- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 10, 2000

Twenty percent of the U.S. population will be 65 years old or older by 2030, according to the Census Bureau, which will put more than 70 million people at risk for geriatric disability or illness.

Taking care of an elderly, sick or disabled spouse or parent can take an emotional and financial toll on any family.

Created to assist the more than 25 million men and women in the role of caregiver, Web of Care provides free advice, direction, support and a compassionate cyber-shoulder.

Web of Care

Site address: www.webofcare.com.

Creator:

David Walters conceived Web of Care as a result of his own experience as a medically unskilled family caregiver. Like many caregivers, he was thrust into the role unexpectedly. His parents simultaneously developed health crises and looked to him for solutions. Based in Richmond, Web of Care was released to the Internet in late 1999 and is a privately held company.

Creator quotable:

"As a society, we do an excellent job of bringing people into the world. We don't do a great job at the other end of life, which is where most caregiving is focused. We're changing the way Americans take care of each other," says Mr. Walters, president and chief executive of Web of Care.

Word from the Webwise:

Today's home health caregiver spends more than 20 hours each week seeing to the daily and medical needs of a loved one. Twenty-five percent of the caregivers devote more than 40 hours per week to the constant care of another individual.

Web of Care articles provide insights into a variety of issues, such as managing illness (both the caregiver's and that of the person being cared for). Some articles give information on clinical trials for new drugs and therapies, and some are culled from authoritative news providers such as Reuters News Agency.

Specific information can be found in the site's "Care Situations," which covers 26 illnesses and conditions. Under each heading, from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease) to traumatic injuries, visitors will find clinical information, nutritional guidelines, a listing of symptoms and ways to provide care.

An interesting segment to these topics is "Caring for the Caregiver," which provides support with its "Web of Care's 21 Guidelines to Caregiving." Through this list, readers will find tips on how to set realistic goals, allow time for themselves, take a break and accept help.

This list could go a long way toward helping a caregiver deflect criticism of others and avoid self-destructive behavior, such as overeating or smoking, as a result of stress or anxiety.

For those unsure of the right way to help someone, "Caregiving Skills" are presented through short animations designed to demonstrate techniques. These simple, narrated snippets, 100 in total, show how to help a person with everyday tasks such as eating, dressing or undressing, exercising and using equipment.

Look to "Community Features" for a discussion board, chat room and illness-specific reading list. This section provides a place for members to reach out to other members with questions and to give or receive moral support.

A final section worth mentioning is "The CareShop," a place to find more than 8,000 specialty health care items. The site also offers a free book, "Preventing Caregiver Burnout," when individuals register for a free membership, which includes an e-mail newsletter and member discounts at the CareShop.

Don't miss:

With the many pages of information available, visitors easily could overlook the Web of Care's "Resource Database."

Simply browse a specific category, from counseling and support groups to hospice and transportation services, to find links to Web sites containing more information. The section also offers the ability to search for services that are state-specific, but I had very little luck finding resources and services listed for Maryland, Virginia or the District.

Ease of use:

The Web site is designed for Internet Explorer on Macs or PCs. Web of Care offers quick-loading pages complete with section-specific search engines and convenient drop-down menus for efficient navigation. The "Caregiving Skills" animations require the Flash plug-in but really make the site shine.

Overall grade: B

Remember: Information on the Internet is changing constantly. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your physician. Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]).

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