Monthly Archives: January 2017

Best Caregiving Apps of 2017

Best Caregiving Apps of 2017

Top Apps to Help Steer You Through Caregiving

If you have a smartphone, you probably know what apps are — but did you know they can actually help to make caregiving more manageable? A smartphone is like having a mini-computer with you at all times — and the best caregiving apps help manage the many aspects of care that barrage and overwhelm most caregivers on any given day. Caregiving apps can help you maintain and update important information, get appointment and medication reminders, keep a log of activities, coordinate various caregivers, jot down notes from doctors or other care providers, and stay in touch with and pass on updates and photos to family and friends.

The world of caregiving apps is growing, and it needs to. Caregivers need every tool at hand to manage all that caregiving throws at you.

We’ve compiled a list of some of the most impressive and helpful apps for managing a loved one’s care. Disease-specific apps (for those with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, for example) are also available. You may find that a single app doesn’t offer everything you need, so be sure to try a few. Most are free, or quite reasonably priced, and they can help make your caregiving life much easier.


CaringBridge is just that — a bridge that allows you and your loved ones to stay in touch. It’s a perfect app for a family that rallies around a loved one in need of care, and for those who are facing surgeries, rehabilitation, and procedures that go along with conditions such as cancer, heart disease or diabetes. The app offers a space for multiple caregivers and family members to share pertinent information, such as updates, encouragement, and arranging care. There’s a guest book offering a place for journal entries, medical updates, photos, stories, and tributes.

This is a wonderful addition to caregiver apps and unique in that it creates a place for more than managing a loved one’s care — you can uplift, stay in the loop and help each other through a difficult time.

What’s great about CaringBridge:

CaringBridge specializes in keeping loved ones connected. By focusing on this important goal, the app’s designers have created a product that not only passes along information but is also a holding place for good thoughts, encouragement, and photos as well as medical and caregiving updates. These features make CaringBridge a uniquely thoughtful and comprehensive tool.

Get the app:

Lotsa Helping Hands

Lotsa Helping Hands is a caregiving app that helps you create a community of care around your loved one. You can invite family, friends, volunteers, and care aides to join and then manage everything from sitters and errands to appointments and family gatherings using an interactive calendar.

There’s also a section of the app called “Helping Hands,” which serves as a message board and a well-wishes wall where caregivers, family, and friends can leave messages of encouragement for the person receiving care or for someone else in the care circle. This app lets you choose a coordinator and a community member page where you can update contact information, birthdates, and list best times to call. These features make Lotsa Helping Hands a good resource for creating a vibrant care community.

What’s great about Lotsa Helping Hands:

Lotsa Helping Hands has much to offer caregivers and their loved ones. The webpage offers real support, stories from other caregivers, a newsletter and additional features that complement the app.

Get the app:


CareZone is another great, free care-based app. You can keep all of your loved one’s pertinent information on the secured app and invite family and friends to view and participate in his or her care. It has a place for notes and observations, a task list, medication logging (including pharmacy numbers, dosing, prescribing physicians, etc.), a place to upload photos — and you can even send a voice message to up to 100 recipients. That’s one impressive app!

What’s great about CareZone:

For a free app, this covers most of your informational bases. It’s excellent for storing and sharing information – and for knowing that it’s secure. CareZone isn’t just a caregiving app; family members of all ages can use it.

Get the app:


eCare21 provides round-the-clock patient monitoring through wireless and wearable devices (such as a smart watch, Bluetooth, or FitBit device. You can track the wearer’s glucose, heart rate, activity, medication, weight, calorie intake and sleep. You, your loved one, other family members and doctors can access this useful information no matter where they live or work.

eCare will be most helpful for caregivers as they manage their loved one’s schedules and meet their health needs, but it may take several apps or websites to tackle more complex caregiving challenges such as pain management, medication interaction, financial and end-of-life issues.

What’s great about eCare21:

eCare21’s latest technology allows you to monitor your loved one’s care needs without being intrusive. It’s ideal for a working or long distance caregiver and by providing vital health data, which means better and quicker response. Forbes offered a favorable review of eCare21 stating, “The patients’ doctors, loved ones and caregivers can keep an eye on them and provide proactive care, even from hundreds of miles away.”

