Month: November 2012

Caregivers Benefit from Internet Tools

Caregivers Benefit from Internet Tools

In honor of National Family Caregiver Month: The month is coming to an end, but the job of the caregiver does not. Take a moment to thank a caregiver whenever you have the opportunity and if you are a caregiver, don’t hesitate to reach out to a support network online or off. You don’t have to go it alone.

Sona Mehring, CEO of CaringBridge saw a need and set out to fill it using her knowledge of the internet and social networking.  In 1997, Sona was called upon by a friend in need for support during a health crisis. She was asked to contact her friend’s family and friends to let them know what was going on and to keep them up to speed.

Realizing the amount of time and emotional energy that would be required to fulfill her friends request, Sona  created a website that did everything for her via email.  Her website worked so well and was so efficient that it led to another birth: CaringBridge, a non-profit website that provides the tools needed to do what she did, create a web-based support network during a health crisis.

Sona understood the value of time and efficiency when she faced her own caregiving crisis. Like most she realized her energy was better spent with her friend or keeping up with the demands of her own already busy life than by spending hours on the phone and trying to contact and coordinate support in person.

Keeping everyone in the loop during a health crisis can take endless hours of telephone tag and comparing schedules.  The CaringBridge SupportPlaner enables friends and family members to post health updates, leave supportive messages, organize tasks such as taking care of pets, bringing a meal, running errands and even hospital visits at the individuals convenience. It gives the helper the time to look at what is already being done by others, to see what needs are waiting to be filled and to determine how best he/she can fill them.

In the last decade,  social network tools and websites have had an enormous impact on the world of the caregiver. We no longer need to be alone in our own world of overwhelm and stress. Help and support is just a click away.

When used properly these tools “amplify the love, hope and compassion in the world, making each health journey easier”. This is CaringBridge’s mission statement and the testimonies supplied by many users tell me they are living up to their mission. Here are a few of the stories they have posted on their website.

One of the most difficult aspects of any caregiving situation is the emotional and physical fatigue that often accompanies any health crisis.  Easy access to a support network can make all the difference. I know I plan to use one next time I find myself in such a situation. Thanks Sona Mehring and CaringBridge for all you do!

 

 

Improving Home Safety and Ease of Mobility – Aging In Place

Improving Home Safety and Ease of Mobility – Aging In Place

Tips For The Accessible Home

By Patricia Moore 

aging in place
A ramp improves mobility and safety.

Accessibility to a home–both indoors and out — is important to help people of all ages maintain independence while ensuring safety and security.  Simple changes and upgrades to a home can help loved ones stay in their homes and familiar environments longer.

The best indoor flooring options for more secure mobility

  • Flooring can help mobility. Wood and ceramic tile floors are much easier to walk on than thickly padded carpet.
  • Safe flooring features, including low or no thresholds (use a beveled strip for heights of 1/4 inch or more), nonslip and non-glare surfaces such as cork flooring, and low-pile carpets or rugs should be considered.
  • The first floor needs an accessible bedroom, bath, kitchen, living area, and laundry room with 42-inch-wide hallways and a minimum of 32-inch-wide doorways. Swing-clear hinges can be installed to widen openings.

How to “illuminate” the interior of the home to provide maximum-layered lighting with minimal effort

  • Task lighting is important for brightening workspaces. Exterior walkways, porches, halls, and stairs also should be well lighted.
  • Lighting features should include dimmers located 18 to 48 inches from the floor.
  • Lamps, recessed ceiling lights and wall sconces can also direct more light.

Increasing the safety features in bathrooms, one of the leading areas of the home for falls or accidents.

  • Thoughtful changes go a long way toward making bathrooms safer and accessible.
  • Many bath products today are functional and stylish. For example, grab bars now have multiple uses – they may double as a towel rack and provide the security of a grab bar.
  • A zero-threshold shower with a built-in transfer seat aids those with mobility concerns.
  • Add non-slip bathmats to help avoid falls and scald-control faucets to protect against burns.
  • A handheld, adjustable showerhead with a side bar makes the configuration more flexible.
  • An ADA-compliant toilet (chair height) with side transfer space is easily used by those with mobility concerns.
  • Wall-mount sink that works with a chair or wheelchair
  • A vanity with open cabinetry underneath can be used by anyone.
  • Textured floor tile with a 5 PEI rating is more durable and slip resistant.

