Tuesday, 7 April 2020


It is my privilege to be a 'Pro' on Huddol.com, a virtual health and wellness support website for patients and caregivers in Canada. Being a Pro on Huddol is special every day because I get to speak with caregivers, but it has deeper meaning today - National Caregivers Day. That's because Huddol has teamed up with TEVA to enable FREE one to one coaching access from all Huddol Pros for one month, starting today. If you would like to take advantage of this very special offer, read on for details. Happy National Caregivers Day! xo Donna

Huddol and Teva Canada have teamed up to create the Caregiver Community Fund. The fund allows Canadian caregivers FREE ACCESS to 1-to-1 video support sessions with our 40 health and wellness professionals on Huddol, in addition to our already free social network. (If you live in the USA, read on for information about special, discounted coaching fees.)

We understand that family and friends caring for loved ones with a health problem are feeling overwhelmed at home. Many more have no contact with loves in care facilities. Caregivers are feeling the strain of the pandemic.

The Caregiver Community Fund is part of our effort to recognize caring family and friends on National Caregiver's Day in Canada - April 7th, 2020.


Go to Huddol.com and register there (it's free). Click on "Talk to Pro" on the top right of your screen.

Caregivers will have FREE acess to 1-to-1 virtual support with any of our Huddol Pros for 30 days.

Each caregiver will be able to book up to 4 FREE video sessions in that 30-day period.

Following the initial free period, the video support services will continue to be offered at discounted rates.

To benefit from the fund, use promo code "TevaCares" when prompted during the session booking process.

“We reached out to Teva Canada and our network of Huddol Pros and said: ‘We need to do everything in our power to help families right now because they’re struggling.’ Without any hesitation they all said: ‘How can we help?’ That’s the power of community!” – Mark Stolow, CEO
Please feel free to share this with a caregiver you know and love.

PS: If you live in the USA, use the Promo Code "TOGETHER25" to receive 25% off the already discounted (for Covid19) fees. 

Saturday, 4 April 2020


What we need in these strange days of fear and anxiety
 is poetry. Poems reassure us we are doing the right 
thing. That the decisions we make are the right ones. 
That our best is good enough in the face of so much 

My friend Diane sent me this poem. She is a caregiver 
so she knew we all needed to hear this message today. 
Thank you, Diane. 

To be of use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Source: Circles on the Water: Selected Poems of 
Marge Piercy (Alfred A. Knopf, 1982)

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Reflections on Glass Furniture in a Pandemic

Lately I've been thinking about fragility. About how we are all connected by caring and how very, very lucky I am to be alive. It feels almost accidental. 

The images above are actually framed photos, side by side, in my home office. They were a gift from our daughter Natalie who is a scholar in design history. She knew instinctively how much I would love these life-size glass sculptures by artist Beth Lipman

When they were on display at the Ringling Museum in Florida, Modern Magazine explained this exhibition this way: 

In a recent installation in the wood-paneled period rooms of the Ringling Museum in Florida, Precarious Possessions: Crib, Cradle and Sideboard with Blue China, Lipman portrays the three stages of life with full-sized glass re-creations of furniture. The crib and cradle represent the beginning and end of life—the cradle modeled on a rocking bed once used by the Shakers to soothe the sick or elderly, protecting them from drafts and bed sores. The artist has cut off the legs and part of the side frame and slats at the footboard end of the crib so that it appears to be sinking into unstable ground. In its simplicity, the unadorned cradle is only one remove from a casket. The elusive quality, the fragility, of the glass and the juxtaposition of the empty pieces remind us that the body is mortal. 

The third piece in the exhibition is a side table adorned with numerous decorative objects - I don't own an image of this piece, but I found this one online.

The Modern review continues:

Perhaps we compensate for this realization by acquiring material objects, but the furnishings are meant to raise the question that Lipman herself asks: “What kind of comfort” does that bring, or “perhaps doesn’t bring us?”

The disorienting new realities of social distance, self-isolation, illness and fear have sent everyone scuttling home. At home, we care, we console, and we embrace. Have our possessions suddenly lost their attraction?

Glass is beautiful, but it is breakable. The crib is sinking into the earth. The adult cradle (an idea that I love!) looks too ethereal to hold human weight. 

Maybe all that truly matters after all is the love and care we have for each other because that is what I think of and remember when I look at these sculptures. Our 'stuff' doesn't matter. What matters is the love we have for each other here and now. That is what stays.

