It is common for family caregivers to reach a point in their loved one’s life in which they begin to feel anxious and overwhelmed about how to navigate their loved one’s health and care. They soon realize that they can no longer assume the role of caregiver solely on their own. It is at that time they may consider hiring a geriatric care manager (also referred to as GCM.)
Of course when considering hiring a geriatric care manager, it is first important to understand their role in your loved one’s life.
What Is A Senior Advisor?
Geriatric care managers assist you with the choices you need to make about your loved one’s life. Additionally, GCM can relieve your stress by helping you make caregiving decisions, navigate the elder care system, and supervise care.
GCMs are health care professionals with either a background in nursing, social work, gerontology or psychology who specialize in elder care issues and are trained to help family caregivers by providing the following assistance:
- Assessing the particular needs of a family, the level of care needed, and the living situation.
- Helping them navigate the medical system.
- Planning and supervising care, among other services.
The Benefits Of Hiring A Senior Advisor
Hiring a GCM for either a one-time assessment, or for ongoing support will help you plan ahead and avoid uninformed decisions that might prove unnecessary or overly expensive.
If you care for a loved one at home, for example, a GCM can help you decide which home care services may be necessary, and help you supervise that care. A GCM may also help with financial planning for future care, perhaps helping caregivers avoid costly mistakes in the process.
In addition, a GCM can assess a person’s living situation and recommend changes such as modifications to their home or decisions on moving them into a facility. With the benefit of a GCM’s insight, you may navigate the transitions between things such as assisted living, hospital needs, rehab, memory care, and nursing home care:
1. Navigating The Medical System
Geriatric care managers may attend doctors’ appointments, help you communicate with health care professionals, and make sure doctors’ orders are understood and followed. Additionally, if you need help getting an accurate diagnosis for your loved one, a geriatric care manager can help you find the right specialists and will walk you through the evaluations necessary for receiving a diagnosis.
2. Supervising Care And Advocating For Your Loved One
A GCM can coordinate all aspects of a loved one’s move to a facility, or simply serve as an extra pair of eyes and ears to check on a client’s physical care, emotional state, activity level, and social engagement. A GCM can also help facilitate communication between family caregivers and facility staff.
3. Providing Caregiver Support
A GCM can help the families of the loved ones they are managing; simply by providing ‘care for the caregiver.’ A GCM can not only share the burden of weighty decisions, but also support you in ways so that you can pay attention to your own needs. GCMs can recommend sources of support in your area such as respite care or caregiver counseling.
Why Hiring A GCM Is So Important: A Case Study
The following is a case study of the profound effect that proper geriatric care coordination can have in improving the quality of life of your senior-aged loved ones while easing the burden placed on overwhelmed family members.
Eleanor is a 91-year-old woman who was living home under the care of her son and her 24-hour aides. Eleanor’s son Michael lives in upstate New York more than two hours away from his mother’s home and as such, was unable to be there round the clock. He normally reserved Wednesdays for his visits with his mother and tried to schedule all her doctor’s appointments while he was able to spend time some with her. The toll that this took on both Michael and his mother was understandably enormous; it also left a lot of responsibility in the hands of the 24-hour aides. It is just not feasible to provide quality of life care when everything is relegated to one day of the week for the most part.
The solution? The need to bring in the services of a professional Senior Advisor was obvious. The care manager was primarily tasked with helping to shoulder the responsibility of making sure Eleanor was able to get to all of her medical appointments throughout the week. Michael was now able to spend quality time with his mother without needing to rush from office to office each and every Wednesday.
The GCM was able to obtain the necessary medical information from Michael and began coordinating all the doctor appointments moving forward. When the need for a podiatrist cropped up, the GCM recommended one she had worked with in the past and he was able to attend to all of Eleanor’s needs. Michael was kept in the loop after each and every doctor visit and was well aware of any health issues, medication changes, etc. He was no longer bogged down with grocery runs, trips to the pharmacy, briefing the aides or any of the tasks that used to take up so much valuable time which he could now spend with his mother instead.
Increased Level of Care
A few short weeks after the care manager began working with Eleanor, the circumstances changed entirely. Eleanor was admitted to Holy Name Hospital with a severe case of pneumonia. She had been a life-long smoker and it was beginning to take its toll in her later years. The GCM was able to help Michael stay on top of all that his mother was dealing with. The GCM was there on a daily basis speaking with the doctors in the hospital as well as inquiring of the nurses as they came in and out to administer tests and medications. Michael was relieved that his mother was in good hands and that someone more experienced than himself was able to make sense of all that was going on. He wasn’t nearly as overwhelmed as he may have been otherwise.
During Eleanor’s stay at Holy Name Hospital, it was discovered that a small tumor had taken root in her lung and she was unfortunately diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.
The Next Steps
Michael was determined to make Eleanor’s final days as comfortable and as dignified as possible. The care manager was able to coordinate Eleanor’s release from the hospital and set up home-based hospice care services. Eleanor would be able to spend her days at home in her accustomed surroundings while keeping to as much of a normal routine as possible.
Eleanor lives in a two-story home and her bedroom was located on the second floor. Although a chair lift was installed, the trip up to the bedroom now was too taxing on her. The GCM coordinated getting Eleanor set up in a hospital bed down on the main floor. Furniture was rearranged, a hospice-type care unit was set up and all aides were briefed on the new tasks and schedule aimed at making Eleanor as comfortable and pain-free as possible.
While Eleanor was still capable, she was assisted to get up and sit in the kitchen for short periods of time. The GCM began making daily visits to check on Eleanor and communicate with the aides. Everything was tracked and noted to make communication with the doctors easier moving forward. Michael was apprised of his mother’s condition via a daily email.
As Eleanor’s condition worsened, she became bedbound. The GCM monitored her on a daily basis to make sure she was being repositioned properly to avoid bed sores, that her fluid intake was sufficient, her medication was being administered properly and a host of other tasks that Michael no longer needed to think twice about. All of this was communicated to Eleanor’s son, her doctors and the hospice nurse to make sure everything ran as smoothly as possible.
Preparing for a Peaceful End
It’s never easy to prepare, much less even think about the impending death of a loved one. It can seem surreal even as you watch your loved one succumb to their illnesses. This is where a GCM can really emphasize the “care” within their title. In Eleanor’s case, the GCM and the Hospice nurse were able to take much of the burden off of Michael with some careful and delicate pre-planning. The details about what will happen when Eleanor passed were agreed upon and put into motion. The thought was to make sure Michael needn’t worry about who to call or what to do when the time came. The GCM and Hospice nurse would handle everything day or night and make sure that Michael was notified when the end was near so that he would be able to be with Eleanor if at all possible.
Eleanor was now being administered pain medications to make her final days as restful as possible. The GCM was there to monitor, coordinate and brief the aides on all that needed to be done. Through the combined efforts of the GCM, Hospice nurse and the aides, Eleanor remained in the comfort of her own home and Michael was granted the peace of mind that his mother was in more than capable hands. Living two plus hours away at this difficult time wasn’t ideal but at least he knew his mother was well taken care of.
Eleanor did pass away peacefully on a Sunday evening with her loving son Michael by her side. She was able to spend her last days at home in comfortable surroundings as she wished. Thanks to the combined efforts of the GCM, her aides and the Hospice nurse, Eleanor passed on peacefully and as pain free as possible. The entire team worked together to maintain Eleanor’s level of comfort and ease the burden on her son Michael.
How We Can Help: Geriatric Care Management Information And Assistance
Call us at Unicity today at 201-670-7100, to speak with one of our team members. We are here to help and can answer any other questions you may have in greater detail.