Every senior deserves a good meal…and a caring ear.

congregate dining_0 By Kevin Smith

When our company’s caregivers are out in the community helping elderly and disabled clients remain in their homes, something wonderful happens.

They help us see the bigger picture. And they support our agency’s evolving role in helping those who are less fortunate.

For the past 24 years, Best of Care’s home care aides have served dinner to elderly clients who live at the Silva House congregate home in Stoughton. Some of this community’s residents are Best of Care clients. Some are not.

Regardless, we have worked hand in hand with Old Colony Elder Services, which manages Silva House, to make sure elderly residents are getting a balanced meal every day. Old Colony Elder Services, a federally-designated Area Agency on Aging, is one of the six elder care service agencies that Best of Care works with in Greater Boston, the South Shore and Cape Cod and the islands.

Best of Care employees receive training from Old Colony to properly handle and serve the meals that a food service company delivers to residents who sign up for the program. They adhere to all food safety rules, including making sure that food is the proper temperature before it’s served.

A few years ago, Old Colony asked Best of Care to expand our support to another congregate home, Ann Ward House in Brockton, by serving lunch to its senior residents.

Julie Howard, Best of Care’s dedicated scheduling coordinator, has been overseeing our work with Old Colony for 20 years.

“What we provide to the seniors at Silva House and Ann Ward House is more than food,” Julie says. “When the seniors are eating their meals, our caregivers have time to socialize with them and ask them how they are feeling. By interacting at lunch and dinner, we not only give them someone to talk with, we are another set of eyes and ears.

“We’re able to determine if they’re having any problems with their health, or in getting around their apartments,” Julie explains. It helps us pinpoint issues and work with Old Colony to address these seniors’ needs.”

One of our caregiving team members, Diane Spaulding, says it best: “We’ve worked with Old Colony Elder Services to keep this program going, through good times and bad, because caring for seniors in these homes is important to us.”

To Julie and Diane, thank you for helping us provide meals, kind words and caring ears to seniors in our community.


How Joy Oakes delivers personalized home care

Joy Oakes In our last post, retired Brigham and Woman’s Hospital nurse Joy Oakes — now a home health aide and homemaker-companion for Best of Care — shared the ways she supports elderly clients in Quincy, Weymouth and Hingham, Massachusetts.

Always sensitive to their state of health and mind, Joy adapts how she supports each client’s daily activities while providing life-affirming companionship.

“Humans need other humans. Sometimes all we really need is to see and interact with another person – it’s in our nature,” Joy believes. “I help many clients feel less alone and less lonely.”

For clients who are of sound mind but have chronic medical issues, Joy’s nursing background helps her pinpoint problems and advocate for higher-level support. One client, who had a compromised immune system and a growing infection, began falling frequently in his apartment. Joy worked with Best of Care’s social worker and care coordinator, filing paperwork with the local elder services agency to arrange for additional visit time before he was admitted to the hospital. “After he leaves the hospital, we’re advocating for his move to a seniors apartment where he can get the kind of help he will need,” Joy explains.

In addition to her home visits, Joy teaches CPR to her fellow Best of Care home health aides every few months in Raynham and Quincy: “I enjoy this aspect of my job because it allows me meet Best of Care’s entire team of caregivers.”

Joy balances her professional life with looking after her 90-year-old father a few evenings a week: “I love my dad, and know how happy he is to remain in his own home. He is a wonderful guy, but if you don’t cook for him, he won’t eat!” she laughs.

While it doesn’t seem she would have much free time left, Joy’s also an accomplished trumpet player who loves playing with local jazz groups, marching and concert bands on the weekends.

“Sometimes I tell clients about my music and will bring them jazz CDs to play, which they really seem to enjoy,” she smiles.

One of Joy’s clients, who has been widowed for 20 years, enjoys doing things for himself and goes out to dinner occasionally with friends.

“While I cook for him and freeze the dinners to eat later, what he really wanted was another cribbage partner!” Joy said. “So he taught me cribbage and we play together during part of my visits. Playing the game improves his memory and recall. But I eventually got good enough that I now win some games: I can’t let him win them all!”

To continue expanding his activities, Joy’s encouraging this client to listen to books on CDs from the local library. “I’ve volunteered to pick up and return the CDs for him. And I think one of these days he’ll take me up on my offer!”


