Caring for Elderly Parents

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It's not always easy making time to visit parents who live in a nursing home. Often times, we live just too far away to make it there on a regular basis. In fact, the National Institute on Aging says seven million of us live at least an hour away from our parents' nursing home. So in light of the holidays, health officials remind us of the importance of staying on top of our parents' health

Brenda Coates visits the Amberwood Nursing Home twice a week. Her 81-year-old mother has been living there for about a year now. Coates says she wants to make sure her mother receives the proper treatment.

"It's important to visit period that way you'll know what's going on with your parents all the time not just the holidays," she says.

Her mom has a pacemaker and diabetes, so keeping her healthy is a top priority. But Coates says home maintenance is just as important.

"When we come we make sure her clothes are in order and a lot of times the CNA's will comb her hair for her and if not I will," she says.

But not everyone is lucky enough to live so close to their parents' nursing home. So if you can only check on your parents once in a while, here are some tips from home care provider "Right at Home" to help keep you involved.

Call or email your parents on a regular basis.
When visiting, pay attention to any changes in grooming, eating or social activities.
Know where important documents are such as insurance policies or bank account numbers.
And you also want to include your parents in making some of their own decisions.
If you have friends or relatives living near the nursing home, ask them to check on your parents. You could also get your parents involved in church or other senior centers to keep them active.

Health officials say it's also important to make sure your parents are managing money properly and are getting out of the nursing home every once in a while.