ElderCare Beacon Newsletter

ElderCare Beacon
February 1, 2000 Vol. 3, No. 2

ElderCare Online – The Internet Community of Elder Caregivers http://www.ec-online.net
"Tell me why – Show me how – Hold my hand" (sm)

Dear Friends,

I hope all of you are keeping your spirits up as we dig out from several inches of snow and ice. This is the coldest time of year and I perk myself up by envisioning the first days of Spring (7 weeks from now). I keep in mind the positive aspects of the Seasons – the appreciation for the promise of a thaw in Spring after the freeze of Winter. On a practical note – I am reprinting the article on hypothermia and the elderly as an alert to caregivers.

This month I am very pleased to announce the launch of the Caregiver Support Network. The Network has been a work-in-progress ever since I started the website over two years ago. "I" has become "we." We now have a network of experienced caregivers who have volunteered to mentor other caregivers, answer e-mailed questions, host online support groups and stimulate discussion on the ElderCare Forum message board. Please visit the Caregiver Support Network to read more about us and view our personal webpages.

Kind Regards,
Rich O’Boyle
ElderCare Online


Announcing the Caregiver Support Network
New Skill Builders: Overcoming Isolation
Caregiving Tip: The Power of Touch
Promotion from drugstore.com
Thank You For Helping With Our Survey
WebTV: Do You See What I See?
Article: Preventing Hypothermia
Empowering Caregivers Newsletter
February Chat Schedule
Subscription Information



After several months of networking, programming and planning, ElderCare Online’s Caregiver Support Network ™ is ready for it’s beta release.

The Caregiver Support Network is a resource for caregivers who are having trouble finding the emotional, social and spiritual support that they need to meet the challenges of caregiving. The Caregiver Support Network aims to direct family caregivers to online resources where they can chat and correspond with their peers and experts.

Visit the Caregiver Support Network at http://www.ec-online.net/community/activists/can.htm.

At the heart of the Caregiver Support Network is a group of dedicated caregivers. Each of these caregivers generously gives their time to answer e-mailed questions, host support groups and mentor newbies. Take a look at the personal profiles of our activists Jan Allen, Jae E. Lawrence, Rich O’Boyle, Mary Waggoner and Dorothy Womack.

The Caregiver Support Network serves as the foundation of a larger effort to help caregivers find the social, emotional and spiritual support they need. Please stay posted for regular updates and network enhancements. If you are an experienced caregiver and would like to become a mentor and community activist, please fill out this brief form http://www.ec-online.net/forms/formactivist.htm.

NEW SKILL BUILDERS: Overcoming Isolation

ElderCare Online is dedicated to bringing you educational materials that help you to enhance quality of life for your elderly loved one. We have begun working closely with RSI, a leader in the development of health assessments, care plans and training materials for frail elderly people and their caregivers.

RSI pioneered the idea of care management for the "whole person" for elderly residents of assisted living facilities. In the course of years of research, they developed a comprehensive training and care management program that helps the elderly person stay active physically and mentally.

The Caring Community Program™ helps residents of assisted living facilities to increase independence and self-care abilities; incorporates health living principles into their lifestyle; improves psychosocial health; and enhances quality of life. The program deals with communication skills, psychosocial issues and chronic conditions.

Together, ElderCare Online and RSI have tailored key components of the Caring Community Program to meet the needs of family caregivers. Over the next several months, we will be presenting a new series of Skill Builders that focus on how caregivers – at home and in residential facilities – can learn more about chronic conditions and improve quality of care to their loved ones.

"Overcoming Isolation" is an essential Skill Builder for the caregiver concerned with the psychosocial well-being of their loved one. This guide provide researched background material on the condition, issues that caregivers face and practical ideas on how to overcome the debilitating consequences of the condition. You can access our Skill Builders at http://www.ec-online.net/Knowledge/SB/SkillBuilders.htm.

Please let us know about the quality and usability of this new series of Skill Builders by e-mailing us at eldercareonline@hotmail.com.

