The springwell blog

Jun 14

Heighten Awareness, Prevent and Stop Abuse

Recently, the federal government has been working to determine how many senior citizens nationwide are victims of abuse, neglect or exploitation. The federal Administration for Community Living estimated that 1.5 million cases were reported to adult protective agencies across the country in 2016. About half of those reports led to further investigation. Additional research also indicates “that only one out of 24 cases of elder abuse or neglect is ever reported to authorities.” (Singer, 2018) The numbers are cause for alarm. Springwell’s mission includes preventing and stopping elder abuse. Abuse may include physical abuse, sexual abuse or abusive sexual contact, emotional or psychological abuse, financial abuse or exploitation, neglect by a caregiver or other responsible person, and self-neglect.

As reported by WGBH in May, new national data shows a crisis of elder abuse: “In Massachusetts, the Executive Office of Elder Affairs reported 9,800 confirmed abuse and neglect cases in the state in 2017, a nearly 40 percent increase over 2015.” With Americans living longer — and living longer in their own homes — the opportunities for abuse are also expanding, said Alice Bonner, the Massachusetts Secretary of Elder Affairs. Bonner noted that “the fastest growing type or subtype of maltreatment or abuse is actually financial exploitation.” She also emphasized that “one of the biggest categories of elder abuse is self-neglect — a senior who has simply become unable to properly care for oneself and winds up injured or in financial ruin.” (Singer, 2018)
There are many causes of self-neglect that may include a combination of psychological, social, and economic factors, along with mental and physical conditions. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) notes that self-neglect can include behaviors such as: hoarding, failure to provide adequate food or nutrition for oneself, failure to take essential medications or refusal to seek medical treatment for serious illness, poor hygiene, confusion, not wearing weather suitable clothing, dehydration, and inability to attend to housekeeping. (National Center on Elder Abuse, 2018)
Self-neglect cases can be very complex and require careful evaluation by trained professionals. Individuals have the right of self-determination in how they care for themselves. In self-neglect cases, professionals begin by evaluating whether the person has the capacity to clearly make decisions about his or her behaviors and living conditions.
In some cases, self-neglect can lead to severe financial hardship for an elder, but in some cases of financial hardship, the cause is actually financial abuse by a caregiver. Financial abuse or exploitation by definition can cause substantial monetary or property loss to the elder, or substantial monetary or property gain to the perpetrator. The NCEA notes these possible signs of financial abuse: changes in the older adult’s appearance, health status, or personal habits, changes in long time banking or spending patterns, or a confused person may sign something without understanding consequences. Other indicators outlined by the NCEA are: unexplained changes in wills or title documents, increased telephone solicitations for funds, missing personal property, funds wired out of country for mysterious reasons, missing or redirected mail, missing personal property, or names added to older adults bank accounts. (National Center on Elder Abuse, 2018)
Financial abuse and self-neglect are just two subtypes of elder abuse. Elder Abuse Awareness Day is a chance to learn more about signs and symptoms of elder abuse. Those who specialize in elder abuse can be a valuable resource to help anyone concerned about an elder. The elder’s safety and well-being is the top priority and professionals can help us to know when and what type of interventions might be needed. Contact our Information and Consultation Department if you have questions or concerns. For more information about elder abuse, review information on our website here.
National Center on Elder Abuse. (2018). National Center on Elder Abuse FAQs. Retrieved from National Center on Elder Abuse:
Singer, P. (2018, May 7). New National Data Shows 'Crisis' of Elder Abuse. Retrieved from WGBH:
Other Sources
1. An Introduction to Elder Abuse for Professionals: Financial Exploitation