Innovative, do-it-yourself access ramps that make home access “more accessible”

  • The most important aspect of home accessibility is being able to safely enter and exit your home.
  • The designers at Lowe’s created a truly innovative, do-it-yourself ramp system that is simple AND attractive, which can be tailored to fit the exact needs and style of your family and home – right down to the type of lumber used, the railings and accessories. You can even create your ramp to fit a right-hand turn if you need it. Go to www.lowes.com/ramps for more info.

Ideas for landscaping and gardening, one of the most enjoyable and therapeutic activities for all ages

  • Once your ramp is in place and accessibility needs are secured, add personality and customization to the space by tackling a few home gardening projects.
  • Landscaping around the ramp will not only make the ramp a stylish accessory to your home’s exterior, but is also an enjoyable hobby for everyone.
  • Know your body’s weak points and focus on getting the best tools to save that body part first.  Gardening tools sold as “ergonomic” are only good if they fit YOU.
  • Tools such as hoes and rakes should have long enough handles so you can stand upright to use them.
  • Tools should be well-balanced and as lightweight as possible.
  • They should be easy to use, have wide handles, and a padded or thick grip.
  • Keep tools sharp and in good shape. Sharp spades and trowels reduce the amount of effort needed to dig.  Use a metal file or whetstone to sharpen the.

More info: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCTGv9dtuvs

 

Gerontologist and Designer Patricia Moore

 

Patricia Moore, world renowned Gerontologist and Designer, is well known and respected for her work traveling throughout the United States disguised as an elderly woman. Pattie’s mission and experiment was to determine how elders were, and are, viewed in society and provide them with solutions to help them manage common obstacles many of us don’t understand. She was named by ID Magazine as one of The 40 Most Socially Conscious Designers in the world.

 

Create a Support Network in Your Hour of Need

Create a Support Network in Your Hour of Need

Online SupportPlanner from Caring Bridge
Interactive online calendar allows easy scheduling

Are you , or someone you know, facing or dealing with a health crisis? Are you desperate for a little extra help and support but don’t know where to turn?  Now, you don’t have to go it alone.

Ten years ago my husband had a heart attack. We had two high school age children who were knee deep in extracurricular activities, part time jobs, and college searches. My husband and I supported our family with our home based business, that on the best days required 24/7 attention from both of us. There was not time or energy in our days for what we were already doing let alone to deal with the extra demands of a sudden health crisis.  I didn’t know where to turn.

We called on a few family members to help out, who graciously availed themselves to us, but it was not an orderly, easy coordination of efforts and at times seemed more effort than help. Who can think, plan and organize at a time like that? I couldn’t.  CaringBridge.com did not exist at that time, at least in my world. It would have made all the difference.

CaringBridge.com is a non-profit organization that understands the difficulties inherent in coping with a life crisis. Its mission is to “amplify the love, hope and compassion in the world, making each health journey easier”.  The evidence is clear that it is fulfilling its mission.

The SupportPlanner is CaringBridge’s primary tool to assist people facing a health crisis such as the one my husband and I faced.  It is an online tool that makes coordination of support efforts thorough, easy  and efficient. It provides a centralized, virtual location to organize helpful tasks, such as the delivering of a meal, transportation, taking care of pets, etc. Only people who are invited by the user to view the planner can access the calendar and sign up for a task, ensuring privacy for the parties involved.

Several months ago, my friend Sandy was facing major surgery. She lived alone and was uneasy about the six week recovery period she was facing, when she would be unable to drive. Her sister had heard about CaringBridge.com and before Sandy even entered the hospital she had signed coordinated a full spectrum of support volunteers using The SupportPlanner and she did it all through email.  She coordinated meals, visits, errands, and drivers and Sandy received the support of a dozen well wishers throughout recovery. The support was a tremendous gift to Sandy and, I believe, resulted in a quicker, less painful recovery.

In honor of National Cargiver’s Month, I encourage you to visit CaringBridge.com and learn a little about what they have to offer.  You never know when you, or someone you care about might need support.

