Caring for an elderly or disabled family member can be a daunting task. Caregiver duties may begin with small errands and mushroom to a full-time job. Those who find themselves already overwhelmed with life are at risk for missing work, neglecting their significant other, and experiencing caregiver burnout. Adult children in this situation will sometimes hire a professional care manager as an ally.
A care manager can provide peace of mind by supervising care, and can provide expertise in the field of geriatrics while serving as an intermediary with care providers. It is often helpful to have an objective third party to help when multiple siblings cannot decide what course of action is best for mom or dad. The care manager can help provide relief for the ever-increasing demands on time and energy related to caregiving and can help maintain dignity and the highest level of independence for your loved one.
A care manager begins by assessing the individual’s current living situation. The care manager then works with the client and family to develop an action plan to address specific concerns and safety issues. The care manager is knowledgeable about community resources, and can provide referrals in order to effectively implement the action plan. The care manager will make all arrangements and provide oversight to ensure that services are effective and adequate.
A good care manager will have connections and relationships with the best service providers in the industry. Additionally, the care manager should be responsible for follow-up and monitoring the situation and for reevaluating periodically to ensure that needs are being met and services are appropriate. Care management services are usually provided on a fee-for-service basis and are generally billed at an hourly rate. The following vignette demonstrates how a care manager operates:
Mrs. June is an 87-year-old widow who lives alone and was scheduled to be discharged from the hospital after having a pacemaker implanted in her heart. Kay, who is her only child and lives out-of-state, contacted a care manager to help. The care manager interviewed Mrs. June at the hospital and assisted in hiring a 24- hour caregiver for her.
The caregiver picked up Mrs. June from the hospital and drove her home, while the care manager filled all of Mrs. June’s new prescriptions and purchased food for Mrs. June. She went over the menu plan with the caregiver, bearing in mind Mrs. June’s food preferences and dietary needs, prepared a medication log for the caregiver to ensure that Mrs. June would take her medication as prescribed by her physician, and scheduled a follow-up appointment with her cardiologist.
The care manager contacted Mrs. June’s Long-Term Care Insurance Provider to see what coverage she had for caregiver services and did the paperwork so that Mrs. June got reimbursed for her caregiver. The care manager kept in touch with Kay several times a week via e-mail in order to keep her informed regarding her mother’s wellbeing. As a result, Kay has less stress in her life. When Kay visits her mother, she can spend more time in activities that enhance their relationship.
Susan Belgrade, LCSW, is the Director of Private Care Management for Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, one of the area’s most established and recognized providers of care to the elderly and disabled. She can be reached at 323.932.0316.