Have you ever traveled to another country and wished you’d spent more time on Duolingo or Rosetta Stone, learning how to communicate better in a different language? The learning curve for supporting aging parents can feel a lot like traveling to a foreign land and, since you are joining a journey already in progress, you may feel lost in translation. The acronyms and medical terms are spoken so quickly and with confidence by those in healthcare, you’ll search for an app to help you catch up – and quickly!
What’s even better than an app? Dedicated professionals who help seniors and their families navigate the matters of aging. Geriatric Case Management, also known as Aging Life Care, is a growing field of individuals who advocate and improve the quality of life for elderly individuals who need support. As an adult child managing the care of an aging parent, a case manager can be your own personal tour guide through the complicated language and terrain of aging services.
Who Needs a Case Manager?
Anyone who needs resources to make daily life a little easier. Whether you are an adult child struggling to keep up with the appointments and care of an aging parent, or a senior without children living close, a case manager takes the stress out of daily tasks that become overwhelming. Communication is key to successful aging and a case manager keeps everyone informed, to the extent that works for you.
3 Scenarios for Case Management
- No children
- Distant children, estranged, or untrustworthy
- Guardian needs help
1.More seniors are childless now than ever before.
Of the 92.2 million adults aged 55 and older, 16.5% are childless. Changes in lifestyle, the decline in marriage, and increased cohabitation seen in the current older generation are starting to impact the lives of aging adults. Individuals getting older without children will continue to be a growing segment of the aging population. For these reasons and more, case management an ideal resource for those needing extra support.
Important Documents for Seniors
Power of Attorney
Solo aging is not uncommon. However, fewer family resources require a strong aging plan. Both childless seniors and those with adult children are wise to choose a power of attorney and health care surrogate to assist in decision-making later in life. For the childless senior, those documents in combination with a case manager can fill the gap of available family and can help avoid costly guardianship in the future.
2. Not all adult children are the right choice as decision-makers for an aging parent.
Distance may make the heart grow fonder, but it can be an obstacle to caring for an aging parent. Additionally, adults in their 40s are most likely to be in the “sandwich generation” and raising children of their own while helping aging parents. Time and opportunity become quick barriers to attentive caregiving, making a case manager a perfect solution. A case manager becomes the “professional child.” They step in to balance out tasks and communication while keeping everyone in the know.
Older people can be more at risk from estranged and untrustworthy children (and others!) thanks to a drop in activity in the anterior insula, a small region in the brain. Unfortunately, older adults without involved families can be targets for financial exploitation. A case manager can work with the older adult to set up safeguards for their finances. This adds another layer of protection when an untrustworthy person asks the older adult for money.
3. Guardian of an aging parent? A case manager is an invaluable resource.
Without advance directives to empower end-of-life choices, guardianship becomes the last option for the senior who failed to plan. If an adult child is appointed guardian, in the court’s opinion they may be the best option, but not necessarily the most knowledgeable. A case manager can be an insightful addition to the care team, offering guidance to the appointed guardian in their role as decision-maker for their aging parent.
An adult child can be appointed guardian even if they live far away from their aging parent. In this case, a case manager is a clear answer to bridging the gap between guardian and ward – adult child and parent – and keeping the lines of communication open. Avoiding guardianship with proper advanced directives is always preferred. However, when it can’t be avoided, increase chances of success and strengthen the care team with a local and trusted case manager.
Who Pays for a Case Manager?
Case management is a private pay service. Many long-term care policies include a case management benefit, as well. Even as an out-of-pocket expense, the expense of an experienced case manager will be far less than the costly mistakes you can make without proper guidance.
If you are working, your employer may offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Many of these programs offer assistance in areas related to caregiving and eldercare. Often, the cost of your first few hours of case management is covered by the EAP.
Case Management on a Budget
Case management is built around the needs of the client. If cost is an issue, a standby plan can be established, allowing the case manager to be available in case of an emergency. This includes getting all the necessary paperwork in place to allow the case manager to step in when assistance is needed. Independence with a safety net – a plan with the right amount of compromise.
When care needs or medical issues become more pressing, changing standby case management to a regular care partnership will be an easier transition. The case manager will establish themselves as a trusted advocate and the senior client will continue to feel included in the decision-making about their care. Even with readily available and capable adult children, coordination and management of daily and long-term support services can quickly become overwhelming without the experience and knowledge of a professional case manager.
Care Coordination is Key
As an adult child with aging parents, you can take comfort in knowing that there are caring professionals who stand ready to help. Coordinating the care of an elderly person can be a full-time job for the caregiver. If you are a daughter (or daughter-in-law) who is raising your own family while caring for aging loved ones, a case manager to coordinate care can be the self-care gift you didn’t know you needed!
Case managers are a wealth of knowledge with a heart of gold. Their innate ability to solve problems and sincere concern for senior clients are two of the reasons that Case Management is a Resource We Love. Read more about Case Management in the Legal and Financial Section of our Blog.