The most common question I hear after “What is a geriatric care manager?” is, “When do I know that we need a GCM?” It may actually be more accurate to frame the question as ‘When would my family benefit from a care manager working with us?” And that is when I usually respond with a question of my own, “What is it that encouraged you to reach out to me now?” Usually there is an event or a culmination of events which encourage a person to look for a solution to a problem, an answer to a question or just plain help. Here are five of the common circumstances people with whom I speak talk about:
- There has been a sudden event in your older loved one’s health, and you are wrestling with what to do. This can be a stroke, a heart attack, a fall or just the most recent trip to the hospital with a condition that has been worsening. It represents one of those forks in the road where it seems that keeping on with the way things were will not be adequate, and the caregivers need to know their alternatives. GCMs have answers.
- The caregiver in your family seems to be approaching “burn out.” Caregiving usually falls to one of the adult children in a family, typically the daughter or the one who lives closest to mom or dad. This lead caregiver wants to do all they can, but there may not be enough hours in the day, and the guilt about not delivering may keep them from asking for help until you see the signs: fatigue, forgetful ness, irritability, depression or other signs they are overwhelmed. GCMs help the older loved one, to be sure, but they also are there for the caregiver.
- It may be clear that something needs to be done on behalf of your older loved one, but the family does not know or cannot agree on what to do. A GCM has answers, because this is what they do. Think of a GCM as a “wedding planner” for getting older. A GCM does not bake cakes or cater meals, etc., but they can lead you to the best professionals who do. A GCM also can be a helpful mediator to help get everyone back on the same page for mom or dad.
- If your older loved one does not seem to be getting the benefit from their care providers or they seem anxious around the care attendants, follow your instincts. A GCM can spot elder abuse and respond with the advocacy necessary to assure your older loved one’s safety and well-being.
- Your older loved one may just be confused, but it may also be signs of a more serious deterioration of their faculties. A GCM will help by finding a diagnostician to assess your older loved one’s capabilities. A GCM also will help to assess if your loved one would benefit from social activity, better nutrition, exercise, etc.
These are just a handful of the kinds of first conversations I often have with those who reach out to us. You will find much more on the web site for the national association who accredits us as geriatric care managers. If you are a caregiver to an older loved one and you have questions, visit: CareManager.org
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management , certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.