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Latest caregiver News

Locating Ratings for Smart Phone Usability For Seniors

I had an interesting information request from one of our members that I think might be of interest to many of you. I’ve received permission from our fellow caregiver to share with everyone. I was asked to find a resource which rates smart phone usability for Seniors. Our caregiver had seen information on Jitterbug, but noted that AT&T does not Jitterbug phones on its network. This specific question had a focus on AT& T but if you are a Verizon or other plan carrier, you’ll have similar questions and can learn a lot from the response that I sent because many of the articles compare VARIOUS carriers. Here’s my “answer”:
It seems like you have 2 things to consider: 1.) usability of smart phones and possibly, senior-friendly apps that might help caregiving and 2.) you want compatibility with AT& T [or another specific provider]. Am I right? Some of the articles specifically mention if the phones have “stand-alone” contracts/plans  or if plans can be purchased from other carriers (like AT&T). Ultimately, since service plans and networking abilities change so frequently, I highly recommend when you narrow down the type of smart phone that you contact AT&T directly (call or stop in to a store with your specific needs/requests). I’m going to give you some sites that look at both the phones (features and capabilities) AND available plans/carriers.
Take a look at these sites:
a bit old but nice images to accompany descriptions:
Not as obviously helpful as a full review page, but here is AT & T’s section on devices for seniors if you are interested in bringing on board a phone for your senior that will be on an existing AT&T plan. If this is the case, it may be worthwhile to investigate which AT&T offered phones have “easy modes” or features specifically useful for seniors (again, make a stop at a store or contact customer service and talk to representatives about specific needs/desires based on what you deem most important for your senior):
I like how some of the articles specifically talk about what to consider when evaluating phones. It seems like there is sufficient differences in features to make decisions dependent on specific user needs/abilities/disabilities.
As we continued to correspond, another important aspect came out. When the time comes to go to a store (with the individual that will be using the phone preferably so that he/she can “test drive it” with you, as caregiver, and phone “experts” present to answer questions and assist), we came to the conclusion that it is best to “call ahead” to ensure that someone would be available to demonstrate specific features. Stores and employees are accustomed to demonstrating the latest and greatest “features” of smart phones, but our needs and the needs of our special individuals are varied and unique. We might need to see “easy mode” or apps that exist but aren’t “cutting edge”…often time display phones are “locked down” and only have certain options available. My calling ahead, speaking to a manager and specifically requesting the features and apps we read about (YES, I’m suggesting that you do as much homework as possible BEFORE going into the store), we can ensure a smoother, more informative session and an all-around better experience for those whom we care. I’m not saying this just about AT& T stores, let me be clear on that in case you saw the AT& T focus and thought this is just about AT& T services. Nope, I’m talking about ANY phone store and ANY carrier. We have special needs and are looking at the phones from a different perspective than the “average” phone user. It just makes sense to find “common ground” and understanding with the sales staff so that they can show us what we really need to see. Make sense?



Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

I'd like to share some article links on how to make the Holidays as stress-free as possible for caregivers and the ones for whom they care.
Caregiver's Guide for Managing the Holidays (PDF)—I LOVE this one because it has a variety of articles containing tips that reduce stress and make the holidays "merry and bright" for caregivers in a variety of situations as well as sound advice for non-caregivers too!
A collection of holiday-related articles and short videos from

~Debra, Your "Caring" Librarian


2017 Caregiver Support Group Meeting Dates

The group meets on the 4th Wednesday of each month:

Spring Semester Meetings noon-1:00 PM SRC 2153
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

If you're a caregiver, I hope that you'll join us. We meet over the noon hour, feel free to bring your lunch.


Summer and Fall 2015 Meeting Dates

The group meets on the 4th Tuesday of each month:

Summer Semester Meetings

May 26, 2015 12:00-1:00 PM SRC 1144
June 23, 2015 12:00-1:00 PM SRC 2032
July 28, 2015 12:00-1:00 PM SRC 2032

Fall Semester Meetings

August 25, 2015 12:00-1:00 PM SRC 2032
September 22, 2015 12:00-1:00 PM SRC 2153
October 27, 2015 12:00-1:00 PM SRC 2032
November 24, 2015 12:00-1:00 PM SRC 2032
December 15, 2015* 12:00-1:00 PM SRC 2032 *(meeting moved to the 3rd Tuesday due to the Christmas Holiday)

If you're a caregiver, I hope that you'll join us. We meet over the noon hour, feel free to bring your lunch.


