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Necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention

In this chapter of èBella èXtra, we focus on innovation: transformative concepts and actions that change how we do things.

How we care for ourselves and others takes center stage as we focus on two of the more than 20 experts who will present at the 13th Annual CCMS Women’s Health Forum. The April 23 event is free, and we have provided a link to reservations and more information about the presenters.

Senior care planner Annalee Kruger shares what inspired her to found Care Right, Inc. to facilitate family conversations about elder care before the family is in crisis and forced to make hasty decisions on their loved one’s behalf.

Journalist Karen Hanlon shines light on the Naples Garden Club’s Idea Garden. Located at Naples Botanical Garden, the Idea Garden is flush with innovative displays, projects and recommendations designed to inspire the home gardener.

Steve Jobs, arguably one of the greatest innovators of our time, was quoted as saying, “Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity, not a threat.”

May we all find ways to transform our lives for the better.

The Idea Garden


Navigating Quality Senior Care


The Idea Garden 

The Naples Garden Club showcases beauty and creativity

by Karen Hanlon


For anyone who’s ever looked at a backyard or patio garden and asked, “What should I plant here?” the Naples Garden Club has an idea. In fact, it has an entire plot of land flush with displays, projects and recommendations designed to inspire the home gardener. Appropriately named the Idea Garden, this jewel opened in November of 2010 on the exquisite grounds of Naples Botanical Garden. 


A joint project of the Naples Garden Club and Naples Botanical Garden, the Idea Garden is located adjacent to NBG’s Scott Florida Garden. Visitors pass under the rose-covered archway to discover unique and creative gardening ideas like a vertical living plant wall mounted with greens and orchids. Or a screen of Tillandsia (air) plants, threaded with fishing wire, that seem to hang in midair, their long, narrow leaves interspersed with stringed seashells.

Trained Garden Club members, considered the shepherds of the garden, tend to the plants and share their knowledge with visitors.

On Wednesdays, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the volunteers offer popup classes. Visitors might learn how to create succulent topiaries, like Irma the Alligator, covered in hot-glued cuttings arranged to mimic spiked armor. Other topiary forms include a springtime bunny adorned in a fur coat of fleshy green stems, and a pair of cacti-covered flamingos who oversee a nearby waterfall feature.

The instructional presentations are casual and on a continuous loop to allow garden visitors to come and go as they please.

Sandy Lasch, the Idea Garden chair-elect and current Garden Club communications chair, says that, in addition to promoting horticulture and plant design, the club’s mission is to educate. They handpick lessons from the internet, gardening shows and their monthly meeting speakers.

Upcoming topics include orchids, espaliered fruit trees, column baskets and the secret to potted plant success: Thrill, fill and spill.

“Start with something exciting or thrilling,” Lasch says. “Add fullness, and then you want something colorful spilling over the side.”

No green thumb? Lasch suggests focusing on plants that thrive in Florida’s tropical climate.

“We remind visitors that it’s the right plant in the right place,” Lasch says.

Lasch points to the roses thriving in the entryway, evidence that roses perform well in Florida when gardeners select suitable varieties. Next up for the garden is a unique method for climbing roses, a suggestion Lasch gleaned from a Gardener’s World television program.

Think of the Idea Garden as a laboratory where gardeners experiment with colors, textures and balance. Horticulturists find and test new supply resources. They interweave colorful flowers and fragrant herbs with vegetables, and they prune and shape tropical fruit trees to demonstrate espaliers can work in almost any garden, grand or modest. The goal is to show that all green-thumbed enthusiasts can find success by using things from local nurseries in creative ways, versus focusing on exotic and rare plants.

In March, the Naples Flower Show & Garden Market, Southwest Florida’s largest juried flower show, featured several floral design entries inspired by the Idea Garden (see sidebar).


Naples Garden Club is a nonprofit whose members actively support the community. Their annual House & Garden Tour raises funds to support elementary school gardens and civic beautification and improvement projects. They also donate generously to maintain the Idea Garden, where thousands of visitors have been inspired, no matter the garden size or level of expertise.

One guest thought she had to give up her gardening because she could no longer dig around in the dirt. After discovering how easy it is to grow succulents on topiaries, she was enthusiastic about the possibilities. 

“It’s these experiences that make the Idea Garden so special to us,” Lasch says. “Come see what’s going on here. Sit in the Adirondack chairs and relax in a place where you’ll be among friends who love to garden.”

