Addressing Loneliness

I was recently brought to tears when my husband’s great aunt confided to us that she suffers from frequent bouts of loneliness.  She is not alone.

Pew Research’s “Growing Old in America: Expectations vs. Reality” reports that “about one-in-six [seniors} report they are lonely.”  For those in nursing homes, the problem is more dire.  The Rubins reports “More than 50% of nursing home residents have no living close relative, which may be related to the estimate that 60% of nursing home residents have no visitors.”

Brenda Boyce, the author of “The Card of the Month Club” has chosen to do her part to improve the plight of our lonely elderly.  She has written a sweet little book that encourages us to reach out to our loved ones monthly by sending a card a month.

Give it a try!

Designer Walker + Transport Chair Bags

Liza Quinn Bags

My mother, Elizabeth Quinn McGowan loved bags!  She never left home without a purse over her shoulder or a tote hanging from the crook of her arm.

When she began to suffer from strokes, she relied on a walker for stability, making it difficult to carry her beloved bags. I searched high and low for attractive alternatives that could hang from her walker  and came up empty handed.

Thus, I recently decided to take matters into my own hands and launched Liza Quinn LLC, a Michigan based business formed to provide fashionable solutions for those using a walker or wheelchair.

Please visit us at or follow us on Facebook at

Area Agencies on Aging

In the fall of 2011, I found myself facing some very difficult decisions regarding the care of my mother.  She was clearly in need of a higher level of care than her assisted living facility could provide.  Because her assisted living did not have a social worker on staff and she was not admitted into a hospital, I didn’t have the support of trained professionals to assess her needs and have her placed in an appropriate facility.

The Detroit Area Agency on Aging 1-B came to my rescue.  I cannot gush enough about what a tremendous help they were in offering support and pointing me in the right direction.

Upon further exploration, I learned that as a result of the 1973 amendments to the federal Older Americans Act (OAA), there are similar services in all 50 states.  States are required to divide their states into planning and service areas, and to designate Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) within those regions.  Local services are focused on assisting the elderly and their caregivers at the local level.  Each agency is required to offer:

  • Legal Services
  • Nutrition–both congregate and home-delivered
  • In-Home Services–which might include homemaker, chore, personal care or respite
  • Disease Prevention/Health Promotion
  • Access–which includes transportation, information and assistance, advocacy, outreach, and case management at some AAAs
  • Ombudsman/Elder Rights
  • Tax Counseling

Although not required, AAAs may also provide any combination of the following services in accordance with the identified needs within their service area:  friendly visiting, housing assistance, gatekeeper, health education, minor home repair, letter writing, recreation, etc.

For a complete list of local AAAs around the country click here.

Does Your Surgeon Tweet?

In the short amount of time that our blog, Senior Help Forum, has been live (a little over a year and a half), I have seen incredible advancements in the tools that the healthcare industry is developing and offering to the general public. They are even embracing social media and mobile technology.

In January of 2009, Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan became the first hospital to tweet a live surgery (@HenryFordNews).

The lead surgeon, Dr. Craig Rogers, and his chief resident, Dr. Raj Laungani tweeted  updates throughout the surgery (, February 17, 2009).  According to, “at the end, Rogers had the last tweet. ‘The robotic partial nephrectomy was a success. ‘Thank you for joining us today.’” The entire Twitter stream was then uploaded to YouTube.  (By the time I wrote this post, it was no longer available on YouTube.)

Throughout 2009, several other hospitals around the country embraced Twitter and began tweeting, as well.  On November 23, 2009, I followed a Hip resurfacing surgery on The Detroit Medical Center’s Twitter and Facebook feeds. It was fascinating!

I am now a regular follower on Twitter of the DMC and follow their Twitter surgeries.  The DMC can be followed on Twitter at @DMC_Heals.

We would love to hear your thoughts on Tweeting in the operating room……

An Invaluable Return for Sharing Your Patient Data

A colleague of mine called this moving, moving video to my attention.  Click here to view.