Does your elderly loved one live in Greater Boston, the South Shore, Cape Cod or the Vineyard? Want to find out how personalized in-home care can help him or her and give you peace of mind? Joy Oakes is one of more than 300 professional, licensed home health aides and homemaker companions at Best of Care that are ready to serve your family. Visit bestofcareinc.com or contact our offices in Quincy, Raynham, Dennis or Oak Bluffs, Mass.


What is personalized home care? Ask Joy Oakes.

Joy Oakes can’t sit down for more than an hour.

Joy OakesAfter 32 years as a medical-surgical, NICU and postpartum nurse at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, her second career as a home health aide and homemaker-companion is keeping her busier than ever. And that’s exactly how she likes it.

“After I retired from nursing, I wanted to stay productive. I had the opportunity to work in administration and billing,” Joy explains. “A friend of mine was working for Best of Care and recommended that I explore a position there. I’m really a caregiver at heart, and I put 110 percent into everything I do. So the transition has been great.”

For the past three years Joy has paid twice-or-thrice weekly visits to 10 of Best of Care’s elderly clients in Quincy, Weymouth and Hingham, Massachusetts. Depending on their needs, she may provide personal care, housekeeping, laundry, errands, cooking and perhaps most important, companionship.

“Many of my clients’ children are nearby and are involved in their care. Some live far away. But they have to make a living, so obviously they can’t help all the time. As a caregiver, I ‘fill in the blanks’ with what our clients need,” Joy explains.

Observation, empathy and action help Joy tailor what she does — and how she does it — for each client. The process begins with getting to know what they enjoy doing, what makes them happy, sad or angry, the subtle but important ways in which they express their needs. It also means keeping track of changes in their health, and their ability to manage basic activities of daily living, so that Best of Care’s nursing team can address emerging issues.

Joy’s relationship with one client, who has Alzheimer’s disease, means paying attention to non-verbal cues and building on the positive. “When I offer meals, I’ve come to understand her motions and sounds to articulate when she is full. I am always trying to do new things with her: playing new music, reading, watching a TV program, which gives me a sense of how she is feeling that day. And by engaging with her, I am seeing some improvement in how she relates to me and others.”

One of Joy’s clients was a hoarder; his house had become dangerously cluttered. Rather than immediately throwing away his stuff, however, Joy took a gradual approach. “It was really important to build his trust, so I made sure that he was able to see and give his OK on every item we organized or disposed of, no matter how unnecessary the object seemed,” Joy said. Joy also helped the client clean, cook and shop, supporting his new, less cluttered lifestyle.

When a 90-year-old client, who lived by herself in an apartment building, could no longer read the push button dial numbers on her phone, Joy found a solution. “This little lady had a lot of life in her, she just couldn’t see. Her only relatives, a niece and her husband, live in another state. And if you’re old and alone, and you can’t see the numbers on your phone to call for help, that’s a big problem,” Joy said. “While at the bargain basement store, I picked up a phone with huge numbers on the dial, and this client reimbursed me. I’m pretty handy, so I installed a new jack and wired the phone in her kitchen. It helped her immensely.”

Find out how Joy is helping more Best of Care clients in our next blog post!

Does your elderly loved one live in Greater Boston, the South Shore, Cape Cod or the Vineyard? Want to find out how personalized in-home care can help him or her and give you peace of mind? Joy Oakes is one of more than 300 professional, licensed home health aides and homemaker companions at Best of Care that are ready to serve your family. Visit bestofcareinc.com or contact our offices in Quincy, Raynham, Dennis or Oak Bluffs, Mass.


Are you the “ground meat” in your family’s generational sandwich? How to reduce your stress.

By Kevin Smith

Are you simultaneously raising children (or tending to grandchildren), working a part or full time job and looking after your aging parents?

Are you in a constant state of overwhelm?

Welcome to the Sandwich Generation.

According to elder care authority Carol Abaya, “more than 25 percent of American families are now involved in some form of parent/elder care. So if you’re among them, know that you are not alone. You now have a new role on the stage of life for which you can never rehearse.”

If one or both of your parents have terminal or chronic conditions, or if they need significant help with daily living activities in their 60s or 70s, your role as The Sandwich Keeper may begin in your 40s or 50s.

