Last night my friend Stacy McCain was suspended from Twitter with no warning or explanation or any apparent path to appeal. Surely it is just a coincidence that this happened shortly after Twitter created a Star Chamber, ahem, Ministry of Truth, no, that’s not it: a Trust and Safety Council, and appointed as a member a frequent target of Stacy’s anti-feminist and pro-Gamergate critiques, Anita Sarkeesian, feminist and anti-Gamergater.

There is no First Amendment issue here because Twitter is a corporation, not the government, so it has the right to suspend, ban, and censor its subscribers. But it is a poor business model to do it secretly and as a type of gaslighting, to push a political agenda, as Twitter does, which elevates progressive points of view while suppressing those of conservatives. Conservatives are right to be outraged. Specifically, Twitter has been doing the following:

  • Removing the checkmark showing an account authentically belongs to a prominent person, as happened recently to Milo Yiannopoulos, who is @nero on Twitter.
  • Shadow banning: keeping lists of accounts that are white listed or black listed, and hiding the black listed ones so they do not appear in search results.
  • Suppressing certain trending hashtags, such as #FreeStacy, by turning off autocomplete for them.

Thanks to the above practices, Twitter is revealing its transformation from social media platform to cult. The best conservative response would be to build a better mousetrap. But right now, feminists, it’s time to toughen up, buttercup, and win by the strength of your arguments rather than your power to silence your opposition: #FreeStacy.

P.S. If you aren’t winning by the strength of your arguments, it means you need to discard them and get better ones, not seize the power to control or destroy the people you can’t persuade.

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Hubert P. Yockey works on a 60-inch cyclotron. Photo from the National Archives Catalog taken by Donald Cooksey, 7/26/1949.

Hubert P. Yockey works on a 60-inch cyclotron. Photo from the National Archives Catalog taken by Donald Cooksey, 7/26/1949.

Right now I am sitting next to the bed of my 99-year-old dad, Hubert P. Yockey, and for the next few hours or days, he is still one of the last living nuclear physicists of the Manhattan Project. He shortened the war with Japan by improving the design of the Calutron, the machine used at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to separate uranium for the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. After over 20 happy years caring for my late life partner, who died of complications of multiple sclerosis in 2004, I came back home in October 2006 to live with my dad and provide his care. But I need help from my friends to do my last service for him. I need to ask for donations to cover the cost of a budget cremation for him. My goal is $2,050 $1,275.

I know there are people who think I should have saved up this amount in that time, or my dad should have. Long story short, by the time I’d conquered various health problems and it looked like I could figure out how to make some money while caring for Dad, the level of care that he needed changed and made that impossible. For the last few years, I’ve had to stick very close to him when he was awake and get up two or more times a night to keep him alive. But it was worth it. My father is a wonderful man and very pleasant company.

As an example of his kind nature, a few years ago I volunteered to put a lot of music and videos onto a friend’s iPad to entertain her during her dialysis sessions. I wound up working about 30 hours straight because one video just would not convert to a playable format. Then I had to take Dad to a game played by our local minor league baseball team since we had season tickets. On the way, I explained my marathon session mastering the iPad. Dad immediately became very sympathetic, and replied, “Oh yes, it was just like that for me–when I was learning to use the cyclotron.” (I still think his equating his mastery of the cyclotron and mine of the iPad is one of the funniest things anyone has ever said to me.)

To be able to share all the photos I want of my dad’s Manhattan Project days and my last year with him, taking him on adventures, I’m linking a Facebook post I’ve made public.

If it is comfortable for you to help me out, please click the PayPal button below. I’m using PayPal because funds are available the fastest from it. My father is going much faster than I expected. The funds donated will go into a special bank account I’ve set up for my father’s care. Thank you.

