Sunday, November 22, 2015

Jeremy Cares Brings Smiles to Local Families

Helping Families Struggling with Childhood Illness to Keep Spirits High

Jeremy Cares is a nonprofit organization based out of Cleveland suburb Avon Lake, Ohio. In 2008, Vice President and cofounder Mary Kellick’s best friend found out that her son has leukemia and Mary decided to help any way she could.

“My best friend in life,” Mary said, “her name is Debbie George … and her son came down with acute t-cell lymphoblastic leukemia. … Some girlfriends and I rallied together and just started fundraising to help the family, because we didn’t know what else to do. There was nothing else we could do, but we thought, okay, we can help to relieve some of the financial burden. We printed t-shirts and we sold t-shirts. We filled up a mezzanine at Progressive Field. … It was filled with orange t-shirts. Everybody was there for Jeremy, which was wonderful. There was a great outpouring from the community. … When Jeremy thankfully went into remission, [Debbie] wanted to pay it forward.”

Jeremy Cares became an official nonprofit in 2010. “Our mission is that we create moments of joy,” said Mary, “for families who have children who are going through a medical crisis.” The organization has partnered with Ronald McDonald House to sponsor a room at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital so that a family can stay there free for an entire year. Jeremy Cares is now also doing work with Cleveland Children’s Hospital.

Making the Holidays Special for Kids with Cancer

Each year at Christmas time, the Jeremy Cares organization goes to Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital to the immune-compromised ward, where most of the cancer patients are cared for, to give out presents. “We get crazy,” Mary shared. “It’s anything that they want, within reason. We’ve given laptops and Casio keyboards and digital cameras, and the family gets kind of a wish list, you know? Put down what you would like, and we try to get those members of that family anything that they want.”

The 2015 Christmas delivery is coming up, and anyone can participate in helping to make the holiday special for these children. Simply visit, find the Giving tab at the top of the page and select Wishlist underneath it. This will take you straight to an Amazon page where you can buy gifts that were handpicked by the families Jeremy Cares is gifting this year.


This interview series is sponsored by Eldercare Professionals of Ohio, where we make your well-being our priority. Our interview series goes hand in hand with that effort, and we hope you find it helpful! For more information on how we can help, contacts us at, for questions on how to make your home a home for life, visit us at or call me (Brian Pritchard) at 216-212-7531.

To connect with Jeremy Cares, visit them on the web at, or call 440-933-9146.

To listen to the full audio conversation, please use the player below...


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Vision Troubles? The Cleveland Sight Center Can Help.

If you face vision problems in the greater Cleveland area, there is a powerful local resource that should definitely be on your radar. We sat down with Tom Sawyer from the Cleveland Sight Center to learn more about how the group supports our community.

"[We] help people to use the vision that they have left to remain as independent as possible in their home, workplace, community or school," said Tom. "We look at different low-vision products and how people might use or want to use different things and match them up, essentially." The program offers sight support to people of all ages and all levels of compromised vision. "Cleveland Sight Center has been around for going on 110 years," Tom went on, "and we have everything from preschool to the oldest individual I've worked with to date is 104."

Making Vision Support a Reality

Often times, people come to the Cleveland Sight Center at a crossroads. "[People] find out that they've ignored the problem and they can't ignore it anymore if they want to stay independent or if they want to have any kind of quality of life," Tom shared. "There are people that just sit in a dark room all day, every day. They don't know of the opportunities that are available to have equipment or people come alongside them to encourage them and empower them to do the things to be the whole person that they once were. It may be in a different way, it may have different accommodations, but they can still be very vibrant and full of life and successful and do daily living activities at the very least."

The center also supports people who were born with compromised vision. They have a program that empowers youth as they prepare to transition from living at home to going out on their own into the world. "We have had students who are going off to college or going into the world of work," said Tom. "They may have been protected … from all of the outside influences, but now Mom and Dad understand that they need to help their child grow and move to the next phase. So, they come here sometimes six to eight weeks, depending on the program, and they'll stay here. We help them assess where they are. We help them go and look at different employment possibilities or schools and mobility issues and assess their capabilities to use technology and introduce them to new technology. … We have residence centers with peers where they stay. They do shopping, they go bus ride, there's just a number of things that they do."

"We also have a camp," Tom continued, "the oldest and largest in the country, I believe. … In-ground pools, indoor camping--it helps them build skills [like] communication, socialization. It encourages them to work together. It's intergenerational as well because there are a number of other people--not just kids or young people--it's every age just about."