67th Annual Naples Flower Show Awes Attendees

One of the largest juried flower shows in Florida, Naples Flower Show & Garden Market is presented each year by Naples Garden Club and the Naples Botanical Garden. At the event last month, attendees viewed spectacular floral designs, botanical arts, educational displays, presentations and interactive demonstrations — all set within the beauty of Naples’ world-class botanical garden.


Below are this year’s winning floral designs from the event, themed “VISIONS: Past – Present – Future.”

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2022 Naples Flower Show

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Designer Arlene Cluff

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Designer Mary Raymond

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Designer Mercy Abrams

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Designer Vicki Arkins


Navigating Quality Senior Care

Planning can lessen the burden on everyone involved

by Annalee Kruger, Care Right, Inc. Founder

We have an aging nation and a national family caregiver crisis. 

As a virtual family meeting facilitator and senior care planner since 2012, I have been able to help thousands of families navigate the “what do I do with Mom and Dad” question. Care Right evolved because families continually find themselves in crisis and don’t know what to do. Also, our disjointed health care system allows seniors and their family caregivers to fall through the cracks. Families are left struggling on their own, and that’s not right.

Families typically do not facilitate their own meetings to discuss the what-ifs of aging until they find themselves in crisis mode and are forced to make decisions when emotions are high and time is limited — the worst time to make decisions. 

Families often find themselves in crisis and don’t know where to turn or how to navigate the complexities of aging and our health care system. Care Right consults with families across the U.S. in developing customized aging plans.

Burned-out children and primary caregivers, realizing they are in over their heads with caregiving (as they manage their own lives and careers), are those who reach out to Care Right. They find themselves overwhelmed in crisis. They have exhausted their Family and Medical Leave Act time, their relationships with family members are strained and they resent their roles as family caregivers. They are jeopardizing their health, their own finances and relationships in order to give care.   

According to a CUNA study, we know that 58% of adult children find themselves thrust into the role of family caregiving without ever having a family meeting to discuss the “what ifs” of aging. That’s why it’s critical to have aging planning, family caregiver support and patient advocacy education — so families can boldly advocate for their loved ones. Caregiving can be a positive experience if an aging plan is in place.

Most families do not understand aging, dementia, care options, how to pay for care, where to live to get care or how to manage the plethora of their aging loved ones’ needs.


And seniors without enough supports in place often fall into self-neglect. They don’t eat properly and get adequate exercise. They aren’t socialized at home. They don’t have someone in the area to advocate for them and help them manage their care, medications or transportation to appointments.


Almost half of patients discharged from the hospital are unable to follow through with discharge orders, says Aging 2.0, an innovator in addressing the challenges and opportunities in aging. This includes managing medication changes and coordinating (and getting to) follow-up appointments.

A World Health Organization 2020 study revealed that more than 64% of nursing home staff admitted to committing some form of abuse or neglect. Nearly 12% of residents or their families reported cases of nursing home neglect in the same study. The National Council on Aging and National Center on Elder Abuse both report that nearly 50% of elders with dementia experience abuse or neglect.  

Most adult children are in denial about how well their aging loved ones are doing at home until they realize they are not able to make it on their own without substantial support. 

Care Right offers a complimentary consultation if you are interested in learning more about aging planning, advocating boldly for your vulnerable adult loved one or to improve family communication via a neutral third-party family meeting facilitator. Visit the “Contact Us” page at


“The Invisible Patient: The Emotional, Physical, and Financial Toll on Family Caregivers,” a book by Annalee Kruger, is available on Amazon, Kindle and Audible.

It’s All About Wellness


It’s All About Wellness

13th Annual CCMS Women’s Health Forum set for April 23

by Kathy Grey

The 13th Annual CCMS Women’s Health Forum will be held at Naples United Church of Christ April 23. The free event features exhibits and three breakout sessions from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Topics include everything from migraines and memory loss to hormone replacement, osteoporosis, eye issues and low back pain.

Dr. Lindita Hobdari, founder of Hobdari Family Health in Naples will present “Holistic Brain-Heart Coherence & How this Unity Affects Brain Aging, Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease” at 10:35 a.m. in the church sanctuary.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, Hobdari says, noting that more than 6.2 million people in the U.S. alone are affected, and 12.7 million are projected to be living with the disease by 2050.

