Tuesday, 30 June 2015


Every day I scour the internet for caregiver news and innovative products.  Today I want to tell you about the best thing I’ve found in ages – this invention will help to lengthen the time seniors can live independently and it will make a real difference to our elders’ health.


It’s a medication dispensing innovation called PillPack – here’s how it works.

For more information, you can go HERE


TJ Parker is the pharmacist who came up with a solution to simplify the life of 30 million older American adults managing their medications at home. Growing up around his family’s pharmacy, TJ saw the struggles of patients who juggled complicated medication schedules and multiple trips to the pharmacy every week. As many family owned businesses do, the Parker pharmacy identified and catered to the needs of their long-term customers. The Parkers, with the help of TJ, created intuitive and stylish packaging technology and a seamless system for filling and delivering prescriptions that allows patients and their caregivers to feel in control. TJ saw the need to throw the antiquated pharmacy model out the window and create a better, more user-friendly experience.  But what he didn’t throw out was personal service. He knew too, that customers wanted a system that could work seamlessly with their insurance providers.  This reinvention led him to open a company named PillPack with a mission to re-invent the pharmacy.


"PillPack is everything I was looking for to help my elderly Dad regulate his twice daily medication dosages. The system is clear and simple for any and all ages to understand. The packaging is ingenious. I cannot say enough positive things about the PillPack customer service and pharmacist team. Just outstanding attention to detail combined with extremely knowledgeable, kind and compassionate staff who clearly aim to please and satisfy their patients and their families. Pillpack has taken away the constant worry I used to have when hoping my Dad was on track with his many medications. I highly recommend PillPack."
Beth T., Massachusetts

"PillPack is super easy for my mother who has Alzheimer's. No one has to stress out filling the pill box anymore and we don't have to worry about spilling it."
Shawn S., Minnesota

"I used to always forget to put my pills in the weekly pill box. PillPack has made it so much easier and I have been telling everybody about it."

Carla P., Arizona


My Mom uses a daily pill dispenser, but she has multiple tablets each day.  She still has to remember which pill is which and what time she needs to take each medication.  PillPack is a simple and easy way for my Mom (and anyone who is on multiple medications) to simplify their home health.  I love this product.

Thursday, 25 June 2015


In times of hardship or pain, looking at the people we love can be powerful medicine. Parents and caregivers need to be on the receiving end of the loving gaze of family and friends too.

Here’s what got me thinking about eye contact: I happened to notice a billboard with a photo of a beautiful but destitute young African woman holding a dangerously thin infant, who was clearly malnourished and distressed. I thought it was so odd that this young mother wasn’t looking at her baby – she was gazing at something in the distance.
Suddenly, I recognized myself in that mother. Our son Nicholas has severe cerebral palsy. When he was young, he suffered from cyclical vomiting syndrome. Every attempt to spoon-feed my boy ended badly and eventually he received the diagnosis of “failure to thrive.” I felt deeply wounded by my inability to nourish my son. Surgeries and time eventually enabled our boy to overcome his gastro woes, but I recall looking away from him in those dark days as I pushed the spoon toward his tiny mouth. I still feel badly about that.
Eye contact is a powerful kind of hand-holding. Sick people need it, people in pain need it and so do caregivers. Eye contact says, “I am with you. You don’t need to experience this alone. What happens to you happens to me, too.”
When Nicholas was 12, his hip dislocated and the orthopedic surgeon recommended a major reconstructive procedure. Transfusions would be necessary due to blood loss – the surgery sounded invasive and frightening. Nick was listening, holding his breath, wide-eyed. I bent down in front of him and held his hand. I asked him to look at me and I said, “Nicholas, you and I are the same blood type, so I am going to give you my blood for this surgery. My blood will be filled with comfort, with healing and most of all with my love. I will be with you all the time in the hospital to make sure you are fine. I promise.”
Later that day, my best friend arrived at my door. She already knew about the decision and, in our entrance hall, she held my hands and looked straight at me – not for long but enough to say clearly, “You can do this and I will help you.” She smiled and squeezed my hands.
Caregivers look at their charges all the time…scanning for signs of decline, bed sores, fevers or for changes in breathing and function. We are expert observers. But we need friends and family to look at us too. I often say that we cannot do this caring and giving alone. We need companions in our loving work. One powerful way to be a friend of a caregiver to look her in the eye.

