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Caring from far away

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I don’t mean to put a depressing spin on anyone’s holiday festivities, but once again, I urge readers at this time of year to take stock of their own health and relationships and especially those of elderly parents so you can be prepared for the future. If you are spending time with siblings it is even more important to talk about these issues and have a plan for “what if.”

For those of you fortunate enough to have elderly parents or other close relatives, let’s focus on what to do when you are far away from them when they need your help, especially when it comes to health care. Many of us know that terrible feeling we get when the telephone rings in the middle of the night telling us that a loved one is ill or has been taken to a hospital. Here you are, thousands of miles away, and what can you do? You are a caregiver now, no matter how far away you might be.

So if he or she falls, or is ill, it is good to have a list of resources ready. According to Kiplinger.com, there are organizations like the National Volunteer Caregiving Network or other volunteer groups that may provide free transportation or housekeeping services for the elderly and frail. Check http://nvcnetwork.org. For more serious issues, like recovering from an illness or surgery, a family member may need home health care. Agencies specializing in health aides provide nurses who can supervise medications and provide physical or occupational therapy. Often Medicare covers these aides as do some private health insurance policies. Whichever you choose, it is good to have this information nearby, just in case you need it. Check such sites as www.homeinstead.com, www.comfortkeepers.com, or www.medicare.gov/homehealthcompare.

Sometimes the faraway family member needs more than occasional nursing care or therapy. In such cases, you might want to hire a geriatric care manager. These are professionals who can provide the care needed or help you identify services in their area. And if your parent ends up needing hospital care, you have someone who is right there, talking with the doctors and keeping you informed.

Thanks to the Internet, we can find the resources we need, when we need them. But it is always wise to have a list ready, just in case.

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