Archive for the ‘Gifts and Gadgets’ Category

Meal Train: The Best Thing Since Chicken Soup

Posted on October 15th, 2015 by karen

Chicken Tortilla soup from Rosie in New Canaan CT

by Karen Keller Capuciati

When you have a sick friend and you want to help out, sometimes you don’t know what to do. Offers to help — Don’t hesitate to call me! — seem perfunctory. You don’t want to be intrusive or force your sick friend to assign you a job, but you’d really like to show your love and concern . . .

Helping can get complicated.

Well, it just got less complicated. Meal Train is an interactive online service that allows family, friends and neighbors to sign up for delivering meals to friends and loved ones going through difficult times and/or significant life events, whether it’s surgery, cancer treatments, grieving a recent loss, arrival of a new baby, or just to ease the strain of everyday caregiving.

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Making Someone’s Holiday With A Special Gift Idea

Posted on December 10th, 2014 by karen

Gifts for Loved Ones

by Karen Keller Capuciati

Slippers? A robe? An afghan? Certainly there are functional gifts for loved ones who are homebound or living in a skilled-nursing facility, but are the gifts special enough to bring that extra bit of joy that the holidays deserve?

There are many built-in limitations to consider: You may want to avoid expensive trinkets, as they’re likely to get lost; failing vision tends to rule out books as gifts, just as arthritic hands rule out previously adored needlepoint kits; and lovely scented candles are most likely prohibited in facilities due to the risk of fire. Yet there’s still a strong desire to find a gift that is not only suitable and meaningful, but one that also brings delight.

So I asked the group of geriatric-care professionals with whom I meet every month about inspired ways to bring holiday cheer, via gift or gesture, to someone who is homebound or living in a care facility. I asked if any of them had seen families do something unique to celebrate Christmas and Chanukah.


Kathryn Freda, Gerontologist & Eldercare Manager:

“I usually recommend that clients give a gift that can be shared in the form of an experience. The most common of these gifts would be to create a photo book of wonderful family memories. Make the photos very large, like only two per page, so the images really stand out. Or you can also create a slide presentation of old photos, set to your loved one’s favorite songs. The point of any of these gifts is that they can be easily shared any time a family member visits. The experience focuses on connection, reminiscing, learning and, hopefully, the joy that comes with shared recognition. In my work, I always search for ways to help people feel, rather than think, especially when there is memory impairment. Sit close, hold hands, or wrap your arms around your loved one while perusing the photo book or watching the video.”

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Survival Lessons For Life’s Toughest Challenges

Posted on October 22nd, 2014 by karen

Survival Lesson by Alice Hoffman

by Kim Keller

“Write your troubles on a slip of paper and burn it.”

This is one of the many pieces of advice from bestselling author Alice Hoffman, in her new little gem of a book called Survival Lessons. I keep this book, filled with Hoffman’s words of wisdom, right next to my bed. In fact, after reading Survival Lessons for the first time, I bought extra copies to give to all my friends. If I could afford to buy this book for every person in the In Care of Dad community, I would — it’s that good!

But, since I can’t afford thousands of copies, I’ll just tell you about it instead.

Best known for her two novels, Practical Magic and Here On Earth, Hoffman said she wrote the non-fiction Survival Lessons because it’s a book she wished she’d had when she was faced with a breast cancer diagnosis more than 15 years ago. Devastated by the news and overwhelmed by the prospects of the treatment process, Hoffman explained that she went “looking for a guidebook. I needed to know how people survived trauma.”

“It happens to everyone,” she said, “in one way or another, sooner or later. The loss of a loved one, a divorce, heartbreak, a child set on the wrong path, a bad diagnosis. When it comes to sorrow, no one is immune.”

Hoffman never did find that guidebook she was looking for, but, after surviving many of life’s challenges, she decided that she finally knew what the guidebook should say. And, as the author of some 30 books, who better to create this much-needed volume? She set out to write the book she had needed those many years before, a book that she herself would want to read if she were ever again faced with a devastating life challenge.