Read more: http://themighty.com/2015/06/one-simple-powerful-way-to-support-caregivers/#ixzz3e8NyuOIJ

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

A Remarkable Story of Banishing Grief After Loss

KarolinaJonderko is a Polish photographer who nursed her beloved mother throughout a frightful journey to the end with cancer.  After her mother died, Jonderko realized that she’d forgotten all the happy memories of family life before cancer.  So she took a remarkable decision.  Jonderko decided to photograph herself wearing her mother’s clothes and have her sister recall and record happy memories evoked by various outfits.  Jonderko's sister had her happy memories intact because she had not nursed their Mom.  At first, the project was purely personal, but when a photographer friend saw the images, he urged Jonderko to share them in order to help others struggling with grief and loss.  I am very glad that we have these images now and that through her art, Jonderko was able to reclaim her happy memories of her mother. 

"It’s Christmas Eve, mom bustling in the kitchen, taking golden carp out of the oven carefully as not to stain herself with the hot butter. She is even wearing makeup, green, to match the outfit. She’s happy. She loves Christmas. After dinner, she is sitting at the piano and we all are singing Christmas carols." (Text by Karolina Jonderko’s sister)

My own daughter Natalie is a specialist in material culture and object analysis.  She has a particular interest in clothing, memory and identity.  In her undergraduate course of study, she wrote an essay about a dress and a suit that I had worn years ago and that I gave to her.  This is what she wrote about my clothes that she wears now:
In Daniel Miller’s ‘Making Love in Supermarkets’, Miller explains the act of parenting as a sacrifice through love. Miller shows that parents want to give to their children the sense that they are known and loved, always searching to give them the best life experiences and chances as possible. Often, this relationship is mediated through material objects. When my mother passed on these dresses, she passed on the hopeful sentiments that I would someday experience the same happy memories as she did. As McKraken explains, when things are bought or passed forward, there is often a ‘divestment ritual’, whereby the traces of its passed owner are erased, in order for objects to be personalized by its new owner. However, in the case of these garments, the exact opposite of a divestment ritual has happened where my mother and I both reside in the garments, both mentally and physically. In reaction to passing the garments on to me, my mother stated “I don’t see it as a loss at all, it is a gain, they have a new life through you. Parenting is all about love, you want your child to have, you want your child to dream, you want your child’s dreams to come true, and to give them a symbol of your own dreams coming true”. Here, the garments act as a bridge between the relationship I hold with my mother, where the narratives of our lives become increasingly embedded within them not in a sentiment of tension, but mutually constitutive. As the garments are continually worn, the stories accompanying that elevated experience are told, and we continually learn more about one another as individuals.  (Essay "My Mother's Dress" by Natalie Wright, Masters in American Material Culture, Winterthur Museum and Gardens)

(Bead detail from my dress that Natalie now wears.)

I am so happy that my daughter has my dresses and that we each experience such strong individual and shared memories through them.  Listening to Karolina Jonderko today reflect on the loss of her mother, I thought about my own mother’s things.  I thought about what I will leave behind for my children.  How will our losses be healed by touching our loved one’s possessions?  Karolina Jonderko offers one way (her way) of banishing painful memories and replacing them with mental images of smiles, laughter and love.

Monday, 22 June 2015

REMOTE CARE VS CARE AT A NURSING HOME: Which Option is Better For Your Parents?

This is a really informative and helpful guest post by the writers at TopTenReviews that I'm more than happy to share.

Choosing how to support your parents in their golden years doesn't have to be a burden. Depending on what you and your parents are looking for in care, you have a choice between nursing homes and care given at home. Here are some benefits and disadvantages of each method that should point you toward the best solution for everyone.

