Sunday, 9 August 2020


Because I do not have the metaphor for Sadness" by Blessing Omeiza Ojo  |Praxis Magazine for Arts & Literature


I'm not gonna lie to you - I am exhausted. Not just tired, but a 'Covid' kind of dispirited lethargic kind of tired. It comes not just from giving care, but from monotony and loneliness. I feel a heaviness and absence of inspiration that usually gives me energy to write, to cook, to hike and to read. 

I am betting that a lot of us feel this way. So, I have decided to find things that inspire me back to my old self - to 'snap out of it' and find beauty in life again. My last post about a walk on the Camino di Santiago was a nod to this urge. But now the urge has transformed into intention. This morning I've decided to find words or images that  'bring me back to myself' and to share them with you here in The Caregivers' Living Room. As it happens, a friend who is a priest in the Church of England and a poet himself, Mark Oakley, posted this gorgeous blessing by the late Irish Catholic poet John O'Donohue on facebook last night. It is just the medicine that we all need. Let every reader  "Return to yourself, having learned a new respect for your heart and the joy that dwells far within slow time."

For The One Who is Exhausted, A Blessing 
by John O'Donohue

When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind, like an endless, increasing weight.

The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.

Weariness invades your spirit. 
Gravity begins falling inside you.
Dragging down every bone.

The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.

You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest.
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken in the race of days.

At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain 
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight;
Taking time to open the well of colour
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.

Sunday, 2 August 2020

And Still, The Road Stretches On...

Recently, my co-author and friend Dr. Zachary White and I have been chatting 
about caregiving with the distinguished Assistant Professor of nursing at Loyola 
University (New Orleans), Dr. Warren Hebert. Warren is an inspiring leader 
in the areas of family caregiving and home care. Our chat led us to topics such as 
the 'sacred space of home', the need for rituals and rites to mark the caregiver 
journey and finally, we discussed metaphors for caring. Warren introduced us to 
a poem by the philosopher David Whyte titled 'Santiago' as one example of metaphor. 
Whyte's niece had inspired him to write the poem by walking the ancient 'Camino 
de Santiago' trail all the way from St. Pierre du Pont in France, across northern Spain 
all the way to Finisterre (or, literally 'the end of the earth, where earth meets the sea'). 
Thousands of pilgrims walk this trail every year for reasons to do with contemplation, 
prayer and inspiration. 

In 2015, my husband Jim and I walked a tiny part of the Camino in northern Spain. 
We only had four days to walk, but I located a tour company that arranged for our 
bags to be transported to a different hotel each day as we were a little too old to 
carry heavy packs. I did reflect on my walk as a metaphor for my life of caring. 
Steep hills led to gorgeous views. Valleys obscured the path till a sunbeam revealed it 

And finally, we came to the sea - an opportunity to gaze 
at our reflections in the water and I remember thinking, "I made it."
SANTIAGO - by David Whyte
The road seen, then not seen, the hillside
hiding then revealing the way you should take,
the road dropping away from you as if leaving you
to walk on thin air, then catching you, holding you up,
when you thought you would fall,
and the way forward always in the end
the way that you followed, the way that carried you
into your future, that brought you to this place,
no matter that it sometimes took your promise from you,
no matter that it had to break your heart along the way:
the sense of having walked from far inside yourself
out into the revelation, to have risked yourself
for something that seemed to stand both inside you
and far beyond you, that called you back
to the only road in the end you could follow, walking
as you did, in your rags of love and speaking in the voice
that by night became a prayer for safe arrival,
so that one day you realized that what you wanted
had already happened long ago and in the dwelling place
you had lived in before you began,
and that every step along the way, you had carried
the heart and the mind and the promise
that first set you off and drew you on and that you were
more marvelous in your simple wish to find a way
than the gilded roofs of any destination you could reach:
as if, all along, you had thought the end point might be a city
with golden towers, and cheering crowds,
and turning the corner at what you thought was the end
of the road, you found just a simple reflection,
and a clear revelation beneath the face looking back
and beneath it another invitation, all in one glimpse:
like a person and a place you had sought forever,
like a broad field of freedom that beckoned you beyond;
like another life, and the road still stretching on.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020


I’ve been an admirer of Tena L. Scallan’s advocacy work on behalf of caregivers for years. Tena is a natural born nurturer who combined her talent for entrepreneurship with her care experience. Tena IS The Ultimate Caregiving Expert - you can see it in the love and determination in her eyes. Here is Tena’s guest blog post.

I would like to introduce myself and tell you about my website The Ultimate Caregiving Expert.  My name is Tena L. Scallan and I create caregiving solutions for busy professionals.  I provide Virtual Assistance to help lighten the load of entrepreneurs who are trying to run their business while taking care of a loved one at home or in long-term care.  I also provide Caregiving Coaching/Consulting Services and sell products that caregivers need via my resource-filled website.

