The blog post for this month was written by Meike West, MSW, CMC at ArosaCare
Are you feeling overwhelmed by the challenges associated with aging? Is your responsibility to care for a loved one becoming stressful or even unmanageable? You are not alone, as it is normal to encounter medical, legal, financial, and psychological complications related to aging that can be just too much for a layperson to handle on their own. Many family care givers try to juggle their own responsibilities, jobs and family life, while also navigating the care of an aging loved one. Many are doing so long distance, which adds additional challenges. Luckily, there are experts to partner with!
A geriatric care manager, also called an aging life care manager, is a social worker, nurse, gerontologist, or mental health professional who acts as a guide for seniors and/or their care partners with specialized care needs. Care managers provide expertise in the assessment, plan development, coordination, and monitoring of elder care services to ensure the highest quality of care. Many families hire a care manager to alleviate their stress, worry, and fear that can accompany aging—and most importantly—give them a greater sense of stability, clarity, and peace of mind.
You don’t know what you don’t know!
Background and Training
A professional care manager has an advanced degree in gerontology, nursing, social work, psychology, or another related field. He or she is trained and has the necessary experience to understand the needs, wants, and risks of an aging adult, which qualifies them to quickly pull together all needed resources, services, and technology a senior may need. Many are certified as care managers through the National Academy of Certified Care Managers or a similar entity, certifying they are indeed eligible to carry the title.
The cost of hiring a care manager can vary greatly, based on experience, scope of services and geographic area. Hourly rates and fees range from $100 to $250, and an initial assessment can vary, depending on the scope of work. Some practitioners may charge a flat monthly fee for agreed upon services.
Knowledge of a Care Manager
A professional care manager has extensive training and expertise across eight distinct bodies of knowledge. They can lay out the best options, balancing the needs and wants of your elderly loved one with the requirements of your life and financial situation.
- Health and Disability
Care managers understand aging and the associated conditions and diseases and can help seniors and their families make informed decisions relating to physical health and disability. Whether you need assistance with medication management, transportation, getting connected to the best medical providers or education about a specific condition or diagnosis, you can count on a care manager to help guide you to the right information and services which can serve you best. There is no one-size-fits-all and getting individualized advice is key.
- Financial Affairs
Care managers can help ease your financial worries about the aging process. They know how to create viable and sustainable care management plans based on affordability and value. They understand the criteria for public benefits, so you can receive all you’re entitled to, and they will appropriately refer you to financial professionals as needed to assist with financial planning. Another example: I recently connected a client with a daily money manager to help with bill paying, budgeting and tax preparation, which is often an area of need for seniors.
- Housing Options
Many seniors struggle with the decision of whether to age in place at home or to move to a senior care community. A care manager can discuss pros and cons for either option. He or she knows what residential options are available in your local community and the associated costs and benefits. They can provide feedback based on experience with the various options and can identify the appropriate level of care and the facilities that best meet your expectations. If the senior wishes to stay at home, a care manager can develop a care plan that identifies which services and home adaptations are required to ensure appropriate support and safety.
- Family Conflict
Family dynamics can be complicated and sometimes, differing opinions or family tension gets in the way of addressing a senior’s needs. A care manager can help families work through their unresolved family issues, or at least help them to work as civilly as possible with one another throughout the care management process. Sometimes, a third party can be more objective and can serve as a mediator and advocate for the senior.
Care managers have experience working in their local communities. They know the ins and outs of local resources, including prices, fees, and level of services. Most importantly they understand the subtle nuances of a program which allows the care manager to make “just the right” recommendations. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, which can be time consuming and overwhelming.
- Senior Advocacy
Care managers are qualified to advocate for seniors. Due to their expertise and experience, care managers work effectively with hospitals, assisted living and nursing facilities, and local, state, and federal agencies to make sure that the senior receives all the help and support to which they are entitled. Advocacy like this is especially critical for seniors who can’t speak up for themselves (due to illness or cognitive conditions), as well as for those who are at risk of financial misconduct, neglect, undue influence, and other forms of elder abuse. Especially for out-of-town family members, it can be a great comfort to have local “boots on the ground” and eyes on their loved one.
- Legal Planning
Professional care managers know what documents should be in place to ensure the proper protection and can provide education and guidance. These may include advanced directives, wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents. During the initial assessment, the care manager will help make sure you have all the necessary legal tools in place. If something is missing, they can offer referrals to trusted professionals and other resources to get you what you need.
- Crisis Intervention
Aging is complicated, and at times it can even be traumatic. When a crisis arises, it can be tremendously beneficial to lean on the training and expertise of a professional care manager. Care managers can help you during a crisis and intervene when necessary, such as when confronted with a new diagnosis, loss of a family member, or a behavioral change.
If you think a care manager might be a great addition to your care team, please go to www.aginglifecare.org to learn more about aging life care managers) or to find an expert near you.
To learn how our organization has integrated care management into our home care practice, please go to https://arosacare.com/the-arosa-experience/the-client-experience/ Including a care manager in the care management process has been invaluable for care planning, staff training and family support.