CAREGIVING TIP: The Power of Touch

So often we rely on the "miracles of modern medicine" and technological solutions to the stresses of aging and physical illness (and even spiritual/emotional losses). Most religions have traditions of the healing and curative powers of touch. These traditions can be interpreted as myth or fact. Yet even modern science recognizes the importance of human interaction and physical contact.

This caregiving tip is not a "mystic crystal revelation," but rather the experiences of a person who is admittedly analytical and intellectual rather than emotional. Please read on.

I recently had to have a minor dental procedure without novocaine. The procedure took longer than expected. End result – a lot of squirming in the chair. But one small thing really made a big difference. As the dentist worked, the hygienist gently rested her hand on my shoulder. I can’t tell you how much that touch soothed me and distracted me from the probing and grinding.

That anecdote is mundane and minor in the whole scheme of things. I have seen the same dynamic ten years ago as I watched a good friend of mine die of AIDS. As David’s disease progressed he suffered from terribly disfiguring Kaposi’s sarcoma. People avoided him on the street and averted their eyes. In the days before he died, I made a conscious effort to face him as I spoke and rest my hand on his knee or shoulder when we sat together. At times this was not easy for me.

I did not – could not – cure his disease. But I know that I made a difference in his frame of mind, especially given his own perception of himself as "untouchable."

The elderly gravitate to this simple, but powerful concept. In the time when I volunteered as a Long-Term Care Ombudsman, I frequently found myself sitting and talking with nursing home residents. THEY reached out to touch me – grasping my arm (sometimes bone-crunching!), tapping my knee and even kissing my hand. People in residential settings are not solely "patients" – they need attention and affection more than ever before.

Caregivers have a great opportunity to enhance the well-being of their loved ones by being more conscious of the power that they hold in the fingertips. I have included a few additional examples:

  • Encourage family members and guests to face their elder when talking to him/her. This is an essential skill for hearing-impaired or demented elderly.
  • Gently massage some lightly scented lotion on your loved one’s hands and feet. Yeah, old people’s feet get gnarly, because/so they don’t get touched often. Have a podiatrist take care of nail clipping and necessary medical procedures.
  • Whenever you sit or stand with your loved one, retain physical contact by holding his/her hand or arm. This also can help to orient a demented or sight-impaired person.
  • Avoid signs and actions that show your discomfort or repulsion to your loved one’s ailment(s). People are very conscious of the way that other people perceive them and take on negative frames of mind.

This caregiving tip is posted to the ElderCare Forum message board on the website at http://www.ec-online.net/Community/communit.htm . Please share other personal reflections or tips with other caregivers.


Starting in February, drugstore.com is offering ElderCare Online members "Fabulous Freebies," special gifts worth up to $25. During the promotion, each customer order (new and repeat) will include one of the four following "freebies": a luxurious spa gift set, an Amazon.com gift certificate, free movie passes, or a three-month trial subscription to Health Magazine. This offer will run from Jan 31, 2000 to March 3, 2000 and is valid once per household.


Please copy this address exactly to ensure that you receive the special promotion.


Thank you all for responding to first ElderCare Online Improvement Survey. I received so much feedback and information that it may take some time to review it all. However, some things are very clear – most of you continue to look for practical articles on Alzheimer’s Disease and home care topics. I am working with our community activists and mentors, freelance writers and experienced caregivers to get more and more of this information to you. A sizeable group of people asked for legal and financial information. I am talking with experts in those fields to get actionable information to you as well.

In appreciation for your time and feedback, I have selected seven respondents to receive complimentary caregiving books. Thank you all again.

  • Maria K., Princeton, N.J.
  • Patricia H., Long Beach, Calif.
  • Marjorie G., Bethlehem, Conn.
  • Diane Conley, Fleming, Ohio
  • Pat B., Minneapolis, Minn.
  • LaTonya P., Sanger, Calif.
  • Diane G., Reno, Nev.

WEBTV: Do You See What I See?

One community member recently wrote to tell me that she was unable to access the recent survey on zoomerang.com. I have also noticed discussion that some Java applets do not load properly on WebTV and other systems.