UPDATE, 2/20/2016, Sat.: My beloved father, the center of my life since I moved back home to care for him in 2006, passed away on January 31 with me at his side. Thanks to my blogger friends who linked this post and their kind and generous readers, I was able to pay for my father’s cremation. For the first few days after Dad died, I stayed in my usual hypervigilance mode. I felt like Wile E. Coyote for the few moments he remains suspended in mid-air after he runs off the cliff. And then I crashed into catatonia and sleeping in my late life partner’s lift recliner chair. In the last day or two I crossed over into searing pain and periodic sobbing. Dad was happiest going out for rides in the car, so driving is the worst because I miss him so much. His wheelchair lived in the trunk of every car I’ve driven since I moved home. Opening the trunk now and seeing it empty reminds me he’s gone and I get hit with waves of pain. The bottom line is I’m doing the best I can, but my heart has been ripped out of my chest and I’m finding it hard to get much done without it. But it is a big priority for me to write my thank-you e-mails to every donor. Please be patient with me for a few more days. Thank you.

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Jenny Lawson is ‘Furiously Happy’

by CynthiaYockey on April 17, 2015


Ro-Ro, a 20-year-old calico cat, reposes on a seed warming mat in front of thriving young heirloom tomato seedlings. I am including this recent photo for its gloom-dispelling power.

Ro-Ro, a 20-year-old calico cat, reposes on a seed warming mat in front of thriving young heirloom tomato seedlings. I am including this recent photo for its gloom-dispelling power.

I stopped writing this blog regularly after the November 2010 elections for a few reasons. First, as a new conservative, I was stunned and angry to learn that social conservatives run as fiscal conservatives but govern primarily to advance their religious agenda. I was in the process of losing weight, which took my sense of humor and patience with it. I didn’t want to spoil my brand by losing my temper. Second, I didn’t see how blogging would help me make enough money to live on or get me a good job after my father passes on. I do now, but I didn’t then. Third, I couldn’t figure out how to keep every post I considered writing about my personal life and challenges from sounding like a suicide note.

But a couple of friends and my therapist (thanks, Obamacare!) have encouraged me to do the writing I refuse to do for my own sake for others who are facing similar challenges. So I am taking the plunge. It will be awhile before I can tell the story in any organized way. For now it’s enough to dive in.

In addition to not writing, I stopped following the blogs of many of my online friends because I couldn’t be on the computer and look after my dad. And it’s not a great thing to do what I’m doing now: writing after seeing Dad to bed. That’s because I have to be awake when he’s awake, so to get enough sleep I have to have the same sleep schedule.

But being back at the computer tonight, I see my friend Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess, has her second book coming out, Furiously Happy, about her struggles with mental illness and suicidal ideation. She’s learned from writing her blog and first book that she has attracted a tribe with similar challenges, many of whom have told her she has inspired them to live when they were actively planning their suicide.

I should mention that longterm caregivers like me often are living their suicide, since it’s an occupation with a death rate of one in three who do not survive the loved one they’re caring for, rising to two in three after age 66. I’m 61. I’ve been doing end-of-life care for loved ones since 1984, starting with my late life partner of over 20 years. I suspect the ones that die are taken by illnesses caused or exacerbated by overwhelm, isolation, exhaustion, fear, worry, lack and sadness. So it’s worth your life in that kind of situation to figure out how to overcome those challenges. I’ve come through relatively unscathed and have a thing or two to say about how I’ve done it.

What I relate to about Jenny’s new book is how frightened she felt of telling her story because that is how scared I’ve been of telling mine. But in the last month, I’ve gotten emotional support from a therapist and a couple of friends that has given me the courage to start writing again and tell my story. I don’t know if my writing will save anyone else’s life, but right now it will save mine.

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Beauregard doing tech support

by CynthiaYockey on April 17, 2015

Gray cat named Beauregard is sleeping stretched out and looking most serene.

Beauregard the second helps troubleshoot the Dropcam that kept disconnecting.

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Why is my Dropcam disconnected?

by CynthiaYockey on April 16, 2015

My father has obstructive sleep apnea, so it is dangerous for him to fall asleep in his recliner chair away from his respirator. And when he is sleeping in his bed, I need to be able to check on him without walking in the room and waking him up. So I have one Dropcam Pro by his bed and another one by his recliner in the living room.

After seeing Dad to bed, one of the last things I do before going to sleep is check on him with the Dropcam app on my iPhone. Last night the bedroom Dropcam reported it was disconnected. I stayed up another two hours doing unsuccessful troubleshooting: unplugging the USB cable from the Dropcam, unplugging the USB cable from the power outlet, turning off the router, unplugging the router, and using the settings in the iPhone app to connect to the camera and to my wifi network. Nothing worked.