Get the app:


Any caregiver knows the frustrations and concerns involved in medication management. You have to remember when the medication should be taken, whether or not to take it with food, avoiding double dosage, any side effects to watch out for, and make sure to track the medication for benefits or drawbacks. Medisafe Meds & Pill Reminder can help alleviate some of these concerns with reminders, helpful and practical information, and connecting caregivers, seniors, and the medical community together to provide cohesive care.

While some users noted frustrations with loading several medications at various time intervals, it should also be noted that MediSafe receives high marks for customer support. Each online review concern is addressed by the app’s support team.

What’s great about Medisafe:

Medisafe is unique in that it’s not only a medication reminder but also educates people about their condition and the medicines they’re taking. Medisafe can help to remind, track progress, and will even find coupons and other incentives. Medisafe is designed for users of any age, for caregivers involved in medication monitoring, and is also beneficial for physicians who want to connect with their patients through the Medisafe aApp. Medisafe has been featured on CNBC and in Reader’s Digest.

Get the app:

Elder 411

Elder 411 is a different kind of app that doesn’t focus on caregiver management. Its primary purpose is to offer caregivers more than 500 pieces of advice and elder care tips in 11 areas of care. You’ll find hundreds of bite-sized tips in the areas of safety, housing, hiring caregiving help, adaptive equipment, communication, legal, mobility, letting go, and other key care issues, available right when you need them most. There’s also a search area and a place for keeping notes.

What makes Elder 411 great:

There are not many apps out there that cover caregiving and elder-care topics in audio, visual, and question-and-answer formats. If you’re new to caregiving, this app could help educate you while you’re “on the job.”

Get the app:


POC: Smarter Choice for Oxygen Therapy

Portable Oxygen Concentrator: Smarter Choice for Oxygen Therapy

Portable Oxygen
If you or a loved one is affected by a lung condition, a portable oxygen concentrator is a lightweight, easy-to-use solution for better breathing. Use the information below to compare different solutions for your oxygen therapy needs.


• Purifies air continuously from the atmosphere
• Removes nitrogen to deliver oxygen-rich air
• Delivers purified oxygen via nasal cannula
• Powered by rechargeable battery or any AC or DC power source


• Requires no oxygen refills or heavy tanks
• Designed for stationary, portable, or travel use
• Travels easily in a pack or on wheels
• Needs only minor maintenance

Compare Oxygen Solutions

COPD Symptoms, Signs & Stages

What are the symptoms and stages of COPD?

copd symptoms, copd stages, copd signs, living with copdChronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) affects your lungs, making it difficult to breathe. At the beginning, early signs of COPD may be mild, and may even go unnoticed. But over time, COPD symptoms tend to get worse.

COPD symptoms are slow to develop and vary depending on the stage of the disease. No two people will experience the exact same symptoms, but everyone with COPD will eventually notice that it is more difficult to participate in their everyday activities.

To measure the impact of COPD and assess which stage you’re experiencing, your doctor may give you a COPD assessment test to help diagnose and manage your unique symptoms. The COPD test involves breathing in and out of a machine called a spirometer. Your doctor then compares the results to what is expected from a person with healthy lungs, and measure the results according to various stages.

Stage One COPD Symptoms

In the beginning, mild COPD may present obvious symptoms. People often dismiss a cough or fatigue as a side effect of smoking or advancing age. In the early stage of the disease, your lungs are still functioning at or above 80 percent of normal lung capacity.

Stage Two COPD Symptoms

As the disease advances, the symptoms of COPD become more of an issue. Lungs are functioning between 50 and 80 percent of normal lung capacity. Signs of COPD at this stage usually involve a chronic cough. Coughing is the body’s way of naturally removing mucus from the lungs, but with COPD the urge to cough becomes more persistent. It may be worse in the morning, during exercise or when smoking. You may also wheeze, producing a whistling sound when you breathe as air is forced through obstructions in your airways.

Many people also experience shortness of breath during second stage COPD as airways become inflamed and constricted. This makes it hard to breathe normally, especially when you’re physically active. Even small tasks like bathing or getting dressed in the morning can cause shortness of breath. As a result, oxygen levels in your blood and muscles drop, increasing fatigue. In addition, you may feel tired because your lungs are working overtime to bring in more oxygen and release carbon dioxide.

