by Joan Blumenfeld, MS, LPC
People frequently ask me what Geriatric Care Managers actually do. Though I answer the question in plain, clear English, my replies often don’t seem to hit home. So I am taking this opportunity to write a blog that explains, in vivid detail, exactly what we do to contribute to the optimum care of our frail, elderly clients.
As a group, Geriatric Care Managers are highly qualified professionals with advanced degrees in social work, counseling or nursing. We have many hours of supervised experience working with older adults and are either members or associate members of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers. We are especially good at advocating for our clients by locating and engaging the best, most appropriate resources in the community for their benefit.
We advocate, coordinate, manage, supervise and plan for the short-term and long-term care of our clients. We educate, guide and support their families. Our overarching goal is to help clients remain in their homes comfortably and safely for as long as possible and to help with life’s transitions whenever they become necessary. We build expert care teams using our extensive community networks in the fields of medicine, law, finance, social services and others.
Engaging the services of a Geriatric Care Manager is especially helpful for families who live at a distance from their elders and for family caregivers who work full-time while raising their own children. It really does take a village!
That being said, exactly what do Geriatric Care Managers actually do? Here are a dozen examples of specific contributions I have made to the well-being of my clients over the course of my 17 years in practice:
- I stayed in the ER with a client for seven hours, until she was admitted to the hospital. During that time I handled the multitude of repeated questions from doctors and nurses that my client was unable to answer, kept her calm and fetched warm blankets when she got cold.
- I read favorite mysteries and biographies aloud to a client who could no longer read to herself.
- I took a wheelchair-bound client on occasional field trips to the movies, to area museums and even (at her request) to a casino!
- I helped a client reconnect with her minister and church congregation.
- I toured several assisted-living facilities with a client so she could select the one she liked best.
- I pre-screened several certified nurses’ aides to help a family find the one who was best suited for their father.
- I shoveled snow off the steps of a client’s house after an unexpected snowstorm.
- I picked up a client at the dialysis clinic when the transport service forgot to bring him home.
- I accompanied a 95-year-old client to the hospital to have her pacemaker battery replaced and made certain that the doctor read her living will before doing the procedure.
- I noticed that a client’s hospital discharge plan did not include either a nebulizer or a home supply of oxygen for her congestive heart failure. I requested that a doctor review the discharge plan and make the order before we left the hospital.
- To help a client become more comfortable with her new surroundings, I decorated her room at the nursing home with paintings, photographs and other memorabilia from her home to illustrate the many aspects of her colorful life.
- I insisted that the nursing home bring in a palliative care pain specialist to evaluate and treat a client with terminal cancer.
So, as you can see, Geriatric Care Managers are well-trained surrogates for devoted daughters and sons who, for whatever reason, need help planning and coordinating the care of family elders. We improve the quality of life for older, often-frail adults, and for their families as well, with the expertise, compassion, wide service network and excellent problem-solving skills that we bring to our work.
Pearl of wisdom: Taking care of frail older adults can be an overwhelming and nearly full-time job. Bringing in a Geriatric Care Manager can save you much time, money and emotional energy.
Joan Blumenfeld, MS, LPC is a Geriatric Care Manager based in Fairfield County, CT. For information see her web at joanblumenfeld.com. ©Joan Blumenfeld, 2014.