How navigating senior care issues can be likened to planning for a family vacation…

As this is my first column I thought I would give readers a sense of what I do as a Geriatric Care Manager by way of a metaphor.  I will start out to say that I have been working as a Master degreed social worker for over twenty years.  I work with families and clients whose lives are changing due to advancing age related concerns or chronic or acute illnesses.

Carla Sutter
Carla Sutter, LSW/MISW

Recently I have begun to plan my summer vacation.  I ordered stacks of travel guides from the State tourism board and have been searching the internet to try and determine the itinerary.  And, to be honest I am utterly confused.  I can’t be sure which of the places that these guides and internet sites are touting are really “the best” or have just paid the highest advertising fee.  I don’t want to make reservations and confirmations as I am concerned we will find other options once we are at our destination itself.  I also am wondering if the “advertised” price is really the best and if there are other options for getting the best deal.

Does this sound a little familiar to any of you who are trying to plan for aging family members?  You are a “tourist” in the health care/senior care arena if you don’t work in this area all the time.  You may not even know the questions you are supposed to ask and you often don’t exactly know what you should be planning for. Some of the questions that get asked may include but may not be limited to: (1) is this a temporary impairment or is this a chronic and degenerative condition? (2) Are there programs that can pay for the type of care I am looking for and if so how do I access these programs and (3) which advertised programs best meet my loved one’s needs?

My role with families is helping them ensure that the plan of care that is developed covers all of the above. Care management helps families understand where a person is at physically, cognitively, financially, and environmentally. Seniors and their families often do not know the resources available to them, and what geriatric care managers do is to provide seniors and families with a map of where they are at, what is available now, and what might be available to them in the future.

If you don’t have the time or the experience to manage the care of an older person, you may need one. If the person’s problems are becoming difficult to manage, it could also be worth consulting a geriatric care manager for an initial consultation.  Many families can become “stuck” in the process either due to family conflicts or not having enough information to know how to begin.

As I move ahead with new articles, I will focus on a variety of issues and am open to answering site visitor questions.  I will for example address questions about, “how to know when to intervene?”, “how can someone remain at home with still being safe?”, “how do I get my family members to acknowledge they need help?” and “what are the different resources in the community, and when do you need them?”

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