In the video, Jamie Heywood shares the story of how when his brother Stephen was diagnosed with ALS,  he and Stephen began capturing data on a variety of topics related to his experience (e.g., medications, dosages, efficacy, impact on health, etc.) as a patient with ALS.

Out of this data capture, Jamie and his brother Ben Heywood, along with a friend, founded PatientsLikeMe and an “ingenious website where people share and track data on their illnesses — and they discovered that the collective data had enormous power to comfort, explain and predict.”

PatientsLikeMe is a privately funded company that aggregates its users health information and shares it with members of the PatientsLikeMe community.

The community is free of charge to its members.

Data is incredibly powerful, sharing data is exponentially more powerful!

A special “thank you” to Dean McRobie for sharing this moving video.

How to Put Your Old Eyeglasses to Good Use

When cleaning out my Dad’s desk drawers a few years back, I found several pairs of old eyeglasses.  Most were still in great shape – – some a little “dated” but the lenses were in good condition.

I donated them to a couple of really good causes.

OneSight:  OneSight is “a family of charitable vision care programs dedicated to improving vision through outreach, research and education. Since 1988, these charitable efforts have provided free vision care and eyewear to more than seven million people in need around the world and have granted millions of dollars towards optical research and education.”

The thing I like about this program is just how convenient it is to donate.  I was able to drop my family’s old eyeglasses off at my local Pearle Vision store and they immediately gave me a receipt that I could use for a tax deduction purposes.

Donations are also accepted at any: LensCrafters, ILORI, Optical Shop of Aspen, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, Target Optical or participating local practitioner. Find the donation location nearest you today!

The optometrist that I have been seeing at Pearl (formerly D.O.C.), personally distributes the glasses when he donates his time and professional services in third world countries.

The Lions: Over the years, my family has donated several pairs of glasses to our local Lions’ Clubs.  A couple of years back, I dropped glasses off in a box supplied by the Lions in the lobby of a real estate office in Royal Oak, Michigan.  My Uncle Chuck had been a long time member of the Lions so I felt particularly good about donating to their collection.

The Lions website says they currently have eleven recycling centers in the United States.  Click here for the complete list of recycling centers.

Handicapped Parking Plates Tags by State (updated)

Caregivers often provide transportation to doctor’s offices, grocery stores, pharmacies and the like. When a parent has difficulty walking even short distances, a driver without a handicapped card, or tag, is often faced with dropping them off at the curb, parking the car and then running into the building in order to catch up. For these situations, handicapped parking privileges can be often granted to caregivers when transporting eligible persons.

Every state offers either disabled parking cards, or plates, or both. While the requirements vary by state, they are very similar. While not in every case, it often requires a doctor’s letter.

To give you an idea of what they typically require, we’re posting Wisconsin’s basic requirements below:

  • Cannot walk 200 feet or more without stopping to rest;
  • Cannot walk without the use of, or assistance from, another person or brace, cane, crutch, prosthetic device, wheelchair or other assistance device;
  • Is restricted by lung disease to the extent that forced expiratory volume for 1 second when measured by spirometry is less than one liter or the arterial oxygen tension is less than 60 mm/hg on room air at rest;
  • Uses portable oxygen;
  • Has a cardiac condition to the extent that functional limitations are classified in severity as class III or IV, according to standards accepted by the American Heart Association;
  • Is severely limited in the ability to walk due to an arthritic, neurological or orthopedic condition;

We’ve included links to each state so you can check the specific requirements. The links either take you to an application form, which typically include the requirements, or to their department of transportation page which discusses the application requirements. Links to Acrobat documents are noted with ‘PDF’:

Hints for Auctioning off a Loved One’s Belongings

My friend Linda Wakefield recently lost her father.  After his death,  Linda was left with the task of cleaning out his home and finding new homes for he and her mother’s belongings.  Her parents had collected a great deal of memorabilia throughout their married life so Linda chose to solicit the help of an auction house.

