By Betty Berry, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010  Q: My parents live in another state. They are healthy but getting on in years, and I’m concerned about helping them when they need assistance. What can I do now?

A: Caring for aging parents is a concern no matter where they live. There are, however, a few steps you can take now which can ensure you’ll be better prepared in an emergency.

Talk with your parents. It’s vital that you understand what they want and need. Get to know the people in your parents’ life.

Establish a communications network with their friends, neighbors, clergy, doctors, etc. Exchange phone numbers and make sure your parents’ most trusted friend or close-by relative has a key to their home.

Although most of us have been taught not to ask personal questions, it now becomes necessary to have some basic knowledge of your parents’ personal affairs. Take an inventory together. In general terms, discuss what income is available and how it is generated. Determine what assets exist, how they are titled and which can be tapped, if necessary, for future living expenses. Review medical insurance coverage. Learn where important papers are kept.

Since your parents live in another state there may be differences in state laws for eligibility for the Medicaid (our MediCal) program.

To find the appropriate state office for this information and for other services available in your parents’ state, call the Eldercare Locator Service at 800-677-1116 or contact the Area Agency on Aging in your parents’ community.

Q: I live alone and am very much afraid of fire. I would like to “fireproof” my home but don’t have any idea on how to start.

A: Every year home fires kill and injure thousands of people, many of them senior citizens. You can stop fires before they start by following basic fire-safety rules. Look for the hazards in your home and eliminate them as you do your chores. Don’t let rubbish pile up. It adds fuel to a fire and can block escape routes. Store things safely. Keep stairs and hallways free of clutter. Make sure windows and doors aren’t blocked and can be opened easily.

Check your appliances. Replace or repair any appliance that sparks or smokes. Make sure televisions and stereos have space for air circulation and remove lint from the dryer filter after every load.

Don’t overload circuits or outlets. Replace cords that aren’t in good condition and avoid using extension cords.

Kitchens can be dangerous. Keep your range, oven and vent fan clean and grease-free. Keep curtains and towels away from cooking areas. Make a fire escape plan, mapping out all possible escape routes. Review it frequently. Purchase a multipurpose fire extinguisher and learn how to use it.

Q: Do you know of any coming educational event that would be of interest to an individual who just recently started providing services to the senior population?

A: Yes I do. I was just informed that the Ventura County Homecare Association is offering a conference geared to senior providers.

That event is scheduled for Oct. 13 and providers interested can visit for details on time, place, content and speakers.


Oct. 13: Seminar on Supplementing Medicare Coverage; 1:30-3 p.m. at Westlake Village Civic Center, 31200 E. Oak Crest Drive, Westlake Village. For information, call 495-6250.

— Betty Berry is a senior advocate for Senior Concerns. The advocates are at the Goebel Senior Adult Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362; call 495-6250 or e-mail (please include your telephone number). You are invited to submit questions on senior issues.


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