Because medical technology and preventive knowledge have advanced, it’s now more likely that your parents or elder loved ones will begin needing help in their 80s or even 90s. In turn, your role as family caregiver may begin in your mid-to-late 60s and extend well into the time that you begin to rely on others.

Dr. Joanne Schwartzberg, Director, Department of Geriatric Health, American Medical Association, notes that society is faced with the first large­-numbered generation that is living to be quite elderly. Therefore, there is no peer model with which to fall back on, to “tell” Sandwich Generationers and the elderly how to handle this new situation and relationship changes.[1]

For many, looking after our elderly parents is one way to ‘give back’ for the sacrifices they made to raise us. That’s a wonderful, perfectly natural desire.

But what happens when one or both parents’ mobility or health take a sudden downturn, and your role in “looking after” them transitions to more than one visit per day, punctuated by numerous calls to make sure nothing has happened when you are not there? What happens when your employer, frustrated at your frequent absences to tend to mom or dad, lays you off, slashing your family’s much-needed income and snuffing out your hard-won career goals?

Our medical model for geriatric care (and by extension, home care) has changed. Says one geriatric specialist interviewed by Abaya:

“The evolving elder care model is no longer bio­medical. It is biomedical, psychological, social, environmental and spiritual. Some factors in acute illness are biomedical. But today age related losses and other non­medical elements impact elder health.

For example, arthritis may make a person’s hands stiff, and this impacts the ability to do daily chores. A spouse dies, and the survivor may be depressed and not eat properly. Children may not call, and the elder feels left alone. So we have to look at and deal with the whole family.”[2] That includes finding ways to support family caregivers, helping them reduce their physical and emotional stress by reducing the amount of direct caregiving they are responsible for.

Say your elderly loved one is having problems navigating around their home. They’ve had several falls, but thank goodness, no bones broken…yet. Or dad’s had a minor stroke, but doesn’t want care from anyone but mom, who is now walking with great difficulty.

Your parents may tell you they don’t want help from an outsider. But it’s your role to keep them safe. And it’s also your right to keep your own life and family intact. Do not back down when you know they need assistance. Overtime, they will see how it makes their life easier. Also, be careful not to take away tasks or activities they can still do. Otherwise depression can set in and they will feel their life is useless.

For many Sandwich Generation caregivers, the way out of escalating stress, guilt and exhaustion is to take a team approach.

  • Gather your brothers, sisters and all involved in mom and dad’s care together.
  • Agree that their care must move to a higher level.
  • Work with your parents’ primary doctor, or seek referrals to find a geriatric specialist that can make an assessment of your loved one’s needs.
  • Contact a home care organization that can provide an assessment of your loved one’s living environment and their ability to perform the ADLs, or activities of daily living.
  • You must also evaluate your elder loved ones’ IADLs (incidental ADLs). These include their ability to drive, shop, cook, clean, do laundry, handle finances and take their medicine properly.[3]
  • If you have retained the services of an agency, make sure they notice conditions that have changed over time in order to make adjustments to the support they receive in their activities of daily living. One example: Your mother’s macular degeneration prevents her from replacing the batteries in her hearing aid and/or ability to choose the right medication.
  • In coordination with your parents’ physician, the home care organization you select can develop a plan of care. The plan can be as simple as having a professional home aide preparing meals, shopping or doing laundry, taking your loved one out on errands or to visit friends.
  • The plan of care may also include scheduling daily visits from a trained, certified home health aide who will help your loved one bathe and dress, eat nutritious meals, and enjoy their favorite activities: playing cards, reading, watching a favorite TV program.
  • Finally, ease the transition: Bring in the home care organization’s nurse and home care givers to meet and get to know your parents. Set up a number of trial visits before going full-bore into more frequent visits.
  • If a loved one has to visit one or more doctors or medical professionals due to long-term heart, sight, hearing, etc. you and/or siblings should accompany her or him to the doctor’s to directly hear their medical assessment at least once a year.

As Sandwich Generationers navigate the ups and downs of caring for their elders, they’re setting new trends. They are rightly demanding a high level of service from those they trust to care for their elders. They expect to fully participate in the process. And they’re shaping (for the better) how our elders – who will eventually be them – are cared for in our society.

