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Older Americans/Geriatric Care Management Month

May has been designated as Geriatric Care Management Month by the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers. Congress has also declared this month as Older Americans Month. So why is there a need to draw attention to older adults as well as the small, but growing, segment of professionals who assist them? The answer lies in the unique challenges that many older adults and their families face.

Ideally throughout our lives we are growing and changing. As we age, a person’s health can change almost everything in their life. Being sick affects how we think. It can cloud our judgment, perceptions and our mood. This, in turn, influences how we interact with others. It affects our social circles, which may end up shrinking, or at the very least changing, at a time when we need them the most.

Geriatric Care Management is a field still in its infancy (or at least toddlerhood). It is surprising to me how many health professionals, not to mention families, do not understand the role a geriatric care manager (GCM) can play in the life of an older adult. There are lots of opportunities to educate people about this field. Thus, there is a need for a month to recognize this profession. Here are some of the strengths a geriatric care manager can bring to a family.

Recognition of the person as an individual.

Sitting with a client in a doctor’s appointment because of his complaints of poor memory, I learned something that I hope will stick with me for the rest of my career. As he was being tested for his memory, he said, “These tests don’t measure what really matters. There is no test for a person’s humanity.” It reminded me that there are variables within each person that cannot be accounted for. Each person is greater than the sum of their parts.

Communication across the care team.

The role of a geriatric care manager is to be a megaphone for the older adult. They have needs that other members of the health field, including families, may not see. In addition, many older adults feel as if they are being pushed aside, marginalized or not being heard. The geriatric care manager will help to give that person a voice to be heard by others.

Many times information vital to a person’s care will get stuck within a particular system. Primary physician, specialist, older adult, family, caregiver, insurance, provider, lab, pharmacy, attorney, financial planner, accountant, etc, are all areas where information may need to be shared but is not. The job of the GCM is to help information flow smoother. They can even help translate some of the professional jargon into a more practical “What does it mean for me?” language for the older adult and their family.

Supporting family caregivers.

A common complaint I get from adult children is “My mom just won’t listen to me.” You can hear the frustration in their voice. They want to help but may get resistance at every turn. The GCM is there to give some ideas about how to implement changes, some big some small, to make the situation better.

In addition to being a coach, we are also there to provide a shoulder to cry on. A family member may be so wrapped up in the day-to-day tasks that need to be accomplished, we forget to take time to process the emotions that go along with caregiving. Often it is these emotions that can stand in the way of accomplishing the tasks. GCMs are good at helping family caregivers acknowledge their own feelings so that they can move on with the tasks at hand.

Geriatric Care Managers can play a significant role in easing the transition through older adulthood. Families and professionals alike can benefit from the services a GCM has to offer. Take the time during this month to find out what a GCM can do for you.