 

November is National Caregiver’s Month

November is National Caregiver’s Month

Support for the caregiver has grown by leaps and bounds since I cared for my aging parents ten plus years ago. It was a frustrating and lonely road at that and my siblings and I spent many hours trying to figure out what to do and how to do it. Now, information and advice lies around every corner and its unfolding has been thrilling to watch.

Caregivers, both paid and unpaid, provide an incredibly valuable service to our loved ones and deserve the extra attention they are now receiving. My heart goes out especially to family members who, by choice or circumstance, have taken on the role of caregiver to a loved one and who with little, if any, experience or training are carried through by sheer act of will, love and commitment. They deserve all the support and appreciate we can offer them.

Taking advantage of the support options available online and off can make an enormous difference to the individual caregiver. Without the support now available, these individuals would likely arrive on the other side of the caregiving experience in a battered and wounded state, suffering from burnout, compassion fatigue and perhaps more seriously long term illnesses.  I know I did. We are fortunately much more aware of the pitfalls and fallout of caregiving and while this awareness may not erase the hardship, it certainly can ease it.

If you are a caregiver or know someone who is, I would encourage you to read through the following list of caregiver support services and share them with other caregivers. You don’t have to go it alone. You can benefit from other’s experiences and expertise and make your job a little bit easier.

Throughout November, I will continue to highlight various caregiving organizations that I have come in contact with and will appreciate any feedback you have to offer.

CAREGIVING BLOGS AND WEBSITES

Hurricane Relief

Hurricane Relief

A huge tree split and fell over the front yard of a home on Carpenter Avenue in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in Sea Cliff, N.Y., on Tuesday.

I remember like it was yesterday the fear that shot through my body the moment I heard the first tree crack and fall, crashing to the ground in the middle of the night over fifteen years ago. Hurricane Fran, a category three storm, swept through North Carolina in September of 1996 and I had my first indoctrination into true southern weather. Growing up in the northeast, blizzards were the worst that nature doled out plus the occasional wind and rain of a tropical storm. Up until that point I had no real understanding of the power of nature.

The next morning when I walked outside and saw the damage, the many downed trees, power lines,  broken limbs and branches covering every inch of our yard, I was overwhelmed. My confidence in the world around me took a major hit. No longer could I be certain that the enormous oaks would remain standing nor had I realized how important the sense of permanence they provided was to me. To see them uprooted like a blade of grass was horrifying.

Five years later on September 11th of 2001, I, like many, experienced another profound jolt to my sense of confidence in the world. Who could have imagined that a structure such as The World Trade Center could be cut off at the knees and crumble to the ground in a heap? I became distrustful of tall buildings, just as I had tall trees. They were not dependable and neither was my sense of security.

We live in a glass bubble in this country, largely protected from extreme weather, extreme people and extreme events. We are blessed. While there are poor among us, we scarcely, if ever, see real poverty and the squalor that accompanies it. We look at the world through rose colored glasses, even as there is ugliness and devastation, misery of a kind we can’t imagine, hunger, thirst, violence, and degradation alive and well throughout the world. Did I say that we are blessed?

Our rose colored glasses crack a bit when we experience the devastation of a natural event, such as Hurricane Fran and now Hurricane Sandy. We are so unaccustomed to having our worlds turned upside down that when it happens we are shocked. It’s a real and lasting shock that alters our perception of reality, as it did mine, and I have great compassion for the people who are suffering through this now. Losing a sense of security can be devastating, no matter what the cause.

It may be harder for the rose colored glasses crowd to absorb this type of shock because we have no inner emotional protection in place. We are in a very real sense, naive. The trick is to eventually not only survive but to carry on without becoming numb; to build confidence again, a confidence in something greater than trees and buildings and to learn to trust life even if everything around us collapses.  It’s a tall order, but we can remain standing and whole, with purpose and a reason to carry on, even if that purpose is only to offer comfort and support to another in a similar circumstance.

It’s too soon for the victims of Hurricane Sandy to come to terms with the trauma they have experienced. It is a process that takes time, but just as buildings will rise up out of the rubble, so too will those who dare to embrace life again, find the meaning and purpose in all they have lost. Those that meet the challenge will find a reason and a way to carry the experience back into the world, and both they and the world will be a better place as a result. Tragedy and misfortune has much to teach us and we will always have much to learn.

Here’s How You Can Help with Hurricane Relief Efforts