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Great Web sites when aging parents need help

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  • Internet can help you find qualified, trustworthy in-home care for aging parents
  • Empowered Patient this week does a lot of the searching for you
  • Government and privately run sites match service providers to your needs
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By Elizabeth Cohen
CNN
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Empowered Patient, a regular feature from CNN Medical News correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, helps put you in the driver's seat when it comes to health care.

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- There are a lot of Marys in Mary Jane McGill's extended family, so each one gets a special name. Mary who lives in Roslindale, Massachusetts, is "Mary Rozy." Mary from Everett, Massachusetts, is called "Mary Everett." And McGill? She's "Mary Google."

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When Mary Nee, back second from left. needed an in-home caregiver, her daughter turned to the Internet.

"I use it for everything," McGill says of the search engine. "My family kids me about it."

One day last week, McGill used Google in a way even she never dreamed of: to find care for her mother, who has Alzheimer's disease and suddenly needed someone living at her house 24/7. Her search quickly turned up a number of the many resources that can help you connect with in-home help for a parent who's aging, ill or both. And this week, Empowered Patient will save you some searching time.

Up until last month, McGill's father, Tom Nee, had been taking care of his wife, but then he died of cancer.

"He died sooner than we expected, and we were in a complete state of panic about who would take care of Mom," McGill says. "She can't be left alone. It would be like leaving a toddler alone. But we don't want her in a nursing home, either."

McGill was relieved, then, to receive a phone call from her aunt, who said she knew of a woman who could care for her mother.

"But then she came over, and I interviewed her, and she was horrible. She was like a prison guard," McGill says. "I thought to myself, 'I can't do this. I can't have this woman living with my mother.' "

McGill didn't know what to do. "I went home and at 1 in the morning, through my tears, Googled 'caring parents Alzheimer's.' Up came this Web site that helps people find caregivers. I input all my information, and by 7 the next morning I had 10 e-mails, all from legitimate places," she says. Video Watch more on helpful Web sites »

Six days later, a "loving, wonderful" caregiver moved in with her mother 24 hours a day, five days a week. On the weekends, McGill and her siblings, who are all working, raising children or both, take turns being with their mother. The older woman is often confused, can't cook and can't drive to get anything she needs in her suburban Boston town. "I never dreamed I'd find someone on the Internet, because you have to really trust someone who's living in your mother's house, so you can walk away and sleep at night," McGill says. "I never would have thought you'd use such an impersonal tool to find something so personal."

But these days, more and more people are using the Internet to find a caregiver instead of, or along with, traditional methods of finding care, such as asking friends and family. Here, from caregiving experts, are Web sites that link you to caregivers, plus sites that offer other services.

1. To find a caregiver in your area, visit these sites.

McGill used Eldercarelink.

Another, Home Health Compare, is run by Medicare and allows you to compare home health care agencies in your area.

Assist Guide Information Services, or AGIS, can link you to home health care aides, nurses, doctors, nutritionists and more.

2. Tips for selecting a caregiver

So you've hooked up with caregivers in your area; now what?

Caring from a Distance gives tips for evaluating what kind of care you need.

AARP hosts Providing Care at Home, which gives tips for interviewing potential caregivers and checking references.

3. A geriatric care manager may help.

Geriatric care managers help families care for older relatives while encouraging as much independence as possible. The National Association of Geriatric Care Managers can help you find a professional in your desired location.

4. Find home health care experts where you live.

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  • MayoClinic.com:  Preparing for an aging parent's emergency

Looking for a caregiver can be emotionally overwhelming. There are a million questions and lots of emotions.

The National Family Caregivers Association lists experts in your area who specialize in family caregiving issues.

5. Set up a Web site for your family.

Have siblings far away who want to know how Mom or Dad is doing? Care Central allows you to set up a communications Web site so everyone knows what's going on.

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Many more sites offer general information about finding a home caregiver. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' ElderCare site has information on everything from health insurance counseling to prescription assistance. This site has good general information.

Finally, here's an expert's list of five "do's" and five "don'ts" to remember when choosing home care. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Elizabeth Cohen is a correspondent with CNN Medical News. Senior producer Jennifer Pifer and associate producer Georgiann Caruso contributed to this report.

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