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Tips for Caring for Your Aging Parents

Scenario: Alone, with Help

After their father died suddenly from a stroke, sisters Alison Trost of Mendota Heights, Minnesota, and Lynn Pitet of Cody, Wyoming, worried about their mother, Helen Trost. She lived alone in her home in Mankato, Minnesota, about an hour and a half away from Alison's house and a 14-hour drive from Lynn's. Helen was determined to stay put, but her eyesight was poor, so she had trouble taking her medications and couldn't drive. "My mother had a busy life with lots of friends and activities, but Lynn and I felt we needed to keep better tabs on her," says Alison, who is a part-time dental hygienist. (Lynn works full-time at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody.)

The Solution Initially, the sisters hired a company, QuietCare, which placed monitors throughout their mom's home to keep track of her movements and sent daily reports via e-mail. There was also a pendant button Helen could push in an emergency, and she had an aide coming twice a week to read to her and prepare some meals. Alison's husband installed a telephone in every room of the house. The arrangement worked well for two years, but as Helen became more frail, Alison and Lynn convinced her to move to a senior living apartment in St. Paul. Helen still has a great deal of independence, but there's more supervision and plenty of help nearby. She's now just four minutes from Alison, who visits three times a week. Lynn still calls every morning to remind her mother to take her medications.

Costs The QuietCare plan (quietcaresystems.com) was $500 a month, not covered by insurance. The apartment is about $1,800 a month, with an extra $40 for an emergency pendant.

Key to Success "It's so important to talk to your parents before a crisis occurs," says Lynn. "You don't want to be forced into making a decision in a hurry. Plan ahead when you have the luxury of time to sort things out." To find out about nursing home options, check out the U.S. Administration on Aging's eldercare locator at www.eldercare.gov.