What Conditions Are Better Managed at a Nursing Home?

If your parent has an advanced condition that requires constant or very technical care, their care is probably better left to a professional at a nursing home or hospital. Parents with degenerative disorders like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's that become worse over time are also suited to nursing home care. In many cases, these patients will be in-home care at first, then progress to the point where they need to transition to a full-time care facility.

What Conditions Are Better Managed With Remote Care?

If your parent has a high risk of infection because of a weakened immune system caused by AIDS or an auto-immune disorder, definitely consider keeping them at home as long as possible. The spread of germs inside a nursing home is faster than in the home because of the number of people who could be potentially carry an infection.

Do not underestimate a simple flu or urinary tract infection, even at home. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, about one-third of all deaths of people over 65 are the result of infection.

Is In-Home Care a Safe Option?

You are in control of who you hire to take care of your aging parent. Always perform thorough background checks on someone before hiring them to be a remote caregiver. The best way to confirm that their experience listed on their résumé is real is by calling references and checking up yourself.
Instead of hiring an independent home caregiver, consider hiring through a home care agency. Many of these agencies do the background checks for you. Some of them even require their caregivers to become certified by passing a series of tests.

There is one more option. If you and/or your parent don't feel comfortable with a stranger providing your parent's care, a family member can give the care, instead.

Is Remote Care Something You Can Do Yourself?

Anyone can become a caregiver if they are willing to learn how. It's not a task for the squeamish, since caregivers deal with bodily fluids and sickness every day, but if you're up to the challenge, your parent may appreciate the one-of-a-kind attention only their child can give. Plus, your parent will get to stay at home instead of moving to an unfamiliar nursing home.

It will be impossible for you to offer care 24/7. For those times that you have to leave a parent unattended, have a network of other family members who can help, or use a trustworthy medical alert system.

Keep in mind that a large investment goes into becoming a caregiver. If you have other responsibilities like a job or kids that take up most of your time, it may be too stressful for you to take on your parent's care yourself. In that case, if you've also ruled out a home caregiver, a nursing home is probably your next best alternative.

What Are the Advantages of Nursing Home Care?

As opposed to a single caregiver at home, a nursing home has an entire team dedicated to providing care to your parent. Nursing homes foster a community environment between staff and those requiring care. There might even be recreation opportunities available to residents of a nursing home that would otherwise be unavailable at home.

What Are the Advantages of Remote Care Giving?

One surprising advantage of home care is long-term cost. Many home care givers charge very reasonable hourly rates, allowing you to save some money, especially compared to a private nursing home. However, there will probably be a bigger initial investment for home care, especially if you need expensive medical equipment or renovations to the home for accessibility.

Now that you've weighed these factors, the decision between home care and a nursing home should be more clear. Remember that these decisions are never final and you can always switch between remote care and nursing home care if one doesn't work out.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Celebrating Fathers Day, 2015

This Sunday is Father's Day.  In the realm of disability and family, we talk most often about mothers.  But today, I would like to say a few words about what it means to appreciate the Dads in our lives.

My own father, James Edward Thomson, was a gentle, kind and funny man who was much loved and died too young.  My Dad was the embodiment of what it meant to be an officer and a gentleman.  He was a terrific athlete and taught me and my sister how to stick-handle like Jean Beliveau and drive a golf ball 300 yards, or at least keep trying.  My Dad passed away in 1975 after three debilitating strokes, and I still miss him.

My husband Jim is like my Dad in some ways.  He is loyal, clever, hard working and detail oriented.  Jim helped the children with their math homework when I became mystified by the equations early in their academic careers.  He reviews Nicholas' health claims and finds extra cash by reading the fine print and closely examining our complicated files.  Jim feels the heavy responsibility of single-handedly creating the social safety net in our family by making financial, pension and insurance arrangements that will keep all of us safe and worry-free for our lifetimes.

He watches hockey games with Nicholas and taught Natalie how to ride her bike.  He skied with Nicholas when we were members of the "National Capital Disabled Ski Association" and he rigged a way for Nick to waterski sitting on a windsurf board with a teenaged helper behind our boat.

