How to Help Aging Parents From Afar

If it's affordable for your family, think about a geriatric manager who looks at the big picture — health, legal, financial, community, etc. — to help draw up a strategy. Hospital social workers, lawyers and local senior centers may be able to recommend geriatric care managers. Or, you can check the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers Web site, www.caremanager.org.Or, become your own by tapping into your parents' local network of friends (which may include your own old friends) and community (including church), associates and health-care providers such as doctors, pharmacists, dentists, etc.

Choose a good long-distance phone plan, and if you expect to be flying home a lot, link it to your frequent flyer plan in order to accrue miles to use for free trips home.

Set your parents up on e-mail; seniors are now the fastest-growing online market.

Use Caller ID. That enables you to take a parent's call when others may be unimportant. Give your parents a cell phone to make it easy for them to call you. Program your numbers into the auto dial function (on both land lines and cell phones), label the power cord and plug it in a frequently used room so it's easy for them to recharge it. Make sure they have a message machine, and teach them to leave messages on yours.

If you're helping out with finances, move your parent's finances online to expedite paying bills and similar financial tasks.

Check out your company's family leave policy. Puchta says he's seeing use of family leave increase dramatically to care for parents. He did it to care for his mother.

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