The springwell blog

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!


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:


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 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.

Apr 04

April is Health Care Decisions Month

April is Health Care Decisions Month, and Springwell is pleased to announce that we are launching the Advance Directives Project to address the lack of end-of-life planning among seniors in our programs. Understanding end-of-life-care choices and being able to talk about them with family and health providers are important for all adults but especially for seniors. A survey of 1,886 seniors in Springwell programs found that 70% of them did not have any advance directive documents, and another 24% did not know if they did. Springwell’s new project will help interested seniors develop and write down their personal decisions with the aid of a specially trained care advisor.

Bob Morley (pictured here with Springwell Care Advisor, Ann Fucci) is one senior who supports Springwell’s new initiative. Bob lost his sister last summer, and he is still upset about how her medical care negatively affected the end of her life. Bob does not know if he has an advance directive in place, but he is open to the idea of talking to someone about it. "I think it’s a good program," he said. "The idea is to be ahead of the game."

In joining the growing national movement to promote conversations and planning about end-of-life care, Springwell is ensuring that the seniors we serve are included in this important work.

Springwell is very grateful to the Leaves of Grass Fund for project funding, and we are proud to partner with Honoring Choices Massachusetts, a private nonprofit that provides staff training and support. For support and tools to put in place your own health care plan, visit their " Getting Started Tool Kit."


Mar 06

Making the Impossible Possible

In December of 2008, it seemed impossible that 83-year old Jeanne would ever return to the home she loved. A bad fall months earlier sent her first to the hospital and then to a rehabilitation facility. Though long-term symptoms of post-polio syndrome meant Jeanne used a wheelchair, she had managed independently for years and was even famous for being able to vacuum from her wheelchair. But after her fall, Jeanne was unable to transfer herself into and out of her chair. Her physician and the staff at the rehabilitation facility were dubious about a return home, but Jeanne, a fiercely independent woman, was determined. Her determination was matched by the convictions of Springwell’s Jo White, a social worker who helped Jeanne enroll in the Community Choices program, a newly created program that mandated nursing-home-eligible seniors be given the option of receiving care at home.

Jo led an interdisciplinary team comprised of Jeanne, Springwell nurses and social workers, staff at the rehabilitation facility, Jeanne’s physician, and a local in-home services provider. As she facilitated these meetings, Jo ensured that all discussions focused on how to honor Jeanne’s choice to return to her home.

The coordination and planning took seven months, but in July of 2009, the impossible became possible when Jeanne spent her first night in her own apartment. With the support of a worker who assists Jeanne with her personal care and homemaking needs, some important adaptive equipment, and a comprehensive emergency back-up system, she’s been happily living independently for the past seven years.

To learn more about Jeanne and Springwell's work in 2016, view our online Annual Report


Sep 15

Working FAST for Stroke Prevention

Springwell is pleased to be participating in a stroke awareness project funded by Mount Auburn Hospital Community Health Department. Mount Auburn, along with five other Massachusetts hospitals, is part of a pilot program to improve emergency stroke care and outcomes. Springwell is one of several community partners who received a grant from MAH to help spread the word about stroke warning signs in the communities of Arlington, Belmont, Cambridge, Somerville, Waltham, and Watertown.

What is a stroke? A stroke occurs when one of the blood vessels that carries blood to the brain is blocked or bursts. If that part of the brain does not get the blood it needs, brain cells die. To help prevent this from happening, it is important to know the signs using F.A.S.T.:

Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech: Ask the person to repeat a single phrase. Is their speech slurred or does it sound strange?
Time: If you observe one or more of these symptoms or notice them in someone else, even for a short time, call 9-1-1 immediately!
While the F.A.S.T. message does not include all potential stroke symptoms, it is easy to remember and it emphasizes the quick action needed to save lives and prevent severe disability. Springwell will be distributing F.A.S.T. during September and October to hundreds of seniors, Springwell staff and volunteers, and Springwell’s online community.

A stroke can happen to anyone at any time, regardless of their age, but the risk can be reduced by practicing healthy habits, such as monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol levels, avoiding tobacco use, limiting salt intake and eating more fruits and vegetables, and exercising on a regular basis. If you are interested in learning more about stroke symptoms or prevention, visit


Jul 05

Controlling Chronic Conditions

Mrs. Flynn is one of many local older adults working to actively regain control over their health – and their life by participating in one of the evidence-based Healthy Living workshops offered by Springwell.

