Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Resource for Family Caregivers

Hi, I'm Anne Togher, Founder and President of I appreciate the opportunity to blog here at

You have already read on the Capabilities blog that November is National Family Caregivers Month. For any of you who are caring for, or managing the care for a friend, relative or loved one, you already know about the challenges, the stress, and the toll it can take on your own life. While I appreciate that there is a month designated to recognize the work that you do, I also acknowledge that November will come and go…..and you will still be doing what you do, every day.

I could share lots of statistics about the impact that stress can have on caregivers, I could easily take up an entire blog writing about all the problems, challenges and struggles I have seen caregivers cope with – problems, challenges and struggles I am certain many of you have experienced in your own caregiving journeys. What I believe would be more helpful is to hear about the solutions. What resources are available to support you, to help you find solutions to the unique challenges you are facing, and to help you put your own care first?

I am so pleased to announce the launch of the Toghers website focused exclusively on family caregivers. Our solution will guide both self-care and the care that is being provided by you, the caregiver. Your free membership will entitle you to an Exclusive Caregivers Planning Guide personalized for your unique situation, resources such as articles, care tips and checklists, and soon we will offer an online caregiver community where you can connect with other caregivers in similar situations. You will also be able to purchase online sessions with a Caregiver Coach, Caregiver Plans that guide you through the process of establishing plans in a variety of areas, and a Self-care subscription that helps you set goals around your own care and have reminders that help make this a priority.

We, too, are pleased to collaborate with Capabilities in this effort. As the premier provider of both practical and unique products for caregiving, we are certain you will find satisfaction in both planning your caregiving activities with us and finding products and related services at Capabilities.

I invite you to visit and take the first step to taking care of yourself. Please also tell us about your caregiving experiences.

Anne Togher is the President and Founder of Toghers. After twenty years in the field of elder care, Anne knew that there had to be a better way to support family caregivers. From that realization, Toghers was created.
Collaborating To Bring You Even More

Ever on the hunt to be sure you can find the solutions that are right for you, we are so delighted to tell you about yet another great collaboration we have formed with Toghers, a one-of-a-kind website focused exclusively on family caregivers. Most web-based solutions are focused on the care the caregiver provides rather than caregiver self-care. The Toghers solution will guide both self-care and the care that is being provided by you, the caregiver. Because our mission is to work with caregivers, families and individuals alike, we love finding resources like Toghers to help you have more options. You will find a link on our site directly to Toghers and they have one to Capabilities. Founder, Anne Togher, writes a blog for us this month, too, so you can learn more about her and her organization. You can visit for more details and to sign up for free membership on the site which entitles you to the Exclusive Caregivers' Planning Guide. Thanks to Anne and the great folks at Toghers for creating this wonderful resource.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What Have We Been Up To?

If you have missed us these last weeks, we have missed you, too. What on earth have we been up to at Capabilities? We are excited to tell you lots of good news!
Most importantly, take a look at our website, If you have not browsed lately, surprise! We have a new look and shopping you could get used to pretty fast. Please let us know what you think about our new site. And, practice shopping on it! Use Code NEWLOOK for a 10% discount on your most expensive item. You will see that it is not perfect, of course. We continue to add product, fiddle with photos, and iron out the wrinkles. With your support and patience, we know Capabilities will be as great on-line as it is in person.

It turns out opening a web store is about as complicated as opening a physical store, but in different ways. When we opened our flagship store in Westminster, for example, we spent lots of time finding the right location, using our demographics research, city statistics on traffic counts, and hanging out at various shopping centers to see just what went on there during various times of the day. For our web store, we had to rethink about the categories of our products, choosing labels and names that the average website user might use, instead of our own shorthand categories that we use for inventory management in the physical store. These activities sound quite distinct between physical store and web store, but I'll tell you, the amount of hours spent on one rival the other.

It has been and will continue to be quite the learning experience for us as we get your feedback and integrate new ideas and improvements continually. We both imagine a day, of course, when we have a team full of experts who can immediately execute the next brilliant idea. In the meantime, we are grateful to Jim James, our interim technology guru, who has given us more time and attention than we could have ever imagined. We thank each other, too, for the long hours, the fat fingered mistakes, and surviving the hair-pulling frustrations both of us have endured to get this new site launched. We know the real work is just beginning, reaching through cyberspace into families facing challenges, trying to provide caregivers with information and products to make the work easier and more comfortable for everyone, just as we do in person with Capabilities, the physical store.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us get this far. Let's keep going forward!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

November is Caregivers Month

We write frequently about caregiving in this blog. Everyday we meet the generous, hard working and dedicated caregivers who find in themselves the patience, strength and commitment to keep on giving and caring for those in their lives. There are over 50 milion caregivers in this country; we are honored to play an important role in your lives.

Just this week, I spoke with dozens of caregivers facing very different challenges, yet all of them similar insofar as they are all looking for solutions to the complexities of the everyday.