Jun 12

Dementia Conversations

As part of continuing education for staff, Springwell recently welcomed Nicole McGurin, MS, CDP from the Alzheimer’s Association to lead a workshop on communication. Our goal is to build our staff capacity to help all caregivers learn strategies and approaches that facilitate better communication with individuals who are at various stages of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. A key point according to Nicole is that, “People miss being able to talk with their loved ones as they used to.”
After first detailing the communication changes that are likely to occur in early, middle and late stage dementia, Nicole then taught strategies, tips and examples of how to more effectively communicate given the particular challenges of each stage.
Early on in the disease, one on one conversations with no distractions are easier for people, while the phone can be difficult because there are no verbal cues. It is a good idea in early stages to let the individual search for their words rather than trying to finish their thoughts unless they want you to assist. Nicole encourages patience with repetition by reminding that “it is not their fault; it is changes in the brain.”
As the disease progresses, most people will have more changes relative to how they communicated before the dementia. At this stage, most still have emotional awareness of changes in their ability to express themselves and communication challenges can be frustrating for them. Some helpful communication strategies for loved ones and caregivers at this stage include: provide visual cues and gestures, turn negatives into positives, avoid quizzing them about things they likely don’t recall (what did you have for breakfast), and avoid open ended questions.
In the later stages of the disease, connecting with the individual through senses can be meaningful: touch, sight, sound, smell, taste. Nicole suggested engaging through activities during a visit. Ideas included playing a piece of music that the person liked previously, enjoying a serving of a favorite ice cream, doing a gardening related activity. While the individual may not recognize you, they may be more relaxed or alert during the activity and Nicole noted that can be regarded as a meaningful interaction. It is important that caregivers establish reasonable expectations of their loved ones and of themselves.
Nicole provided case studies and facilitated discussion about communication strategies for each dementia phase, and techniques to handle difficult, but frequently necessary topics at each stage of disease like: going to the doctor, deciding when it is time to stop driving and making legal and financial decisions. This session concluded with a robust Q& A session that demonstrated the value of the session to Springwell staff, and the importance of the training to better serving the hundreds Springwell families impacted by Alzheimer’s and related dementias. 


May 29

​I didn’t know that Springwell does all that!


 June 4th is Nonprofit Awareness Day, a statewide holiday signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick 10 years ago. Springwell is a more than 40 year old nonprofit agency that provides care solutions for approximately 11,000 individuals in Massachusetts each year.

Our goal is to positively impact the quality of life through long term services and support for seniors and those under the age of 60 with disabilities as well as caregivers and families of these individuals. We accomplish this by engaging with individuals, assessing needs and connecting them with the appropriate resources that they want. We enhance the impact with ongoing case management and by offering a number of health coaching and education opportunities.

Our offerings are numerous but each one helps real people live their lives each day:

  • Information & Consultation is our welcoming front door. “I was totally overwhelmed with the challenges of caring for my mother and father. Springwell not only answered my questions, but brought up issues I had never thought of. By the end of the call I felt better able to handle what was in front of me.”
  • Care Advice & Planning helps seniors, individuals with disabilities and those who provide care become aware of and understand the many services available so they can have the customized care plan they desire. “I would like to thank Julie for coming to my home. She is professional, knowledgeable, highly competent and service-oriented – qualities that are so important in doing this job. I really appreciate her dedication and help sorting through so much information.”
  • In Home Services can make the difference between being able to live at home and losing independence. “I am especially grateful that you have been able to provide a Chinese worker for my mom which is so important to her. They have been very good, kind and efficient and my mom loves them.”
  • Caregiver Support helps those who are navigating the logistically, physically, and emotionally complex path of providing or arranging for the care of someone else. “I was at my wits end wondering where to turn with my husband who has dementia. Emily put the rainbow in the sky for me…”
  • Private Geriatric Care Management provides Care Managers who help to support decision making, to find and connect to services, and to help ensure that each individual is receiving the care they want. Springwell offers below-market rate in-home services from care agencies that are long time Springwell partners. “…at the discharge planning meeting for my father, you took charge and made sure that the rehab, the VNA, the family all knew exactly what the plan was.”

Life is filled with challenges and it is always good to know where to find extra support when it is needed. For many people struggling in our shared Massachusetts communities, Springwell provides caring solutions that make a real difference. If we can help you or someone you know, please contact us. Springwell is a nonprofit that is funded by individual and corporate donations as well as by federal and state sources. If we have inspired you to join us in #MAkingadifference, please consider a donation.


Apr 26

Supporting the Desire to Live at Home

Springwell’s highest goal is to support people in their efforts to live independently in the setting of their choice. For most people, that setting is home. Are you or a loved one struggling with a disability or the physical and cognitive changes of aging that make it more challenging to live at home? These challenges can be stressful if you are worried about giving up your independence or if you are concerned about the safety and well-being of someone close to you.

