or daughter with disabilities... we keep them safe.  So, what does it take to keep the romantic fires alight?  I would say that it requires a decision - a decision to look away from your child for a few minutes and look at your partner.  It's difficult, especially when looking only at your child becomes a habit - a habit that eventually feels like necessary breathing.

And TIME is the enemy here.  Most parents of children with disabilities have no respite, especially if their child is complex.  One couple I know who run a home hospital for their 42 year old son have not been out to dinner since 1997.  They cannot trust others to look after their precious son - his care would tax even a well-staffed, state of the art medical facility.

Some couples will have to muster lots of determination to make that decision to remain close.  Many will have to create complicated puzzles for respite plans, however brief.  But once the decision is made to have some physical contact with a partner, the decision is there - it becomes real.  Hands will be held, necks will be stroked, hugs have a chance of leading to something closer.

It takes courage to turn away from a special needs child, even for a minute.  But a little planning to ensure the best safety measures possible for a break of fifteen minutes or a weekend away can make a mother and a father into a couple.