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What to do About Mom or Dad
Find the Expertise You Need in a
Professional Geriatric Care Manager

by Cheryl Smith, MA
 

You are managing your time pretty well—things are tight and there are activities you would like to add to your schedule, like a yoga class or a new hobby, but you just can’t juggle one more thing.

But then something happens that is about to add a huge responsibility to your already overloaded schedule – there is a crisis with your elderly parent or relative. The crisis might involve your mom or dad falling and breaking a hip, rear-ending another driver, getting pneumonia, or wandering away and, this time, can’t find their way back home.

How do you find the time to add one more thing to a schedule that is already full?  How do you take time away from your job or taking care of your own children?  You are determined to take care of your parent the same way that they took care of you, but how? Feeling overwhelmed, or giving into a meltdown, is not the only alternative.

Don’t get frustrated; get help to deal with this new complex situation.  With more than 80 percent of elder care (an average 71 hours a week) provided by family members, an emerging field of geriatric experts known as professional care managers have sprung up to help.

A Professional Perspective

When faced with helping your aging parents make decisions about their future, making sense of the information and wading through the options can be frustrating. Getting an outside perspective from a geriatric care manager can help assess your parent’s needs, identify things you may not have considered and create a care plan with possible options and recommendations.

As specialists with extensive education and experience in elder care, geriatric care managers are skilled at assessing the level of help seniors need, changes that should be implemented now or in the future, and scheduling needed care services. Care managers can also identify helpful community resources, monitor needs and be an ongoing source of information.

Sidestep Complicated Family Dynamics

If you’re finding it a frustrating task to talk to your parent about closing off the upstairs of their home to prevent falls, installing bath safety equipment, giving up the car keys, or wearing an ID bracelet for those walks around the block, you’re not alone. Elderly parents often find it humiliating to transition to receiving advice, direction or physical care from their own children. But in the same arena, a professional outsider can step up to the plate and do it with panache.

A professional starts with a level playing field that creates a feeling of equality for the elderly. Your parent may feel more comfortable speaking of sensitive areas with someone outside of family dynamics. At the very least, the elderly are more likely to accept suggestions from a third party with a listening ear. To your benefit, the geriatric care manager will present a view to your parent that is unbiased by your personal stress, emotionally-charged worry, and any unconscious agendas.

When Kansas City business owner Betsy Stewart’s elderly dad suffered a stroke two years ago and returned to his own home, she was worried about his safety. But when she tried to talk to him about it or make suggestions, he brushed off her concerns.

“To him, I was just his child and not someone he was going to take advice from,” said Stewart.

Stewart sought the help of a geriatric care manager and was amazed at the difference.

“Having an outsider be the one to make recommendations and talk to my dad about potential safety issues was instrumental in getting my dad to cooperate. The care manager built trust and established a rapport with him and got him laughing right off the bat. By the end, he trusted her judgment and cooperated with all her recommendations. Additionally, the care manager pointed things out to me that I hadn’t thought about – such as potential safety hazards in the home – and provided information on valuable resources.”

Delegate to The Experts

Just as you might delegate tasks at home or work to those with proven expertise, take the same approach when it comes to determining a plan for your parent’s future. Seek expertise from a proven professional and you’ll know that you’re getting information you can count on while avoiding costly mistakes from trying to figure it out on your own.

With a geriatric care manager, you’ll get inside knowledge on everything from local facilities, in-home services, and where to find medical equipment and supplies to unadvertised benefits entitled by various associations—local (such as Alzheimer’s Association) or national (such as Veterans). Most of all, their encouraging support will allow you to continue the routine of your daily life while staying fully involved with your parent’s aging experience. With a geriatric care manager, your time with mom or dad becomes bonding time, not time trying to haggle over what to do next.

Do you want flexibility to manage your day, putting priority on the important instead of the urgent? Do you want to prepare for the unexpected ahead of time? Do you want to work smarter, not harder? Do you want to enjoy your time with your parents without frustrating arguments and exhausting power struggles?

Contact a geriatric care manager to help you set up a strategic plan organizing and implementing the care your parent needs. They will help you fulfill your own needs to be involved as closely as possible while maintaining your own personal and professional obligations. Whether you need help for a day, a few months or a few years, let decisions about the care of the people you love most be guided by someone who’s been there before.

Today’s geriatric care managers are experts at wading through the decisions and for a reasonable hourly fee, can open you to a world of options. Their professional suggestions are based on broad experience, understanding of geriatric issues and most of all, the needs of your ailing parent.

 When you decide to seek help from a professional care manager, you’ll get the answers you are looking for, plenty of options, and the emotional support you need.

When To Seek Help

If you are asking yourself the following questions, a geriatric care manager might be the answer:

• Are my parents safe in their home?
• Are bills being paid on time?
• Should my parents be driving?
• Are my parents’ health concerns taking me away from my family?
• Are the problems that my parents are facing becoming larger and more complex than I can comfortably manage?
• What kind of help would increase safety while maintaining my parents’ dignity and independence?
• What kinds of assistance can my parents afford?
• What local resources might my parents benefit from?

(Adapted from the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers)

Find a Geriatric Care Manager

Visit the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers website www.caremanager.org for a searchable database of reputable national care managers.

Cheryl Smith is the president of Kansas City Home Care, Inc. She is a gerontologist and a long-standing member of the National Association of Professional Care Managers (GCM), past president of the Midwest Chapter of GCM and a founding member of the National Private Duty Association. For more information, call 913-341-4800 or visit www.kchomecare.com.

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