Best Practices for Vision Challenges

If you want to do what you can to navigate the world with the vision you have left, Tom had some specific tips to share:

Make the Most of Light Sources: While the sun can be a challenge to sight when you are facing it directly, you can turn your face away from it and allow it to shine on your reading material to help you read. The same is true for overhead lighting sources; point them as much as possible directly at the task you are undertaking and you will see what you are doing more clearly. You don't want light shining in your eyes; it should be behind or above you to illuminate your tasks.

Bump Dots or Spotlight Paint: When people are beginning to lose their eyesight, often times something called a "bump dot"--a sticky adhesive dot--can be attached to certain things, such as a number on the microwave, a setting on the washing machine or a key that is used frequently. Spotlight paint is another such solution that will allow visual distinction even with advanced vision deterioration.

Use a Bold Pen: Writing with a gel pen or even a Sharpie marker can help make writings more readable.

Natural Daylight Lightbulbs: Bulbs calibrated to produce light equivalent to natural daylight support vision indoors.

Go for High Contrast: A great example of this is, when cooking, if you're cutting a tomato, you would want to use a white cutting board, not a dark-colored board. On the other hand, if you're cutting onions, you would want to use a dark cutting board. The Cleveland Sight Center sells a white/black cutting board that you can turn over to use the side you need to see your task best.

Protect Your Eyes: Twenty or thirty years ago, you'd see everyone over 70 wearing these huge, bulky black frames over their glasses. These days, there are plenty of more palatable options for people to choose from to protect their eyes from bright sunlight.


This interview series is sponsored by Eldercare Professionals of Ohio, where we make your well-being our priority. Our interview series goes hand in hand with that effort, and we hope you find it helpful! For more information on how we can help, contacts us at, for questions on how to make your home a home for life, visit us at or call me (Brian Pritchard) at 216-212-7531.

To connect with The Cleveland Sight Center, visit them on the web at or call 216-791-8118.

To listen to the full audio conversation between Tom and I, please click on the player below...


Monday, September 28, 2015

Dancing Wheels: Living without Limitations

When we see someone dance, we have the chance to witness the emotions of the heart translated into the physical motion of the body. Dancing Wheels Company & School in Cleveland, Ohio creates performance pieces and educational opportunities that embrace all those who wish to express themselves in the form of dance, no matter their abilities or perceived "disabilities". Founder and Artistic Director Mary Verdi-Fletcher shares the story of how dance became a part of her life.

"From as far back as I can remember," Mary said, "I always wanted to be a dancer. … I had braces and crutches when I was growing up, and my mother was … a professional dancer prior to my being born. She always instilled the idea of music and movement from the time I could remember anything. I remember that she took me to this shrine, because my family was very religious, too, and we were visiting with the nuns and she said, 'Show them how you know the Mexican Hat Dance.' And they put a hat down and I was doing the dance on my braces and crutches, and they just really loved that. It was kind of the first time I was actually doing a little impromptu performance, so I remember that. I was probably about three years old."

Enjoying Her Dancing Wheels

Mary won several singing competitions in her school-aged years, but didn't have the opportunity to do much dancing, as dancing classes for someone in a wheelchair didn't exist at that time. After high school though, she reconnected with an old friend from her school days in Perry, Ohio and began dancing at local clubs in Cleveland. "I became real popular in the clubs," said Mary, "because I was the only one in a wheelchair dancing." Her friend's then husband became Mary's first dance partner and they decided to enter the Dance Fever dance competition. "I signed up and I didn't tell anybody that I was in a wheelchair because it didn't occur to me," Mary recalled.

"Our first big performance was [the Dance Fever] competition at a dance club in Willoughby," Mary went on, "and there were 2,000 people in the audience because there were all these other competitors. … We entered the dance floor [and there] was an entire hush over the audience; 2,000 people and you could've heard a pin drop because they were awestruck that there was a person in a wheelchair in a dance competition. … And then we broke into dance, and we did 'It's Raining Men' by The Weather Girls. … We just went all out. My girlfriend had made our costumes."