With the appropriate supports in place, people can often safely stay in their home with improved quality and satisfaction in their lives. Further, a home-based support system can be more cost effective for both families and insurers by reducing emergency room visits, hospital admissions, and/or skilled nursing facility admissions and lengths of stay.

Having appropriate supports sounds great, but it can be confusing to figure out what is needed and what is available. The Information and Consultation Department (I&C) is Springwell’s front door where I&C specialists can help start the process. Helpful services that can make a difference include: meals, laundry, homemaking (light cleaning, meal prep or grocery shopping services), personal care assistance, help from a home health aide, transportation for medical appointments, Adult Day Health programs, grocery delivery, medical alert service and medication dispensing.

Often, family members may be eager to immediately put in place as many of the support options as they feel their loved one needs and is eligible to receive. Conflict can arise when the person in need has concerns about giving up independence, changing the way they have been doing things, and/or having workers in their home. Springwell’s goal is to educate a person with care needs about how each service may help them to stay in their home safely with an improved quality of life.

A Springwell Care Advisor works to build a rapport that can help a family negotiate conflicts about services. It is a process that involves meeting the individual where they are with respect to receiving help and taking initial steps with their agreement. A first step may be to provide one-time help with cleaning and making minor modifications to mediate fall risks and maximize emergency exit access. Sometimes a person who has always lived independently is reluctant to have a worker in their home but starting with assistance such as laundry service, grocery or meal delivery, and a medical alert service will be well received. The family will be relieved to see the benefits these solutions provide and the individual will be comfortable knowing that their wishes are respected. As needs change and a person’s comfort level with help evolves, there may be opportunities for services to be changed or added. Ultimately, Springwell respects each individual’s choice about whether to receive a service or not.

To learn more about getting support for you or a loved one to continue living at home, contact Springwell at 617-926-4100 and ask for Information & Consultation or complete our contact form here:


Apr 20

Making a Difference - Launching Your Career as a Care Advisor

Are you a recent college graduate who is looking for a job where you can make a difference? Many of today’s compassionate young adults would like to do this by working for a non-profit organization. This was true for both Kelsey and Nicole, Care Advisors who work primarily with seniors in Springwell’s Home Care Program. As a 40 year old organization, Springwell works at the intersection of health care and the social determinants of health by helping people access services and supports that make it possible for them to live independently. Jo White, Springwell’s Director of Health Partnerships, sums up the role of a care advisor like this: “A Care Advisor pulls together services for an individual, monitors and manages those services, and helps family members understand the role of services.”
Care Advisors come from diverse backgrounds, with a variety of college majors and strengths but they all share some key attributes. Their goal is to make a difference in people’s lives. They thrive on interacting with people in the community and building rapport with each person that they advise. A Care Advisor needs compassion and patience to help each individual negotiate the maze of obtaining services. Nicole adds that being “super organized” helps the process go smoothly. Kelsey and Nicole love the challenge of constantly learning new things in the job but both also appreciate the vast expertise and help provided by the Springwell team of more than 100 staff across multiple disciplines including social work, nursing, administration, and finance that support the complex human services Springwell offers.
Kelsey likes the atmosphere at Springwell and the way that nonprofits are run. One of Kelsey’s favorite aspects of the job is being in the community spending time with the seniors she serves, rather than just working in an office. For Kelsey, the home visits are key to building rapport with each individual. Kelsey appreciates each person’s unique personality and tries to communicate in a way to best facilitate a good relationship with each senior and their family.
Nicole relocated from Colorado, leaving a non-profit job where she loved her co-workers. At Springwell, she feels fortunate to have found a new community of co-workers who create a similar feeling of happiness. Nicole finds it is very satisfying to coordinate services to help seniors live at home. Whether they need a little help or a significant amount, she knows they value all she does to try to honor their requests and wishes.
Both Kelsey and Nicole find meaning in being part of an organization that improves the lives of thousands of people each year. Would you like to learn more about launching a career as a Care Advisor or about other ways you can make a difference at Springwell?


