Ask the Expert – Kate Pomplun
My widowed mother is living alone in her home of 25 years. She needs some assistance with daily tasks as she no longer drives, and we’ve noticed some cognitive decline. My brother and I both live hours away but try to be helpful and involved. We are both employed and either still have children at home or help care for grandchildren.
We hired, through an agency, some private duty caregivers to help her, but our mother doesn’t think she needs them, nor does she know how to direct or manage their tasks. She sometimes needs more than they can offer, but we can’t really afford to take time off from work to go there. How can we help?
You may have heard of the term the Sandwich Generation. These are people who are providing support (physical care, emotional and/or economic) to both an older parent(s) as well as children, even adult children. According to a Pew Research Study Nearly half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child. It can be even more difficult when you do not live nearby.
It sounds like your family is on the right track hiring help for your mom to live as safely and independently in her home as possible. Non-medical, private duty caregivers are a great way to support this, as they can assist with hands on care as well as tasks like providing her with transportation, light housekeeping, grocery shopping, medication reminders, meal planning and preparation, companionship and more. The agency, or registry, as some are structured, will likely have provided an individualized care plan for your mom detailing the tasks your mom needs help with. Importantly, they provide assistance with scheduling the various caregivers and do the billing, tax requirements, background checks and ensure proper liability insurance is in place. But did you know you can hire a trained professional to assist with the overall management of this and other care for your mom? These professionals have traditionally been called care managers and often, specifically, geriatric care managers.
These experts can work with your family, helping facilitate good communication about what preferences with care and assistance are desired. Many older adults are used to doing things for themselves; it is difficult to allow someone else to help. The care manager can be a bridge to discuss creative ways to facilitate help or supervise help. An example of this might be if your mom still likes to cook, but it’s difficult for her to safely do so. The care manager can work with her and the caregiver(s) to set up a more detailed plan about cooking together, finding her favorite recipes, making the grocery list, etc.
A care manager can also be an advocate for your mom at medical appointments, ensuring the right questions are asked and answered, factual health patterns are reported, and doctor’s follow up instructions are clearly explained, understood and carried out properly once your mom returns home, especially with changes in medication, required therapies, communication to other specialists, etc.
A care manager can also save you time and money by making visits to see your mom, either for assistance with medication management, reviewing important mail/bills with her, assessing for any changes, reading caregiver notes, health tracking documents and simply being a local physical presence to ensure quality of care. This has been especially important for families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In recent years the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers has changed its name to Aging Life Care Professionals®. You can learn more about all the services they provide and find a certified professional by zip code: www.aginglifecare.org