You have a crisis with your elderly parent or relative. The crisis might involve your mom or dad falling and breaking a hip, getting pneumonia, or wandering away and, this time, can’t find their way home. How do you take time away from your job or taking care of your own children? Don’t get frustrated or overwhelmed; get help to deal with this new complex situation. With more than 80% of elder care provided by family members, an emerging field of geriatric experts known as geriatric care managers has sprung up to help.
A Professional Perspective
When faced with helping your aging parents make decisions about their future, 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 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.
Handling 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 elder. Your parent may feel more comfortable speaking of sensitive areas with someone outside the family dynamics. At the very least, the elder is more likely to accept suggestions from a third party with a listening ear. 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.
Delegate to the Experts
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 offered by various associations. Most of all, their encouraging support will allow you to continue the routine of your daily life while staying fully involved with your parents’ lives. With a geriatric care manager, your time with mom or dad becomes bonding time, not time trying to haggle over what to do next.
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 for years, let decisions about the care of the people you love most be guided by someone who’s been there before.
In the U.S., visit the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers website www.caremanager.org for a searchable database of reputable national care managers.
—By Cheryl Smith, MA