This afternoon I called Dropcam’s tech support. The rep ran diagnostics, which checked out. My wifi signal was fine. Then she had me switch the USB cable. The Dropcam still would connect for a second, then disconnect. Finally she elevated me to a higher level of tech support, a nice young man who ran more diagnostics and found the problem: my ISP’s router changed channels automatically to get a better signal, but the Dropcam can’t connect with all the router’s channel options. I had to call my ISP to get them to set the router to the Dropcam’s preferred channel. This solution is not in any of Dropcam’s online tech support forum pages. This problem is something I hope Dropcam fixes immediately because seriously, when routers are built to change channels to get a better signal, why isn’t the Dropcam built to be compatible with that?

It was late in the afternoon by the time I’d gotten the Dropcam working again, but I’d promised my father ice cream at our favorite local dairy. I splurged and got us bowls of cream of crab soup and biscuits with butter, too, and I think they were the best I’ve ever tasted. We ate in the car, which is more comfortable and safe for Dad, and looked out over the farm fields and listened to “Prairie Home Companion” podcasts on a Bluetooth speaker. One of my end-of-life care secrets for getting my loved ones to live longer is to make their lives so happy they want to live. I’m glad to have the technology that helps me do it.

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My dad is 99 today

by CynthiaYockey on April 15, 2015

Hubert P. Yockey with a chocolate birthday cake with numeral candles for his 99th birthday.

Hubert P. Yockey

My dad, Hubert P. Yockey, turned 99 today, April 15, 2015. He’s one of the last surviving nuclear physicists who worked on the Manhattan Project (at Oak Ridge, Tennessee). He has a book in print by Cambridge University Press: Information Theory, Evolution and the Origin of Life. Dad’s current ambition is to live to at least 100. I am resuming writing my blog by telling the story of how I am helping him accomplish that goal.

I’ll elaborate more in the next few days. What I want to do today is just jump back in.

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Photograph of Joan Rivers.

Photo of Joan Rivers by Charles William Bush.

In July I was scanning for something to watch on TV and spotted an episode of “Celebrity Wife Swap” featuring Joan and Melissa Rivers swapping lives with Bristol and Willow Palin. I had to watch. I was unaware at the time that Melissa is a Republican–a fiscal conservative social liberal. (In the show Joan said she was a Democrat, but she stated in interviews she was a Republican who voted for whoever promised to lower her taxes.)

The structure of “Celebrity Wife Swap” is that the participants don’t know whose family they’re swapping with until they get to the home. Bristol was sent to live at Melissa’s home in Los Angeles with Joan Rivers. Melissa went to Bristol’s home in Wasilla, Alaska, to live with Willow and Bristol’s four-year-old son, Tripp. When they arrive, they are allowed to wander around the house until they figure out who owns it. Then they read a guide book to the family prepared by the woman they’re swapping with.

For the first half of the week, the guest follows the rules of the host family. The second half of the week, the guest is in charge. It ends with a round table where all the participants share their feelings about their experience.

I was shocked by a couple of things I learned about the two families. First, Joan was and Melissa is among the most loving and compassionate people ever born. And both of them embraced every challenge that came their way with a positive attitude. I will love them forever for that.

Second, even accounting for their ages, Bristol, then 21 or 22, and Willow, then 18, did not have the kind of poise and social skills that were evident in Melissa’s son, Cooper, then 12. Heck, Cooper lapped them on academic achievement, talent (he plays cello and drums) and sports, too. The contrast was sharpest between disciplined, high achieving Cooper and Bristol’s then-four-year-old son, Tripp, who started the week as an out-of-control “rowdy boy” hurtling toward the point-of-no-return on the road to ruin.

Willow got to see what Melissa did to get Tripp to bed without a fuss, break him of his tyranny of only cooperating with an order when he was bribed with a Popsicle, and discipline himself to a structured system tracked by a sticker chart where his good behavior earned him both immediate and eventual rewards, to wit, stickers and a couple of hours playing in a bouncy house. The speed of Tripp’s turnaround from insufferable brat to goal-oriented achiever was miraculous. In addition, Melissa gently persuaded Willow to take some responsibility herself to act as a parent toward her brother and stop egging him into mischief. A six-week follow-up at the end of the show reported Bristol was still using the sticker chart and getting very good results with Tripp.

