The Best of Years, The Worst of Years: Elder Care Tips & Tools

Last year was one of the hardest years of my life. But it also offered some of the best opportunities for personal and professional growth I've ever had.

What made 2016 so difficult? In one word: Loss.

I lost my first pet—our beloved Boston Terrier, Balou—after months of decline. My daughter lost the ability to walk (temporarily) after double hip surgery. My grandmother moved to a personal care home, and I lost contact with relatives who struggled with the decision. After 8 years, a client contract changed and I decided not to move forward. Our extended family grieved the loss of a loved one to cancer.

Through it all, I connected with new friends and new clients, and deepened my relationships with existing ones. My daughter started walking again. I celebrated the births of a niece and nephew. I continued my work with a freelance marketing consultant on diversifying my business, the results of which I will keep sharing in these newsletters and on my site. 

I ended the year by participating as a guest panelist at the first ever National Caregiving Conference, held in Chicago in December. I presented on two panels, "Coping on Difficult Days" and "Preparing for Your Future." I connected with colleagues with whom I've collaborated online for years but had never met in person. It was a tremendously fulfilling experience. Check my website for archived video links to the panels, or reply to this email to request them directly.

If you're interested in being featured on my blog or know someone you'd like to nominate for it, please contact me. I'm looking for the unsung heroines/heroes of caregiving, the untold stories of elders, and the undiscussed issues in aging and elder care.

As always, I'd love to hear from you: tell me how you heard about my site and your connection to/interest in elder care. Send the note to

Here are this month's tips and tools:

  • TIP 1: Plan for respite care now. It's the beginning of a new caregiving year. Whether you are starting it refreshed or feeling burned out already, seize the day and make a plan for monthly respite opportunities now. Schedule date nights with your spouse/partner, long weekends away, morning care coverage so you can sleep in, afternoons off to have lunch with a friend, see a movie, or visit a museum. Plan today before burnout hits. Need help finding or scheduling respite care? Contact me. 

  • TIP 2: Keep a guest book/journal at an older adult's residence. We recently started this practice with my grandmother, who moved to an assisted living community late last summer. I purchased a journal with lined paper for all friends and family members to record their visits with Grandma and to include any notes on changes in status, or updates from the doctor or staff. Sometimes, the littlest visitors (my daughter, for one) will leave their doodles in the book too, a fun thing for Grandma to review on a regular basis.

  • TOOL 1: As we receive less paper junk mail and more of the digital kind, managing inbox clutter becomes a more difficult task. Sign up for a coupon or discount for a medical care product and you're subscribed to an email list. Sign up for daily caregiving tips and before you know it, you have an influx of messages to review on a regular basis. Sometimes, you might not even remember subscribing to a newsletter you're receiving. is a great way to streamline your inbox. Try it here.

  • TOOL 2: Wearable technology. Maybe this is the year for an older relative or friend to try a new device. Check out GreatCall's Lively Wearable, which works with the Lively Wearable app on a smartphone. The app notifies family members when the urgent response button is pressed, but it also allows users to track their fitness goals, stay connected socially, or engage in daily brain games.