Kevin Smith is president and COO, Best of Care, Inc. which serves Greater Boston, South Shore and Cape Cod communities with offices in Quincy, Raynham and Dennis, Mass. Best of Care’s concierge-level services include personal care services, homemakers and companions, hospice care, private nursing, nursing care management and specialty services as they relate to dementia, psychiatric and acquired brain injury care. Best of Care Inc. was named a 2014 Family Business of the Year finalist by the Family Business Association of Massachusetts. Smith is an Executive Committee member of the Massachusetts Council for Home Care Aides.

Visit bestofcareinc.com, connect with Kevin Smith at kevin@bestofcare.com or call (617) 773-5800 x 17.  Follow Best of Care on Twitter @BestofCare and ‘like’ us on Facebook at facebook.com/BestofCare.

[1] The Changing Role of Health Care Professionals, by Carol Abaya, M.A.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Maintaining Elder Independence, by Carol Abaya, M.A.


Succeeding at Succession: What it Takes to Grow a Family Business

By Kevin Smith

What do family businesses need to know as the founding generation retires and the next FBA Panel Discussiongeneration takes the wheel?

Two weeks ago I joined Ray Belanger, owner of Bay Copy and Leo Vercollone, president of VERC Enterprises, to talk about this very subject in a seminar titled “Succeeding at Succession: a Generational Look at Business” in Rockland, Mass.

Presented by the Family Business Association of Massachusetts the discussion was moderated by Bill Riley, CPA, Clark Snow & Riley LLP and Meg McIsaac, President & CEO, Holbrook Cooperative Bank.

The four elements I highlight below are critical to how Best of Care is successfully passing the leadership torch, while continually learning, adapting and expanding the ways we serve our home care clients.

Kevin Smith speaking at the FBA seminarHave a vision. In early 2013, I gave a talk during the New England Home Care Conference about the market and regulatory dynamics that will, over the next five years, make or break home care agencies. I also talked about how Best of Care is actively addressing these challenges. During that conference, my father Stephen Smith (founder of Best of Care) and I made it clear that Best of Care was looking to acquire other agencies and expand our geographic footprint. The message we delivered together confirmed for the conference’s attendees that Best of Care would continue to dynamically grow after my father retires. It also led to our acquisition of Boston-based Independence Health Care in August 2013, and our acquisition of Westwood-based Access Home Care in 2014.

Innovate. Stephen talks about how I reenergized and reinvigorated his approach to work when I came on board. I came into the business with a fresh perspective in that I did not know much about the industry or the agency. As a result, Stephen and I were able to begin developing some creative ideas about how we could grow our company.

Focus.  Early in my career at Best of Care, I was managing all facets of the business out of fear that somebody else would make a mistake. What I found is that hiring and/or promoting people allowed me to add a layer of professional management that would free up my time to focus on long-term goals and keep abreast of industry trends. By adding key staff to our management team who are great at their jobs, I am now able to concentrate on the big picture.

Hire smart. Be flexible. Encourage learning. The family business panelists who joined me at the seminar are also focused on hiring talented individuals who are passionate about their companies’ success. I told the audience that a few of our more recent hires actually said to me during the interview process that they were attracted to the idea of working for a family business after having worked in more rigid, corporate environments. While some family businesses may feel that family members should be the only decision makers, I believe that it’s important to hire young and ambitious staff and give them the opportunity to make (and own) their decisions. It’s important to allow key members of your organization the opportunity to make mistakes, identify lessons learned from failures, and use these experiences to make the company even stronger.

Make the leadership shift internally before announcing changes externally. While I became president and chief operating officer of Best of Care in 2013, the shift in leadership between Stephen and me had been taking place for more than a year. By presenting at regional and national conferences, acquiring another agency, and expanding our geographic reach, I was prepared to handle new responsibilities. As a result, when my title formally changed, I was not overwhelmed. Looking back, this shift in leadership was pivotal both for Best of Care and for my family. My father is very proud of how we managed the transition. And I am proud that he trusts both my judgment and my leadership style.

Over the past four years we have stayed true to my father’s belief that all our clients deserve personalized attention. My job going forward? To ensure we remain true to Best of Care’s concierge approach to home care as we continue to grow on mainland Massachusetts and on the Cape.

