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When You Need Someone: Geriatric Care Managers

Connecting the Dots and Building a Team of Support

Have you ever wished there was someone to help you navigate the complexities of a chronic or crisis driven healthcare situation that you or a family member may be experiencing? Perhaps your loved one has been living with Dementia or Cancer, could use more assistance, or is looking at exploring some new options in senior housing, or aging in place at home, maybe even considering hospice care. In the meantime, the rest of life doesn’t slow down. Some of us have other family to care for, a home to keep up, spouses to spend time with, pets needing attention, work obligations… the list goes on and the stress can be excruciating. You may find yourself becoming overwhelmed or unable to do it all. For those caring for others, relationships may suffer and the idea of self-care can seem like an impossible goal.

Many people could use a guide to listen, walk and even cry or laugh with them through the often stressful maze of life and care decisions and coordination, especially when it involves the energy and emotions that are often intertwined with such delicate matters. The field of Geriatric Care Management can offer this type of support. There are some helpful considerations to help you better understand what to look for when hiring a Geriatric Care Manager, who in turn can connect with other supportive professionals on your behalf, essentially creating a community based team of support for you to fall back on as needed.

It is understandable that the prospect of hiring someone can feel like just another daunting task on your to-do list, and where do you even begin? In addition, some may be concerned that they are relinquishing control in their decisions by hiring a “Care Manager”. However, this need not be the case. A good Geriatric Care Manager will listen to your wishes, assess your needs, identify resources and assist in accessing and advocating for you and your family. The Care Manager can help to filter information and make it less overwhelming, so that you have one primary point of contact you can go to as you work through various situations.

Once on board, the Care Manager should be seen as your ally, working with you and taking on as much or as little as you wish, perhaps notching up their involvement during crisis or transition periods, and also able to exist quietly in the background, checking in as needed, and always available to talk through next steps, plan ahead proactively and remain at the ready for life’s inevitable changes and challenges that arise as we go. A skilled Geriatric Care Manager can help you minimize stress while saving time and money in the long run. They will go to bat for you, and help you plan and avoid the all too familiar cycle of crisis mode and damage control, looking ahead with a proactive, goal oriented approach to well-being.

However, not all Geriatric Care Managers are created equally; They may have different credentials or roles to play, and some may even work in complementary partnership, such a Social Worker and a Nurse, which are two professional backgrounds that lend themselves well to the role of Geriatric Care Manager. Currently, there is no specific licensure required to hold the title of Care Manager, so you do need to look at the background and qualifications of each individual and the scope of what they do. Some may be more medically oriented and clinical, while others work from a more holistic perspective as they enlist the support of a broad range of professionals, connecting the dots to build a team who are all working together on your behalf.

It is helpful to be aware that some Care Managers (or similarly titled Case Managers) may be employed by companies that have a specific focus, such as a home care agency, medical clinic, skilled nursing facility or insurance company. There may be Care Managers or Social Workers offered through public entities as well, such as your local Area Agency on Aging/Senior Services offices or the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, who may be enlisted to assist with accessing certain public and income based benefits including Medicaid services or food assistance. These individuals have a helpful role to play, and can also be a part of your team.

An independent Geriatric Care Manager may act as a liaison between you and the services of others, while able to explore and present all the best available options for you, as a neutral third party who has more time available to dive deeply into your needs and be a consistent contact for you to turn to as needed. A skilled and ethical independent Care Manager is able to interface with the appropriate people and programs that you qualify for and will aim not to duplicate those services which may already be available to you, maximizing your return on investment and ultimately saving time and money along the way without reinventing the wheel as you work towards your goals in healthcare, wellness and the bigger picture of what you want out of your life.

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