All Posts By

Mark E. Smith

January 25, 2017

Who’s Caring for Caregivers?

caring for caregivers

Among those of us in our 40s, 50s and 60s, huge numbers  are called upon to provide caring for aging relatives. More than ever before.

By 2020, for the first time in human history, there will be more individuals over 65 than children under the age of 5.

What this astounding statistic translates to is that for many of us, if we’re not caring for our aging spouses, we’re likely caring for our parents and grandparents. And if we, ourselves, aren’t caregivers, we undoubtedly are close to someone who is.

With this reality, an intriguing and vital need has arisen: How do we care for caregivers?

While we naturally focus on those who need caregiving due to medical necessity, the fact is, primary caregivers – most often spouses and children – have profoundly important needs, as well. How do we as a society and as individuals assess and support those needs?

The first step as those on the outside is to recognize the breath of the situation the caregiver is addressing. Often caregivers, based on pure love, shoulder far more responsibility than they express. Caregivers can feel every emotion from ultimate obligation to feeling as though their own needs are less important, so they rarely express the true scope of what they’re going through. As a support system for caregivers, we must make an effort to learn as much as we can about the reality of the situation, even beyond what the caregiver shares. We must strive to view the circumstance objectively and determine where the caregiver is at – physically, emotionally and mentally. caring for caregivers

Studies show that caregivers can experience symptoms ranging from fatigue to anxiety to depression – and we don’t need a degree to recognize those symptoms. We know the personalities of those close to us, and when we see adverse changes in a caregiver, it’s a clear sign that he or she needs additional support.

While we never wish to pull a caregiver out of a situation – after all, one’s heart and soul is in it – the single most effective form of caring for a caregiver is by giving him or her a break from the circumstance via respite care. When a caregiver is serving a loved one around the clock, again, we know it takes its toll. A daily form of respite for the caregiver – where someone else assists while the primary caregiver gets a break – dramatically improves the circumstance for everyone. As family and friends of caregivers, if we can ensure respite, whether it’s through outside professionals or loved ones, it dramatically improves the circumstance. A gentleman caring for his wife with Alzheimer’s recently described how, with the support of his children, having one hour per day of respite care, so he can run his errands, has dramatically reduced his stress levels, making him a better caregiver.

Indeed, caregiving to the extent that we are is a remarkably new phenomena of which society has never known. And, more and more families are having to navigate this process every day. We still have a lot to learn, personally and culturally. However, what we know for certain is that in order to best care for those in need, we must also care for caregivers.

December 29, 2016

Join with Us and Celebrate the True Spirit of the New Year

Celebrate the New YearIn modern times, New Year’s resolutions are goals for the coming year.

However, the New Year tradition dates back over 4,000 years, and was actually about reflecting on the prior year. Put simply, it was about looking back, as opposed to looking forward, and using that momentum to improve.

There’s a lot of empowerment in using the New Year to look back. After all, through the good times and the tough times of the past year, we made it!

It’s via this enlightened lens that New Year’s serves as an especially poignant annual milestone for those of us living with disability, illness or any adversity. We made it!

For those among us who made it through our first year of adversity, it’s a wonderful time to look back on the strengths and wisdom gained – maybe some we didn’t fathom we had until we drew it from deep within. Those among us who have faced years or a lifetime of adversity know it’s a fitting time to look back and remind ourselves how far we’ve traveled on this journey. For all of us, it’s an opportunity to realize that we made it with courage and tenacity through the year, and that, in itself, is something to celebrate.

Hardships are easy to look back upon, but the scars earned can be tough to appreciate. The fact is, no one chooses adversity. However, when adversity finds us, and we move through it, the scars become records of strength and courage – and that recognition is life-affirming.

We owe it to ourselves – and New Years is the perfect time – to look at all life has thrown our way, and say, “I made it, and I’m stronger because of it!”

Within all adversity resides opportunity, and nothing marks opportunity like the New Year. Let us all use what we’ve experienced as wind in our sails, moving with increased strength and wisdom into the New Year.

None of us can predict what the New Year will bring; but, we’ve already proven that whatever it is, we can handle it.

As author, Sarah Ban Breathnach, put it, “Take a leap of faith and begin this wondrous new year by believing. Believe in yourself….”


December 14, 2016

The Ultimate Gift: Give the lasting Gift of Mobility


Looking for the ultimate gift?As we head into the holiday season, many wonder what to get the parent or grandparent who has it all.

If your family is like many of ours, we have aging relatives who could benefit from a mobility device – whether that’s a lift chair, scooter or portable power chair – but have been reluctant to pursue one on his or her own. Why not, then, consider giving your loved one the ultimate gift: the gift of mobility.

We surprised a grandfather in our family with the gift of mobility last year, and it’s turned out to be quite the gift. Like many as he aged, he saw slowing down as part of the process. He slowly spent more and more time in the house rather than outdoors doing what he loved. As family members, we brought up the topic of scooters in recent years, but he was resistant, not realizing the expanded mobility it would bring back to his life. As a result, on Christmas last year, we rolled in a red travel scooter with a red bow. To our joy, he took to it immediately, touched that we’d gotten him a true gift. See, as he drove the scooter up and down the block for the first time, he shared with us all of his thoughts of what he could do with his enhanced mobility.

