Monday, November 25, 2013

Know What to Look for When Visiting Elderly Parents This Thanksgiving, Take Time for THANKS

As we gather together to give thanks this week, don’t miss the opportunity to check in on elderly loved ones. While phone calls throughout the year are important, seeing mom and dad in person can be the best way to assess physical and mental issues.

Give thanks this year by assessing how your mom and dad’s needs are being met:

·            T – Their health – Have there been any noticeable health changes since you last saw them? Are they taking their prescriptions and are they up-to-date? Be sure to ask them about recent doctor visits and make sure they are routinely visiting health care professionals.

·            H – Home – Perform a basic home assessment to see if their home is still meeting their needs. Pay special attention to the bathroom, kitchen and entryways.

·            A – Appearance – Have there been any physical changes that you weren’t aware of that should be discussed with their doctor? Has their mobility changed or have there been any drastic weight changes?

·            N – Nutrition – Are they eating regularly? Is there food in the cabinets or refrigerator and is it fresh?

·            K – Knowledgebase – Do you know where important papers (such as wills, medical directives, insurance papers) are kept? Do you know who to contact in an emergency if you can’t reach your parents? Do you know how bills are paid and if they are managing their finances?

·            S – Skills – Assess your parents’ mental and physical skills to see if they need additional help or if you need to make changes. Are dad’s reaction times good enough to keep him safe on the road? Is it time to consider bringing in someone to help with cleaning or laundry?

Talk to your friends and family while you are all together and approach caregiving as a team effort. If you don’t have time to discuss changes between the big meal and game, schedule a meeting online or on the phone to discuss your parents’ care and what changes need to be made.
Caring for your parents doesn’t just happen on holidays. Use the holidays to not only give thanks for all your blessings, but to see how you can help make sure your parents’ needs are being met.

Monday, September 9, 2013

What to Do If You Just Can’t Take Away Mom's Keys Yet

Driving is a rite of passage for many of us.  Unfortunately, not being able to drive any more due to age is also a rite of passage, but not a positive one.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an average of 500 older adults are injured EVERY DAY and 15 are killed EVERY DAY due to driving accidents.   But, no matter who we have talked to, taking away the keys is one of the hardest transitions caregivers note having to make and most try to avoid it.

So, what can you do to help your driving parents stay safe until the keys must be taken away?  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests:
  • Exercising regularly to increase strength and flexibility.
  • Asking your doctor or pharmacist to review medicines–both prescription and over-the counter–to reduce side effects and interactions.
  • Having eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. Wear glasses and corrective lenses as required.
  • Driving during daylight and in good weather.  
  • Finding the safest route with well-lit streets, intersections with left turn arrows, and easy parking.  
  • Planning your route before you drive.
  • Leaving a large following distance behind the car in front of you.
  • Avoiding distractions in your car, such as listening to a loud radio, talking on your cell phone, texting, and eating.
  • Considering potential alternatives to driving, such as riding with a friend or using public transit that you can use to get around.
While there is no guarantee these steps will avoid the “key discussion”, taking preventative measures now will increase your parents’ safety and hopefully reduce your fears just a bit.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Spending Too Much Time Together

by Renee Fry-Hawker

If you are the caregiver, it is sometimes hard to admit that you need time apart from the person you care for day in and day out.  You love them, you want them to have the best care possible, and you want to be there for the person for whom you care.

But, this often means that you get no private time.  There is no time for you to have thoughts for yourself, for you to run errands, or even to just take a walk.  Unfortunately, while you think you are doing good, this constant lack of attention for yourself may be hurting both you and your loved one.

When I had a brain tumor operation five years ago, my mother came out to live with me to care for me.  Without her help, I am not sure what I would have done.  I needed constant care and lived a thousand miles away from my parents and siblings.  My boyfriend, now my husband, thankfully had a full time job.  My mom dropped everything she had and moved out to Boston to help me so I could literally survive.

My mom learned to deliver my medicine for the nearly deadly infection I developed from the surgery, she learned how to clean my surgical dressings, and she dealt with a patient who knew too much and yet too little at the same time.  Day in and day out, my mom was there for me.  She would give daily reports to our family, our friends, and more.

