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Individually Reinventing the Wheel

February 26, 2013

Questions frequently asked by adult children of aging parents:

  • What are the housing options?
  • Who will check in on mom and/or dad?
  • How can I find someone reliable to come in a few hours a day?
  • What can I do to make my parent’s environment safer?
  • How do I know who I can trust to look after mom and/or dad?

The list above is definitely not all-inclusive. There are many other questions we are faced with when dealing with the health and safety of our aging parents. More pressing questions come to mind when we start dealing with adult children who have a parent with dementia or Alzheimer’s dementia. The primary goal is two-fold: 1) the aspect of care, including safety and well-being, for our aging parents; and 2) some form of comfort and acceptance (stress relief) that we do not need to handle every aspect of care for our aging parents.

Historically, and even in some cultures today, families lived together as a unit. Whatever generations were within the household took care of each other and supposedly things are simpler within that paradigm. Mothers and fathers of young children went off to work to support the household, school age children went off to school, and the youngest ones were cared for by the grandparents who also prepared meals, tended the garden, and probably did the majority of the housework. As young children advanced into school and then their teen years their parents continued to work to provide funding for the household, but now the teenaged children were taking on more of the household responsibilities and some of the care for the aging grandparents. The cycle continued as each cohort aged and moved into the next level of life. Birthing, living, and dying were carried out in cyclical patterns.

Then along came the schism of family life. Mom and dad had to have jobs to support the household, but they had moved away from their parents so there was no one within the home to care for the younger children. Day care centers and babysitters became the norm, but the care wasn’t the loving care previously provided by family members. The aging seniors went into assisted living facilities and nursing homes when they could no longer remain in their own homes. Care for the youngest and the oldest was now done by strangers with no firm investment in the outcomes.

That’s not to say that there weren’t nurturing caregivers for the youngest or the seniors, it’s just that now it was less personal and more businesslike in the delivery.  With the advent of all of this the population demographics changed. Individuals lived longer. Some lived longer with more debilitating disease processes. Some lived longer with less financial resources. Aging seniors now required extensive attention, financial resources,, and better planning for end-of-life care.

How could the typical middle-aged person be expected to come up with all the answers?

This is the question that plagues many of us today. Our parents are aging and there are so many issues to explore and take care of. This could definitely be a full-time job. Besides that EVERY family has to deal with this in one way or another. At any given time, in any town, on any street there are probably four or five, maybe more, families dealing with similar issues related to aging parents and how to meet their needs.

Unfortunately, most of those families are trying to find the answers on their own. They’re all reinventing the wheel.

Is there a set pattern that fits every scenario? Of course not, but there are enough similarities that entrepreneurial types have come up with a solution. (Whenever there is a need, or a new niche market, entrepreneurs will find a way to fill it and this is no exception.)

The response is that a category of service oriented individuals was formed. They are most often called Geriatric Case Managers. There is a certification process and a number of accrediting organizations  overseeing that certification for those who seek the educational and professional path of certification.

Beware though that not all individuals who call themselves “Geriatric Case Managers” are certified. Some provide all the skills and are very helpful but do their jobs without certification. Others hang out a shingle and do little but collect fees for providing a service that is of little or no value to anyone but their own financial gain.

But let’s take this back to a positive note relative to a Geriatric Case Manager (GCM) and how they can assist you in finding answers to the questions related to your aging parents. Those ethical, nurturing, and informed GCMs, whether certified or not, have answers to questions about housing placement for your parents, how to find financial assistance, programs that are available for everything from home health to activity centers for seniors and much, much more. They often have extensive networks of contacts with information about specialists for health care, transportation companies, companion services, regional home health agencies, in-home care agencies, hospices, private duty nurses and caregivers, respite programs, and who to contact for the most mundane questions.

Some GCMs are nurses, some are social workers, and some are associated with agencies or businesses that provide services to seniors and their families. Do your homework, get references from your parent’s doctor or home health agency on how you can find a local GCM.

Be prepared to pay a fee for the services rendered. Some will provide an initial short-consultation at a reduced rate or for no fee.  Fees for services vary by state and sometimes even regions within states. Those who are certified have oversight by a peer review committee so you have recourse if you have a complaint. Receiving services from a non-certified GCM is a situation of “Buyer Beware” since there is no recourse or oversight.

Utilizing the services of a GCM is not for everyone. Some can’t afford it and others would rather spend the time and energy doing the extensive searching and management themselves. There is no right or wrong approach. The information provided here is simply another tool you can add to your “Aging Parents Toolbox.”

If you are interested in finding out more information about Geriatric Case Managers feel free to leave a question or comment. Of course you can GOOGLE search for information yourself, but I would love to establish a dialogue on this topic. If you have experience with a GCM I’d love to hear from you as well. Thank you for reading my blog!

 

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