Stage Three COPD Symptoms

At the third stage, your lungs are only functioning at between 30 and 50 percent of their normal capacity. More severe COPD signs and symptoms include feeling more fatigued and short of breath, and you may suffer frequent exacerbations. Exacerbations are flare-ups where COPD symptoms worsen and last longer, in some cases leading to hospitalization. COPD exacerbations can be caused by infections or air pollution.

Frequent respiratory infections are common with COPD sufferers because your lungs cannot clear themselves of irritants, bacteria and viruses. Many people with stage three COPD battle frequent bouts of bronchitis or pneumonia.

Stage Four or End Stage COPD Symptoms

The fourth stage of COPD is often referred to as end stage. While that sounds daunting, you can live with stage four COPD for years with proper care and a COPD treatment program prescribed by your doctor. Today’s medical and technological advancements can enhance quality of life while living with COPD symptoms.

At stage four, your lungs are functioning at less than 30 percent of their normal capacity. This stage presents the worst signs and symptoms of COPD, with COPD symptoms occurring even when you’re resting. People with end stage COPD may lose weight rapidly as the body uses extra energy and calories to bring in the oxygen it needs. Advanced COPD symptoms include morning headaches due to heightened levels of carbon dioxide in the blood and swollen feet due to the higher levels of stress placed on the heart.

Some symptoms of COPD are more severe and may require emergency medical attention if they last longer or become worse than usual. If your lips or fingernails turn blue, or it becomes difficult to speak or breathe for long periods of time, it could be a sign that the blood contains extremely low levels of oxygen. In addition, if you feel overly confused or have a rapid heartbeat, talk to your doctor as quickly as possible. The information presented here should give you a better understanding of different COPD stages.




Hospice care is for people who can no longer benefit from regular medical treatment and are likely in their final months of life.

Instead of continuing to try curing or delaying the fatal disease or condition, hospice ends curative treatment altogether. Instead, its goal is to control pain and other symptoms and make the patient’s last stretch of life as comfortable as possible. Hospice can result in a significant improvement in the patient’s quality of life, with a focus on her as a person rather than on her disease.

Hospice care can be received at home; someone can also receive this end-of-life care in a hospital, nursing home, or private hospice facility. Which is best depends on a patient’s physical condition, whether the home is suited to providing hospice care, and the resources available in your community.

Hospice care isn’t necessarily continuous, and a patient may switch into and out of it as a medical condition improves or deteriorates. For example, if a patient is in hospice care and goes into remission — a period of relief from the symptoms of an illness — the hospice care can be stopped, only to be resumed again if the symptoms reoccur or the condition gets worse.

What Hospices do

The specific type of care and service hospice provides differs depending on individual needs and preferences, but it may include the following:

It’s important to speak up about things you like and don’t like about the care a patient is receiving, including asking the agency to send (or not send) one aide or another if the patient develops a strong preference. You may even switch to another agency altogether if you or the person you’re caring for isn’t satisfied with the hospice care she’s receiving.

  • Medical care that involves monitoring the patient and administering medication, controlling pain, and providing other medical support
  • Family conferences, often facilitated by nurse or social worker, so family members can stay informed about a loved one’s condition
  • Social services, including counseling and referrals or coordination with other community resources, to help the patient and his or her family
  • Transfers from home care to inpatient care, if needed
  • Spiritual services in keeping with the patient’s religious or spiritual beliefs
  • Help with household chores, meals, and basic personal needs such as getting out of bed, walking, bathing, and dressing
  • Physical, occupational, and speech therapy to help maintain or regain lost functioning
  • Respite care to provide breaks for the usual caregivers
  • Bereavement support to help survivors cope and grieve after a death

How to know it’s time for a Hospice

When your loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness, and when a doctor says that she has six months or fewer to live, she is eligible for hospice care. Find out more about when to call in hospice care.

If your loved one is battling a terminal illness but is expected to live longer than six months, look into palliative care.

Residential Hospice Care

If a patient requires elaborate medical care and monitoring, hospice care may be given in a building dedicated to hospice, or in a hospital or skilled nursing facility — generally in specific rooms or wards decorated with touches such as curtains and couches to lend a more homelike feeling.

In hospice facilities, the usual rules for visiting hours and mealtime schedules are relaxed. Visitors are generally free to come and go as they wish, and meals are often family favorites. Again, the aim is to make the patient feel as comfortable and cared for as possible.