I have a collaborative problem-solving approach to family caregiving. I put myself in the shoes of caregivers who may be busy adult children of aging parents/relatives, caregiving professionals, entrepreneurs or executives and I provide a range of solutions to challenges that seemed at first, impossible to overcome.

Why did you decide to be a caregiver?

As "The Ultimate Caregiver" I relate to a problem and am passionate and knowledgeable to fix it and feel that I have a moral obligation to share my experience with the world, dedicating my life to helping others in need.  I would love to assist the world with all aspects of caregiving. My mission is to be a strategic partner with caregivers by applying my expertise, knowledge and experience, while providing innovative and cost-effective solutions to those facing challenges in health care today.
The implementation of my mission involves listening closely to my clients, taking the time to learn about their needs, and understanding their environment. Through my work with hundreds of clients, I have established a reputation for my capabilities in private and healthcare environments.  

How did you get your experience?
In the beginning, I grew up in a family with many health problems. I was always in doctors’ offices, hospitals and other medical facilities.  I started my passion for caregiving as a young child, then became a candy striper at age 14.  After I finished school, I worked at a Home Health agency for 7 years, then ran my own homemaker/companion service for 12 years and worked in every department of a hospital for 6 years. I gave up my business because of the growing rules and regulations in caregiving and decided to do something about it.  My family & clients called me The Ultimate Caregiver and the name stuck with me throughout my life. 

Why did you write “The Ultimate Compassionate Guide to Caregiving”? 

It started off as a training manual for my employees to follow as if I were doing the work myself. I saw a powerful need to educate family caregivers in the home.  The book came from my many years of experience and I mirrored it to what I taught my employees. It is the must-know of caregiving.  Furthermore, my book is an encyclopedia of information that teaches families and caregivers how to care for their loved ones.  Also, I have broken the book down on my website to provide each chapter in a series of quick e-books to help with many caregiving problems that can arise.

Caregiving and COVID

Caregiving today has become so confusing!  There is so much information to digest. I have come up with a post that 25 other caregiving experts has offered their advice and knowledge on COVID to help all caregiver called How 26 Caregiving Experts Help New Caregivers With COVID-19Caregiving Experts and Caregivers are in unprecedented times with a disease that has no cure and unfortunately, we are in a new normal with this.  They can be overwhelming enough without Covid-19, but not impossible.


You too can be The Ultimate Caregiver by having patience, being gracious, and staying organized.  I am here to help you in anyway possible.  Caregiving can happen at a moments notice and you may not know what to do at first.  My website was created to help with anything caregiver related.  Thank you for the opportunity to tell you about myself. 

Saturday, 20 June 2020



Here's the press release! 

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many frightened family caregivers to assess whether or not it’s safe to have health care professionals in the home. Many families have let go all their home care staff while others have weighed risks and retained only one or two helpers whom they know and trust. Still others may not have needed home help prior to mid-March, but with the lockdown and closure of schools or day programs, those caregivers realize now that they can’t continue alone, without help. Pros Donna Thomson and Mike George have more than 55 years of combined experience hiring, training and retaining home care workers for their own families. As the co-founder of Soaring Families, Mike is an expert in locating and developing long-term, trusted relationships with paid carers to create the best home care experience. Donna is an author and care coach who also facilitates the Caregiving Essentials course at McMaster University.

Donna and Mike put their heads together to identify the particular challenges faced by caring families today due to safety concerns about bringing in outside help resulting from the pandemic. They decided to co-present a group session on based on their ideas about what SAFE home care looks like during COVID-19.

In this interactive online group session, Mike will highlight the barriers and the FEARS that families often face when considering hiring home care personnel, and illuminate the realities of when and why home help is actually helpful.

He will walk through a simple but practical process to help you determine whether or not it is SAFE to bring a paid carer into your home in this COVID-19 world.

And finally, Mike will deconstruct how TRUST works in relationships between home care staff and family members so you can reply confidently to, “How do I know when it’s safe to leave my loved one alone with a paid carer?”

Donna will review the ins and outs of maintaining a COVID-free environment at home. Screening before shifts, accessing and using PPE, disinfecting the home and managing COVID-related emergency planning are just some of the topics that Donna will cover.

Donna’s and Mike’s style is conversational and in this interactive session, participants will have lots of opportunities to share experiences and creatively problem-solve home care challenges in a supportive group setting.

This virtual group session will be on June 25th at Noon (EDT). Registration details are HERE and the participant cost is $10 USD. . Hope to see you there!

Donna and Mike

Wednesday, 3 June 2020


If you are a regular or even occasional reader of my blog, you know that Dr. Zachary White and I co-wrote a book called The Unexpected Journey of Caring: The Transformation From Loved One to Caregiver. 

Well, here is some exciting news - Zachary and I are giving a FREE four-part interactive webinar series based on the book and it's FREE! 