And, his scooter has proved the ultimate gift. Over the past year he’s not just out-n-about more, but he went on a cruise and took his grandchildren to Disneyland. The scooter has been a gift to his wife and family, as well, in those ways.

This holiday season, as you think of what to get you loved one who has it all, think about what mobility needs he or she may have. After all, sometimes the gift of mobility is the ultimate gift.The ultimate Gift

December 9, 2016

Prioritizing Pressure Management: Reducing the Risks of Seated Pressure Sores

pressure management

Prioritizing Pressure Management: Reducing the Risks of Seated Pressure Sores

Why would we develop seated pressure sores, anyway? Here’s a simple physiological fact: as humans, our bodies aren’t designed to sit for long periods. As padded as some of our posteriors may seem, nature didn’t intend for them to handle concentrations of seated body weight indefinitely. And, unfortunately, for those of us with mobility impairments, remaining in a seated position for extended periods can lead to a very serious and debilitating condition called decubitus ulcers – more commonly called pressure sores.

Seated pressure sores occur when bony areas rub away at tissue. Many assume that pressure sores occur from the outside, in. however, it’s in fact bony areas pressing or rubbing against tissue, from the inside, out that causes pressure sores. And, this is among the reasons why they’re so dangerous – by the time we see a pressure sore, serious tissue damage has already occurred, often requiring surgery and months of bed rest.

So, as those often seated, how do we prevent pressure sores? This is where individual practices of pressure management come in.

It Starts With Seat and Back Cushions

It’s natural to think of a seat cushion simply as a padded surface to sit on. However, when it comes to pressure management, a cushion is truly a physiologically-engineered medical necessity. Pressure management cushions serve three foremost roles (and these apply to both seat and backrest cushions):

pressure management cushion for Seated Pressure Sores

Jay J3 cushion


  • Distributing weight as evenly as possible
  • Allowing pressure points, such as the sacrum/coccyx, to immerse (sink) into the cushion, reducing pressure
  • Reducing shearing (pulling of the skin and tissue

back cushion to prevent Seated Pressure Sores

The more evenly pressure is distributed across the seating surface, the less pressure is on any one point, thus decreasing the risk of a seated pressure sores developing. A cushion with immersion characteristics – commonly made of air cells, gel, or layers of memory foam – allow pressure points to sink in and reduce pressure. And, a low-shear (slick) cover reduces pulling on skin and tissue. When the three are combined, optimal pressure management occurs.

There are a range of seat and backrest cushions on the market, but looking for these three characteristics is key to pressure management.


You Must Shift Your Weight

A pressure management cushion and backrest is only half of the equation to preventing seated pressure sores. The other half is weight shifts. Weight shifts are just as they say – it’s shifting your weight off of pressure management areas. For example, lateral weight shifts involve leaning to each side to temporarily relieve pressure on areas of your posterior. Similarly, a forward lean takes pressure off of your back and tailbone region. For those wheelchair users who can’t perform manual pressure shifts, there is tilt and recline seating that shifts one’s weight. There are additional pressure relief methods, and all should be approved as safe and effective by your clinician or healthcare professional. Regardless of the method used, the clinical community recommends that those at risk of pressure sores perform weight shifts every 15 to 20 minutes. And, when our schedules allow, lying on our side on a bed for a bit to eliminate pressure altogether can be among the best forms of pressure management.

Shifting Our Priorities

For those of us who rely on mobility products, in seated positions, it’s vital that we make pressure management a priority. However, when done right – getting a pressure management seat and back cushion, as well as performing weight shifts – we can focus less on our posterior and more on our everyday lives with health and comfort.

November 30, 2016

Celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2016

In 1992, the United Nations founded the “International Day of Persons with Disabilities,” celebrated annually on December 3rd, around the world.

In 1992, the United Nations founded the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, celebrated annually on December 3rd, around the world.

The theme for 2016’s International Day is, “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want,” which draws attention to the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals that strive to create a more inclusive and equitable world for persons with disabilities.

What’s inspiring about this year’s theme is that the “17 goals” don’t stem from merely those with disabilities, but they are literally the U.N.’s initiatives for all people around the world.

The goals range from ending hunger to quality education to gender equality to climate action, and so on. Truly, what this year’s theme says is that people with disabilities are… well… just people after all. That’s an empowering, inclusive world view.

See, among the foremost reasons those with disabilities have been historically disenfranchised around the globe is because their needs – read that, our needs, among those of us with disabilities – have been viewed as somehow different. Of course, there’s never truly been a difference. Those of us who have disabilities have always needed, wanted and deserved what everyone else needs, wants and deserves – that is, education, family, community and career, to name a few. Yet, over modern decades, in modern societies, our supposed needs have been noted as “different,” and in that well-meaning but skewed societal view, we’ve consequently been treated differently. For example, we were given “equal access” to architectural barriers, which often really meant a separate entrance, as opposed to “universal access,” where everyone has the same architectural access, walking, wheeling or otherwise.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

However, this year, on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the U.N. has put a stake in the ground. The U.N. has proclaimed that the needs of those with disabilities are the needs of all people – there is no difference. And, let us hope that the U.N.’s 17 goals for mankind come to fruition because then we will simply have the International Day of People, a day that celebrates true equality for all.