"[My dance partner] was quite athletic and I had an older-style wheelchair. I mean, it was new then, but they looked like the hospital ones now where they're heavy and clunky and all that, and they have big armrests. So, our finale was that he took a flying leap and jumped on my armrests and jumped over my head, and people went crazy over it. We were chosen as alternates to go to California to be on the show, and we got a standing ovation that night and it was covered by the media tremendously. That was the very beginning of Dancing Wheels. We named it Dancing Wheels that night … and from that time, we were picked up by Disney to do a national television show. It was called Up and Coming. … Then we started getting calls from all over the nation to go and perform. We did 72 shows our first year." That was 1980.

Branching Out

In 1990, Dancing Wheels became associated with The Cleveland Ballet. It was also at this time that Mary formed the Dancing Wheels School. "I had access to working in the school of The Cleveland Ballet and learning from their techniques, their training," said Mary. "I was able to develop relationships with choreographers and have a pool of professional ballet dancers to work with."

"The company is versed in … classical styles of dance [like] ballet [as well as] modern [dance]. I personally love story ballets[.] … We have Alice In Wonderland like you've never seen before. We have Pinocchio. We have Babes In Toyland. We have The Snowman. And we have Helen Keller: A Tribute to Her Teacher."

Dance with a Message

"We'll do two things," Mary said. "We'll either have a call to create a piece specifically … [such as when we recently developed] an educational program [based on Newton's Law] that included dance [and] was a mix of science and movement. … Then there are other dances that we've done, for instance Daring to Be Dumbo, which was based on the story of the elephant with the big ears … [in] a modern-day setting. So there was still a Dumbo, but Dumbo was a Junior-High-School student and was a female who had big ears [and] she was teased for how she looked. Once that ballet was created, we decided to take it further and excerpt it and develop an outreach program based on anti-bullying."

"[In] the original story of Dumbo, Dumbo was bullied for being an elephant [whose ears were] with too big[.] … [Then] he found a way to take that disadvantage and make it an advantage so he could fly with his big ears. We're always looking for themes that fit within the curriculum of the schools and that also might relate to social issues."

Embracing Limitless Potential

The Dancing Wheels motto is "The Human Body Has No Limitations," and Mary's worldview is very much in alignment with that statement. "I've always been a person that would take on opportunities that were presented," she said, "or challenges! It's more like, 'Why not?' than 'Why?'. By doing that, I have met Presidents and Popes. … I always say that the disability is society because they've imposed the stairs and the stereotypical views and the perceptions of someone who has a different body. That's society. Me, as a person, I'm a free spirit, so I don't place those limitations on me. They come from the outside in sometimes, but I've learned that I've become a much stronger force having broken through those barriers. … You become stronger with each of those barriers that you've pushed through."


This interview series is sponsored by Eldercare Professionals of Ohio, where we make your well-being our priority. Our interview series goes hand in hand with that effort, and we hope you find it helpful! For more information on how we can help, contacts us at, for questions on how to make your home a home for life, visit us at or call me (Brian Pritchard) at 216-212-7531.

To see a Dancing Wheels performance, participate in their dance school or learn more about their programs, please visit them on the web at or call them at 216-432-0306. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Local Therapist Creates Comprehensive Guide for Seniors

Max Compton, creator of the Senior Comfort Guide got his start through his work as a psychological counseling provider to longterm care facilities. It was there that he began to notice a pervasive issue amongst residents. "The number one issue that comes up in counseling sessions," he said, "is adjustment. The resident [feels] they are in the wrong facility or not getting the right services that they need. The reason for this is that they are admitted to the hospital--through the emergency room, usually--and then when they're discharged, they only have a day or two … and they can't go back home. They're placed at a facility, or they need services they weren't getting prior to admission into the hospital, and they've got to make quick decisions. Sometimes [with] those quick decisions, you don't always choose the right company or the right service; you just choose a service or a facility. … A patient can lose their timing, lose their health, lose their well-being just from not getting [into] the right facility[.] That's what got me thinking, hey, we've got to make a tool that's an easy tool, comprehensive, unbiased, that has everything in it. We started off with a web guide and now we've moved on to the print guide."

Creating Option Awareness

"Senior Comfort Guide is a helpful, complete tool for senior services and senior facilities for the geriatric population of Northeast Ohio," said Compton. "It's a spring-bound guide that lists [everything] from hospitals to senior centers to home healthcare to all the service providers. Then, in the back of the guide, it has a list of all the nursing homes, assisted living and independent living [facilities] throughout [the area]."

