The first thing Lory Smeltzer, a Aging Life Care Manager in the Tampa Bay region, does for a new client is assess the older person’s life—physical and mental health, family relationships, living conditions, finances and legal affairs.
She then draws up a “plan of care” based on her evaluation. Like her colleagues, Lory says one of her most crucial tasks—and one that professionals sometimes do better than family members—is to convince the person to accept advice and help.
Competent care managers are able to find and hire needed help—home care workers, lawyers, nurses or even someone to mow the lawn. Many straighten out finances and kitchens. They may persuade clients that it’s no longer safe for them to drive.
If a hard decision must be made—a move to a nursing home or hospitalization, for example—it may be easier for the care manager than a family member to be the “bad guy.”
In some cases, the role of care managers is narrower. They simply evaluate the older person’s needs and draw up a plan for the immediate future. If the situation changes, they may do subsequent “tuneups.”
Not all Aging Life Care Managers are created equal. Some may lack the necessary training or experience. Some may give poor advice.
A Silver Spring, Md., man discovered this to his dismay a few years ago. After his 94-year-old mother suffered a heart attack, he wondered what type of future living arrangement would be in her best interest: living alone in her Santa Ana, Calif., apartment? A nursing home? Or some other facility?
He hired a geriatric care manager suggested by a friend to evaluate his mother and make a recommendation.
By the time he arrived in California 10 days later the care manager was waiting with her appraisal, which she said was based on a day of visiting the older woman and watching her in a rehab unit of an Orange County nursing home.
She concluded his mother could not live safely outside a nursing home. She charged $300 for this advice and offered to stay on the case.
Unconvinced by this assessment, the son hired a professional nurse and enlisted the support of the Orange County ombudsman program. A new evaluation came up with a different conclusion. His mother had the physical and mental prowess to live a quasi-independent life.
Article By: Linda Greider
Published in: AARP, December 2001, Vol. 42 No. 11, Washington D.C. p 9-13.