By Mary Wegman
Susan was absolutely overwhelmed with working full-time, caring for her two grade-school children, and keeping her household afloat. Susan's 70 year old mother, Grace, had recently become ill. She was losing weight, showing signs of memory loss, and mismanaging her medications. Grace had always been independent and was resistant to help. Constant worry over her mother, and the friction between Susan and her mother caused by Susan "telling her mother what to do" was about to put Susan over the edge. Susan wasn't sure that her mom should even be living alone, but was unsure of her options. Her mother was resistant to every suggestion that Susan had. A friend suggested that Susan try a geriatric care manager. Susan searched the web to find a reputable geriatric care manager.
Geriatric care managers (GCM) are professionals, typically registered nurses or social workers, who specialize in aging issues. They offer their knowledge of elder issues and the local community to compassionately help families quickly pinpoint problems, prioritize needs, and offer solutions. GCMs provide assistance in finding resources, making decisions, and managing stress. GCMs also offer family mediation, communication with physicians and other medical providers, and crisis management. Geriatric care managers usually have great knowledge of the local elder care community and can steer families towards the best resources. They save time and money for the family.
In Susan's case, the GCM was able to take a huge burden from her shoulders. After the initial screening, the GCM met with Susan and made a plan that included daily in-home help, regular visits from the GCM for ongoing assessment, medication management, practical suggestions to deal with the memory loss(including proactive safety measures), and regular detailed communication with Susan. The GCM was able to candidly point out areas in which Grace needed help, and Grace slowly began to trust the GCM. Susan also hired the GCM to accompany her mother to doctor's visits and medical appointments so that her mother would have an educated advocate to ask questions and express concerns to the medical providers. Trust was built between Grace and the GCM, and at the appropriate time the geriatric care manager persuaded Grace that she needed to choose either a live-in caregiver or an assisted living. After exploring the options thoroughly with Susan and her care manager, Grace was able to choose and accept a live in caregiver. Grace was able to stay home with this help, living an active and happy life. Susan was able to focus on her children, assured that her mom was receiving great care. Susan and Grace both noticed that their time together was less stressful because the GCM was taking care of details that had earlier caused friction between them.
I would recommend the National Assosication of Geriatric Care Managers website to learn more about caring for your aging loved one, and for help in finding a reputable geriatric care manager. You should look for care managers who are credentialed and have local references with whom you can speak. It is also beneficial if the care manager has been active in the local senior community so that she has extensive knowledge of the local resources, as the resources will vary from city to city. Don't be afraid to check with the credentialing agencies to make sure the geriatric care manager is in good standing and current with their membership and license.
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