Geriatric Care Manager to the Rescue
Helping seniors and their families with difficult situations
If you are one of the many adults in the sandwich generation, trying to help your elderly parents from afar while simultaneously caring for your children and spouse at home, one possible solution that you may not be aware exists is to hire a geriatric care manager (GMC).
Sally lives in New Jersey, but her elderly parents reside in Massachusetts. Trying to help them resolve issues can be frustrating. Lately, her father has been in decline, and the more in decline he is, the more demanding he is of Sally's mother. Sally worries that her mother will feel too burdened, overwhelmed and ill. How can she help from afar?
Geriatric care managers
Jenny Miller, executive director and owner of Senior Care Concepts, a senior services company in Rhode Island, suggests that Claire may want to turn to the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers.
Never heard the term before? These professionals may be trained in a variety of fields -- such as nursing, gerontology, social work or psychology -- with a specialization in elder care. The professional geriatric care manager (GMC) can act both as guide and advocate, identify problems and offer solutions.
"Geriatric care managers act as liaisons between seniors and their families," says Miller, or between the families and the facilities in which the seniors reside. In Sally's case, the GMC would visit the family, do an assessment, and then talk to various family members and come up with a recommendation. He or she could then visit periodically to make sure that the issues had been resolved and stay resolved, that the suggested solution is being acted on, and that the couple is feeling better.
A geriatric care manager could be of enormous help to the Carey family. Helen, who has Alzheimer's disease, lives in an assisted living facility in Denver. Her two grown daughters live in opposite ends of the country -- Sarah in the San Francisco area and Martha in a suburb of Boston. Martha's daughter Mary, one of Helen's seven grandchildren, lives in Connecticut.
Whenever any of these three women has visited Helen in her residential facility, each has come away with a clear sense of what could improve Helen's situation. Unfortunately, they all disagree on what should be done. Each woman then issues instructions to the staff at the facility that contradicts the staff's previous instructions, and these conflicting instructions then evoke resentment in the staff, who don't know which set of instructions to follow.
How can Helen's family resolve their differences? A GCM would bring them all to the table to discuss their viewpoints, says Miller. The GCM would then do an independent assessment, talk to the facility director and staff, then come up with a recommendation based on what would be most helpful to Helen -- one that the family would hopefully agree on and adhere to.
The GCM could then follow up with spot checks to make sure Helen is being treated the way the center claims, and that she is being given the agreed-upon services. The GCM can also do a general evaluation of whether or not the residential facility truly focuses on the needs of the patient.
Having this kind of service can greatly alleviate the double stress and anxiety of having a loved one who needs care, while not being in a position to provide that care yourself. It can offer reassurance that your loved one is receiving the kind of care you would want, in the way you would want, and that her needs are being adequately evaluated. Of course, as with any professional, you need to make sure the geriatric care manager has expertise in the specific areas in which you need help and that her/his style of intervention fits well with you and your family.
Ronnie Friedland is an editor at Care.com. She has co-edited three books on parenting and interfaith family life.
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