Joan has instilled ambition and the entrepreneur spirit into Melissa, so they thought the nicest thing they could do for Bristol and Willow would be to give them some professional experience that would look great on their resumes. When both young women declined these opportunities, Joan and Melissa were astonished but gracious. That’s when it seemed to hit them, off camera, that these young women have been neglected, and their hearts went out to them to make up the losses.

Joan also performed a miracle because she managed to get the chip off Bristol’s shoulder that was making her see attacks where none existed (during the dinner party), a problem that, if it returns, will be a serious block to her success, her capacity to win friends and her enjoyment of life. Here are some of Joan’s last remarks at the round table to Bristol:

I really learned a much deeper thing with you. I learned nobody should judge anybody from where they come, or who they’re related to, good or bad, you are your own person. Here I go [tears welled up]. I adore you. I just think you’re great. I just had the best time with you and I think you’re terrific.

Watch the whole episode on Hulu, or YouTube, if you can, because the transformation is so beautiful. You will see a side of Joan Rivers that will amaze you. And you will fall in love with Melissa Rivers, too, and come to respect her intelligence, compassion and talent.

And if gays and lesbians seem to be grieving the death of Joan Rivers more intensely than you would expect, please understand that for millions of us, she was the loving and accepting mother and grandmother we never had.



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How to win a battle of wills with prayer

by CynthiaYockey on August 11, 2014

Andrew Breitbart chats with Stacy McCain in the Bloggers' Lounge at CPAC 2010.

Andrew Breitbart chats with Stacy McCain in the Bloggers’ Lounge at CPAC 2010.

A couple of days ago I retweeted a tweet by my friend, Stacy McCain, regarding the lawsuit against him and other bloggers by leftist blogger, convicted felon and vexatious litigant, Brett Kimberlin, knowing that the suit is going to trial in Maryland this morning. Last evening Stacy called to thank me, but I was at an outdoor concert with my father and couldn’t talk with him. It was too late to call by the time we got home, so I’m writing what I wanted to tell him here.

There is a mind-boggling amount of who-struck-John detail in the story leading up to the lawsuit. You can get reasonably caught up, if you are curious, reading Stacy’s recent post and the posts he links. The summary version is that Kimberlin waged war against a few conservative bloggers for exposing his criminal past for a couple of years before  dozens of conservative bloggers, including me, were stirred to look into the matter in 2012 and express solidarity with them. The accusations against Kimberlin include getting one blogger SWATted, which is a form of attempted murder by cop by calling in a fake crime to get a SWAT team sent to the intended victim’s home, and conducting a harassment campaign that got a married couple fired from their jobs. The expressions of solidarity and posts publicizing Kimberlin’s crimes, including his conviction as a bomber, led to Kimberlin’s filing a lawsuit in Maryland against several bloggers, including Stacy.

Since I know that Stacy is a man of faith, I want to suggest to him the invincible prayers that Unity minister Catherine Ponder recommends in situations where there are court cases, will battles and/or a strong-willed person dominating others. In her book, The Dynamic Laws of Prayer (affiliate link), in the sixth chapter, “The Powerful Prayer of Decree,” Ponder writes:

Contrary to what most people think, to declare that God’s will is being done in a situation is the highest form of prayer and always brings the perfect, happy, satisfying answer for all involved. This is true because God is a God of love, so His will for His children is always the highest and best. A heavenly Father would hardly want less for His children than would an earthly father. Among the most powerful prayers of decree you can ever pray, ones which often bring almost instantaneously happy surprises are: “NOT MY WILL BUT THINE BE DONE, FATHER.” “I WILLINGLY DO THE GOOD WILL OF GOD IN THIS SITUATION.” “GOD WORKS IN ME TO WILL AND TO DO WHATSOEVER HE WISHES DONE, AND GOD’S GOOD WILL CANNOT FAIL!” “GOD WORKS IN THIS SITUATION TO WILL AND TO DO WHATSOEVER HE WISHES DONE AND GOD CANNOT FAIL!” “I CALL ON GOD’S WILL TO DO ITS PERFECT WORK IN THIS SITUATION NOW FOR THE GOOD OF ALL CONCERNED.”

