Geriatric care managers play a crucial role in increasing the quality of care for older adults. While so many families want to care for their loved ones on their own, that can come with challenges. There’s a delicate balance between providing assistance and respecting their independence – one that can be difficult for family caregivers to navigate.
Deborah Ratner, a seasoned geriatric care manager, believes in empowering older adults to make decisions while ensuring their safety.
“Everyone has the right to self-determination,” she says. “So often, issues between older adults and caregivers come from caregivers that want the best for the person they love, but forget that they’re still an adult who deserves respect and independence.”
When that decision becomes a safety concern is a different story – but there are ways to make decisions while still respecting their independence. By presenting healthy, positive, and safe options, caregivers can allow seniors to maintain a sense of control over their lives.
“It could be as simple as saying, ‘You really need to see a doctor about this,’ and they say, ‘No, I don’t want to see a doctor,’” says Ratner. “In that case, you can give them options. You might say, ‘We could go today, but we could also go tomorrow or the next day. Which day would be best for you?’ This gives them some control over how you carry this out. It’s the same outcome in the end, but this way the older adult feels heard and valued – not steamrolled.”
Understanding the perspective of older adults is crucial for caregivers and family members. Many want to maintain their autonomy, but can’t live completely independently. That’s when a geriatric care manager can come in to give the support they need without imposing on their dignity as an adult.
“At some point, you have to appreciate that these individuals have been making decisions for themselves for their entire lives – and they don’t want to give that up,” says Ratner. “That generation can be strong-willed, and I believe their stubbornness can work for them and against them.”
This makes coming into the home as a care manager tricky, she says.
“I'm very careful about how I step into the equation with a new client,” says Ratner. “Most of the time I’m welcomed, but sometimes it takes people a moment to accept extra help in their lives. That’s completely normal. I take it slow – setting up meet and greets to get to know them, taking small steps instead of coming in with big, sweeping changes.”
Care management is about creating a level of trust. That way, when there is an emergency, the family has someone to turn to for help. Better yet, the likelihood of having an emergency in the first place decreases dramatically as a skilled, trained care manager is involved in the equation to help make sure they are safe and well taken care of in their everyday lives.
The role of geriatric care managers goes beyond providing resources and expertise. They help families navigate the complex landscape of elder care, especially when starting from scratch. Accessing appropriate resources and services can be challenging for families without specialized knowledge. Care managers alleviate this burden by offering guidance and ensuring a safe environment for seniors.
One significant challenge for geriatric care managers is the lack of coverage by Medicare, limiting access to their services.
“It’s unfortunate,” says Ratner. “Care managers significantly reduce hospitalizations by ensuring medication adherence, scheduling medical appointments, and overseeing the care team. Once the case stabilizes, the involvement and associated costs of care management can be adjusted to meet the family's needs. But the up-front cost can keep people from the care they deserve, which is why we’re continuing to lobby Congress to have Medicare cover fees.”
Because in the end, geriatric care managers play a vital role in improving the care and well-being of older adults. They strike a balance between support and independence, empowering individuals to make decisions while ensuring their safety. By providing resources, expertise, and guidance, care managers enhance the caregiving experience for families navigating the complexities of elder care.
Despite the challenges, their contributions are invaluable, leading to better outcomes and improved quality of life for older adults.