I made my mom a deal that she could care for me only if she kept a positive attitude.  Given her nature and mine to be “okay, that is great, and let’s now prepare for the worst” type of people that is hard to do, especially when it is your thirty-six year old daughter for whom you have to care.  But, my mom did that day in and day out.  She was always cheery (I knew that wasn’t true but damn did she do a good job).
Her friends from our hometown would often call and ask how everything was going.  Only once did I get to hear the call.  Sitting outside on the porch by my bedroom, my mom was talking to her friends.  She explained all that was going on, the prognosis, the infections, and how hard it was.  I yelled from my room that she needed to stop proclaiming my imminent departure and go where I couldn’t hear her.  Okay, she wasn’t exactly killing me off, but it was hard to hear.

I realized later that the problem was that she had no one to share all of her feelings with on a regular basis.  She didn’t need a shrink, just her friends.  The people at the local deli still love my mom and thank God every time I walk in happy and healthy.  My mom befriended them when she would go to pick up lunch or sometimes just when she wanted nice people to talk to every now and then.  It was her mental outlet.

Today we stop by with my two year old son and say hello to the nice women who helped care for my mom.  We learned that while it is important for the person who needs care to have that care, the one giving that care often needs help too.  So, if you are a caregiver, take others up on their offers to give you time off and if there are no offers, tell your loved ones you need help.  And, if there is no one, look to on-line communities, daily prayer places or even your local deli.  Just make sure to do something for you!  I can promise you as the person being cared for, it made a world of difference to know my mom had people to care for her since I could not.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Making Care Easier Launches Free Caregiving App

Caring for an aging parent can be a full time job.  But, when you already have a job this can be very challenging.  Making Care Easier is here to help. 

Instead of lots of phone calls, texts, emails and worrying when you don’t hear anything, keep all of your updates in one place, with emergency plans and more.

Being a caregiver is a full-time job and doesn’t just happen at home.  That’s why Making Care Easier is proud to announce the launch of the MCE Android and iPhone mobile apps. 

Whether you are at home, work or at an appointment or on the run, you need to keep up-to-date when you’re caring for an elderly parent or loved one. Now you can with MCE’s free mobile app.

The MCE app lets you be in constant contact with your care team - Send and receive care updates and messages, set up and manage tasks or find and share products and services that make caregiving easier. 

Enter info once and you’re done - All the information that you share on your phone is automatically added to MCE online and vise-versa.

Share the care – At the doctor’s and need to schedule someone to take mom to her next appointment?  Use the MCE app to set up a task and ask your care team to help out.

Mom needs new slippers? – Jump on your phone and send an alert to everyone in your care team.  It might just be one less thing that you have to do because everyone knows what she needs and has an opportunity to buy it for her.

Find out more – visit us online at to learn more or to download the apps.

And, if you want to learn more about Making Care Easier or start a care team, please go to  Being Connected for Caring is just a click away.

Making Care Easier is continually improving the ways we help make caregiving easier for you and your family.  We have lots in store for the app, and we would love to hear from you to find out what you would like to see.  Please e-mail us your suggestions to and stay tuned for more advancements!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What I’ve learned from fishing by Michael Fry

About ten years ago I joined a local fishing club. Nothing too crazy - just a bunch of people who love to fish. In particular, we fish bass tournaments. Nobody is going to get rich winning one of our tournaments, it’s more about friendships, sportsmanship, and fun. During one of our meetings, the topic of the P.V.A. tournament on Rend Lake was discussed. The Paralyzed Veterans of America to be more specific.

                As someone who really respects the sacrifices our veterans have made, I thought participating was a great way to give a little back. This tournament is different than a lot of others. There are two days of fishing. Each boat captain is paired with a disabled angler. Day one, the disabled angler fishes. Day two, you fish as a team.

                After nine years of fishing this tournament, I can still name every one of my partners, and remember each year like it was yesterday. Some could barely walk, some were completely paralyzed. Some were old, some were young. Bottom line is they all were there to fish.

                The P.V.A. bass tour has been around for quite a few years now. That experience shows before, during, and after the tournament. Volunteers help load/unload anglers from boats, park vehicles, setup/cleanup, etc… When dealing with multiple people, with different needs, it can get complicated. However, I’ve never seen a situation where they were not able to accommodate everyone.

