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
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
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.
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
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
“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
“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
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
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
• 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
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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