The guide is useful not only to elders and their family members and caretakers, but it also has proven to be incredibly helpful for area facilities when it comes to having a quick place to turn to for any senior services they may need to call upon. "A lot of the healthcare providers have been telling me that it's basically their little 'bible' that they keep in their bag or on their desk," Compton shared. "The goal is, we provide it to the providers and the case managers of hospitals and we put it in the right places so that the seniors and their loved ones can find it and pick up a copy so that when it's time for them to make a decision, they have all the information [they need] in their hands."

What they have found, Max said, is that people often have only heard of some of the big-name care facilities and providers when they go to look for options. In such cases, they often feel that these major players are their only choices. However, there are a wide variety of excellent smaller facilities and providers that may suit the individual or the family better. The Senior Comfort Guide, therefore, was created to be a comprehensive listing of the many options available to seniors in Northeast Ohio, with no favor being paid to the larger, better-advertised companies. "The point of making a comprehensive guide," he said," is to show loved ones and family members and aging people that there are options out there, and there are many options out there."


Here at HandyPro, we make your well-being our priority. Our interview series goes hand-in-hand with that effort, and we hope you find it helpful! For more information on how we can help you make your home a home for life, visit us at or call me (Brian Pritchard) at 216-212-7531.

If you would like to learn more about Senior Comfort Guide, you can visit them on the web at or reach them by phone at 216-292-8486.

To listen to the full, unedited audio of our conversation, please Click Here


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Caregiver Support for Understanding and Coping with Dementia

No one can deny, dealing with dementia is a challenge on all fronts. It's challenging for the individual suffering from it, for their family members and for the staff and caregivers who choose to play supporting roles for those with the condition. Certified coping and stress-management coach and 30-year occupational therapy assistant Roberta Stack has created a helpful support system and educational program around coping strategies to help those who support individuals with dementia.

"[I educate] caregivers and staff working with the elderly," said Roberta, "specifically [those with] dementia. I also try to work with caregivers and staff--especially social workers--on coping skills, coping [with being] a caregiver, coping with any losses, stress management techniques to be able to cope better. [I offer] dementia training to try to [help staff and caregivers] face some of the fears that [they] have… things you don't know, things you don't know how to deal with, facing those fears and giving them some idea of how to help individuals with dementia[.]"

Better Understanding Dementia

Many people aren't clear about what exactly dementia is and how varied it can be in its expression among those who suffer from it. People think of dementia and they think of Alzheimer's. While Alzheimer's certainly is a form of dementia, it is not by any means the only form.

"A lot of people hear the word dementia and they think it's always Alzheimer's," Roberta said. "There are so many different types of dementia, and there's reversible and irreversible. We get a lot of residents who start forgetting things and they have signs of dementia. Well, it could be a urinary tract infection. It could be that they're dehydrated. It could be medication causing it. It could be a brain tumor that could be removed and they could be fine. Then there are irreversible types of dementia like Alzheimer's [or] like Lewy Body, which is a very quick type of dementia. There are so many kinds, and they don't always know what kind it is, and technically you can't really diagnose it until after death."

Since some forms of dementia are temporary and curable, Roberta highly recommends that people not take an initial diagnosis at face value. "You want to exhaust all possible means of it not being irreversible [dementia]," she asserted. "Are they dehydrated? Is their diet okay? Do they have a UTI? Is there something going on? [Get assessments] to make sure that it isn't some type of reversible [dementia.]"

Facilitating a Change

Unfortunately, the eldercare industry has a notoriously high turnover rate for employees. According to a 2013 report produced by the American Health Care Association, the national turnover rate for skilled nursing facilities was about 44%, while the turnover for CNAs in particular was about 52%. Assisted living rates were slightly lower at about 32%. Roberta believes this is largely because people haven't received proper training and education to best navigate particularly challenging cases, such as dementia.

"There is a large turnover… and I feel, honestly, it's lack of education. Staff doesn't always know how to deal with, especially again, people with dementia and it's very frustrating. … You can't rationalize with someone with dementia as you would with the average person on the street. It's very stressful. It's a stressful job and people are getting burned out. That's why I'm trying to educate them on what [they] can do to make working with these people easier and more rewarding for [all involved], but also keeping [themselves] healthy in the meantime so that, again, [they] can take better care of [those with dementia]. … We're starting to see as we're educating staff that they're learning techniques that they're saying are actually helping release some of that tension, and we're hoping that the turnover gets to be a little lower and a little lower… so there will be more continuity of care."