Register HERE (Caregiver Project Webinar Series) and hopefully we'll see you there! 

Donna 💗

Thursday, 28 May 2020


Brenda Agnew is a friend and colleague in the disability family/caregiving community in Canada. So when I saw her image in the National Post while scanning my newsfeed the other day, of course I was intrigued. Brenda is the Mother of her son Maclain  who has cerebral palsy, but she's also a creative problem solver.  She and her friend Kristy Dickenson (who suffers from both Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and Ankylosing Spondylitis) compared notes about managing complex health conditions at home and they agreed that there had to be a better way using technology. Their idea of an app called Chronically Simple was born. I asked Brenda to tell me more and here are her responses to all my questions! 

Q: Brenda, tell us about your own caregiving experience and why you became involved in Chronically Simple.
A: My son Maclain is now 12 years old and has a diagnosis of severe Cerebral Palsy. In addition to his CP, he is also profoundly deaf and has many Gi issues. He is an amazing, smart, funny and handsome boy, who requires 24 hour care for all of his daily living tasks. Everything from eating, and drinking, dressing, bathing, even changing the tv channel are all tasks that Maclain cannot do on his own. My son is very engaged socially and loves school and travel and adventure, and is like a typical tween, so we have to be available to help him at all times as he doesn’t ever want to miss a beat. Since the day he was born, where we was rushed to the NICU and spent 3 months there, followed by multiple hospital stays and ER visits, and surgeries I have been there. Organizing therapies and managing doctor appointments, ordering special equipment, facilitating playdates, planning travel, administering medications, advocating, supporting. This has been life as his caregiver, while also being a wife and a mother to an older son as well. It is a role I am proud of, and I am grateful for, but a role that is physically and emotionally exhausting.

(Photo of Brenda and Maclain courtesy of the National Post)

I became involved with Chronically Simple right from the get go. Kristy Dickinson and I had become friends through our children, and over the course of many conversations we started to identify the gaps that seemed to exist for caregivers and patients when it came to organizing and tracking their multiple appointments, and contacts, and medications and we would often discuss the burden of carrying around binders full of information.  So I made myself available throughout the creation and implementation of CS to offer a caregiver perspective on app features, and product design that might differ from things that a patient might want from CS. I continue to be involved in marketing, community outreach, development and any other aspect of CS that needs that caregiver lens.

Q: Describe Chronically Simple and how it can help caregivers to manage information? 
A: Chronically Simple is a web-based and mobile app that is a centralized hub that allows caregivers to manage all the medical information for their loved one in one secure, easily accessible location. It is basically a digitized version of the binders we all keep.

Q: Why do you think Chronically Simple is a transformative innovation? 
A: I think that Chronically Simple is a transformative innovation because it was built entirely by patients and caregivers. Every section of the app comes from a real life pain point of either a person living with a complex condition or a person caring for a loved one.

Q: What is your role in the company? How can caregivers like you contribute to product development? 
A: I have been a part of Chronically Simple from idea to conception to launch. I was able to use my experiences to build out the caregiver journey within the app and ensure that features are created that alleviate stress versus becoming just one more item on my to-do list. I am the Director of Caregiver Services. I am a part of everything that ties into caregiving – from product development to marketing to sharing my journey and how Chronically Simple has helped our family. Chronically Simple innovates based on user feedback so any user is able to share their ideas and features that they feel would be beneficial for them. This is how our roadmap is created.

Q: How will I know my information is private? Who can join? (can medical professionals be invited?) 
A: Chronically Simple worked with leaders in internet safety and data privacy & security to build out a transparent privacy policy and terms of use. The founder of the app is also a patient and a user. Security is our top priority. The Privacy Policy and Terms of Use are clear and transparent. Data entered into the app is encrypted and stored securely in Google Cloud in Canada. The primary user has control over who they invite to participate as a member of their care team. They choose who they invite and what parts of their information they have access too.

Q: What devices are compatible with the app? Do you have to be internet savvy to use it? 
A: Chronically Simple has been built to take complex problems and provide a simple, easy to use solution. There is a web based application which is accessible via Chronically Simple’s website and is the same as the mobile application which is available on Apple and Android devices. We used Kristy’s 69 year old non-technical father to test out functionality of the app to make sure it was easy for non-technical people to navigate and use.

Q: Finally, what is the cost of Chronically Simple
A: There's a special offer on now to get 6 months free. After that, it's $9.99/month or $107.99/year (reflecting a 10% discount for the yearly rate. 

Friday, 22 May 2020


In the worst of times, the best we have is art. It transforms, heals, elevates us. We all need this simple message of hope. That, a walk in the woods and, as my husband said this morning, a paint set. 

"You cannot look at the sun or death for very long." David Hockney. 

David Hockney Interview: The World is Beautiful from Louisiana Channel on Vimeo.