Jesus said, “My Father worketh . . . and I work” (John 5:17). When you affirm “God’s will” you unconsciously cast the burden of the problem on the Highest Power of the universe, which is then free to resolve it in the highest and best way. Miracles happen when people dare to affirm God’s will in their lives.

Catherine Ponder. The Dynamic Laws of Prayer (Kindle Locations 1377-1384). Kindle Edition.

Dr. Ponder also recommends making the prayers of decree in a loud voice and repeating them at least 15 times to break up hard conditions. If you can’t pull that off due to your surroundings, you can repeat the affirmations to yourself silently, or write them out by hand.

My observation is that affirmations like, “I call on God’s will to do its perfect work in this situation for the good of all concerned,” work because they get you out of the will battle. Sociopaths provoke will battles because they win them either by subjugating their victim or feeding on their sense of  domination while inflicting pain and confusion. They don’t know what to do when their victims tag team God’s will into the fight. And God has infinite resources for the battle. It just takes a person brave enough to call on God’s will and willing to accept the outcome.

So, Stacy, I hope you will consider using these prayers, including Dr. Ponder’s advice on saying them over and over to break up hard conditions. They will give you an inner calm, which will greatly bolster your case. And if your co-defendants join you, and you are all persistent, they will have an even more powerful effect. If you have difficulty pulling it off, another approach Dr. Ponder suggests is to imagine Jesus there doing it for you to work out the situation for the highest good of everyone.

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A lesson I learned from my garden

by CynthiaYockey on June 1, 2014

My newly planted heirloom tomatoes in a raised bed garden: Brandywine, Sudduth's strain; Brandywine, Liam's strain; Orange Russian 117; Dr. Wyche's Yellow; and Marianna's Peace.

My newly planted heirloom tomatoes: Brandywine, Sudduth’s strain; Brandywine, Liam’s strain; Orange Russian 117; Dr. Wyche’s Yellow; and Marianna’s Peace. The plants were in the red cups, which were labeled with each plant’s name.

“Life sort of unfolds, and certain things, which you can’t plan, reveal themselves at the right time.” Goldie Hawn

I love to grow heirloom tomatoes from seed because it’s a thrill to see the little plants burst out of the soil while it’s still grey and freezing outside. Plus, growing from seed gives you the largest selection of tomato varieties. I usually spend many happy hours in January perusing my favorite seed websites and tomato growers’ forum to select the varieties I want to grow.

But this winter was harsh and instead I whiled away the hours shoveling snow. I felt depressed and hopeless about planting any seeds because I didn’t see how I would cover the expense of getting the soil ready. However, I had promised my neighbor I would grow some seeds for her so I had to do it. Then I felt depressed and hopeless because I didn’t get around to ordering my seeds until March and didn’t plant them until March 27. I figured that meant I might not have seedlings mature enough to plant and hardened off until the end of May: just in time for our area, if I were lucky. But I still didn’t see how I could afford new potting mix for the half of my garden that grows in containers.

When you can’t see your goal, it’s hard to move forward. But I could see the next step, and then the next, and the next, and day-by-day I kept going, frightened and depressed as I was. If it was too expensive to do the right soil preparation for the containers to grow tomatoes, then I would grow basil and marigolds in them. At least I would grow eight tomato plants in the raised bed garden I share with with neighbor and deliver the plants I’d promised.

Then last week luck and inspiration opened the way for me to have room for all the varieties of tomatoes I was growing. The luck: my neighbor got me a load of compost for only $35, enough for my containers, raised bed garden and the patch where I grow Yellow Doll watermelons for the sweet Jehovah’s Witness who has been visiting our family for about the last 20 years. Then the inspiration: shades of Norman Borlaug and organic(ish) methods be damned, I own Miracle Gro! If I deep root water my containers every time with a dilute solution of Miracle Gro, my tomatoes will thrive in the potting mix I have supplemented with a bit of the new compost.