New Book on Finances and Caregiving!

book financial care for your aging parent.pngMany of you have raised questions about finances pertaining to your parents or other adults for whom you care. I wanted to let you know that the Library has just added a new book called “Financial Care for Your Aging Parent” (click to see the full record in our Library Catalog) call number HG179 .A559763 2014. This item is available for check out.

Do you have any books, articles, videos (electronic or print) that you'd like to recommend to fellow caregivers? Please share!


Honor Flight Chicago--Support our WWII Veterans!

Hi Caregivers! One of our members wanted to call your attention to Honor Flight Chicago, a non-profit, local organization that recognizes and honors the estimated 25,000 male and female WWII veterans living in the Chicagoland area. Mary Pettinato, co-founder and CEO, works with Honor Flight Chicago to help WWII Veterans fly (all expenses paid and all travel accommodations met) to Washington D.C. and see firsthand the memorial, and the other sights of our Nation’s Capital. The Web site and embedded videos emphasize how these veterans are passing away everyday, and that time is running out to honor them with this special trip. Ms. Pettinato stresses that there is no obstacle they haven’t figured out in terms of accommodating veterans with a variety of physical limitations. If you have a WWII Veteran in your life, please get them connected to this wonderful organization!


April 28, 2015, Caregiver Support Group Summary

Caregiver Support Group meetings are all about sharing issues/situations, asking for and giving supportive suggestions, exploring options and making connections. The topics, issues and suggestions below reflect the flow of conversation at a given meeting. We don't usually have a set agenda, and the items listed are based on the moderator/recorder's memory. If I've forgotten or incorrectly stated something, I encourage members to email me at or post a comment to this entry. ~Debra Smith, Health Science Librarian, Support Group Moderator

All links and mentions of the COD Library Caregiver Resource Guide refer to

The group decided to continue meeting throughout the summer and into the fall on the 4th Tuesday of each month from noon to 1pm. Debra will work with HR to schedule the dates/times/locations for summer and fall (stay tuned!).

Per group request, representatives from the COD Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and Elder Care Solutions, Inc. will be invited to attend a future meeting and have a conversation with members about the types of services offered by these programs, costs, etc. in reference to the questions/situations of group members. Debra will notify the College of scheduled "speakers" via her email reminders about the support group meetings.

Issue # 1 How to help parents think about changes in their care giving situation (assisted living, nursing homes, relocation, etc)

The group had a lengthy discussion about how to prepare for and move-forward-with "the next step" when parents (or those for whom we care) can no longer be cared for within their home (due to safety or physical aspects). We talked about how to enlist the assistance of health professionals (not just primary health care professionals but also social workers, counselors, etc) to help deal with the emotional issues that these circumstances arouse (in both caregivers and those that are being given care.)

Many members suggested exploring the many options available (assisted living, advanced care, combination facilities). It was pointed out that the individuals at places like this, while trying their best to "sell" their facilities, were much more experienced than many caregivers at the process of transition and could provide help and support. We recommended learning about what was offered by the different types of facilities and then matching those offerings to the needs of each individual family. Every situation is unique and can change--one solution doesn't work for every situation or every family. We mentioned keeping this in mind when listening to a "sales pitch" or hearing "testimonials" from others.

Members expressed how frustrating the process can be when people are resistant (scared, fearful, angry, resentful) of change. We affirmed that there is only so much preparation and assistance we can the end, it is still the choice of those for whom we care...until they are incapable of making the choice (or a Dr determines that they can no longer remain where they are).

The issues of finances, federal assistance, state laws regarding paying for long-term care came up quite a bit. There are legal professionals as well as care management organizations, and personnel at the facilities themselves that can help clarify these types of questions/concerns. (See the caregiver guide for more information).

In addition to researching and knowing what is available, members reminded one another of the importance of having power of health, power of attorney, finances, DNRs, Five Wishes documents, etc. completed BEFORE they are truly needed (when individuals are competent and able to make their desires and wishes known).