Do you own a family owned business? What are your biggest challenges? Successes? We’d love to hear from you. And if you operate in Massachusetts, reach out to the Family Business Association, which can help you connect, get support and learn from family business peers.

Kevin Smith is president and COO, Best of Care, Inc. which serves Greater Boston, South Shore and Cape Cod communities with offices in Quincy, Raynham and Dennis, Mass. Best of Care’s concierge-level services include personal care services, homemakers and companions, hospice care, private nursing, nursing care management and specialty services as they relate to dementia, psychiatric and acquired brain injury care. Best of Care Inc. was named a 2014 Family Business of the Year finalist by the Family Business Association of Massachusetts. Smith is an Executive Committee member of the Massachusetts Council for Home Care Aides.

Visit bestofcareinc.com, connect with Kevin Smith at kevin@bestofcare.com or call (617) 773-5800 x 17.  Follow Best of Care on Twitter @BestofCare and ‘like’ us on Facebook at facebook.com/BestofCare.


Recruiting, Training and Working with Top Caregivers

A Q&A with Annie Grealish, Best of Care’s Human Resources Director

Annie Grealish has a knack for spotting talented home caregivers. After working for many Annie Grealish HR Director at Best of Care years as a caregiver herself, she joined Best of Care Inc. two years ago as its human resources director, working from the company’s Raynham office.

Q: How did you get into the home care field?

Before joining the Best Of Care team, I spent eight years as a caregiver, caring for the elderly in the Boston area. Although I have a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Forensic Psychology, my years as a caregiver really aided in changing my career direction to geriatric care.

Q: What was the most challenging part of making the shift from caregiver to HR Director?

The most challenging aspect was to acclimate myself to the business side of caregiving.  After dedicating years on the personal side, working in client’s homes and providing direct care, I’ve transitioned into a completely new role with a different company.

Q: How does Best of Care find qualified home health aides?

A: Caregiving is in many people’s nature, and we look for that special nurturing quality in our employees. Professional caregivers build on their kind, helpful nature with formal in-class and in-the-field training and certification.

We recruit home health aides in a variety of ways, including CraigsList and Indeed.com. We have strong working relationships with the Red Cross in Brockton and Quincy (Mass), and more recently with Catholic Charities in Brockton and South Boston, which offer 75-hour home health aide training sessions every few months. Upon graduation from the training facility, the graduate has the credentials to work as a home health aide. At Best of Care, we require that all new hires pass a detailed exam before they begin working out in the field.

We go to the Red Cross and Catholic Charities home health aide training programs and talk to students and graduates about how Best of Care operates as a company and what they can expect if we hire them. I talk about how we work as a team to communicate and deliver individualized service and address issues. We want to help new aides feel comfortable that they are never alone in any situation. For example, if a home health aide sees that a client’s dementia is getting worse, it’s important that they call the office and report concerns immediately to their supervisor. We want new employees to know that when they go into a home and care for one of our clients, they have the full support of our administrative staff, homemaking field supervisors and our nursing department at all times.

Q: What do you look for when you screen and interview prospective home health aides?

A: The people we consider hiring as home health aides must meet very specific criteria. I look for people who are patient and kind with positive energy and great communications skills. We look for candidates who have empathy for the elderly and can perceive small changes in a clients’ behavior or health status. They must have the emotional intelligence and common sense to communicate, follow protocols and report both positive and negative incidents to Best of Care’s nursing team.

Q: Beyond the initial interview, how do you screen home health aide candidates?

A: We talk with a candidate’s home health aide program instructor, who often becomes one of the two professional references they provide us. The candidate must have scored at least 80% on their home health aide exam. We check every candidate with the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Registry to make sure they have completed a home health aide training program, are licensed and do not have any reported incidents on their record. Candidates must have a driver’s license and an insured vehicle at their disposal. We run background checks on every candidate through private agencies that track criminal records at both state and national levels and with the Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Once we’ve hired a home health aide, we continue to check their records with the OIG every month.

Q: What happens after you hire a home health aide?

A: New home health aides at Best of Care go through a small group orientation that stresses documentation and communication. We use humor and compassion to share our vast experiences in caring for our elderly and disabled clients. Our homemaking supervisors or nurses come in regularly to get to know the new employees.

Q: How many home health aides do you typically hire per year?