                I’ve learned that the label “disabled” can be misleading. I fish a lot, and some of the guys I’ve fished with who are “disabled” have out fished me by quite a lot. I’ve learned that being paralyzed, sick, or injured doesn’t make the person. It just happens to be part of the person. I’ve fished with paralyzed doctors, physical therapists, retired military, electrical engineers, and even a fishing guide. These people didn’t want my sympathy because of their condition. All they wanted was to fish - of course most of them want to win also.

                Fishing the P.V.A. is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my lifetime. I’ve met friends from around the country. I come from a family that has a long list of veterans, but I am not. I can’t begin to say how much I appreciate the sacrifices these men and women have made. For me, it is a little way I can give back. I encourage everyone to check out the Paralyzed Veterans of America. Their adaptive sports programs, their library. (Look at the pictures and see if you can find my smiling face after we won.) 

With Making Care Easier, every day we are hoping to make lives just a bit easier and more enjoyable.  I can only hope that we are as successful as the P.V.A.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

You Are Not Alone

As a caregiver, do you ever sit and wonder if you are the only person going through a tough time learning to care for your loved one, trying to find the time to stay sane and manage your family who all may want to help, or maybe not to help too?

According to the AARP, there are an estimated 46MM+ primary caregivers and almost three times that in additional family members caring for elderly relatives today. Given that there are 314 million people living in the United States, this means that 41% of the population is helping care for someone.  But, with all of these numbers, why is it that people feel so alone?

From our experience, we have found that a lack of family togetherness and a lack of community are two of the reasons so many feel alone.  Email trails and forced phone calls often serve as the only methods of communication among family members.  One family recently shared their caregiving email trail with us.  It looked like a potential soap opera instead of a family caring for their father who is aging at home after suffering two strokes. 

One email chain looked a bit like, “who is paying for this” to “maybe Medicare pays” to “who is giving Dad his medicine on Tuesday afternoon” to “I think you are being mean because I live far away” to “did we forget to include anyone” to “I love you guys, but…”.

After chains of emails, it is hard to remember who is doing what, when and where.  It is almost impossible to communicate well and to ask for help in a way that is effective in getting that help.  This is especially complicated by the fact that most families do not live near each other any more so they depend on email and phone chains instead of in person updates and care.  The result is feeling alone, and as if you are the only person who really knows what is going on and often that you can’t get the help you need.

Over the course of developing Making Care Easier, we have found that sharing tasks and tracking who is doing what and having all of the information in one place makes a huge difference.  One of our users told us, “It is much easier for me to put up a request on MCE than it is for me to make phone calls and beg for help.  This way, I can ask, and I can hold others responsible for tasks - it is something I could never do over email chains or phone calls.” 

Using technology and tools is a great way to help save family relationships and to help introduce methods to the sometimes seemingly randomness that is often family caregiving.  Tools can track participation, make asking for help easier, and involve more family members and friends than usually possible via phone calls and email chains.  So, while many caregivers give up on involving others in care because the pain is much larger than the help, there are now solutions for not having to be alone and for not having to be the only one involved in caregiving for your loved one. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

How Technology is Transforming Caregiving

Caregiving Corner:

With more people living longer, effective caregiving requires new thinking about how we care for those we love.  Boston-based Making Care Easier (MCE) is dedicated to helping caregiving communities get the answers and solutions they need to ensure quality care for their parents, friends, and neighbors.

Here, writer Linnea Walsh speaks with Making Care Easier Founder and CEO Mary Jane Favazza and Founders Julie and Renee Fry to discuss challenges caregivers face, and benefits of MCE’s innovative solutions to better meet the needs of caregivers.

Q: What do caregivers face in being able to care for their parents and other loved ones?

JF:  More families are taking on greater caregiving responsibilities, and are often doing so, while spread out in multiple locations. The ever changing field of medicine is also enabling patients to live longer, while health care costs have been rising. Federal policy will at some point need to address entitlement reforms to ensure future solvency.

Q. Caregiving in and of itself creates challenges for family members.  Many people may not fully understand the high costs involved. Describe some.