The FCA has some useful tips & fact sheets dealing with aspects of this issue. Check out the Caregiving Issues & Strategies section at:

Issue #2 Distance Caregiving

We reaffirmed the information shared in the February 24, 2015, Caregiver Support Group Summary (issue #4). Debra will look into inviting several COD colleagues that have experienced distance caregiving from start to finish to discuss their experiences at a future meeting.

Issue # 3 Have Questions About Funeral Planning/Process?

One of our members is willing to share information gained from years of experience pertaining to funerals, planning, process, military funeral honors, etc. Interested in learning more or have questions? Contact Debra or come to a support group meeting for an introduction!

Book Recommendations from a Group Member

One of our members suggests the following books held in the COD Library Collection for information that is written from the perspective of health care providers. The member thought it was helpful/interesting to see how health care professionals are taught/trained to approach conditions/diseases and care.

Ebersole & Hess' toward healthy aging : human needs & nursing response
RC954 E23 2012

Ebersole and Hess' gerontological nursing & healthy aging
RC954 G455 2014

Chronic illness : impact and interventions, 8th ed
RC108 C458 2013

Assistive Technologies: Principles & Practices, 4th ed
RM698 C66 2015

Did I miss something? Do you have suggestions to add to our conversation? Please leave a comment below!


March 24, 2015, Caregiver Support Group Summary

Caregiver Support Group meetings are all about sharing issues/situations, asking for and giving supportive suggestions, exploring options and making connections. The topics, issues and suggestions below reflect the flow of conversation at a given meeting. We don't usually have a set agenda, and the items listed are based on the moderator/recorder's memory. If I've forgotten or incorrectly stated something, I encourage members to email me at or post a comment to this entry. ~Debra Smith, Health Science Librarian, Support Group Moderator

All links and mentions of the COD Library Caregiver Resource Guide refer to

The group discussed and recommended:

  • Gathering and sharing email addresses so that members can contact one another between meetings and continue supporting one another individually or to the group as a whole
  • Having Debra create a summary of meetings documenting issues/topics raised and suggestions shared. Members recommended a blog format if possible so that members have the option of adding comments [DONE! If you're reading this, the blog is working!]
  • Adding a section to the caregiver guide that covers grief, loss, caring for the caregiver, hospice/end-of-life issues. Group members expressed the need to continue offering support to caregivers after the death of the care recipients. Grieving is an ongoing process and individuals deserve/need support whenever they need it whether it is right after a loss or year(s) later. [DONE! I've added a new section called "Hospice & Post-Caregiving (Including Grief & Loss)"]

Members reviewed some of the links and resources introduced/suggested during the first meeting utilizing the COD Library Caregiving Resource Guide. Debra navigated the site and showed members where new resources were added as well as updated the group on suggested resources that will be added to the Library's print collection.

Issue # 1 Driving, Driver's License/Plate Information, and What is the Best Way to "Take Away the Keys"

The subject of caregiving individuals and what to do when driving becomes a danger to the caregiving recipient or other people on the roads was brought up multiple times during the meeting in a variety of contexts.

Supporting previous meeting suggestions of getting support from "outside" resources, a member suggested contacting the DMV prior to bringing in an elderly care recipient for the required driver's license renewal test or somehow letting the DMV staff know that there was a concern about the individual's ability to safely drive a motor vehicle. The group thought it would be a good idea to try and take elderly individuals to DMV locations at non-busy times or to smaller, less crowded locations where there would be more time staff interaction and assistance. Hearing that it might be time to stop driving from a DMV employee supports the caregiver and helps prevent negativity between caregiver/care recipient

Another suggestion was to have the same type of interaction with healthcare providers so that caregivers have support when difficult life-changes need to occur

A member remembered that VA hospitals have a program that helps evaluate whether or not veterans can/should be driving. Researching after the meeting, I found this helpful online brochure that gives many tips, suggestions and support resources regarding evaluating the ability to drive (applicable to all individuals, not just veterans):
Driving & Dementia published by

Another member reminded the group of Illinois reduced license plate fees available for senior citizens and information on the program being found on the Secretary of State's Web site. The program used to be called the Circuit Breaker Program but is now known as the Benefit Access Program:

Senior citizens and the disabled in Illinois can also qualify under the Benefit Access Program for free public transportation:

Issue #2 Where to find good deals on medical supplies

During the February meeting, a member mentioned that is a great resource because many different kinds of items can be ordered online and delivered to distant caregiver recipients in a timely manner. This session a member mentioned using for medical supplies because they offered reasonable rates and good deals. The question is....where do YOU get the best deals on medical/caregiving supplies? Inquiring caregivers want to know!

