It is estimated that 34.2 million Americans provide unpaid care to an adult aged 50 or older1. These family caregivers face enormous pressure as they care for a loved one while also juggling personal, professional and family responsibilities. The stress can lead to caregiver burnout that can adversely impact their physical, emotional and mental health. However, a geriatric care manager can ease the burden before it results in burnout and can help the family successfully navigate the senior care journey. Here are three ways that a geriatric care manager can be the eyes and ears for a family of an aging loved one.
1. Knowledge of the health care system.
Health care is a difficult labyrinth to navigate. Doctors and specialists of different types, ranging from endocrinologists to physical therapists, must be part of the senior’s care team. Insurance may restrict referrals based on where the doctor is located and hospital affiliations. Terminology can be arcane and difficult to understand. Medical bills are based on complex billing and coding practices. All of these factors can make it difficult and frustrating for a family to obtain the best care for their loved one.
A geriatric care manager knows the healthcare system inside-out. Many have worked in some area of the profession, like social work or gerontology. They understand the moving parts of healthcare and how they interact. They can help the family of a senior to wind their way through a complex system to find the right care at the right time, whether it is for a loved one’s physical, emotional or mental health needs.
A geriatric care manager will attend doctor appointments with the senior and ensure clear communication between the doctor, the senior and family members. This clear understanding of health care means that a geriatric care manager can help the family as the senior moves through the healthcare system to palliative care, end of life care and hospice if needed.
2. An appropriate care plan, well delivered.
If you are the caregiver of a senior loved one, a Plan of Care is important to guide his or her care. A Plan of Care becomes especially important for seniors who have multiple chronic conditions and take many medications each day. Formulating a Plan of Care requires that the care recommendations of all providers, all medications and appointments be integrated into one cohesive, organized plan. A geriatric care manager can ensure that a care plan is developed and that it is implemented for quality care.
The care manager can also help the family to use the Plan of Care to make appropriate decisions for their loved one. For example, the care manager can help the family to determine if after surgery physical therapy is needed, a stay in a rehabilitation center might help or whether a home health nurse is needed. The geriatric care manager will help the family to find the right services for the senior, hire them and then will monitor the services to ensure that they are being delivered appropriately.
3. Helping families mediate disagreements among themselves.
Caring for a senior can be a highly emotional situation that can cause family disagreements to erupt. Family members may have strong opinions about what constitutes the best care for the senior, the selection of individual physicians, trusting diagnoses and second opinions, finances and more. A geriatric care manager is trained to meet with families and help them air their differences to reach consensus. They can help families solve problems regarding long-distance caregiving, at-home care, and long-term care questions. They can help families adjust to the illness of a loved one or an upsetting diagnosis. Care managers can help family members arrive at a common understanding that serves the best interests of their loved one.
Caring for a senior is complex and often confusing. For the family caregiver, it takes place in the midst of many other responsibilities. For the family, it can be an exhausting and frustrating process. A geriatric care manager can provide a roadmap for care and help caregivers and family members navigate the myriad details required to obtain the best care for a senior loved one.