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Geriatric Care Management
Prevention for Loss of Independence

If there’s one thing seniors value in today’s society, it’s their independence. But for Americans over the age of 65, the ability to maintain a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle without the gentle support of caregivers becomes increasingly difficult. As the challenges of aging set in, there is an increase in medical concerns such as Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, macular degeneration and incontinence.

Children, spouses or other close family members of aging seniors often take on the role of caregiver and enable those seniors to maintain their independent lifestyle. Seniors with greater health concerns may require closer, more regimented attention.

Yet, in today’s society, this is frequently not an option. Today’s children are often unable to provide the kind of round-the-clock attention they would prefer to give to their aging parents, when the need arises. As society increasingly accepts a more mobile and global-oriented outlook, families are becoming increasingly dispersed. Gone are the days when children continue to live in the state in which they were born. A pair of siblings living in California may find themselves at odds on what to do about their 75-year-old father who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and is now pining away by himself in his Cincinnati apartment.

Far too often, children are forced into the heartbreaking position of sending their parents to a nursing home or a similar community-based health care facility. Seniors who are still capable of living moderately independent lives are thrust into the uncomfortable and undignified position of having the comforts of home stripped away simply because no one is available to assist them with simple chores, to assist with personal care, or to monitor their daily intake of medications. However, in many cases, this course of action is unnecessary, when some proactive actions such as education, planning and resources would allow for much different outcomes.

As these trends continue, prevention is the key action that will help change outcomes. As a result, adult children are becoming increasingly aware of a geriatric service growing in popularity, enabling seniors to continue living in a relatively independent and self-sustaining manner, while still providing their children with firm but unobtrusive oversight. This relatively new health care resource is called geriatric care managed home care.

Health Care for the Future
Geriatric care managed home care is exactly what its name implies: geriatric care that is tailored to fit a model where a privately paid caregiver provides individualized care within the home of the senior. This care is usually supervised by a social worker, a nurse or some other privately retained health professional. The caregiver may provide the care with regular visits or she may actually reside in the home with the senior.

The services provided by the geriatric care manager can take many forms. They may be medical and preventative in nature if the care manager is a nurse. When other health care professionals are needed to render aide to the senior, the geriatric care manager can make referrals and coordinate the various services. In some cases, the care manager intervention is much less, as when a caregiver is needed simply to improve the quality of life for the older person by assisting in simple chores like taking out the trash or housecleaning. The fact that such care is individualized – as opposed to community-based, as with a nursing home – is one of its greatest advantages: the level of assistance, intervention and coordination is flexible and adjusted to fit the condition of the senior in question.

The Independent Senior
Today’s culture values the individual and seniors are quick to pick up on this. Older Americans have spent their lives providing for themselves, driving their own cars, choosing their own financial investments and making their own decisions.

Any model for geriatric care should be designed to enable the senior to live in a self-sustaining and safe manner for as long as possible. As time goes on, the older person may begin to slowly lose his or her mental acuity and physical acumen. During this period, the frail older person will often display a wide range of emotions. They may become angry, frustrated and depressed. Their inability to perform certain tasks may be a source of embarrassment to them.

This is where the geriatric care manager steps in to help carry the burden. The nature of geriatric care management – specifically the customized aspects of the relationship – makes using a care manager for planning and care coordination the best way to ease the senior through the various transitions of aging.

By working together with seniors, families, nurses and other health professionals, care managers can create a brighter world for the elderly in the 21st century.

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