Even though Linda hired the auction house to handle the sale of many of her parents’ items, she was surprised to learn that there was still a great deal of work and responsibility associated with auctioning items off for sale.

She has several words of wisdom.

  • Record information (heirlooms/stories/times/dates/locations) on your parents’ belongings when they are still well enough to share this information with you.  It assists the auctioneer when listing and promoting the items.
  • Be realistic about the value of used furniture (even if it is walnut or cherry, etc).  Auctioneers will be upbeat and optimistic prior to the event.  But, you should assume that the item will likely sell for very little money.
  • A responsible party should attend the auction(s) to assess the honesty of the sale/ the follow-through/the detail.
  • Take a buddy for distraction and moral support.
  • Be prepared for the onslaught of emotions from others who purchase items out of sentimentality for your loved ones.  Linda equates it to being almost like a mini funeral.
  • Offer to help with tasks during the auction to help reduce excess fees.  Linda explained that people will buy a box of items and take out the one thing they want and leave the rest.  By Linda reorganizing items herself throughout the day, she was able to save herself some substantial administrative fees.
  • Be prepared for the sense of loss you may feel in selling items of importance to your loved ones.
  • Stay through the entire sale.  Unless you want to pay a fee, you should arrange to collect/handle any unused items at the conclusion of the sale.

It is not unusual to have unsold items at the conclusion of an auction.  Linda recommends that a representative be present at the end of the auction to clean up and to evaluate what should be kept in the family and what should be donated to others.  Linda suggests:

  • donating unsold household items to charities such as the Salvation Army in hopes of helping the less fortunate (collect a receipt for a tax deduction)
  • donating items of special meaning directly to individuals or organizations that you know will appreciate them.  For example, Linda donated walkers to the area rest home, religious books to her parents’ church, popular novels to the local library, etc.
  • selling valuable items on eBay
  • restoring furniture that did not sell for your own future use

Note:  if the sale is held at a location outside of your home, you may be assessed for a dumpster (sometimes called a “tipping” fee) and incur additional labor costs if the staff of the auction house is left to discard your unsold items.

According to Linda, as difficult as it is to auction off items of a loved one,  ”it is also helpful and cathartic to see your organization/work and all the stuff go to interested parties.”

Two Great Sites For Sharing Info on the Condition of a Loved One

On August 31, 2009, I posted information on a website called CarePages.  CarePages is a fantastic resource for:

  • patients and their families to keep loved ones up to date on a patient’s progress
  • loved ones to send a patient messages of encouragement

This morning, Richard Liechty,  a co-worker,  shared a similar site with me called CaringBridge.  In recent months, he has been staying abreast on the conditions of a couple of loved ones via CaringBridge.

According to their website, CaringBridge was started in 1997 when “founder Sona Mehring’s close friend suffered a life-threatening pregnancy.  To keep family and friends informed about the critical situation, Sona and friends created a website.

Baby Brighid was born almost three months premature.  With her mother in critical condition, the one-pound preemie was quickly rushed to the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital in St. Paul Minnesota.  The family posted daily news about mom and Brighid on the website.  An accompanying online guestbook enabled visitors to send the family messages of love and encouragement.  Sadly, Brighid’s story does not have a happy ending.  After a nine-day struggle against tremendous odds, she died in surgery.

The website allowed the family to convey the saddest of news without the painful burden of several emotional phone calls.  The parents also had a place to post a final message to honor Brighid and their supportive online community.

Brighid’s death prompted an outpouring of loving messages to the family. They immediately understood that other patients dealing with the birth of a premature baby, childhood cancer or other critical illness would benefit from the same web resources.

And CaringBridge was born.”

A special “thank you” to Richard Liechty for sharing his experience with with me.  Richard can be followed on Twitter @RichardLiechty.