So the lesson is that there’s only so much you can plan ahead in some situations. But if you have a goal and just get started and keep doing each day’s tasks to make progress, then you give luck, inspiration and helpful people a chance to help you attain it.

So I am jumping back into blogging. It has been difficult to write because my father is 98 now and I have to be more vigilant and spend more time sitting with him to keep him feeling cheerful. I also have to cook almost everything for him from scratch due to his low-sodium diet. I can’t work at my desktop computer while I’m doing those things. I need a computer I can carry around so I can watch the stove or sit with my father and write. I need a laptop. And I’m in a catch-22 trying to earn the money to buy it myself because I can’t get to my desktop computer to do the work that would make me the money to buy the laptop.

I mentioned my dilemma to a wise friend, who pointed out that if I resume writing for my blog and don’t ask for donations, I’m stopping the flow of love. Face palm! She reminded me that I feel good when I can help people and that I ought not deny the people who do feel kindly toward me and want hear more of what I have to say the chance to feel good by making it possible for me to write more. A laptop could get me about 15-20 more hours of productivity, writing-wise, per week. It would give me the chance to build a career that would enable me to support myself when my father is gone. I don’t have any savings due to long-standing health challenges, which my doctors considered hopeless. However, thanks to reader donations, which gave me access to the tools and medical care I needed over the last four years, it looks like I’ve resolved them and I’m finally healthy enough to work. Obtaining a laptop is the next step.

So if you feel kindly toward me, it’s affordable for you and it would uplift you, I will be very grateful for your donation to my laptop fund. I will send donors a link to a members-only newsfeed site I’m developing as a thank-you gift. It’s in a rudimentary stage now, but when I have the laptop and can work regularly, I look forward to making it something convenient and useful for people who love having a bird’s eye view of the top headlines of leading blogs and news sites in a variety of subject areas.

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The Verizon SureResponse device in its wrist strap holder on my dad's wrist, next to a combination lockbox. The combination is usually shielded by a shutter that goes up to hide it.

The Verizon SureResponse device in its wrist strap holder on my dad’s wrist, next to a combination lockbox. The combination is usually shielded by a shutter that goes up to hide it.

A couple of weeks ago I was at my local Verizon Wireless store and spotted their SureResponse personal emergency response system for $19.99 with a two-year contract (or $229.95 without a contract), plus a $35 activation fee. I told the sales rep helping me that I needed it for my 97-year-old father and if she could reduce my cell phone bill enough for me to afford the $30/month cost of the SureResponse service, I would buy it. Thanks to newly introduced calling and data plans, plus a loyalty discount for long-time customers and dropping my VZ Navigator subscription, she was able to shave about $25/month off my bill while upgrading me to unlimited calls and texts, which did the trick.

Usually I do exhaustive research on a product this expensive and crucial for my father’s well-being before making the purchase. This time I didn’t and I was surprised to find when I Googled for reviews after I got home that the reviewers were generally furious with Verizon Wireless over the SureResponse. However, the next day at my dad’s regular check-up with his geriatrician, the nurse said that a lot of their patients have SureResponse and really like it, so I decided to give it a chance.

I had a week to return the SureResponse for a full refund if I brought it back in a condition where it could be sold again as new, or for a $35 re-stocking fee if I took it out and played with it. So I left everything in the box while I spent a few days doing my research. The alternatives I considered were the Great Call 5Star Urgent Response and the Philips Lifeline.

The features of the Philips Lifeline that were the most attractive to me were its automatic detection of falls with 95 percent accuracy, which triggers a call to its help center, and that you can cancel any time with 30 days’ notice. However, you have to stay in range of a base station and the monthly cost is about $40. So I ruled it out.

