The phone rings - it’s the hospital on the other line. Your mother fell and is injured. They also mention they believe she may have had a stroke. You leave your job and head to the hospital. If you aren’t close by, maybe you head to the airport or embark on a long drive. All of a sudden, you are in the middle of a situation you weren’t prepared for. The hospital staff is asking you what you want to do with your mom. She can’t live alone for awhile, or maybe ever again. Where do you want her to go? Where should she go for rehabilitation therapy? You have no idea where to start.
Many of you reading this may have already experienced this call or will experience it soon. Sadly, the scenario above is all too common as we age. Every day for the next 14 years, 10,000 baby boomers will join Medicare. Older Americans are living longer as medical treatment advances, and now one in four American adults have at least two chronic diseases. Half of all older adults have three or more chronic conditions which can lead to disability or an inability to live at home without help.
One in four American adults have at least two chronic diseases.
It could be a fall or injury. It could be due to serious illness such as dementia, cardiovascular disease, stroke or cancer. All of a sudden, you are a caregiver and have absolutely no preparation or education to know what to do. Perhaps you are the aging person who needs help and has no family close by. What do you do when you need help?
How Care Managers Can Help
Care managers can guide you through aging, chronic illness and preparing for the end of life. We can help you every step of the way, offering you options and suggestions to create an aging plan with expertise, understanding and compassion.
We act as your advocate and are frequently described as a “professional relative.” We see the entire picture, including living situation, care needs, financial management, legal issues and social needs.
Frequently, insurance companies and hospital systems use care navigators and care managers, but they are working for the benefit of the company through which they are employed. Rarely do they see you in your home environment. Private care managers meet you where you are and advocate for you. We also act to improve communication between hospital and clinical providers of care.
Finding Peace of Mind
Of course, care managers can help in a crisis, much like in the scenario above. However, we also create aging plans and prefer to help families create those plans before the crisis, giving families peace of mind about decisions that need to be made and changes that are coming to their lives.
These conversations can be emotional and difficult. It is much better to have them outside of a crisis situation. We help with these tough choices and help connect you to the right resources to protect your wishes when you can’t speak for yourself.
Preventing Social Isolation
Care managers stay connected to the important issues of aging well. Social isolation and loneliness is becoming an increasingly important health topic. Many times, as we age, there is a tendency to become isolated from others leading to loneliness. Our children grow up and are living busy lives. We don’t see them as often as we might like. Sadly, our friends become sick or are unable to participate in social activities. Transportation becomes a barrier as driving or accessing public transportation becomes harder. Social media may cause us to feel more lonely than ever. Technology moves so fast that aging people sometimes have difficulty keeping up.
Current research in social isolation and loneliness connects the physical and emotional responses of the body with potential negative health outcomes. Care managers can help create awareness and connect seniors to programs to help reduces some of these negative effects of loneliness and isolation. For more information on this topic, click here to read more from AARP.
Should you, a friend or family member have an interest in working with a care manager, the Aging Life Care Association or ALCA can help connect you to care managers who have experience and education in the complex issues facing senior Americans. Click here to find a care manager near you.
Melissa Mehrlich, MSN, MHA, BSN, RN and Leah Maul, MBA, BA Gerontology founded MEAH after working in healthcare for many years and experiencing the challenges of caring for loved ones firsthand. They are passionate about helping people living their best life through managing, advocating and educating for health. To learn more about MEAH Health Navigation, click here.