Becoming the primary caregiver for an aging parent or spouse can be a highly stressful and unexpected experience. Feelings of helplessness, confusion, indecision and deep sadness often accompany this type of role reversal. Fortunately, a service has been developed to help families face the overwhelming task of providing care and support for older adults. The field is called “Geriatric Care Management,” and Waveny Care Network offers one of the most advanced geriatric care management teams in Fairfield County. Credentialed members of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, Waveny’s care managers are on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The scope of geriatric care management encompasses components of nursing, social work, counseling, mediation and gerontology. This unique blend of expertise allows Waveny’s care managers to assist multiple individuals with different needs within a particular crisis situation. A primary goal is to provide highly personalized assistance in locating and selecting appropriate services for older individuals so they can function at home as safely and independently as possible.
Geriatric Care Managers work with attorneys, physicians, social service providers and families to help ensure that their clients have the necessary support required to remain safely at home. This can include navigating health issues like medication assistance or accompaniment to medical appointments and treatments, as well as management of non-medical issues like arranging for transportation, homemaker assistance, shopping or the practical day-to-day needs required to maintain a home. For those who live independently, a care manager can provide reassurance by offering guidance with health care decisions or by acting as an advocate if the individual requires hospitalization or medical assistance.
“We do as much or as little as is needed to make the situation work and the individual and family to feel comfortable,” said Joan Merrill, BSN, RN, CMC, one of Waveny’s professional Care Managers. “We make sure that everything we do is something they want us to do. Our work with a family can be as minimal as a one-hour consultation or as intensive as ongoing care management. There is no minimum or maximum.”
“For example,” said Merrill, “an adult child of an older adult may contact our Care Management team and say ‘I’m taking care of my mother and I’m lost. I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing for her.’ A single counseling session may be all that is needed to determine whether the current type of care is appropriate. In other instances, a family may require a more complete range of services, perhaps encompassing a total care management plan.”
“Family members approach us to help them determine which specific types of care and services are appropriate for their loved one, and also to assist them in locating qualified caregivers,” said Merrill. “Waveny’s Geriatric Care Management team often turns out to be a convenient solution for adult children who live out of state and need someone to supervise their elderly parent’s care. In these cases, we sometimes find ourselves assuming the roles of surrogate family members.”
According to Merrill, the involvement of Care Management services within the hospital discharge process can be an important step in avoiding patient re-hospitalization. “We manage complex issues that exist during and following hospital discharge to maximize outcomes and help prevent readmission to the hospital,” said Merrill. “We work collaboratively with hospital staff and coordinate home-based care services to ensure a smooth transition home.”
Attorneys who are conservators for the elderly also often enlist the help of Waveny’s care managers in arranging comprehensive care plans for their clients. “The attorney focuses on the individual’s financial affairs while our team coordinates their healthcare needs,” said Melissa Mayernik, MS, CMC, Waveny Care Manager.
Mayernik says that mediation is often a key role played by the care manager. “We sometimes work with families that have a number of siblings or parties involved, and each person may have a different approach to their loved one’s care,” said Mayernik. “We discuss short- and long-term planning so that all involved can feel comfortable with the decisions made and the entire planning process as a whole.”
Waveny’s care managers work with the protective service branch of the State Department of Social Services in situations where abuse or neglect have been uncovered. They perform assessments, formulate care plans and make recommendations. They may also be called upon to appear in court to report their findings or serve as expert witnesses.
The team is also equipped to aid seniors who may be relocating or embarking upon a big move. “Our team can manage all of the details for an elderly person who is leaving the area to move closer to a family member,” said Mayernik. “We can coordinate travel arrangements, locate a qualified caregiver to accompany the person en route, and even find professionals to help close the person’s home, right down to arranging for a tag sale. For someone who has lived in his or her home for 40 or 50 years, this is a very useful service.”
“Like all of Waveny’s programs and services, our geriatric care management program is not just for New Canaan residents,” said Mayernik. “We work with families from all over lower Fairfield County – from Greenwich to Fairfield to Ridgefield —as well as from neighboring towns in Westchester County.”
For information on how Waveny’s care management services can be of assistance to you or someone you know, call (203) 594-5249 or visit http://www.waveny.org.
Waveny Care Network provides a comprehensive continuum of care – now including Home Healthcare and companion services – to serve the growing needs of older adults from all areas. Waveny is a not-for-profit organization that offers independent living at New Canaan Inn, assisted living for people with Alzheimer’s and memory loss at The Village, and skilled nursing at Waveny Care Center. It also includes the Brown Geriatric Evaluation Clinic, a Geriatric Care Management team that provides 24-hour coverage, an Adult Day Program that offers flexible weekday hours and transportation, inpatient and outpatient Rehabilitation Services, and respite programs at both The Village and Care Center.