It’s June, and school is out for a lot of kids and everyone is thinking of taking time off. In fact, by a certain time of the year most people who are going to take a summer vacation will have made their plans. We all know how to make plans and make reservations to get to where we want to go.
If we look beyond what month it is and think about seasons of our lives, we may also be thinking about retirement. By a certain time of life most people will have made retirement plans. We all know where to turn to get advice on how to make plans and maybe even a picture of where we would like to be once we become financially independent.
As a geriatric care manager, let me suggest also that by a certain time of life most people will not have made plans for getting older. In fact, the plans that need to be made for getting older typically will not be made by an older adult, but rather by their caregivers. And the typical caregiver will not always know where to turn to make those plans for their older loved one. So, please allow me to share with you what is usually 60% of my first conversations with someone who e-mails us or makes a call as a way of explaining what a geriatric care manager does.
Looking at that first example of summer vacations, it would be really great if there were a geriatric care equivalent to Travelocity. Or talking of retirement, it would be really easy if having a plan for getting older would be like following that arrow line in the television commercial. But there is hope. Making plans for getting older can be easier than a lot of caregivers think. The majority of the first conversations I have with clients are a lot about what they are looking for like:
• home medical care for an older parent, or
• a senior community where mom or dad can move or
• where to go for what they see as the onset of dementia in a loved one.
As the conversation unfolds, it usually becomes clear that what is needed first is an overall assessment and then a plan for the options available to support a loved one in maintaining their maximum quality of life. One of my associates calls us the “wedding planners” for getting older. To just get home care may be a bit like that wedding planner who just tells you where they have a great stock of wedding dresses when you were really looking to plan that “special day.” To just get a list of senior communities in the area may ignore the other options for aging in place that could come from a full assessment leading to a plan. And it may be dementia or it may be interactions among any of the multiple medications that your loved one has been prescribed by multiple providers. What may be more helpful is someone to look at the big picture and help make a plan.
If you are a caregiver, think about your concerns for your older loved one, but also consider looking into geriatric care managers. They are essential in providing an overall informed assessment and even more important for discovering all your options. The person who can best do that likely is the person who sees the big picture and knows all the resources available.
Charlotte Bishop is founder of Creative Care Management, a team of geriatric care managers, certified professionals, advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.