I would like to ask for a few volunteers to surf through the site and note any aberrations and quirks that appear to arise when the user is on WebTV. Just send the URLs of the page(s) where you see problems and a description of the problem(s) to eldercareonline@hotmail.com.

I will be working with some technical people over the next few months to upgrade the site’s infrastructure and will make sure that it is "WebTV-compliant."


As we brave the cold of the Winter months, it is a good idea to take a look at your elder’s home to make sure that s/he is prepared for colder days and nights. Many aging people complain about "being cold" all the time, but this may be a sign that they are in danger of "hypothermia," or dangerously low body temperature. If your elder is not eating well (malnourished), is diabetic or lives in substandard housing, s/he may be at risk for hypothermia.

Hypothermia can be exacerbated in the elderly due to changes in the way aging people perceive cold, skin diseases, inactivity or immobility, medications (such as antidepressants or benzodiazepams) or alcohol abuse. Low body temperature can lead to slowed speech and reflexes; high blood pressure; or depressed breathing. Some of these symptoms are often hard to detect in impaired elderly people, so be alert to these risk factors.

What should you do when it gets too cold?:

  • Make sure your elder has warm socks (with anti-skid soles), gloves and a hat (even indoors);
  • Ask a local handyman to weatherproof windows and doors to eliminate drafts;
  • Identify any symptoms and make sure your elder’s doctors are aware of risks;
  • Buy a small electric or ceramic space heater;
  • Encourage your elder to stay upstairs in a multi-story home since warm air rises;
  • Place a reliable thermometer in your elder’s room – don’t let the temperature fall below a comfortable level, and never below 65 degrees F.;
  • Encourage exercise, even if it is just walking around the house; and
  • Make sure your elder is eating properly since inadequate caloric intake is a key risk factor

Even mild hypothermia is considered a serious condition in an elderly person and might require hospitalization. If you suspect that your elder is experiencing hypothermia, call for emergency help and slowly rewarm your elder with blankets, socks, hat and gloves. Caution: Rapidly rewarming an elderly person can be deadly. Please refer to the Merck Manual of Geriatrics in ElderCare Online’s Medical Research Assistant at http://www.ec-online.net/Assistants/medresassistant.htm for more information on medical care for aging people.



Empowering Caregivers is an affiliate site featuring the Empowering Caregivers Newsletter for all Caregivers. The newsletter features emotional and spiritual supportive articles, The Healing circle, inspiration and a bit of humor. Click on the link to subscribe. Subscribe to Empowering Caregivers Newsletter http://www.care-givers.com/subscribe.html


This month, ElderCare Online relaunches its series of chats with two features: ElderCare Beacon and Passage into Paradise.

Tuesday, February 1: 1:00PM-2:00PM EST "Predicting Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Loss" – Guest Host Dr. Mary Sano (Columbia University) will answer questions and lead a discussion on the latest research and findings in the area of dementia research, including genetics, family history, diagnoses, prognoses, what's new in treatment and trials, and other related topics.

Wednesday, February 2: No Chat Scheduled.

Wednesday, February 9: 9:00PM-11:00PM "ElderCare Beacon" – Host Rich O’Boyle will be online to help steer you to resources and information. The sessions often focus on dementia care, but please bring your questions on legal & financial matters, care management and local resources.

Wednesday, February 16: 9:00PM-11:00PM "Passage Into Paradise" – Host Dorothy Womack leads a supportive discussion group focusing on caring for your loved one with late stage Alzheimer’s Disease. She is an experienced caregiver and a Community Activist and Mentor with the Caregiver Support Network.

Wednesday, February 23: 9:00PM-11:00PM "ElderCare Beacon" – Host Rich O’Boyle will be online to help steer you to resources and information. The sessions often focus on dementia care, but please bring your questions on legal & financial matters, care management and local resources.

Wednesday, March 1: 9:00PM-11:00PM "Passage Into Paradise" – Host Dorothy Womack leads a supportive discussion group focusing on caring for your loved one with late stage Alzheimer’s Disease. She is an experienced caregiver and a Community Activist and Mentor with the Caregiver Support Network.

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