The aging process is about transitions – transitions in residence or living environment, in care and support, in reduced mobility and cognition, and in worst-case scenarios, to chronic illness or terminal disease. The challenge? To help seniors and their families plan for, adapt to and manage these transitions in ways that minimize stress and maximize the senior’s quality of life.
If the senior and his/her family have thought about and prepared (as much as possible), managing the transitions of aging (when they happen) can be easier on everyone. For those who want to be ready for the inevitable changes and challenges, a geriatric care manager can help elders and their families put all their options ‘on the table’ and create a sensible aging-in-place plan that preserves the senior’s dignity while giving the family peace of mind.
Unfortunately, we can’t predict everything, and when our elders enter a crisis situation, the entire family suffers. If you and your family live far away, or your work and other commitments make responding to your loved one’s needs a challenge, managing these transitions can be extremely frustrating, confusing and exhausting.
In so many situations, a geriatric care manager (GCM) – also called an aging life care professional – can make all the difference.
Here are two examples of how a GCM can help.
Scenario One: I just want to go home
Margie, a working mom in her 50’s with teenage children of her own, reached out to a geriatric care manager for help after her 73-year-old widowed mother, Jane, fell in her home and was admitted to the hospital with a broken hip. Margie knew her mom wanted to return home as soon as possible. But she also knew that juggling mom’s now-constant needs with her job and children would be impossible. Because Jane’s siblings lived three states away, their day-to-day support would be limited.
The GCM that Margie hired began working with the family while Jane was still in the hospital. She evaluated Jane’s current state of health and the services she had prior to her fall. She assessed Jane’s home environment. The GCM worked with Margie to set up home health aide and homemaking services, filling in the times where family members could not provide help. The GCM recommend equipment and safety changes in the house that would make activities of daily living easier for Jane. Margie and the GCM removed unnecessary clutter and tripping hazards before Jane’s return to home. The GCM also played a large role in Jane’s daily life after her stay at the hospital.
The GCM lent a helping hand when there was a sudden need. She visited Jane once a week to make sure the necessary services were in place and was in constant touch with her children. When Jane’s children were not able to take her to doctor’s appointments, the GCM drove Jane to the doctor and reported back to the family afterward. The GCM not only improved Jane’s quality of life but also lessened her children’s day-to-day worries about mom.
Scenario Two: We can’t live here anymore
Are you unsure of what is best for your parents? Are you concerned about their declining ability to navigate safely and take care of themselves in their home? Aging in place at home was always their wish, but would moving to a senior community at an affordable cost provide more support?
Michael, an only child, pondered this question often when thinking about his 88-year-old father, Ray and his 83-year-old mother, Susan. An active elder, Susan had become ‘burnt out’ caring for her husband, who suffered from dementia. Susan was neglecting her social activities because she could not leave Ray home alone. Michael knew his mother’s quality of life was diminishing greatly and his dad’s safety was at risk. When Susan was occupied in another room, Ray was prone to leaving their home and wandering around outside. One day Ray wandered into his neighbors’ yard, knocked on their door but didn’t remember their names; they gently escorted him home.
Michael contacted a local geriatric care manager (GCM) to assess his parents’ functional, psychosocial, environmental, and safety concerns. After her review, the GCM discussed several options with Michael. Scheduling home health aides to care for Ray would provide Susan with personal time to care for herself. However, 24/7 care in the home proved to be too expensive. As a temporary measure, the GCM helped Michael select personal emergency response devices to keep Ray from harm.
The GCM then proposed another option: moving to a senior community that offered memory care for Ray and independent living for Susan. The GCM did thorough research, visiting multiple senior communities within the couple’s price range and at locations near to Michael. She provided information on the top three communities that met Ray, Susan, and Michael’s needs. Michael and Susan chose the independent senior living-combined-with-memory care option that best suited their needs and budget; Susan and Ray and moved in several months later. Now Michael visits his parents and enjoys quality time with them – without worrying about dad and mom’s safety and well-being.
What is your family’s caregiving and support plan?
Is your family beginning to experience one or more of the challenges we’ve described above? It is never too early to seek out a geriatric care manager to help you and your elder loved one. Start by contacting the Aging Life Care Association (ACLA) at AgingLifeCare.org. Click on Regional Chapters, then your state, to search a directory of certified geriatric care managers in your state and region. If your loved one resides in Massachusetts (including Cape Cod and the Islands), Best of Care Inc. offers a full spectrum of GCM services, including its affiliate, TUCKed In Eldercare GCM services on Nantucket.
About Best of Care’s Geriatric Care Management Services
Erin Kopecki, Best of Care’s director of geriatric care management services, is a trained gerontologist with an MS in gerontology and management of aging services and a BA in gerontology. A certified geriatric care manager and licensed nursing home administrator, she is a member of the Aging Life Care Association. Kopecki is also founder and manager of Best of Care affiliate agency TUCKed In Eldercare, a GCM service for both permanent and seasonal residents of Nantucket and their families.
Families who choose Best of Care’s GCM services will work with Kopecki to customize a long-term care plan. They may also choose ongoing support to help them manage a continuum of services for their elderly loved ones. Depending on the senior and her/his family’s needs, Best of Care can arrange and oversee support services and outside agencies, assist with legal needs, consult on insurance options, coordinate medical and transportation services, discuss difficult topics and complex issues, evaluate in-home care needs or alternative living options, make home visits to suggest needed services, provide stress relief and education to family caregivers, provide ongoing monitoring and select and refer care personnel.
Families interested in learning more about Best of Care’s geriatric care management services may call 800.310.5800, visit www.bestofcareinc.com/our-services/geriatric-care-management/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For services on Nantucket, call 508.577.5057.