The springwell blog

Aug 15

The Grandma Scam

If you are lucky enough to have a few grandchildren, you may sometimes get a call that starts with “Hi Grandma, it’s me..” which then leaves you to rapidly sort through names in your head and quickly respond, “Is that you, Richard?” The phone connection may not be completely clear or your hearing may not quite be perfect so it is hard at first to distinguish the voice. Most of the time it is a welcome call from one of your loving grandchildren but occasionally it is a scam attempt to get you to send money for some predicament or another that the caller has fabricated.

William, who has a little hearing difficulty got duped in this scam two days in a row thinking he was helping his grandson, Steve, return from Canada after his car broke down. Steve didn’t want to let mom and dad know that he was short of funds and his grandfather wanted to help him out. William got the call that started with “Hi Grandpa” and responded with “Hi, is that you Steve?”The scammer said, “Yes, Grandpa, it’s me Steve. I’m in a little bind and could use your help.” Every grandparent wants to help their grandchild so the guard goes down and the empathy goes up. In this case, William went right to the bank and wired money to Canada per Steve’s instructions. Steve called back the next day and said his car was being fixed but he needed a little more money and William again obliged. On day three, William’s daughter and Steve’s mom, Pam, called. William asked “Is Steve back from Canada?” At this point Pam said that Steve was at college and hadn’t been in Canada at all recently. The money was gone and there was no way to recover it.

We have all undoubtedly heard about this type of scam and don’t think we would fall for it but recently a grandmother, Mary, almost did. She got the phone call that began with “Hi Grandma” from a male voice. Having two grandsons, she responded, “Is that you, David?” As the caller said, “Yes, it’s me, David” she almost instantly realized what she had done and that it was the middle of the work day, an unlikely time for David to call. She immediately hung up and called David who answered and said, “I didn’t call. I’m at work Gram.” Relieved that she didn’t fall for the scam, Mary was still very shaken that she almost got caught in it. Never wire money or give out credit card numbers over the phone without call backs to numbers you know to be your relative’s phone number and carefully confirming the person’s identity. Make your grandchildren aware of this scam so that they can identify themselves clearly when calling you.

For more tips on how to avoid the grandparent scam, see

Jul 05

Summer Pleasures for Caregivers

Caregiving is a year round endeavor that doesn’t just stop so that everyone can enjoy the beautiful days of summer when they arrive. Caregiving can make it challenging for both the caregiver and the care recipient to find time and energy to appreciate the season. Here are some ideas that we hope will help you and your loved one enjoy this summer.

  • Spend some time outside- depending on your location and mobility, this may be sitting on a patio, deck, yard or courtyard. Set up chairs and take a few minutes to just breathe and enjoy summer. A stroll in a local park or a walk to a café for a cold drink is fun for those who can be active.
  • Bird watching is a popular activity and this can be done in any location, even from a window if going outside isn’t feasible. Setting up a small bird feeder can lead to many hours of pleasure. Online resources or books from the library can help you to identify birds.
  • Frozen treats- whether it is ice cream, frozen yogurt or even frozen grapes or berries, these treats are delicious on a warm day. Visit an ice cream stand together, pick up some ice cream next time you are at the grocery store, or freeze some grapes or blueberries and savor them one at a time. Try making this one ingredient banana “ice cream” recipe. Whatever frozen treat appeals to you, make it special by sitting together to enjoy it.
  • Music- listen to music that says “summer” to you. Check this list of the 50 best summer songs of all time to see if any of your favorites are included. Many towns in the greater Boston area have free outdoor concerts in the summer. Boston Central is a starting point to find events near you if an outing is feasible.
  • Fresh produce and flowers-Nothing says summer like fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers. If you are able, plant herbs in a container outside or on a windowsill and use the harvest to flavor salads, vegetables and meats. If herbs aren’t your thing, brighten your home with a flowering plant. If you are able, visit a farmers market and buy some locally grown produce.
  • Games and puzzles- Have fun with your loved one playing a board game, cards or working on a jigsaw puzzle. Board games and cards lend themselves to playing on a patio or porch if a small table is available. If you don’t have an area to keep a jigsaw puzzle set up all the time, there are lots of jigsaw puzzle accessories that can make the process portable.
  • Library resources- Summer is a great time to get better acquainted with your local library. Aside from books, many libraries have movies, talks and performances. This MA library site is a starting place to learn more.
  • Outings- Be a tourist in your own area. Outdoor activities, sightseeing, arts and culture may be a fun addition to your summer. If accessibility is an issue, is a good resource for accessible venues.

Hoping you and your loved one enjoy some lighthearted summer pleasures!


Jul 02

Special Delivery: More than a Meal

Beverly looks forward to greeting Chi Wong, a Springwell Home Delivered Meals driver each weekday around noon. Chi delivers a nutritious meal to Beverly who finds it difficult to buy groceries and cook for herself.