I found a lot to recommend the Great Call 5Star Urgent Response:

  • You can buy them at Walmart for about $50 or on Amazon for about $35* with free shipping.
  • Activation costs $35, or $25 if you do it online. So the total cost of acquiring and activating it can be as low as $60 before sales taxes.
  • The service costs $14.99 per month (plus tax) and you can cancel any time.
  • The device is attractively designed and comes in silver or black.
  • It has GPS and works both in your house and when you are out and about, wherever there is service by Verizon Wireless, the network it uses. You can enter your zip code on their website to see if you are in one of their service areas (scroll down to the coverage map at the link above).
  • Your call time is unlimited and the agents are trained in CPR and certified by the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch. They support about 100 languages.
  • The call agents can conference in family and friends.
  • You also have 24/7 access to talk to a nurse in English or Spanish.
  • There’s even a smartphone app that makes the service available through the user’s smartphone. The app also can be used by authorized contacts such as spouses, children and caregivers to monitor your location and the level of charge in your device’s battery. This is handy for loved ones who are absent-minded about charging the device and/or prone to wander.

The 5Star is not only great for seniors and people with disabilities, but also children. If you have a child who is being bullied, this product may help because they can push a button and the call center or 911 will answer. That goes for adults, too — on Amazon, several reviewers reported that when they hit the call button while being mugged, the voice of the call responder frightened off their assailants. (Pressing the call button for five seconds bypasses the 5Star call center and sends the call straight to 911.)

The biggest knock on the 5Star is that it is not water resistant and the warranty can be voided by taking it into a bathroom. For people who are worried about falling in the shower, that’s a deal breaker. However, an alternative would be to take a cordless phone into the bathroom with you instead when you bathe and put it near the tub in a spot you could reach it if you fell. Frankly, that’s a smart idea for everyone.

Ultimately I decided to keep the Verizon SureResponse as the best fit for our needs. Here’s why:

  1. It is the safest one for my dad to wear. There are three ways to wear the SureResponse: on a lanyard around your neck, a belt clip or on a wrist strap. My father has a pacemaker and the FDA advises against having a cell phone within six inches of pacemakers, so he can’t wear a device on a lanyard around his neck. Arthritis has limited his dexterity, so he can’t wear a device on a belt clip. While I think the design of the SureResponse wrist strap can be improved, it’s the safest way for my father to wear a personal emergency response device. Plus, when it’s on his wrist, if he ever needs it, just seeing it will remind him it’s there for him — he won’t have to remember he has it. Remembering you have a device that gets you help is harder than you think when you’re stunned from a fall, or you’re about to black out, so that’s a big deal.
  2. Now I can call my father when I’m out of the house. When you set up the device online, you can designate a list of authorized caregivers and specify which ones are allowed to call the person using the device. Non-emergency calls to and from the device are called “convenience calling.” The monthly fee includes unlimited emergency calls and 60 minutes of convenience calls (with additional minutes billed at 45 cents per minute). All calls go through the SureResponse Call Center. That means that the device user can ask the Call Center operator to place a call for them, such as to a relative, doctor or store, and the operator patches it through. It also means that authorized caregivers can call the Call Center and get patched through to the device user, since the device is a small cell phone. Since only authorized caregivers have permission to get through, this protects the wearer from predatory sales calls and phone scammers, who particularly target the elderly.**
  3. The speaker on the device has a volume control button and excellent sound, which my father can hear and understand, despite being hard of hearing.
  4. The SureResponse works in and out of the house, wherever there is Verizon Wireless service.
  5. The SureResponse device is water-resistant. Verizon says you can wear it in the shower, although you cannot submerge it in water. I wouldn’t push it, but this gives it an edge over the 5Star.
  6. You don’t have to remove the device from the wrist strap (or lanyard) to charge it. You do have to take it off the belt clip to charge it, but you don’t have to remove it from the plastic holder. This is great for people with limited manual dexterity.
  7. I don’t care that SureResponse doesn’t take any medical information about you at all and doesn’t have nurses on call. When I created my father’s SureResponse online profile, in the box for special directions to the house, I put the information on where to find our ER go bag, which has copies of my dad’s healthcare power-of-attorney; a list of his diagnoses, medications and doctors; and photocopies of his insurance cards. I suggest putting information like this in page protectors in a small three-ring binder, with colored tabs to separate them, and keeping it in your own ER go bag.

