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Geriatric Care Managers, Attorneys, are Partners in Elder Services

"Taking one day at a time is a great way to relax on vacation,” says Joanne Walsh, MBA, president and CEO of Constellation Health Services (CHS) in Norwalk, “but it’s not a good way to approach the needs that may arise as a person ages.”

And, in the 21st century, more of us will be looking to address those challenges — medical, social, and legal.

Of course, many elders remain healthy, active, and independent. Still, “retaining independence,” says CHS’s Phyllis Boynton, RN, MPH, CCM, “does not mean that a person doesn’t need help.” Finding the right kind of help, and coordinating the often complex range of services that elders and their families need, is the job of the geriatric care manager (GCM).

While families and professionals have always attended to the needs of elders, geriatric care management as a profession is a relatively new field, having emerged in the early 1980s. As the services provided by credentialed GCMs have become more familiar to the general public, so have more family and elder care attorneys come to understand the benefits of partnering with GCMs. As an example, Walsh notes, “We can look at one issue that comes up frequently: housing. A family will need an attorney to help them sell a house. But an attorney will turn to us to help a client figure out whether the time has come to sell, or whether staying in the home safely is a viable option. And if staying is a viable option, the GCM can coordinate the resources necessary to ensure safety and comfort.”

The work of the GCM — who can come from a background in social work, nursing, gerontology or psychology — begins with a thorough assessment, done wherever the elder is living, usually with family present.

Boynton cites from her own experience circumstances in which attorneys have sought or recommended the services of a GCM. "Attorneys and GCMs have complementary skill sets,” says Boynton, “and, increasingly, the two professions are working together for the well-being of clients.” She continues, “Every person is different, every family is different. What works for one may not work for another; what worked today may not work tomorrow. Our mission as GCMs is to offer the information clients need to make their best decisions, and then to do whatever is necessary to help elders live lives that are as healthy, fulfilling and independent as possible.”

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Boomers Resource Guide is a special supplement to the Senior Citizen's Guide