Which reminded me of this passage in one of our family's favourite books, The Velveteen Rabbit

"Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 
'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves 
you for a long, long, not just to play with, but REALLY 
loves you, then you become Real.'

'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit.

'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always
truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.'

'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he 
asked, 'or bit by bit?'

'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 
'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it
doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or
have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.
Generally by the time you are Real, most of your 
hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and 
you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these 
things don't matter at all, because once you are Real
you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
- Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Now is the time to - Reach Out Your Heart

Recently, my friend who is also a caregiver sent me this poem and it soothed my soul. I hope it soothes yours, too. 

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath —
the most sacred of times?

Cease from travel.

Cease from buying and selling.

Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world

different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those

to whom you commit your life.

Center down.
And when your body has become still,

reach out with your heart.

Know that we are connected

in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.

(You could hardly deny it now.)

Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.

(Surely, that has come clear.)

Do not reach out your hands.

Reach out your heart.

Reach out your words.

Reach out all the tendrils

of compassion that move, invisibly,

where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love —

for better or for worse,

in sickness and in health,

so long as we all shall live.
— Lynn Ungar 3/11/20
Image result for reach out your heart

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Connecting Kids With Grandparents - Even Long Distance!

 With all the online talk about the Corona Virus, I thought I would be different and blog today about something positive (and it's also a timely consideration if you or your loved ones are homebound due to quarantines or any other reason). Kerry Byrne is a friend and caregiving expert. She is the former Director of Research and Partnerships at Tyze Personal Networks (you've seen my many previous posts about Tyze) and now she is exploring inter-generational connection possibilities including using technology at The Long Distance Grandparent. I asked Kerry to tell us about her work connecting grandparents to children and grandchildren and why it is so important to family and personal wellbeing. 

1)   Kerry, you are a caregiving expert. What brought you to this field? 

I cannot pinpoint exactly when I became so interested in family caregiving. I think it is very likely a mix of my own experience as a young carer for my grandmother, combined with me noticing that no matter what topic I learned about, researched or studied related to aging – the family caregiver was always critical - yet missing from the conversation.

And so, for almost 20 years, I’ve been looking at a range of topics related to family caregiving and still continue to work as a research consultant with organizations focused on family caregivers, aging, health and care.  

2)    Why did you narrow your focus to look at the benefits of inter-generational relationships? 

Improving the lives of family caregivers is something I will always be working towards. But truthfully, I grew frustrated at the pace of change.

When I left my job as Director of Research at Tyze Personal Networks, I made a promise to myself that I would find a way to work on a solution that better honours aging, care and connection.

I’ve always been incredibly inspired by the innovations and solutions that families come up with to care for one another and this has led me to focus on intergenerational connection within families.

Societal challenges related to loneliness, our health and social care systems, workplace challenges, sexism, ageism, climate change – all of these issues benefit from generations being truly connected and working together. But our first experience with another generation usually comes from within our own families. It’s where we tend to learn about intergenerational relationships. 

3) Tell us how your personal life informs your business development and your thinking about aging. 

Aging has always been incredibly relevant in my life – not least because it’s something I hope to be able to do every day for a long time!

Truthfully, for most of my career, I envisioned care and caregiving as the biggest challenge we would face in my lifetime in terms of how to get this right. And even though I still think it’s critically important, everywhere I look these days, I’m drawn to notice things like:  

‘What if our systems of care could truly leverage intergenerational connection to make things better for older people?’

‘What if government could see the powerful possibilities in connecting generations instead of a narrative that often divides?’

‘What if my own family members and friends viewed things through this intergenerational lens I am now using?’

Lately, I cannot stop thinking about how important it is to make the time for grandparents and grandchildren to spend time together. Whether that is in person or virtually.

This now feels more urgent as I get older and lose family members who I didn’t get enough time with or who my children didn’t get to know as well I wanted.

Many families are busy and tired in their own way but there is a ‘limited time only’ imperative to the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.

I also try very hard to teach my own children about how important the ‘time’ we have with people is – for example - how special it is to have someone who cares to spend time with you or who cares enough about you to pop a letter in the mail.
It’s these micro-moments of intergenerational connection I hope my children learn to value the most.

How do you manage tech hesitancy in older people? Maybe they are not used to using Ipads or smart phones to skype or facetime family members. What has been your experience on this issue?