By the way, another piece of the puzzle for ensuring a loved one can get emergency help is making sure that no one has to break down your front door to determine if he or she is OK. A pricey option, if you have a smartphone, is to go to Home Depot or Lowe’s and swap out your locks for ones that can be operated via your smartphone. One flaw in that plan is that people have to be able to get through to you to unlock the door remotely. However, for $30 you can buy a lockbox that opens with a combination, which you can change at any time. There are models that lock onto round doorknobs (but not lever ones), or which you can screw into a wall. You also have the option of buying the lockbox and hiding it wherever you want — just put the instructions on where to find it, along with the combination, in your SureResponse profile online in the box for special directions to your home.

You also have to let your authorized caregivers know where to find the lockbox and give them the combination. Since the SureResponse operators have no way to verify their identity over the phone, if you don’t give your authorized caregivers that information, the operator will have to call the police to the home to verify their identity before giving the police officer the combination. One option for helping your authorized caregivers keep the combination handy is to buy an inkjet-printable magnetic sheet at Staples or Office Depot and write the information they need on it so they can put it on their refrigerator.

I did have some frustrations in getting started with the SureResponse:

  • When I first charged the device, after a few hours I expected it to say, “Fully charged,” but even after 24 hours it never did. Tech support suggested two reasons for that: (1), it hadn’t been registered yet, so it kept searching to connect with the system, or (2), the signal reaching the charging base was weak, so the phone was constantly searching for a signal. It was probably the former since it now tells me when it is fully charged. Either way, if it’s constantly searching, it won’t be able to get to a 100 percent charge, but when you see four bars for the charge, you may consider it fully charged.
  • You get two charging stations with the device. The instructions say you need to plug the main charging station into a landline jack. But you don’t. When the product was designed, Verizon planned to deliver software upgrades and whatnot to the device via a landline. Then they decided to do it wirelessly, but not change the design of the product or the instructions or put any kind of notice in the box at all that it doesn’t need to be connected to a landline. Sigh. Just put the main charger in a place in your home where it will get a strong wireless signal. I put the main charger near a front window and the travel charger at my father’s bedside, so he can take the device off at night, charge it and still have it handy. (Since your loved one may get up in the night to get up to go to the bathroom and be in too much of a hurry to put the device on, it’s a good idea to keep a cordless phone in the bathroom at night.)
  • When I was going through the online process of registering the device I got caught in an infinite loop because the process was set up for the purchaser and caregiver to be two different persons and it wanted two different e-mail addresses for those roles, but was too coy to say so. Eventually, the tech support available by phone got me through the process.
  • When I first put the device into its holder on the wrist strap, the two pieces of the lock when flying. I’m not rough with equipment, so I was astonished. I called customer service. They were very pleasant and said it was under warranty and they’d send another wrist strap out right away, I’ll just have to return the old one in the box the replacement comes in. Since you don’t have to take the device out of its holder to charge it and therefore don’t have to use the lock every day, I can live with that. I also cut a small strip of duct tape and put it over the spot where the lock was and onto the device on both sides to hold it in place because belt and suspenders.

The bottom line is that the Verizon SureResponse is a worthy product and suits our needs. I like how our SureResponse test calls have been handled. SureResponse has been on the market for two years now and I expect it to get even better when Verizon stops treating it like a redheaded stepchild. I also hope to see Verizon double the number of convenience call minutes for the same price.

*This is an affiliate link. If you buy this or any other product from Amazon after clicking this link, I will receive a small commission at no extra expense to you and I will be very grateful.

**If you have gullible and/or compliant people in your home whom you want to protect from phone scammers, another option of the Verizon FiOS telephone service is a “Do Not Disturb” feature. It is supposed to allow you to fill in online up to 10 phone numbers that are permitted to ring through, while all others go straight to voicemail. However, there’s no place on the web page for the “Do Not Disturb” service to fill in any phone numbers. Oops. When they fix that, “Do Not Disturb” plus “Incoming Call Block,” which allows you to block all anonymous calls, will prevent phone scammers from getting through to your vulnerable loved ones.

If this post was helpful to you, please donate any amount you can. This week I am seeking donations to attend CPAC from March 6 to 8. Donations after that will go toward buying a laptop so I can work while minding the stove when I cook or while sitting with my father to monitor him and keep him company. Thank you for your generosity!

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