A: Over past two years we have recruited approximately 130 caregivers per year between Best of Care’s four office locations. All of our home health aides have completed the 75 hour training program with organizations such as the Red Cross and Catholic Charities.

Q: How do you encourage your employees to continue their education and career growth in home care?

A: As a company, we are always learning and growing. We continually encourage our employees to go the next step in their education, to pursue new certifications and degrees. We’re always providing information that can help them on this path; for example, WalMart is providing scholarships for certified nurse assistant training!

Best of Care also conducts regular in-service sessions for our caregivers on a number of topics. For example, one recent session covered sexually-transmitted disease and how it can apply in a home care setting.

We are working on developing our own home health aide training program, which will include a conversion program for active certified nursing assistants to become home health aides. We’re targeting a fall 2015 launch for this program, which can help us train aides for our clients in greater Boston and the South Shore, as well as our new clients on Cape Cod.

Q: What drives your work in bringing new employees to Best of Care?

A: I am motivated to bring the very best employees to this agency because we will not accept anything less than top quality care. I’m very fortunate to work for a close-knit company; I feel a close connection with my field staff and everyone who works out of our regional offices.


Best of Care Inc. moves to Presidents Place Quincy

Quincy, Mass., June 8, 2015 – Best of Care Inc., a family-owned home care  Best of Care's New Office is in Presidents Place agency that serves Greater Boston, South Shore and Cape Cod communities, has moved its Quincy office to the heart of Quincy’s downtown redevelopment district.

Best of Care’s new offices are located in suite 501S at Presidents Place Quincy, a 349,146-square foot mixed-use office, retail, institutional and medical office center located at 1250 Hancock Street facing the MBTA Quincy Center T Station and future urban common – Adams Green.

According to Kevin Smith, the agency’s president and COO, Best of Care’s new home will accommodate seven managers and administrators and provide room for new staff as the agency continues to grow. Secure parking and an ample conference room will support training and orientation sessions for Best of Care’s home care nurses, home health aides and homemakers as well as meetings with colleagues, clients and their families.

Best of Care’s neighbors at Presidents Place Quincy include Quincy College’s nursing program, the Harvard Vanguard Medical Network, Wessling Architects, HIS Dialysis, Dubin Chiropractic and Best Doctors.

“Our move to Presidents Place Quincy was a logical next step in Best of Care’s expansion,” said Smith. “Over the past two years we acquired two home care agencies, Independence Home Care in Boston and and Access Home Care in Westwood. In January we opened our third office in Dennis, Mass. As a contractor to six of the state’s area agencies on aging, we serve the home care needs of disabled and elderly residents of Greater Boston, the South Shore, the South Coast and Cape Cod, as well as offering private duty home care services in these regions.”

“We are proud to be part of Quincy Center’s revitalization efforts, and delighted to share this beautiful office space with some of our region’s most respected professional service firms, educators and healthcare providers,” Smith added.

For more information, contact Best of Care President and COO Kevin Smith at (617) 773-5800 or kevin@bestofcareinc.com

About Best of Care
Best of Care has delivered concierge-level home care services in eastern Massachusetts since 1981. Owned and managed by Kevin and Stephen Smith, Best of Care was one of the first agencies in Massachusetts to earn its accreditation from the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts. Best of Care provides an extensive array of home health care services in 115 towns in Greater Boston, South Shore and Cape Cod communities with offices in Quincy, Raynham, Dennis, and Martha’s Vineyard. Services include personal care services, homemakers and companions, hospice care, nursing care management and specialty services as they relate to dementia, psychiatric and acquired brain injury care. Best of Care Inc. was named a 2014 Family Business of the Year finalist by the Family Business Association of Massachusetts. President and COO Kevin Smith is an Executive Committee member of the Massachusetts Council for Home Care Aides. Visit bestofcareinc.com.


Homecare tips for your seniors’ summer getaway

By Kevin Smith

Chairs on the DeckThis summer, will your elderly parents (or disabled loved ones) require in-home support for a vacation stay outside the familiar surroundings of their primary residence? Whether they’re accompanying you and your family on a two-week seaside getaway, or spending a few months in a rental property nearby, it’s important to think and plan ahead.

These tips can ensure that their living space and the home care services they receive meet their specific daily needs while taking into account the entire family’s vacation goals.