At-home Hospice Care

Most hospice care is provided in the patient’s home. If your loved one’s symptoms are controlled, her care will be delivered by visiting nurses, social workers, aides, and counselors as needed. If her symptoms can’t be controlled or if she experiences severe distress or pain, she may need continuous nursing care, in which hospice nurses provide around-the-clock care at home.

Hospice Caregivers

Hospice care is typically a team effort, combining the talents and training of doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors, home health aides, clergy, therapists, and trained volunteers.

Your hospice agency will assign a case manager to make sure that all care needs are met and to coordinate the comings and goings of all involved, which is especially important if the care is at home.

If you or any family members are able, you can be responsible for much of the hands-on care, such as administering medicines and changing dressings. If you or family members aren’t equipped to do this, hospice workers may help secure other caregivers to take over or contribute to the work.

Hospice Costs

Hospice care costs less than most other types of end-of-life care because it usually involves less technical equipment and fewer medical procedures; the patient is most often cared for at home instead of in a hospital; patients need only pay for the services they require; and there’s no charge for care and services that family members, friends, or volunteers can provide.

Medicare, Medicaid or Medi-Cal, and some forms of private insurance cover nearly all costs of hospice care. And many hospice services offer care free or based on a sliding scale to those with low incomes. A typical range for cost paid out of pocket is about $150 per day for care at home to $650 daily for constant care in a facility. Get more information about hospice care that is covered by Medicare.

Hospice Plan of Care

During an initial orientation meeting, hospice workers meet with you, the patient, and interested family members to assess the plan of care.

If you’ll be providing care at home, the orientation workers will evaluate whether the place needs to be equipped with any special gear, such as an elevating hospital bed, a pad to help prevent bedsores, protective coverings for the floor, or ramps for a wheelchair. They may also investigate details ranging from the neighbors to nearby barking dogs to the number of steps in the patient’s house.

There’s usually a flurry of activity when the hospice agency first gets involved, with various hospice staff visiting the patient and assessing her needs. Then a regular routine is established, with one or more aides visiting on a schedule. This schedule changes as the patient’s needs change.

A patient’s need for hospice is evaluated after 90 days to determine if it’s still appropriate. It’s evaluated again at the end of another 90 days and can be continued in 60-day segments after that. Although intended only for a six-month period, hospice often lasts longer than that because many people live longer than the original six-month prognosis.

How to find Hospice Care

If your loved one and her doctor agree that hospice is the right choice, you can help her choose a hospice agency. Ask your loved one’s doctor for recommendations; you can also ask for advice from hospital discharge planners or your loved one’s assisted living community or nursing home. Be sure to look up all your options in our Hospice Directory so you can learn more details and read any reviews from other families.

Once your loved one chooses a hospice agency, she must formally enroll in it. The agency handles all the paperwork. If your loved one isn’t physically or mentally able to give consent, the person who holds power of attorney will need to enroll her.

Be sure that your hospice agency is Medicare certified; Medicare is the primary source of reimbursement for hospice care. In addition, look to see whether the hospice is “Joint Commission Certified,” which means it has met a higher standard set by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). Hospices voluntarily submit to receive this certification; when they receive it, you can rest assured they are truly excellent.

Find Hospices near you:


Grief Support

5 Simple Ways to Help Someone Who’s Grieving
curious jack russel

Feeling helpless about how to help a friend or family member who’s mourning a loss? Small acts speak volumes. Here’s how to help someone who’s grieving, in simple, thoughtful ways:

  1. Listen.

    There’s no need to rush in with words of comfort, especially if they don’t come naturally.

    Better: Simply make a space, with your companionable silence, for the bereaved to express herself if she chooses.

  2. Don’t hurry an emotional moment.

    A common impulse when someone gets choked up with grief is to change the subject and try to shift to safer emotional ground.

    Better: See the moment through. Pause. Offer a hug. Share your own comment about the person who died, if it feels appropriate.

  3. Talk about the person who died.

    Don’t avoid mentioning the person who died; he or she is still very much in the minds of grieving family and friends.

    Better: Reminisce or mention how the person inspired you or made you happy. When they naturally come to mind, don’t be afraid to say things like, “Wouldn’t Susan have loved these flowers?” or, “I can just hear Bill saying, ‘It’s a great day for golf!'”

  4. Stick to honesty over platitudes.

    There’s no “right” thing to say to a survivor, but there are plenty of wrong things, like these 10 things never to say to someone who’s grieving.