Mrs. Flynn, who is in her early 60’s, has high blood pressure and Type-2 Diabetes. When she first joined The Diabetes Self-Management Class offered by Springwell and held at her community center, her weekly action plan included portion control at every meal and exercise. She committed to walking for one mile a day, 3 days a week. She also worked on managing her portion sizes better, trading in her large bowl of cereal in the morning for a smaller bowl.

By the end of the six-week workshop, Mrs. Flynn was walking a mile nearly every single day, it made her feel so good. She had lost some weight and was looking forward to seeing her doctor’s surprise at her next checkup. Her inspiration? The workshop leaders, like those pictured above, and seeing others successfully making changes to their lifestyles helped Mrs. Flynn realize that she could do it too.

Springwell offers a number of programs that help adults take charge of improving their health and well-being.

Diabetes Self-Management, Chronic Disease Self-Management, Chronic Pain Self-Management, and Powerful Tools for Caregivers workshops are offered in community locations including adult education centers, community centers, Councils on Aging, and some doctor’s offices.

The Healthy Living Program is one of Springwell’s innovative approaches to the health and wellness needs of our communities. It is helping to empower those with chronic illnesses, as well as those who provide care – offering the tools, confidence and support for participants to assume primary role in managing their condition and in improving their quality of life.

For more information, check out the Healthy Living Program page, and the current schedule of workshops.


Mar 22

Making a Difference

After 36 years of teaching, and 22 years of attending to her mother’s needs, Marian still wanted to give back. In 2010, she saw an opportunity to volunteer for the Ombudsman program and reached out to learn more.

Ombudsmen play a critical role in ensuring that residents of nursing homes and rest homes receive the high level of care they deserve. Springwell’s Ombudsman program provides a volunteer at each of the facilities located in the towns of Belmont, Brookline, Needham, Newton, Waltham, Watertown, Wellesley, and Weston. Springwell’s ombudsmen visit the residents of 26 centers regularly, listen to their experiences, identify problems or complaints, and, with a resident’s permission, work closely with facility staff to address or alleviate them. Feedback from ombudsmen is a key part of the ongoing facility monitoring by the state. It is an important job and that was one of the things that attracted Marian; she wanted to have an impact.
Marian was impressed with the training program. There were eighteen hours of classroom instruction, followed by a personal introduction to the staff of the long-term care facility where she would be working. Shadowing an experienced ombudsman helped her learn the ropes. Most of all, she appreciated the fact that everyone involved with the program was focused on the well-being of the residents.
“Kindness goes a long way,” says Marian. She still volunteers in the Watertown facility where she was originally placed five years ago, and she still never knows what she will face when she knocks on a door. Whether it is a problem with a lonely senior who wants to go home or an angry one who is unhappy with staff response times, Marian starts by listening. As an ombudsman, Marian keeps her focus on the comfort and rights of the residents, and keeps her communication and relationships with the staff open and honest. In doing so she makes a big difference – one problem at a time.
More information about the Ombudsman Program.


Nov 07

Personal Care Attendant Program gives control to adults living with disabilities

"I'd be here anyway," says Lenora's sister, Liza, "but with the Personal Care Attendant Program and Rachel's help, I don't have to worry about missing work, or making ends meet. This is my job."

Lenora, who at 54 years old, has been struggling with the impact that diabetes has had on her life, agrees, "Family is important to me. I wouldn't want a stranger helping me with all the things I need help with. When it's a close relative, you're used to them. They understand more about you."

Springwell Care Advisor Rachel Fried works with a number of adults, like Lenora, who are living with long-term disabilities and are enrolled in the Personal Care Attendant Program (PCA). PCA is a MassHealth program that helps adults over the age of 18 with long-term disabilities live independently at home, by providing them with the funds to hire and manage their own personal care attendant to help with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, eating, and exercising.

Lenora was managing the decline in her health with the help of her close-knit family until she was hospitalized in February of 2013. Acute respiratory failure that resulted in a coma led to a long stay in both the hospital and a rehabilitation facility. The impact on her health left her unable to work, and the amount of daily care she needed was beyond the capabilities of her family. Her social worker suggested she call Springwell to see if she was eligible for the Personal Care Attendant Program, and that's when Lenora met Rachel. After an initial assessment and application meeting, as well as a nursing screening to determine the level of service that would be covered, Lenora was enrolled.

"Rachel makes the program easy," says Lenora, "There is a lot of paperwork, but she always highlights everything for me and double checks it to make sure it is right. We've never had any problems. And now I don't have to feel like I'm asking for favors all the time. I can concentrate on my health and getting better."

Photo caption: Springwell's Rachel Freid (l) with Liza Llanos (r) and Lenora Lackiram (c)

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