Survival Lessons, published last year, was the result.

The book is broken down into bite-sized chapters, each with an empowering preface, starting with “Choose,” as in Choose Whose Advice You Take, Choose How You Spend Your Time, Choose To Love Who You Are. Although there are so many circumstances in our lives that we have no control over, Hoffman helps us remember that we have the power to choose how we approach those challenges.

The book is also chock full of illustrations and tiny bits of poetry, and even offers a few important extras, like a brownie recipe that Hoffman claims will make you “forget your sorrows.” Survival Lessons is compact and easy to finish in one sitting, which is important when you’re feeling truly lost. Not only are the words valuable, but so is the act of completion. Finishing a book makes us all feel that we’ve accomplished something, and that we have the potential to accomplish more.

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Emergency Concierge Tool: The GreatCall Splash

Posted on September 24th, 2014 by karen

medical alert device

by Kim Keller

Karen and I just discovered a terrific emergency safety tool this last weekend while visiting our mom in The Villages, Florida. A couple of our mom’s gal pals, who are all part of a rather large and close-knit group of women friends sharing the challenges of widowhood and living alone, told us about the GreatCall Splash emergency alert button that a few of them are now happily wearing around their necks.

Naturally, Karen and I think it’s a smart idea for anyone living alone to have an emergency-alert button, but we were nonetheless a bit surprised to find that Mom’s friends, who are all active and full of life, had decided to take the leap of buying their very own alert buttons, which, for many people, carry the stigma of old age.

So we asked one friend, Carol, “What made you do it?”

“I always thought having an alert button was a good idea for someone living alone,” Carol explained, “but I didn’t want to think that it was time for me to have one just yet. And then Joyce [one of the other girlfriends] fell in the foyer of her house, and she laid there for a few hours with a broken femur before someone found her, and I thought, well, that could happen to me too, since I live alone. So, I decided it was just a good idea, and now that I have it, I feel safer. It gives me tremendous peace of mind.”

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Great Gift Ideas: Some Of Our Favorite Things

Posted on December 12th, 2013 by karen

black and red gift

by Kim Keller

Several years ago, Karen and I started a gift-giving tradition that we call “our favorite things.” It means that our gift ideas come from things we already own and love. We give each other items we’ve tested and wholeheartedly approve, rather than struggling to come up with unique gift ideas that may or may not hit the mark.

Like many people, we find this time of year to be particularly stressful, and we thought this “favorite things” concept might ease some of the strain that comes with the season. As it happens, we’ve had a lot of fun with this new tradition, so we thought we’d share it with you and give you a peek into some of our best-loved ideas over the years.

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Enjoying The Moment, One Gift At A Time

Posted on December 10th, 2013 by karen

Forest Star by Michael Andrew Reynolds

by Joan Blumenfeld, MS, LPC

Buying gifts for Mom was always easy. It didn’t matter if it was something to wear or something to eat, something to read or something for her kitchen. It didn’t matter if she really loved it or not. And it didn’t even matter if it was only a pink and black lanyard I made for her while at summer camp. She was always so appreciative and gracious in accepting whatever I brought her that I was certain I had found just the right thing.

What did matter to Mom was that I thought of her — that I loved her and that, whatever the gift, it was a true expression of my feelings for her. And her delight in the simplest of gifts continued even as she sank further into Alzheimer’s devastating grip.

However, what did change was the range of gifts I could select for her. As her abilities diminished, I had to become more creative. She could no longer read, so books were out. She could no longer cook, so kitchen gadgets were out. She lived in a nursing home where dressing up in finery was no longer practical, so elegant clothing and fine jewelry were out.

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CANCER101 Planner: The Information And Resource Toolkit

Posted on October 3rd, 2013 by karen

C101 Planner

by Karen Keller Capuciati

One of our readers gave us a great tip about a helpful resource she uses to care for her 82-year-old father who has cancer.  She found a toolkit that has been “the greatest way to stay organized” throughout the process.