In her book, "Love's Labor", Eva Kittay talks about mothering a child with severe disabilities as "testing the very boundaries of what it means to be a parent".  But I would suggest that being a father does that too.  I know that my husband feels the entire weight of responsibility for our financial wellbeing.  Today, I want to say thank you to my husband, my own dear father and to all the fathers who inspire and contribute to special needs families today, yesterday and tomorrow.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Signs of Power in Paid Caregiving - And I Don't Like Them

A couple of days ago, I was wandering around my local grocery store when I happened to notice a young man in a wheelchair.  He was smiling and chatting with a paid caregiver who was putting some oranges into his basket.  How did I know she was his paid caregiver?  She wasn't wearing jewellery around her neck, she was wearing something like this:

Except that there were a lot of keys on the necklace as well.  I turned to do my own shopping and thought, "hmmm... I really don't like that."  I actually considered approaching the woman and saying something like, "Excuse me, but do you realise that it demeans this young man when you wear a lot of keys and identity badges around your neck when you are grocery shopping in public with your client?" I wanted to tell her that the keys imply this man is in a locked residence.  They imply a kind of necessary vigilance over the comings and goings of this adult gentleman.

Funny that when Nicholas' caregivers wear keys or identity badges around their necks, he makes them hand them over.  Nick says with his speaking computer, "I'll take those if you don't mind.  And you can call me Mr. Wright."

Everyone laughs because they are friends, but the point is made.  Nick's helpers don't wear their keys anymore, they put them in a pocket.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

The ABCDs of Including (Not Excluding!) Caregivers in Community Life

John McKnight  and Jody Kretzmann are a social design visionaries who understand that everyone has a role to play in enabling healthy, inclusive communities.  They founded the Asset Based CommunityDevelopment Institute, or ABCD.  Building on the skills of local residents, the power of local associations, and the supportive functions of local institutions, asset-based community development draws upon existing community strengths to build stronger, more sustainable communities for the future.

The principles of ABCD are important for everyone, but especially for families living with age or disability related challenges. The core tenets of Asset Based Community Development are rooted in the desire to build a movement for social change.  ABCD believes that:

1. Everyone has gifts: each person in a community has something to contribute
2. Relationships build a community: people must be connected in order for sustainable community development to take place
3. Citizens are at the center: citizens should be viewed as actors—not recipients—in development
4. Leaders involve others: community development is strongest when it involves a broad base of community action
5. People care: challenge notions of "apathy" by listening to people's interests
7. Listen: decisions should come from conversations where people are heard
8. Ask: asking for ideas is more sustainable than giving solutions
How does John McKnight say we can achieve these goals?  By talking to our neighbours!  For caregivers, I want to repeat #4 – that leaders involve others and that community development is strongest when it involves a broad base of community action.  We are all leaders. The challenge for caregivers is how to spread the word about the joys and challenges of our lives as we mine for information about neighbours' interests and abilities they might share. If someone has helped you, thank them (publicly, if possible).  If your local grocery store has delivered your order when your loved one was ill, ask the manager how you can spread the word about his staff's kindness.  When friends offer to help you, ask 'what do you LIKE to do... what are your interests?"  Then say,  "We'll start with your interests and then match those up to our needs."  Listen first.  These are a few ways we can build capacity in neighbourhoods.  

Be a listener, ask for ideas, believe in the power of relationships to build a movement for neighbour to neighbour sharing.  Our caregiving families have assets that are important in neighbourhoods - we embody qualities that make us all more deeply human: love, empathy and altruism.  I remember meeting a caregiving activist from British Columbia.  On a regular basis, she held soup dinner at her home (she cared for an adult child with developmental disabilities and for her elderly father as well).  She knocked on her neighbours' doors (even though she didn't know some of them) and invited them to bring an ingredient to make soup.  Everyone came and everyone brought food.  What was her secret for community building?  She asked.  She invited.  She opened her door to neighbours.  We can do this, and the results will benefit everyone.