You’re struggling to “convince” your elderly parents they need help. Every day you dread getting a call that the worst has happened. You spend all your vacation time handling tasks for your aging Mom. But, you never seem to have enough time to give her the help she needs. Or, you are sitting in a hospital room reading this and trying to figure out what to do next. This may be the first crisis or one in a series. While Mom has a great doctor and the hospital staff is helpful, you never feel like you have a plan. You don’t want to keep finding yourself back here.
All of these situations call for a care manager. Too few people even know about the option of hiring a care manager. And, many don’t know just when they might need one or how to find one. We’ll address these questions and other things you might be surprised to know. Consequently, we hope you’ll know just where to turn next time you need help.
What is a care manager?
A care manager is also known as a geriatric care manager or aging life care manager. Care managers come from a variety of backgrounds. But, all have the goal of providing guidance to ensure optimal quality of life for your loved ones. They take a holistic, client-centered approach to help you find answers that work for your situation.
Essentially, a care manager is someone you can turn to for help navigating the challenges of aging and disability. Typically, you hire this professional much as any other professional advisor or coach.
How is a care manager different from a case manager/home health nurse/doctor’s liaison/hospital patient advocate?
A care manager is your advocate across disciplines and locations. You hire a care manager to work for you. Therefore, they can help with a variety of situations and provide a consistency that is often lacking. You also don’t have to qualify or meet certain income limits. Care management is for anyone. The example below demonstrates the unique benefits.
Case Study: Care Management in Action
Your Mom is in the ER having fallen for the third time. You’ve been talking to a care manager and decide now is the time to hire her. She comes to the ER and helps you talk to the staff about what’s happening. She helps you explain the history of falls and other concerns. Mom is admitted for some tests. She works with you and Mom, the doctor and the case manager on a discharge plan. A key difference is helping everyone understand the past problems when Mom was simply released home so things change this time. The doctor prescribes PT and OT in the home. He explains to Mom that she should have someone to help with chores and bathing. The care manager helps you hire the right caregivers, and coordinates with the PT/OT schedule. She is there the day of discharge and thinks of many little things that make a difference.
After Mom is settled back at home, she does a home assessment and makes suggestions for ongoing changes. You develop a care plan together. She helps you monitor Mom’s caregivers and spot any concerns. She suggests some rearranging in the home and a medication system. Mom is fall free and gets out more often with her caregivers. Several months later, Mom starts to talk about moving to assisted living. The care manager knows you and Mom...and the facilities. You don’t have to start from scratch with researching places. And, again she is there throughout the transition so it goes smoothly.
Because of the unique relationship, a care manager can be useful in all kinds of situations. He/she can work with you as best fits your needs.
You can hire a care manager to deal with a crisis.
Or, you can hire a care manager to help you plan and avoid future problems. This could be for a home assessment or to consult on a specific issue. Maybe you’re overwhelmed with Medicare options or want to get all your medical records organized.
A care manager can be your “eyes and ears” when you live far away from your aging parents. They can attend doctor’s appointments. You can achieve a peace of mind you didn’t think possible living so far away.
A care manager can be your “emergency contact”. They can provide crisis response. Just imagine not having to worry about Mom being alone in the ER. Or, you facing the daunting task of figuring out what’s going on in the middle of the night by yourself.
Maybe your family thinks it’s time Dad stop driving. Or, you’d like Mom to move to Assisted Living. Perhaps you see your parents struggling at home, but can’t get them to get help. This is just the time to call a care manager. First, you can consult and get feedback on what you’re seeing and steps to take. Additionally, they can actually help guide the conversations. And, they can provide resources so you get the right solutions.
Care managers can usually work for you for a limited time, for a specific project or on an ongoing basis. Don’t dismiss care management as something you can’t afford. There are options for different budgets. And, you often realize big cost savings from the recommendations.
Care managers have extensive education, experience and knowledge of diverse aspects of aging and health.
Care managers commonly come from social work or gerontology backgrounds. Typically, they have worked across different settings and have holistic knowledge of aging and the healthcare system. He or she may be a nurse, but does not need a nursing degree to be an effective care manager. Their role is not to provide direct medical care, but to help you get the best care.
Aging Life Care Managers must hold certain academic and experiential qualifications. Additionally, the certification process ensures they have the expertise you need. This includes eight core areas of knowledge: health and disability, families, housing, local resources, financial, legal, advocacy, and crisis intervention. Care managers follow a code of ethics and standards of practice. You can learn more here.
How to Find the Right Care Manager
You can search for care managers on the Aging Life Care Association website. It’s great to get a recommendation from a trusted professional, like your attorney or financial advisor.
Find out about the background and experience of your care manager. Rather than focus on a specific degree, talk to him/her about your situation. What type of experience have they had with something similar? How would they approach it?
Feel comfortable with who you’re hiring. Have a clear understanding of how you will work together. Most families only wish they’d hired the care manager sooner.