MJF: Families in these caregiving situations spend surprisingly large amounts of money annually on caregiving, including both cash outlays and the economic impact on their lives of doing the caregiving work itself:
  • Working caregivers lose more than $659,000 over a lifetime from lost wages made up of ($567,000), retirement contributions ($67,000) and social security benefits ($25,000).  (MetLife, 2010)
  • Primary caregivers are spending over $8,800 per year on out-of-pocket expenses, excluding the cost of facility care (Genworth, 2010)
  • 63% Of primary caregivers reported lost income – an average of 23% of household income (Genworth, 2010)
  • 36% Of secondary caregivers contributed an average of $2,600 per person for out-of-pocket expenses (Genworth, 2010)
  • 1/3 of caregivers reported a direct negative consequence to their own careers as a result of caregiving responsibilities (Genworth, 2010)

Q.  How does Making Care Easier work to address the complex challenges of caregivers?

MJF and JF: Making Care Easier (MCE) our goal is to improve both the way families care for their loved ones and the family’s experience during that care through action and our “recipes” for care.  This is no small mission, but a critical one.  As founders, my counterpart Julie Fry and I come from the healthcare world.  I served in leading roles at Health Dialog and Julie was the former head of marketing for the National Association of Home Care and Hospice (NAHC).  Renee Fry comes from the world of government and politics and software start-ups. 

MCE offers family members and professional care providers a one-stop platform for families to coordinate care, find and buy products and services, share information and take action. 

Q:   Take us through a typical caregiving situation and how MCE helps caregivers cope.

JF:  When your mother is recovering from a serious stroke and/or your father’s dementia is worsening, MCE helps connect you to the resources you need.

RF: MCE saves time, provides actionable, condition-specific information and helps families share the burden of care. Our solutions help families coordinate care and find and purchase the right products and services for the right situation at the right time.  MCE's unique approach provides tools, including a soon to be launched mobile tool, that can be used by everyone on the patient’s care team, no matter how far away they are, to ensure active caregiving.

MJF: MCE is a game changer as MCE’s applications are married with MCE’s proprietary analytics that provide a tailored pathway for each caregiving situation resulting in regular use and a trusted relationship, both key drivers of meaningful usefulness for the user and monetization opportunities for MCE.

Q.  What are some of the ways caregiving has changed over the years?

JF: While technology is starting to address some of the needs of caregivers, no “recipe” for care exists.  If your father has a stroke, it is the first time for your family, but it is not the first time anyone has ever had a stroke.  Many stroke victims and their families have stories and experiences or “recipes” for care that can be shared.  The support that exists today is generally transactional in nature – geared to help families share information or find a nursing home, but this is designed and delivered episodically.   It lacks continuity of the relationship with the family and therefore misses critical information needed in evaluating the entire picture.  They seem to be available to answer any question someone might have without ever suggesting what the right question might be for the family’s specific situation.  While there is a lot of information out there and some tools to help people share information, there is a lack of support on how to take action toward the care and the process of that care.

To find additional resources, visit

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Changing Caregiving - Be a Part of What's To Come

At Making CareEasier (MCE) our goal is to improve the way families care for their loved ones.  This is no small mission, but a critical one.  We’re taking another big step forward this week as we welcome +Mary Jane Favazza as our new CEO.  Mary Jane brings with her a wealth of experience including more than 15 years in the healthcare IT space.  Most importantly, she brings with her a passion for improving the living of those caring for elderly adults.

Throughout her career, Mary Jane has been making good teams great and great teams flourish.  She joins us most recently from Health Dialog, a leading provider of care management, healthcare analytics, and decision support.  Over her time there, she led the operational team that built unprecedented value to both customers as well as investors and led their business development efforts to help grow their user base.  Mary Jane is a major catalyst for growth and we're looking forward to her leadership at MCE.

When we started MCE, we knew the people behind MCE would be the key to success and Mary Jane will be the perfect leader for a team filled with drive, dedication and expertise.  MCE's team has experience in not only caring for loved ones, but the expertise in the field so we know what families and professional companies need, and have the industry expertise to create something revolutionary.  And, best of all we have learned from our customers about what you need and built the functional capabilities asked for along with a secure site, built to meet the changing needs of our customers.

Each caregiving experience is unique and it's hard to express how challenging, time consuming, rewarding, hard and even sometimes fun it can be.  At MCE, we want to use the collective experiences of caregivers to provide the tools, products and services that they found made caregiving easier.

Caregiving is critical to our communities and we want to invite you to be a part of making caring easier for others.    Mary Jane set aggressive goals to provide you with more great solutions and we want to get as much feedback as we can.  Please join today at and share your feedback!