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Published: Tuesday, 5/9/2006

Pay someone to visit grandma?

AMERICANS are just too busy, and here's proof: They can pay a new business to visit relatives in the nursing home.

When adult children live out of town and no one else is available, it might make sense to pay someone to go check on mom or dad in a nursing care center. But that doesn't seem to be the primary motivation of the Michigan woman, Sharon White of Rochester Hills, who started Bedside Notes LLC.

Judging from the sadness of many nursing home residents because their families rarely visit, most of her customers will probably be those who have relatives in a nursing home right in the same town, and who will pay for somebody else to do the visiting for them.

This idea is further evidence of how impersonal our email-driven, iPod-consumed society is becoming.

Admittedly, looking after a relative in a hospital, assisted living facility, or nursing home can take an emotional toll. So it's understandable why some families are reluctant. In fact, that's how Ms. White came up with the business idea. She stepped in to help a relative caring for a loved one in a hospital.

Many families won't place ailing loved ones in nursing homes in the first place. However, not every family has that option, since providing care at home can be physically and emotionally draining.

When a loved one is in a home, the least relatives can do is make time to stop by and lift his or her spirits. Too many nursing home residents are unhappy because families come by so seldom. Paying someone to stand in as a surrogate strikes us as almost cruel.

We don't know what the fees are, but there's something cold and distant about saying, in effect, "Here's 20 bucks. Go visit my grandma."

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