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Posted: September 01, 2008

Practical Caregiving

Geriatric Care Managers Can Help Frazzled Families

When our elderly loved ones have trouble caring for themselves, there are many aspects of their care we need to deal with. If our loved one is starting to have trouble with their memory, we need to be doubly vigilant in making sure they don’t do something that will harm them, harm someone else or cause major problems in general. 

Take, for example, the problems that can develop with medicines. If our loved one is still administering their own medications, we need to make sure they take them when they should. We also need to see to it that they don’t overdose. If they are taking pain medicine, they can easily take a pill or two, and when the pain is still there take still more. Their ability to discern what is too much seems to get muddled as their mind gets fuzzy. And none of us wants to call an ambulance because we can’t wake them up after overdosing. It’s just chilling for any caregiver.

 

We also need to see to it that they eat enough of the right foods. Sometimes they will eat what they like -- and their likes have changed for the worse. They like ice cream sundaes, cake and candy. Meat, vegetables, fruit, and other nourishing foods are not something they like any longer, so they won’t eat them. They think they are eating right, but they don’t realize they can make themselves ill eating the way they want to.

 

There are many other aspects of self-care we need to monitor. Can they cook safely? Are their clothes clean? Do they take baths or showers often enough? Do they get lost? What are their finances like? Have they charged more than they can pay? What about returned checks? Do they have bounced checks and unpaid bills on a regular basis?

 

Managing our loved ones finances seems to be one of the major problems we face that is especially complicated to master. Sometimes they can be happy to receive our help, but too often they don’t want to give up control of their finances. Our loved one knows their money is their own, and they don’t want anyone else spending it.

 

An adult child who lives nearby may be willing to help, but too often other family members can become upset and accuse that child of things they haven’t done. When it’s our parent, everyone in the family becomes upset about the need for help. Tension is high, and things can be said that hurt -- and healing will not occur. This can be a very bad situation. So, what can we do to possibly prevent that?

 

One very helpful ally can be a geriatric care manager (GCM). A GCM does many things. Basically they do everything needed to give our loved one the best care possible. They talk to doctors about our loved one’s physical and psychological needs. They evaluate our loved one’s complete situation (which includes financial and family dynamics). They help the family understand our loved one’s situation.

 

In addition – and importantly – a GCM can help our loved one understand their own situation.

 

Through it all, this “caregiving consultant” can help the family understand our loved one’s situation and help mend fences along the way. A GCM will make recommendations about our loved one’s care, find and secure medical and other services needed, make sure our loved one gets the proper medicine when needed, offer suggestions about the care of our loved one, monitor insurance billings and track bills and payments.

 

One thing you must know about GCMs is that they are not regulated by state or federal laws. You need to do the research yourself. A GCM usually has a degree in a field related to geriatric care, such as social work.

 

There are several things you need to consider when you look at various GCMs. What is their background? What is their client load? What about references (be sure to call those references)? Who is their main concern, the patient or the family? They should be concerned about your loved one first, and your wishes second. How and when will they tell you about an illness or something else that needs immediate attention?

 

It is important to find a GCM who is competent and trustworthy. Ask their references questions about these qualities. Do they show up on time? Are they dependable? Does their loved one like them? Do they tell you, the family, how your loved one responds to them? Ask the reference to grade the GCM’s performance on a scale. You can also request a background check. If they are employed by an agency, the company should have already done a background check.

 

I’m sure you are wondering about the cost of a GCM. That depends on what they do, how much time they spend and where your loved one lives (rates vary by area). Your loved one might be able to pay for this care themselves. If they can’t, and if there are siblings, you could all share the cost.

 

In our busy lives today, a GCM can be a Godsend. Why don’t you check them out?

© 2008 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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Please send me your questions, comments and issues regarding the practical side of caregiving at ASKJEAN@caregivershome.com, and remember to take advantage of our professionals and experts in the Ask an Expert section of our website. You'll find it in the left column on our homepage.

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