Issue # 3 The difficulty "finding good help" to assist in the care of loved ones

Members shared the wide-range of professional assistance available. Frustrations over promises of great care from professional organizations and actually receiving poorly trained or unmotivated employees that delivered sub-par care were discussed. Stories of wonderful, compassionate professional caregivers were also told.

It is often very difficult to transition from being on equal footing with individuals to becoming their caregivers (difficult for caregivers AND care receivers!). This discomfort can make caregivers feel powerless or hesitant which can hinder them from being as proactive and definitive as they need to be when requesting and receiving "outside" (professional) assistance. A member shared an example of how to make a clear list of expectations, how to share it with providers, how to follow up by being present the first few times a provider comes and then make "drop in" checks unannounced to check up on care. Also important is to let providers know the consequences of the expectations not being met. If something is to be done, it should be done. If it is not, the provider will be let go. By being polite, clearly stating expectations and consequences, and firmly standing by these expectations (represented in writing as well as verbal agreement), service providers will soon realize that you (and those for whom you care) are not to be taken advantage of or given poor service.

As a follow-up, here is a copy/paste from a caregiver message I sent to workshop attendees this past December regarding the same topic:

For individuals interested in how to locate/screen/interview home care professionals: I’d like to give you this link as a good place to start thinking about the important characteristics/qualities of a care giver. Remember, each of us (and the individuals for whom we provide care) is a unique being and some questions/characteristics may be more or less important depending on individual needs.

I share this link because the short article contains quality questions that can be easily adapted to different levels of care AND the links at the bottom for additional resources are useful too!

Issue # 4 Member Recommended Book

moments of joy.jpga member talked about giving a copy of this book to her mother, a primary caregiver, as a Christmas gift. The book was well received and describes the ways that caregivers and care recipients can find moments of beauty, love, and joy in otherwise stressful and difficult situations brought on by age, illness, or disease. It is called Creating Moments of Joy for the Person with Alzheimer's or Dementia: A Journal of Caregivers by Jolene Brackey (4th ed, 2008) ISBN-10: 1557534624 (available for $18.25 on The book's description reads:

Jolene Brackey has a vision. A vision that will soon look beyond the challenges of Alzheimer's disease and focus more of our energy on creating moments of joy. When a person has short-term memory loss, his life is made up of moments. But if you think about it, our memory is made up of moments, too. We are not able to create a perfectly wonderful day with someone who has dementia, but it is absolutely attainable to create a perfectly wonderful moment; a moment that puts a smile on their face, a twinkle in their eye, or triggers a memory. Five minutes later, they won't remember what you did or said, but the feeling you left them with will linger.

Did I miss something? Do you have suggestions to add to our conversation? Please leave a comment below!


February 24, 2015, Caregiver Support Group Summary

Caregiver Support Group meetings are all about sharing issues/situations, asking for and giving supportive suggestions, exploring options and making connections. The topics, issues and suggestions below reflect the flow of conversation at a given meeting. We don't usually have a set agenda, and the items listed are based on the moderator/recorder's memory. If I've forgotten or incorrectly stated something, I encourage members to email me at or post a comment to this entry. ~Debra Smith, Health Science Librarian, Support Group Moderator

All links and mentions of the COD Library Caregiver Resource Guide refer to

Issue # 1: Caregiving recipients can't always be accompanied to healthcare provider visits. Sometimes patients forget (or don't understand, or don't want to comply) the information/directions shared by healthcare providers.

Possible solutions:
Invest in a small, easy to use recording device. Take the device to all Dr visits (whether patients are accompanied or not) and record all discussions. Inform the healthcare providers prior to taping discussions (call ahead and notify the office if patients are coming alone) so that everyone knows that the discussions are being recorded for later listening and greater understanding/compliance with visit outcomes.