Apr 17

Making a Difference - the Role of a Springwell Care Advisor

Whether you are a caregiver assisting a loved one or a recipient of services yourself, your relationship with a Care Advisor is an invaluable gateway to having your needs met in the way that you want them to be met.

Jo White, Director of Health Partnerships and a long time Springwell employee began her career as a Care Advisor, and shares her insight on the multifaceted role, “A Care Advisor pulls together services for an individual, monitors and manages those services, and helps family members understand the role of services. A Care Advisor mediates when an in-home care provider isn’t a good match for one reason or another, provides support to the family caregiver, and makes sure that recipients are made aware of new opportunities for additional services. Over time a Care Advisor’s relationship enables them to give guidance about longer term planning. If an individual’s needs increase, the Care Advisor will educate them about higher levels of service that they might be eligible to receive.” This core Springwell relationship is not a one-time meeting between a Care Advisor and a recipient, rather it is a partnership.

What skills can you expect from a Care Advisor? A Care Advisor must be able to engage people. The Advisor “joins with” the care recipient and the family to build a rapport so that everyone feels comfortable. A Care Advisor must be detail-oriented and a good observer to conduct a thorough assessment of functional, cognitive, environmental and financial conditions in order to provide the best options for the individual. A key value for a Springwell Care Advisor is to be “person-centered,” putting the individual’s choice to receive a certain service or not first. That means that the Care Advisor will orchestrate services based on the individual’s identified needs, but also in accordance with their wishes. Once a needed, desired service is identified, the Care Advisor helps get access to that service within state homecare guidelines.

A Care Advisor is there to engage people, assess situations, identify needs, support goals and access services for the benefit of the care recipient. Would you like to engage with a Care Advisor? Contact us at 617-926-4100 and ask for Information & Consultation or complete our contact form here:

Are you good at engaging people, detail-oriented, and a good observer with a desire to help others? Contact us to learn more and find out about career paths:

Feb 13

No Place Like Home

Greta and John Merchant bought their Needham house over 60 years ago when they first moved to the United States. As they faced some of the health issues of aging, it was important to them to stay together in the comfort of their beloved home. They shared this sentiment with their daughter, Sandra and her husband Tom. It became a challenging proposition but one that Sandra and Tom were willing to navigate.

The notion of always living in your own home seems like it is easily doable until an unexpected illness or injury pops up. Greta and John faced the unexpected when on a Tuesday John was told he would be discharged from a rehab facility on Friday, but that her couldn’t live on his own with just Greta because of her early dementia and his physical challenges. Their very generous, loving daughter and son-in-law handled the initial need by moving in with Greta and John. However, managing her parents’ needs along with their own careers and family was too exhausting and stressful for Sandra and Tom to handle long term. Fortunately, Greta’s primary care doctor at Beth Israel Deaconess Care Organization referred the family to Springwell’s onsite Community Resource Specialist. Sandra says that “the first time our Springwell case manager came to our house, I immediately felt comforted by her kindness and compassion.”

Since first connecting with Springwell, Greta and John’s needs have increased. Springwell’s team, including a case manager, a nurse and supervisors, works together to assess and problem-solve as changes in service become necessary.

Sandra is grateful for all the support provided by Springwell. They helped her get both of her parents enrolled in MassHealth which has made the assistance they need financially viable. Further, Springwell’s partnership with this family extends beyond day-to-day in-home care services. Springwell’s Elder Independence Fund helped to purchase and install a much-needed wheelchair ramp for the family, and the organization’s Caregiver Specialist helped Sandra identify and pursue groups that would provide support for her as a caregiver. As the family identifies new barriers, Springwell is there to problem-solve.

Sandra reflects that she and Tom had no idea the journey they were beginning when they first moved in with her parents. Keeping her parents at home is complicated but it is what they all want more than anything.The magic of being home together is beautifully summed up in Sandra’s story about her dad’s return home after a hospitalization: “…the first thing my dad asked for was to be wheeled to my mom’s bed, so he could see her. He held her hand and smiled. He looked like a young man in love with his bride.”