To learn more about Roberta Stack's work or to contact her directly, you may visit her on the web at or reach her by phone at 440-759-9178.

Here at HandyPro, we make your well-being our priority. Our interview series goes hand in hand with that effort, and we hope you find it helpful! For more information on how we can help you make your home a home for life, visit us at or call me (Brian Pritchard) at 216-212-7531.

To listen to the full, unedited interview, please Click Here

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Highlighting Local Disability Advocates on the Anniversary of the ADA Law

July 26, 2015 is the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and we sat down with Shannon Monyak and Kathy Foley from Services for Independent Living, Inc. based out of Euclid, OH. Shannon is the Director of Programs at SIL, and Kathy is the Director of Advocacy. They shared a bit about how SIL works to trumpet the cause and awareness of the ADA through supporting both individuals and communities.

"As a center for independent living," said Kathy, "our whole goal is to help people with disabilities of all kinds to remain in the community of their choice. So, we have a number of services and supports that are available … along with community education and advocacy efforts[.]"

A Variety of Services

With specifics varying from service to service, SIL cares for people of all ages who are dealing with disabilities, from newborns in NICU to elderly people in the final stages of life.

"We have independent living skills training," Shannon shared, "peer support, advocacy and information referral, which are four core services. We're now adding a fifth, which is transition [where] we do nursing home relocation through the Ohio Department of Medicaid. We're also starting youth transition where we … partnered with a specific school district in the southwest area of Cleveland."

"The other thing that we do," Kathy added, "is that we have a program called the ADA inaccessibility services. It's really a two-part program for individuals with disabilities and for the community. For individuals, we have a small fund that can help with minor home modifications [such as] … widening doors, adding grab bars, that sort of thing. We can help with that. Or, if we don't have the funding, we can help identify where funding can be found[.]"

"On the community side," Kathy went on, "we can help community agencies, colleges, businesses, hospitals [and other community entities] with understanding what their requirements and obligations are under the Americans with Disabilities Act. We can also go in and do an ADA survey of the physical facility [as well as] their business practices. [We] do a lot of community education around ADA. For example, we just did a disability awareness and ADA [presentation] as it pertains to hospitals[.]"

Helping People Help Themselves

Through the various programs SIL offers, from peer support to education to transition into independent living, the organization aims to help people to obtain the life skills and confidence they need to thrive.

"Individuals are being taught how to become better self advocates," Kathy said. "[They're learning] how to speak up for their rights, how to speak up for their wishes. That, I think, is what sets us apart."

With their new transitions program, they are not only helping people move out of nursing homes, but they are helping young people to live on their own for the first time, learn how to balance a checkbook, learn how to do their laundry. The SIL's array of services goes beyond simply addressing ADA law and advocacy to addressing the whole person and helping them to learn necessary life skills, many of which aren't taught anywhere else.

Housing, Transportation, Employment, Healthcare

Housing, transportation, employment and healthcare accessibility issues are big ones when it comes to those who are living with a disability. SIL helps people to navigate these major areas while also working with companies, systems and communities to create more accessible choices.

"We do an awful lot of work on the systems change side of the fence," said Kathy, "because the reality is that while we envision a society that's accessible to all, we don't have that yet. We're moving towards that, but we're not there yet. So, we bring the voice of the consumer to the table on systems chance efforts, whether it's local, state or federal."

"Housing is huge," she went on. "Being able to find affordable, accessible and safe housing is a huge challenge, especially with … people that are trying to transition out of nursing homes. And housing ties in with employment and healthcare and transportation. We're working a lot on transportation advocacy right now to build a more equitable transportation system that is more responsive to on-demand. Right now, people needing specialized transportation, lift equipment transportation, usually it's five days to a week ahead that they have to plan, whereas you and I can say, 'Oh, I'm going to hop in my car or I'm going to grab the mainline bus and I'm going to go visit my friend.' Folks that we work with can't always do that."


If you would like to find out more about the programs offered through Services for Independent Living, Inc., you can find them on the web at or reach them by phone at 216-731-1529.

Here at HandyPro, we make your well-being our priority. Our interview series goes hand in hand with that effort, and we hope you find it helpful! For more information on how we can help you make your home a home for life, visit us at or call me (Brian Pritchard) at 216-212-7531.

To listen to our full conversation, please Click Here