Hobdari will present findings from the Heart Math Institute that the emotions we experience directly affect our heart rhythm pattern. A stable pattern of the heart’s input to the brain during positive “stress” facilitates cognitive function and reinforces emotional stability. Alternatively, negative stress (anger, frustration and anxiety, for example) gives rise to heart rhythm patterns that appear irregular and erratic.

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Dr. Lindita Hobdari

“Intentional activation of positive emotions plays an important role in increasing cardiac coherence and thus self-regulatory capacity,” Hobdari says of meditation. The Heart Math Institute suggests this healthy habit leads to deeper perceptual and emotional changes, increased intuition and creativity, cognitive and performance improvements and favorable changes in hormonal balance.

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Dr. Georganne Vartorella

Healthy living is, indeed, the driving factor behind brain-heart coherence, and Hobdari will address some key lifestyle habits, including exercise, body weight, depression, diabetes and, of course, meditation.


Georganne Vartorella, M.D. will present “Survive and Thrive: Successfully Navigate Your Journey as a Patient and Family Caregiver” at 11:55 a.m. in Beverly Hall.

Patients want to have more control over their medical care. Self-care and advocacy are essential, says Vartorella, founder of Patient Advocacy, MD, LLC, where she provides medical expertise to help people navigate the medically complex health care system. That system, she says, is tough to navigate, “and it’s going to get tougher before it gets better.”

Still, she says, patients, particularly women, create lasting change by being disrupters in order to survive. “As a patient advocate, I research best treatment protocols that are available to them.

But as self-advocates, Vartorella advises getting second opinions, preparing written questions before each medical appointment, insisting on clear communication and persisting until each issue is clarified. “Physicians and patients need to fully engage and put themselves into shared decision-making, so nothing falls through the cracks. Patients are their best advocates,” she says, indicating that if a patient feels she is being dismissed, she must stand firm and “make some noise. It takes a lot of time, but you’ve got to be resolute,” she says.

Go to to plan which three breakout sessions you want to attend (from 12 sessions featuring 24 presenters and topics) for answers to your medical questions.

Kitchen Revolution


Kitchen Revolution

Celebrating cooking concepts … plus five reasons to love your stick blender

by Kathy Grey

Creating culinary masterpieces is nothing new, but innovators have introduced gadgets, appliances and kitchen concepts that make Epicurean handiwork more efficient than ever.

Our foodie friends weighed in on their favorite kitchen helpers, including microfiber cloths to reduce paper towel usage; height-appropriate kitchen islands; microplanes for zesting and shredding; stand mixers; flexible cutting mats, mandolins, slow cookers and more.

Topping the recommendations are the following food-prep innovations — gastronomic game-changers these culinary commentators can’t do without.

• Instant Pot

Instant Pots are multicookers that produce meals more quickly than traditional stovetop or oven cooking.

• Air Fryer

Air fryers heat up quickly and cook food evenly with a crunch. Air fryers outweigh deep fryers because cooks aren’t left with a load of disposable oil.

• Adjustable Openers

Eforlike and MAEXUS openers, available on Amazon with top ratings, are designed for people with arthritis — or anyone with weak hands. One commenter is indebted to the Eforlike opener set: a five-in-one bottle opener and a four-in-one can opener. “It’s hard to cook or create [in the kitchen] if the stuff won’t come out of the jar,” she said.


• Sous Vide

In French, the term “sous vide” means “under vacuum.” It is the process of sealing food and cooking it in temperature-controlled water. This process is said to retain more nutrients and vitamins than many other cooking methods.

• Immersion blender

This blender is basically a stick with blades at the end of it, taking the muscle work out of blending soups, sauces and other liquids.


Although there are hundreds of thousands of searchable recipes on the web, we’re sharing this link to influencer Lacey Baier’s soupy, saucy recipes. As the owner of A Sweet Pea Chef, Baier favors the immersion blender as her go-to kitchen tool, as presented below. (Commentary has been edited for brevity.)

• Stick blenders are light, easy to handle and versatile.

• You can quickly blend soups and stews and sauces in the pot without having to transfer the food back and forth to a blender or food processor.

• Stick blenders are easier to clean than blenders and food processors.

• You can make a Starbucks-quality latte at home with a stick blender and your microwave.

• If it needs to be pureedwhippedemulsified, beaten or made into a smoothie or sauce, your stick blender can do the job.


Now that we’ve gotten your culinary juices flowing, what’s for dinner?

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