She’s referring to the CANCER101 Planner. It’s a three-ring binder designed to keep all your information organized and handy. It also provides information, advice and references.

The planner was created by Monica Knoll, who was a marketing director for a health club when she was diagnosed in October 2000 with breast cancer. She was overwhelmed and frustrated by the “strange new world of medical information and confusing terms.” Sifting through such excessive amounts of information caused even more anxiety. So Monica created the planner after she completed her treatments in 2002. She had two goals in mind to help those with cancer and their caregivers:

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The Healing Powers Of Essential Oils

Posted on September 17th, 2013 by karen

Essential Oils

by Lisa M. Wolfson

I was introduced to essential oils while receiving treatment for breast cancer, as a way to relieve the nausea, stomach discomfort and anxiety that were side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.

Essential oils are highly aromatic liquids found in specialized cells or glands of plants and extracted through distillation. Essential oils are highly concentrated, so a little goes a long way. They can be beneficial simply through inhalation. Therapeutic grade essential oils can also be ingested.

Throughout my treatments and still today I carry a change purse with small bottles of essential oils from My original tool kit contained peppermint, lemon, frankincense and lavender.

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Counterstrategies For Alzheimer’s Wandering

Posted on August 22nd, 2013 by karen

Woman Wandering

by Kim Keller

“Most of the time I forgot I had Alzheimer’s in the earliest days until I realized one morning that I could not visually map out in my mind where I was supposed to go that day, and it was a place I frequented. Since that day I do not leave the house by myself . . . never. To not be able to create a map in your mind is so scary.”

These are the words of a former professor of engineering and member of an early-stage AD support group. Not being able to find your way, especially in places that have always been familiar to you, must be terrifying. And it’s hard to imagine the ever-present fear that a caregiver in that situation must endure: the possibility that a loved one might wander away and become lost is absolutely chilling.

What many people don’t realize is that this issue is not just about memory impairment. Though it’s certainly part of the problem, many people with dementia also suffer from what’s called “motion blindness,” meaning that their perception is faulty, making it difficult to process the visual cues that healthy people take for granted, the ones that indicate motion and help you find your way. For example, if you’re driving down the road, you can easily detect that you are moving while the houses around you are not. However, if you can’t actually perceive motion – as is the case in motion blindness – you become easily disoriented.

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Bright Ideas: Improving Safety And Accessibility

Posted on May 9th, 2013 by karen

Intense Burst of Light

by Karen Keller Capuciati

I came across a terrific idea the other day while scanning through Parkinson’s Disease: 300 Tips For Making Life Easier, by Shelley Peterman Schwarz: “Purchase touch-sensitive lamps if manipulating the small turn-screw on most lamps is difficult. Touch any metal on the lamp base and the light goes on; touch it a second time and the light goes off.”

A good tip, I thought. Not only can the switch itself be difficult to turn, but getting to it often requires bending down to reach under the lampshade, which could throw an unsteady person off balance and possibly cause a fall.

This is also a good idea for people with arthritis, vision impairment, cognitive disabilities or anyone assessed as a fall risk. Our dad, for example, had rheumatoid arthritis and this would have been a nice convenience for him.

But instead of buying new touch-sensitive lamps, I set out to  find out how easy it would be to adjust the lamps in our home in a similar fashion, and I discovered it couldn’t be simpler. Here are three small, low-cost options to make your own lamps easier to operate.


Touch Adaptor

This gadget allows you to turn on, off, brighten or dim a metal lamp by a simple touch. It’s inexpensive and easy to install. A couple of considerations: it only works with a metal lamp, and the addition of the 2-inch adaptor reduces the bulb space created by a traditional lampshade bracket. A lampshade that clips onto the bulb, or a bracket that sits at the base of the light bulb, as shown below, eliminates that issue.

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