Beverly lives in the Watertown home that she and her husband, Stuart, bought over 60 years ago. Beverly’s career as a bookkeeper and office manager always kept her busy, and she is the first to admit that she never was a cook. With a smile, Beverly says that Stuart was her chef and her favorite of his meals was baked stuffed lobster. Stuart passed away in 2002, and living alone has presented some challenges for Beverly who is blind and deals with significant hearing loss.

"I started receiving Springwell meals about ten years ago. With my vision and hearing difficulties, the meals are a great convenience for me," shares Beverly. She receives a therapeutic meal because it is beneficial for her to have a low sodium diet. Beverly sometimes wishes for the days of stuffed lobster, but she knows that the diet is healthful.

Seeing Chi each day is also always welcome. Chi delivers about 30 meals daily and has been doing it with a smile for nine years. Chi says, "The job is meaningful. I like helping the elderly, and I see the benefits that the meals provide for those who can’t grocery shop and cook for themselves." Each visit from Chi brings not only a meal but a safety check as well. Beverly gratefully reminds Chi of the time she fell, and he called an ambulance and stayed with her until medical personnel arrived.

In addition to deliveries from Chi, Beverly has a Springwell Care Advisor named Janet Cardarelli. Janet checks in with Beverly regularly to see how she is doing and to assess her ongoing needs. Janet recently helped Beverly get a handheld amplifier for her hearing loss. Beverly says this kind of attention really makes a difference.

Beverly attributes her good health to luck, but it is clear she takes care of herself. She says Springwell meals make the nutrition component easier. While home delivered meals will never match her husband Stuart’s cooking, Beverly truly appreciates how helpful they are for her.

Do you know someone who would benefit from Springwell’s Home Delivered Meals Program? Learn more at

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. 


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 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


May 30

Public Hearing Announced: 2018 - 2021 Area Plan on Aging


As a federally-designated Area Agency on Aging, Springwell is charged with creating an Area Plan every four years for the towns of Belmont, Brookline, Needham, Newton, Waltham, Watertown, Wellesley, and Weston. The Area Plan is to address the needs of seniors and ensure that service needs identified in the plan are provided.

In accordance with the Older Americans Act, and as required by the MA Executive Office of Elder Affairs, a public hearing is being conducted by Springwell to gather feedback from older adults, caregivers, and the public on Springwell’s draft Area Plan on Aging for 2018-2021. The mission of Springwell is to provide comprehensive services to seniors, individuals with disabilities and those who provide care, guided by a commitment to the individual’s right to live independently in the community.

The public hearing will be held on Tuesday, June 13, 2017 at 1:00pm at the Beech Street Center, 266 Beech Street, Belmont, MA 02478.

Comments can be submitted either in person at the public hearing or submitted in writing to Springwell, 307 Waverley Oaks Rd, Suite 205, Waltham, MA 02452, Attention Laura Vanderhill, or emailed to Written comments must be received at Springwell by June 28, 2017.

A draft of the Area Plan on Aging is available here and copies will be provided at the public hearing. For additional information, please contact Laura Vanderhill at 617-926-4100.


May 01

This May, Springwell will help you honor your mother

This spring, Springwell is once again enlisting our community in supporting the seniors we serve while also providing a way for donors to honor and celebrate the mothers in their lives.

If you were to draw a composite of the typical person who receives services from Springwell, she would be an 80-year-old woman living by herself at or just above the poverty level. Each week she would receive seven hours of personal care, five hours of homemaking, and home-delivered meals. This relatively small amount of support would help keep her out of an expensive institutionalized setting and in her own home. More often than not, her emergency contact would be her child.

Given this picture, Mother’s Day is the perfect holiday for a campaign to support the Elder Independence Fund. These funds support the small necessities (perhaps a bathtub grab bar or a phone for the hearing impaired) that state-subsidized programs will not pay for but can make a big difference in helping seniors maintain their independence. It also provides peace of mind for their caregivers.

The annual campaign was first launched last year to a warm reception. One of the first donors was Sasha Steinbaugh, a Springwell Case Management Supervisor, who made donations in honor of both her mother, Judy Csatari, and her new mother-in-law, Kathleen Steinbaugh (pictured here with her own mother, Clare Wilber). “For me, it just made so much sense,” said Sasha, “My mother has been so supportive of my work, and we grew up giving back to local, community-based charities. It was also a great way to connect to and honor my mother-in-law, who supports her own 89-year-old mother.”

For each donation made, the donor receives a special Springwell Mother’s Day card to send to his/her loved one. The card outlines the services made possible by the donation and includes a place to fill in the donor’s name as well as a personal note. This year the campaign hopes to raise $5,000 for the Elder Independence Fund. To make a donation and get cards for the mothers in your life, go to our donation page.

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