Take, for example, Chris, who called to ask what might be out there to help make her home safe for her mom whose Alzheimer's has progressed now to a new level. Chris wants to live in her home comfortably, and yet she now knows that same home is a potential danger zone for her mother. We talked about some of the obvious "child proofing" products and tactics that exist. What Chris wants, though, is something that allows her to "lock up" after mom has gone to bed. During the day, Chris and her mother manage fairly well, negotiating the kitchen, bathroom and the outdoors. It's nightime that scares Chris. Her mother gets up and wanders, opening, fidgeting, turning and, possibly harming herself. We are on the hunt with Chris for something more innovative than locks that keep Chris out of her own home during the day. Inventors, take your cues!

On the other hand, we had just the right product for Doris, who wanted a hearing aid compatible phone for her dad with a large print display on it so he could identify callers and see more easily the numbers as he dials. Caregivers like Doris, who work a full time job during the day and check on aging parents after work and on weekends, need to find products when they can. And, they need to rely on people like us who have done the research and can easily explain the differences among so many choices. This is what we live for at Capabilities.

The caregiving story often ends in sorrow for so many. We heard this week about deaths in two of the families we have grown close to over the past months as they moved through the caregiving process with their loved ones. In one family, the loss of a son in his 30s who fought the hard fight against a number of disabilities that have caused him great physical pain throughout his young life. Another family lost its matriarch to cancer. In each case, loving family members provided the most exquisite types of caregiving imaginable. I only hope for such tenderness in the hours when I will most need it.

Sometimes our relationships change dramatically with a caregiver when the person they have been caring for passes. In some cases, the caregiver moves on, trying to reintegrate into so many of the parts of their lives they have given up or missed. The need to focus on equipment and comfort for another takes a back seat, hopefully for a long time. In other cases, we continue to work with caregivers in a number of ways as they look to donate or find another home for some of the tools and equipment they purchased. Our reach into the community is deep and we often can recommend places where they can go to discuss their used equipment. Occasionally, we look at something like a power wheelchair and buy it back for our rental fleet. In all cases, we invite you to contact us for more conversation on this delicate subject.

We have enduring relationships with many caregivers who turn to Capabilities for their own comfort. Tom comes by regularly to buy our foot soak crystals so after a long day he can relax and take care of himself. Margaret loves the Caren cucumber lotion for comfort. And, Amy and Todd each bought Book Peeramids to be sure they take a moment before conking out at night to enjoy some of their favorite books.

We also learn so much from our work. Caregivers and others in the midst of these pressing challenges often find solutions and tools we have not yet come upon. Gretchen led us to discovering the gas cap wrench as she faced her limitations battling ALS. Ed's need for something to help with his snoring and sleep apnea caused us to find the anti-snore pillow, now a popular product for so many. Fronsie, a motivated senior determined to stay involved in the reading and writing pleasures of her life despite advancing macular degeneration, helped us find the Extreme Reader/Scanner with a choice of voices that sound more like the human voice. Working with her, experimenting with different brands, brought us all a lot of insight. Together we found this option, which is making all the difference for her.

Tell us about the tools and resources you have found as a caregiver or as an individual facing the physical and emotional challenges of illness, injury or the aging process. We love your stories and always learn from them. You can post your comments to this blog below.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Our Prescription for Change

So, the election is over. Whether you are delighted or not about the outcome, let’s get focused on one of the major issues facing our nation, health care. We see a particular set of concerns through our lens here at Capabilities. We see families facing some of the biggest and scariest challenges of their lives. When physical illness or injury arrives on your doorstep, or when finally you realize the effects of aging are catching up with your parents, or yourself, the world changes. We have written a lot about that "deer in the headlights" look that comes over us when we are confronted with this type of change.

What will the new President do? What will the new administration do to address the difficulties so many families face? We cannot pretend to know the answer to the many questions of how to help families facing illness, injury and the impact of aging. We do know what does not work well now.

Take Medicare, for example. As a Medicare provider, Capabilities works with folks to address needs for durable medical equipment, DME, as its called. The types of equipment and amounts covered shrinks all the time. The process is onerous, causing many to give up. We have written in this blog before about Medicare. In the coming weeks, we will review again some of the key requirements for Medicare coverage for such products as wheelchairs, power equipment, lift chairs and patient beds. Suffice it to say here that for folks who have worked long and hard and have an expectation of receiving help through Medicare after age 65, the laments are many and the list, long on complaints.

We have built Capabilities to respond to individuals, not to insurance companies. However, we do our fair share of intervening. We are happy to do so for our customers, although we clearly see the writing on the wall.

We urge everyone to bring your voice to the table of our newly elected government. As our leaders think, discuss and imagine the future, your voices need to be there. You have ideas and concerns. If you are part of a family facing enormous change because of illness, injury or aging, no one can describe more vividly the impact it is having on your life, your lifestyle and your family. Tell us your stories and we will do our best to pass them on, too.