“It has been a journey filled with sadness, frustration, exhaustion, overwhelm, fear—and also, love, gratitude, family, grace, community and joy. Our family could not have done it without Springwell,” concludes Sandra. There’s no place like home and sometimes it takes a village to make home sweet home a safe and comfortable place.

Springwell is passionate about helping seniors and individuals with disabilities live at home with dignity and independence. For more information about how Springwell can help your family achieve its goals, contact Springwell's Information and Consultation Department at 617-926-4100 or


Jan 10

A Unique Opportunity to Help Build Community

Smart senior diners in greater Boston make the local Springwell Senior Dining Program their noontime destination for a nutritious meal, and for the company of hospitable servers and other senior luncheon guests. These dining sites are a success because of the friendly, welcoming and hard-working staff who come each weekday to receive the catered food; register and check-in guests; and work with volunteers to welcome and serve senior diners. Currently, Springwell is looking for several part-time Dining Site staff to help create the atmosphere that keeps seniors coming back – and help them build the social networks that lead to healthy aging.

Do you know someone looking for a little extra income and the opportunity to make a difference in the middle of the day? All of the positions are part-time, with varying hours Monday through Friday. The primary locations in need of staff at the moment are in Watertown and Needham, but staff also sometimes have the opportunity to substitute at other sites in Belmont, Brookline, Newton, Waltham,  and Weston.

We are looking for people of any age, who will relate well to seniors and appreciate the challenges and joys of helping facilitate a feeling of community. The staff featured in the photo here work out of our Belmont Dining Site, and you can learn more about their site in this blog post. You can find our more information about the job, benefits and how to apply to these positions, or any Springwell opening on our career page.


Nov 17

Choose to Share the Love with Vulnerable Seniors

Exciting news! For the tenth year running, the Meals on Wheels network is participating in the Subaru Share the Love Event. In the past nine years, Subaru of America has donated over $12 million to Meals on Wheels—that’s the equivalent of more than 1.7 million meals to seniors across the country!

Why does Subaru support Meals on Wheels? Because too many seniors are struggling to stay independent and healthy. Ten million seniors in America face the threat of hunger, and millions more live alone in isolation. This is simply unacceptable, which is why Springwell provides the nutritious meals, friendly visits and safety checks to the seniors in Greater Boston. This vital support keeps seniors in their own homes, where they want to be. 

We’re incredibly grateful to Subaru and its retailers for supporting our organization and the seniors we serve. With that in mind, we thought you might want to learn a little bit more about the Share the Love Event. November 16, 2017, through January 2, 2018, for every new Subaru vehicle leased or sold, Subaru will donate $250 to the customer’s choice of participating charities. Meals on Wheels America is one of four national participating charities and has been since the inception of the event. Through this campaign, as a Member of Meals on Wheels America, Springwell will receive a share of the revenue earned in Massachusetts. 

Here's How it Works

If you’re in the market for a new car, please look into the Share the Love Event to learn more. If you’re not shopping for a new vehicle, you can still help by spreading the word to your family and friends. A few quick and easy ways to do that:

And remember – this holiday season, you can ensure our senior neighbors are not forgotten when you buy or lease a new Subaru and select Meals on Wheels America as your charity of choice. 
Sep 01

Springwell Celebrates 40 years of Service

In 2017, Springwell is celebrating its 40th anniversary serving seniors, people with disabilities, and caregivers. Founded in 1977 as a small, grassroots, homecare corporation, Springwell now helps thousands of people each year with services that support independence and healthy aging. Springwell's expert staff help families navigate and access programs and services that can make all the difference, including case management and in-home services (personal care, homemaking, home health aides, etc), nutrition services (home-delivered meals and community dining), protective services, supportive housing, healthy living workshops, friendly visitors, and money management services. 

To mark the occasion, Springwell is holding a reception on November 16, 2017, following our annual meeting, at the Stonehurst Estate in Waltham. The event, presented with underwriting support from Cambridge Trust Company, Friendly Care Home Care, and many other sponsors, is called, "Lives Transformed," and will feature stories of people who's lives have been changed with the help of Springwell. For more information about the event or sponsorship opportunities, call Springwell's Director of Development, Beth Schultz, at 617-972-5687. To RSVP, visit our online registration page


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