If someone can accompany the patient, bring a list of questions and write down answers to questions so that they can be reviewed later. Even if patient goes alone, send along the list of questions or share with healthcare staff prior to visit so that the questions can be addressed.

A member recommended a professional organization that accompanies special needs and elderly patients to healthcare visits. These professionals take notes, share family/caretaker questions/concerns and bring back answers. The specific organization used by the support group member has been added to the "Resources Recommended by COD Caregiver Support Group Members" at the bottom of the Resource Guide. Sanders & Warren Geriatric Care Management, LLC. Visiting Angels was also mentioned by members. Their site is listed in the same section of the resource guide.

Issue # 2: Difficulty in assisting people move around outside of the house during the winter when they are unsteady, in wheelchairs, using walkers, canes, etc

A member suggested soliciting volunteers to help keep sidewalks & driveways clear of ice and snow. It was pointed out that many schools, nonprofit organizations, the Boy Scouts and religious organizations encourage community service/volunteering. Caregivers were encouraged to reach out to local groups that might have willing and able volunteers

Issue #3: Avoiding arguments pertaining to care and proper use of medications and assistive devices

Many members struggle with noncompliance and the frequent "arguments" that arise when trying to care for individuals. Instead of always feeling solely responsible for "policing" or enforcing proper behaviors, caregivers were encouraged to get help from surrounding "resources" such as calling a pharmacist to confirm when and how to properly take medications, calling a healthcare provider's office to reaffirm that assistive devices like walkers and canes should be used regularly, using neighbors or family members to help convey the importance of issues....the main idea is that caregiver's should not isolate themselves or take full responsibility. Caregiving, like raising children, takes a "village" and support is available!

Try to remain positive and avoid negative statements. Speak to care recipients as their "partner" in caring. For example, instead of telling someone they MUST take their medicine on time EVERY day, try involving an outside, supportive source to deflect possible anger/resentment off you, the caregiver. Say to the person you're helping, "We seem to remember differently about when you should take your blood pressure medicine. Let's call the pharmacist (or Doctor's office) right now and ask them whether or not you should take this every day or just when you don't feel well." Sometimes, just the way we phrase things can make a difference between an argument and a collaborative "venture!"

Issue #4: Caretaking from a distance

Many members provide care for distant friends and family members. Utilizing the state, local, religious and nonprofit organizations nearby care recipients was recommended. If individuals need help researching resources in distant locations, contact Debra Smith!

Another excellent resource located in the "Web Sites for Specific Types of Caregivers" section is:
FCA--Handbook for Long-Distance Caregivers
This free PDF download is provided by the Family Caregiver Alliance. It describes how to assess a care situation; develop a care team; hold a family meeting; access community organizations and private agencies; and balance work and caregiving.

One member reported how great was because everything from books and music to diapers and food/grocery items could be ordered and delivered right to a caregiving recipient's door in just a few days!

Issue #5 Dealing with Dementia-related Behaviors

Many of the group's members are struggling with the wide-variety of behaviors, emotions, and cognitive difficulties that arise from the various types and stages of dementia (or Alzheimer's). The qualities of patience, humor, and forgiveness (of oneself and our care recipients) were brought up multiple times as good methods for coping.

An extremely practical and informative web site dealing with dementia behaviors is found in the "Caregiving for Specific Patient Populations" section of the caregiving guide:
FCA's Caregiver's Guide to Understanding Dementia Behaviors
A fact sheet, from the Family Caregiver Alliance, providing practical strategies for dealing with behavior problems and communication difficulties often encountered when caring for a person with dementia.

Issue #6 Check out this Website and the accompanying book!

ageofdignity.jpgBased on a member recommendation, added to the "General Caregiving Web Sites" section of the Caregiver Guide is a link to Caring Across Generations.
The Caring Across Generations campaign is a national initiative to transform the long-term care system and change the way we care in this country. The book discussed on the site, written by Ai-jen Poo, called The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America has been ordered by the COD Library and will soon be available for check out.

Reminder--The COD Library has an extensive collection of caregiving-related resources including books & DVDs. If you want help locating resources (electronic, print, or media), don't hesitate to email "your personal health librarian" Debra Smith