Personally, intergenerational connection and relationships have been the motivator for every older person in my life to use a new technology. Intergenerational connection can be a key solution for tech hesitancy.

Many older adults report they are motivated to use technology because of the desire to connect with a child or grandchild.

There are organizations and various initiatives popping up all the time with the express focus of connecting tech skilled younger generations to work with older adults to teach them about technology. An interesting initiative I recently read about is Teeniors in New Mexico. It was created to empower older adults to learn technology while providing paid, meaningful jobs to teens and young adults. You can read more about it in this NPR Article: Youth Teaching Tech To Seniors Fosters Generational Connections.

There are so many options for younger generations to ‘use’ technology to stay connected in a way that isn’t experienced as technology for grandparents. For instance, there are postcard making applications (e.g., TouchNote, ) that younger generations can use to make it easy to send off picture postcards to older adults of grandchildren.

Are you aware of other opportunities for caregivers to use technology in order to enable meaning and purpose through inter-generational relationships in the lives of homebound loved ones?  

Video chat is perhaps one of the best ways to widen the world of a homebound older adult. Many older people are using some version of Skype or FaceTime. But sometimes busy schedules or time differences can make it challenging to coordinate a live chat. As well, if an older adult is having a hard time hearing, or has any cognitive issues, live video chatting can be challenging.

Marco Polo

An app that I recommend to grandparents, and that we are finding really useful to connect with different generations in our family, is called Marco Polo. Everyone from my 83-year old mother in law to my almost 2-year old use it (with my help of course!). 

Once it’s installed and contacts are added, it is easy to use. My mother-in-law experienced a learning curve but with some help to get up and running, it was quick. She is now one of the most avid users in our family. And it’s free.  

I wrote a blog post about Marco Polo explaining what it is, alongside some ideas for how best to use it with grandchildren to have engaging conversations.

The reason I like it if someone is having a hard time hearing or cognitive issues is that there is pretty much a built-in delay to the communication. An older adult can listen and watch the video message, a caregiver or other family member can fill in the pieces about what the video is about, and then the older adult can respond to the video message. This provides a fluidity to the conversation that can be difficult to achieve in live video chats because there is time to consider a response (especially in comparison to live video chatting with children running around or bouncing off the walls in the background!). 

Story Corps

Another app I quite like that I think is a great one for meaningful connection between generations is called StoryCorpsStoryCorps is an American not-for-profit dedicated to preserving and sharing humanity’s stories to build connections between people. One of the main ways they do this is through a free app that can be downloaded on a smartphone or a tablet.

Within the app, there are example questions that you can put together, kind of like a digital facilitator, and the interview can be recorded right within the app. StoryCorps then archives the conversation for you at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in Washington. This way it is saved for generations to come to listen to it in future.

Caregivers could use this app to interview older adults and create a record of their life story. Or it can be used to make in person visits with home bound older adults a little more engaging. Ask a tween, teen or adult grandchild to interview the older adult.

Think of it as a family project and get family members from different generations to interview one another.  For instance, ask grandparents to interview grandchildren and grandchildren to interview grandparents.

As an aside, if you are a podcast listener, the StoryCorps podcast is filled with all kinds of wonderful stories about intergenerational connection.

Good ‘old fashioned’ email

Ask family members to write newsy emails to the older adult sharing the latest and greatest about their lives. Print these out and put them into envelopes for older homebound loved ones to open up. We did this when my Dad was recovering from triple bypass surgery. He loved knowing what was happening with everyone in our family. It also gave us things to talk about which helped me out too.

I also think this provides a meaningful way for younger generations to pitch in and help to expand the world of home bound older adults. They might not be able to contribute to the day to day caring, but they can be called upon to contribute to the social health of an older adult in their family. Writing an email is simple, and yet can go a long way to stay connected with older adults in your family.

How can caregivers and older adults connect with you to find out more about The Long Distance Grandparent? 

Come on over to The Long Distance Grandparent website and take a peek on the blog to see if anything resonates with you.

You can sign up to receive weekly emails that contain ideas & inspirations for staying connected from a distance. The best way to sign up is by downloading one of my free guides because then you get several ideas for connection delivered to your email right away. I have 2 to choose from:

Thanks so much for the opportunity to share my musings and my passion for connecting generations. I hope your audience finds something useful and has a fun or engaging moment with someone they love as a result!

Happy Connecting!

Kerry Byrne, PhD
The Long Distance Grandparent