Tip #1: Accept and plan for change. Just because dad was able to prepare his own meals (or get down a staircase) in a summer residence last year doesn’t mean he is able to perform the same tasks this year. Call an agency with a strong local presence in the area you will be vacationing to have your loved one’s needs reassessed — and a plan of care developed — before this summer’s migration.

Tip #2: Make adjustments that improve safety and mobility. Arrive at your loved ones’ summer residence before they do to ensure that it is accessible and safe. This sounds simple, but what may appear to be perfect summer rental for someone who is young and mobile can be a booby trap for those who use a cane, walker or wheelchair.  Make sure there are no loose cords, that carpets and flooring are secure, and that both the bathroom and entryway are wheelchair accessible. Is the home adequately ventilated, cooled and heated? Check the HVAC system, and if necessary, install window air conditioners in the main living and sleeping areas.

Tip #3: Have emergency resources in place. Have you informed your loved ones’ primary physician of their summer location? What emergency clinic, hospital and pharmacy is closest to their summer residence? Do they use a lifeline device? If no, now’s the time to get one!  If yes, test it from their summer residence.

Tip #4: Harmonize your loved one’s needs with your vacation goals. Once you’re confident that their vacation residence is safe and accessible, and that you have the resources in place to address any emergencies that might arise, assess what kind of home care services your loved ones will need. The services you contract for should be a reflection of how you and your family want to spend your vacation days, allowing both spontaneity and flexibility.

Tip #5: Remember that you are the customer. Vacation means spending quality time together and making each day unique. Do you need someone to help your spouse rise, bathe and dress while you take an early morning walk? Do you need help transporting a loved one to a local recreation center for a swim? Do you need someone to help mom get ready, then take her to meet you and your family for dinner? Or does your loved one simply need to get out for a drive along the shore? The home care service you hire should be able to quickly adapt to your needs and plans on a day-to-day basis. They should be able to offer an array of home care services (from homemaker/companion to home health aide to clinical nursing services) and ready transportation that makes vacation time with your loved one a joy, not a burden.

Final tips for a healthy summer with your elderly loved ones

Besides making sure that their living space is safe and accessible, you and your loved ones’ caregivers should be super vigilant during summer outings with older family members.

  • Seniors tend to drink less water, which can speed dehydration in warmer months. Bring plenty of drinking water on all outings, and make sure your loved one drinks water at frequent intervals both at home and on the road.
  • Because heat stroke is also a big risk for seniors, make sure your loved one wears a sun protective hat and light clothing that helps air circulate while preventing burns. Make sure they wear a high-SPF sun block on all exposed skin.
  • While seniors eat less at each meal, they do need to eat at frequent intervals. Bring healthy snacks that do not spoil, are easy to eat and can boost energy: Fresh fruit, easily digestible cereal bars or granola bars are good choices.
  • Keep the number of your vacation area’s local hospital, clinic and ambulance service in your wallet or phone for fast access. If your loved one becomes dizzy or disoriented, get them to a cool shady location as fast as possible, give them water, and call that area’s emergency response service.

Kevin Smith is president and COO, Best of Care, Inc. which serves Greater Boston, South Shore and Cape Cod communities with offices in Quincy, Raynham and Dennis, Mass. Best of Care’s concierge-level services include personal care services, homemakers and companions, hospice care, private nursing, nursing care management and specialty services as they relate to dementia, psychiatric and acquired brain injury care. Best of Care Inc. was named a 2014 Family Business of the Year finalist by the Family Business Association of Massachusetts. Smith is an Executive Committee member of the Massachusetts Council for Home Care Aides.

Visit bestofcareinc.com, connect with Kevin Smith at kevin@bestofcare.com or call (617) 773-5800 x 17.  Follow Best of Care on Twitter @BestofCare and ‘like’ us on Facebook at facebook.com/BestofCare.


Older Americans Month 2015: How Massachusetts Seniors Can “Get Into The Act”

happy to helpBy Stephen Smith

Older adults are a vital part of our society. Since 1963, communities across the country have shown their gratitude by celebrating Older Americans Month each May. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Get into the Act,” to focus on how older adults are taking charge of their health, getting engaged in their communities, and making a positive impact in the lives of others.

