DIMENSIONS Spring 2002

Caregiving Resources on the Internet

by Ruth Van De Carr, MSW

Carla, a resident of Issaquah, cares for her mother who lives in another state. Like many family caregivers, Carla also manages a job and has two college-aged children. Recently, she started the search for an assisted living facility for her mother. Always a difficult process, Carla's search has been helped by a key resource, not available several years ago -- the Internet.

The Internet has opened vast sources of information in all areas, not the least of which is caregiving. A constant stream of new arrivals on-line adds to the many well-established sites that are continually upgrading descriptions of services available to caregivers. Many of these sites offer detailed information, chat rooms where people can find on-line support, links to other useful sites, and pictures.

Total Living Choices (www.tlchoices.com), for example, is a Seattle-based Internet company specializing in senior housing. Its Web site offers housing information, virtual tours of facilities, and a questionnaire to help caregivers assess the real needs of the family member. Total Living Choices also offers information from 32 additional states, a five-star rating system and tips on helping seniors remain at home.

Many traditional organizations that help seniors and families have developed Web sites, and the capacity to respond to consumer questions via e-mail. Locally, Senior Services has developed a Web site to provide lists and a forum for questions and answers. Hospital Web sites (such as Overlake's) offer information about services they provide as well. Many disease-specific organizations such as the Alzheimer's Association and the American Heart Association offer Web sites.

According to the Washington Post (March 2000), there are 14 million people over the age of 50 online today, and many of them whom are family caregivers. Says David Adams of Total Living Choices, "Most of the people looking at our site are adult children - women between 45 and 50." Many are long-distance caregivers and hit the site in the evening. Before the advent of the Internet, it would have been impossible for them to gather information at that time of day.

After looking at several sites focusing on senior housing options, Carla was able to narrow down her choices, take virtual tours of the facilities that interested her, and schedule appointments online to meet with staff. "What a time-saver," she says. "I was able to do much of my research from home, in the evening, and eliminate a lot of calling and driving around. I did not have to take the kind of time away from work that I would have had to otherwise."

The following Web sites can offer you caregiving information and links to additional sites:

This article was excerpted from the Care Sharing newsletter, a free publication by the Overlake Hospital Senior Care Program. For more information, or to be added to the mailing list, call (425) 688-5800.

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