By Todd Rasmussen, Estate Planning Kansas City
May is National Aging Life Care™ Month! It’s a month to consider the health and well-being of older adults in our community and those that assist them. Many people have never heard of Aging Life Care, but they may be familiar with care management or care coordination. They are the same general concept. Care managers and coordinators help to fill the gaps in support for a senior that occur when a senior is beginning to encounter challenges living independently, but may not be ready for personal care or skilled home health, a care manager can be the perfect solution.
What is a Care Manager?
The role of the care manager is much like that of a well-informed, very involved family member. They first get to know you and your goals, while working to provide direction and motivation to get things done. In my experience, a care manager allows families to provide for, assist, manage and support their loved ones even when they are not able to attend every appointment, in-home visit or testing in person. They often serve as a resource for families by offering guidance when services are needed, such as home care, home health, money management, insurance, elder law attorneys, and local social services. They act as an advocate for the family member by accompanying and guiding the family member through the complex medical system and ease the way through difficult transitions of care.
Often times, the concept of a care manager is confused with that of a home health provider. A home health provider is the person that provide hands-on care, such as bathing or toileting, and fulfills other needs in the house. Care managers are more like “project managers.” They determine the plan for the client’s needs, bringing in the experts (like home care, transportation, etc.), communicating with care and service providers and family, and keeping the momentum to achieve goals.
Care Managers are particularly valuable when adult children travel frequently or live far from their older loved one. If the older family member has only one person for support, a care manager can provide the “backup support” for that caregiver. It is a nice way to provide peace of mind when that person is out of town or cannot get away their own job to assist Mom or Dad.
How a Geriatric Care Manager Helped My Family – Lauren Bond’s Story
To provide an example of how a care manager can help, Lauren Bond has graciously allowed me to share her story.
“When my father was widowed a few years ago, he was left on his own in the house he had retired in nearly 20 years earlier. No family members lived nearby and of course, he said he’d be fine on his own. Soon, my siblings and I started noticing small problems he was having managing his affairs. Checks occasionally bounced. He missed social and medical appointments. On the phone, he couldn’t provide details about his day or recent doctor’s appointments. This wasn’t like him, and we were worried.
We were stumped; Dad did not need a companion or an aide for the basics like getting dressed, taking showers, or preparing meals. Dad did not need a skilled healthcare professional (like a nurse or a physical therapist) because he didn’t have any major health problems. What we needed was a family representative to “check in” on Dad regularly, to be a resource we could contact, to watch out for problems, and to help him manage his affairs.
We learned of geriatric care management only by chance when I found a booklet in a doctor’s office. We hired a care coordinator to visit a few hours a week and accompany Dad to medical appointments. It made all the difference! Our care coordinator regularly reported back to us on her interactions with Dad, and we learned what was really happening on a day-to-day basis. This allowed my family to plan and prepare for changes before a crisis occurred, and we were so thankful we avoided a devastating crisis.”
How to Get Started
We are fortunate to have several private care management companies here in the Kansas City area. In fact, as a result of Lauren’s experience she started her own care management company, Care is There. When you call a care management company, expect a few questions to confirm that care management fits your needs. If it is a good fit, work with the company will begin, including a comprehensive evaluation to develop a custom plan of care. At the same time, the care coordinator will start building a relationship with the client and assisting as needed.
Feel free to contact Lauren with any questions or concerns you may have. Her number is (913) 815-1486.
This Sponsored Column is written by Todd Rasmussen of Estate Planning KC. Rasmussen is an attorney and certified public accountant with offices in Overland Park. His firm, Estate Planning Kansas City, helps clients with their estate planning and business needs. This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to render legal advice. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be made solely on the basis of this article.