The theme also reflects on the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Older Americans Act into law in July 1965. Since that time, the Act has provided a nationwide aging services network and funding that helps older adults live with dignity in the communities of their choice for as long as possible. These services include home-delivered and congregate meals, caregiver support, community-based assistance, preventive health services, elder abuse prevention, and much more.

By promoting and engaging in activity, wellness, and inclusivity, more Americans than ever before can “Get into the Act.” While Best of Care provides home care services to older adults year-round, during Older Americans Month we want to provide resources that can help older adults access the home- and community-based services they need to live independently in their communities. It is also an occasion to highlight how older adults are engaging with and making a difference in those communities.

Today, the Internet offers resources to help seniors decide on where to live, how to live, who to connect with and how to spend their free time. From services that are provided within your home, to a range of independent/active or assisted living options, to social web sites that connect people with similar interests, our choices and opportunities to stay active and involved as we grow older are greater than ever before.

Regardless of whether you still live in your own home or in a senior community, there are many ways to connect, meet new people and contribute.

VolunteerMatch.org, the Massachusetts Senior Corps Service Alliance and the Massachusetts Healthy Aging Collaborative are great resources if you’re looking for volunteer opportunities. If you’re looking for a rewarding retirement career, the National Able Network helps seniors find fulfilling part or full time positions with employers, to senior-specific MeetUp groups to the, to volunteer legal service organizations such as the Senior Partners for Justice.

Are you looking for support that can help you or your elderly loved one get the services they need to remain healthy in their homes and engaged in their communities? A great place to start is the Massachusetts Office of Elder Affairs, which provides home care and other services to 45,000 elders each month. Twenty seven local Area Agencies on Aging and Aging Services Access Points (ASAPs) provide interdisciplinary case management and contract with agencies and organizations to offer companion/homemaker, supportive day care, adult day health, home health aide, laundry, medication dispensation, transportation, grocery shopping and delivery and more.

Are you or your loved one seeking to move to a seniors community that offers an active lifestyle, wellness services and activities? Check out the variety of options on the Massachusetts pages of web sites such as the Village-to-Village Network, SeniorHomes.com, RetireNet.com, SeniorLiving.org and others.

Discover Older Americans Month! Visit http://acl.gov/olderamericansmonth

Connect with Older Americans Month on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AoA.gov?fref=ts

Contact your local Area Agency on Aging office by visiting http://www.eldercare.gov/ or calling 1-800- 677-1116 to find ongoing opportunities to celebrate and support older Americans.


What You Should Know About Isolation, And How To Prevent It

By Kevin Smith

IsolationEven the most private, introverted or reclusive among us need regular face-to-face connections. Whether it’s a one-on-one coffee with a longtime friend, a group book discussion or a morning at worship, regular interaction with other humans helps us learn to listen and empathize, put seemingly difficult issues in perspective and feel part of a larger community.

A recent article by BBC Future talks about how chronic, prolonged isolation warps the mind and alters our sense of reality: “Chronically lonely people have higher blood pressure, are more vulnerable to infection, and are also more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Loneliness also interferes with a whole range of everyday functioning, such as sleep patterns, attention and logical and verbal reasoning.”

According to the AARP Foundation, older people may become isolated from their family and community because of injury or illness. They may lose the ability to drive and don’t have alternate means of getting from point A to B. Adult children who spend lots of time caring for an older parent or relative may begin to lose connections with their own support network. If a person’s health or mobility restrictions or caregiving duties escalate, it’s easy to become homebound (or feel stranded).

At Best of Care, we know how damaging isolation, and the loneliness that comes with it, can be to one’s physical health and mental well-being. We have seen first-hand how it can erode one’s sense of reality and connectedness, which in turn can exacerbate a pre-existing health issue.

Many of our homebound elderly clients interact with nearby family and friends on a regular basis through weekend outings and weekly visits. But many others aren’t so lucky: their families may live in another part of the country. Their long-time friends may have passed away, or are ill. Their spouses may have died.

In addition to the weekly visits we pay to their homes and the individualized support we provide, it’s our job to understand what kind of interaction each client thrives on. This knowledge helps us design care programs that help them stay connected to and engaged in the lives of others. From card and board games that stimulate thinking, to visits to the shopping center, library or physician, to discussion of current events or TV programs, to supporting a client’s specific interest or hobby, caregivers focus on stimulating dialog and positive sharing.