In honor of National Geriatric Care Month, we have asked Cheryl Hawkins Theriault, LCSW, RG, CMC, the owner of Aging Family Services, Inc., to share tips with our readers. For more information visit her website at www.agingfamilyservices.com
Geriatric care managers are health or human services professionals who take a holistic and client-centered approach to helping older adults and/or persons with disabilities and their families. We work with families struggling with the conflicting demands on their hearts, their time, and their resources that the challenges of aging or declining health bring into theirs and their loved ones’ lives. These families are faced with making important decisions and are looking for an expert who can guide them in making difficult decisions. Families are looking for guidance about their options for care and peace of mind that they have expert information to guide the decision making process.
Our client is the older adult although it is often the adult children who contact us. We make it our business to know about resources in the community, entitlements that someone might be eligible for to help pay for care, how the service delivery system works and how to access it when and where you have needs. We also offer coaching and advocacy to make sure people are treated appropriately and with dignity and respect.
Geriatric care managers make home visits and do a comprehensive assessment of the situation. People’s physical, social, emotional, nutritional, functional, medical, and cognitive well-being are assessed. A tour of the home allows the care manger to identify areas needing modification or to identify safety concerns. A review of legal issues is conducted and, if there is important advance planning that has not been done, the care manager will assist the family in understanding the importance of the various documents and provide referral to attorneys specializing in these matters. Finances are also reviewed as it is important to understand not only what the needs are but how are these needs going to be met? How will they be paid for?
The care manager will also interview collateral sources.
The end product is a written care report with a review of the findings of the assessment as well as specific recommendations for services to meet the identified needs both short and long term.
At this point, the geriatric care manager can turn implementation of the care plan over to the family. But, some families ask the geriatric care manager to coordinate the care, to monitor the care over time, to make changes in the care as the care needs change. Often these are families who live at a distance and want the geriatric care manager to go to medical appointments with their loved ones, be available in case of an emergency, and stay in touch with the out of area relatives about how things are going. In these ongoing relationships, the geriatric care manager become sort of like a surrogate adult child.
People find they need a care manager in many different situations:
- One spouse is caregiver to their spouse and they are worried about what will happen to their spouse if something happens to them.
- A crisis has occurred and decisions have to be made.
- They have tried navigating the system to get services that they know they need but they are no further along than when they first started searching several months ago.
- They live at a distance and their loved one lives in the Triangle.
- They need help moving a loved one into or out of the Triangle.
- There is lack of agreement among family members and a professional, expert opinion is needed.
- They have been the caregiver to their loved ones but the time and responsibilities of caregiving have become unmanageable.
- Their loved one is no longer able to remain alone at home and be safe.
- They have care in place but are not pleased with it.