    Better: If you’re tongue-tied, acknowledge it. Try, “I don’t know what to say. Please know I’m thinking about you.” Or, “I can’t imagine what each day is like for you now. I’m here for you.”

  5. Don’t ask how you can help; just do.

    Asking even simple questions (“Do you want me to pick up milk for you?” “What do you like to eat?”) puts an added burden on the bereaved. Especially soon after a death, someone who’s mourning may be physically and emotionally incapable of such decision making.

    Better: Simply step in when you see a need: Furnish a meal (ready to eat or freeze, in disposable containers that don’t need to be returned), organize regular meal delivery, pick up milk or eggs or fresh bread when you’re at the store and leave them in a cooler on the porch, mow the lawn, take care of the car pool, stop by to walk and feed the dog. Think of essential tasks that can be handled unobtrusively.

What Causes Urinary Tract Infections Among Older Adults?

Expert Answers

Dr. Leslie Kernisan is the author of a popular blog and podcast at She is also a clinical instructor in the University of California, San Francisco, Division of Geriatrics.

Older adults are prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs) because they tend to experience certain problems that set people up for this kind of infection. Experts estimate that 25 to 30 percent of all infections in older adults are UTIs.

The root cause of urinary tract infections is usually bacteria growing in the urine within the bladder; unlike the bowels, the bladder is supposed to be a sterile environment. Bacteria grow in the urine of the bladder when one has difficulty emptying the bladder — a common scenario for older adults. If the bladder isn’t emptied completely, urine remains there longer than normal and bacteria have more time to start growing.

Other reasons that older adults develop urinary tract infections include the following:

  • They tend to have generally impaired immunity, especially if they’re frail.
  • Older men are more likely to have incomplete bladder draining due to prostate problems.
  • Postmenopausal women are more likely to have incomplete bladder draining due to bladder prolapse (when the bladder slips out of place) or cystocele (bulging of the bladder into the vagina).
  • Older people may retain urine due to anticholinergic medications (antihistamines, tricyclic antidepressants).
  • They’re more likely to have bladder or bowel incontinence, which can lead to increased chances of contamination of the urethra (the canal through which urine exits the bladder).
  • They’re more apt to get an indwelling catheter while hospitalized or in a nursing home.

It’s important to know the signs of urinary tract infection in an older person and get prompt medical care.

Note: Both older men and older women are prone to UTIs. This is different among younger and middle-aged adults: in that age group, UTIs are much more common in women. That’s because the pathway into a woman’s bladder (the urethra) is short, so it’s relatively easy for bacteria to get to the bladder. Both sexual activity and use of spermicides have also been linked to UTIs.

How to Read Emotional Responses in Someone With Severe Dementia

How to Read Emotional Responses in Someone With Severe Dementia


PBS Documentary “Alzheimer’s: Every Minute Counts” will air Jan.25, 2017, at 10 p.m. ET.

 It highlights the significant and growing burden of Alzheimer’s disease in this country. 

Click to Watch Video

3 Benefits of Being Outdoors — at Any Stage of Life or Health

Fresh air and sunshine benefit people at every stage of life. Those with dementia, even severe-stage disease, are no exception. Try to get your loved outside for a few minutes each day. Even someone who’s bedbound can usually be transferred to a chair and wheeled to a porch or patio. If you can’t manage this yourself, is there a neighbor who could help, or a paid aide who can add it to his or her daily roster of duties? In winter or bad weather, try sitting your loved one in front of a window.

Not convinced it’s worth the effort? Consider these three benefits of “vitamin O” — ones that caregivers can use as much as their loved ones.

1. Being outside boosts mood. Even though a loved one can’t necessarily communicate pleasure, the capacity for pleasure remains. At its most basic, there’s innate pleasure in the change of scenery going from inside to out, in seeing greenery, feeling the warm sun or a light breeze, smelling fresh-cut grass. For people with dementia, who continue to absorb and reflect the prevailing emotional vibe even when they can’t remember specific experiences, the mood-boosting effect of positive experiences can last for hours or days.

2. Being outside lowers stress. Biologically, being in nature has been found to lower blood pressure and pulse rate and to reduce the amount of cortisol, a stress hormone.

3. Being outside boosts immunity. Studies have shown that being outdoors boosts white blood cell counts, and that this effect can last for days.