Three Things a Care Manager Can Give to Family Caregivers to Help Them Overcome Their Fears
As a family caregiver, it’s natural to have a lot of uncertainty and fear. There’s the fear of not doing enough or making the wrong decision. You likely worry the phone will ring in the middle of the night with bad news. And, as a family caregiver, your worries can spread to all your roles as you struggle to care for your parent while juggling everything.
The good news is that there is help — a guaranteed way to reduce your fear and worries. We’ll outline three key things a care manager can give you that will help you overcome these fears. We can’t promise a stress-free caregiving experience, but hiring a care manager will bring you much closer to that possibility. Here’s how:
1. A plan
How did I become a family caregiver, you might ask? Our parents’ aging slowly creeps up on us…or hits us hard with a crisis that we can’t ignore. Either way, many family members find themselves overwhelmed about what to do. Even if we have an idea of a “plan” we think is ideal, our parents may resist. Or we find things don’t go as intended. We might find ourselves caught in a series of mini (or not so mini) crises. Caregiving becomes reactionary. And, that’s an incredibly stressful way to live.
But, what else can you do? Enter the care manager…with a plan. But, this plan is different from those that might have failed before.
A care manager starts with a comprehensive assessment of your situation. This includes gathering information on a wide variety of areas that impact each other and can make the plan succeed or fail. The care manager also does a professional evaluation of your aging parent (daily living abilities, memory, etc.) and the environment.
Personalized Plan: Resources and Guidance
He/she then works with you and your parent to create a targeted plan. The care plan gives you specific recommendations. Most importantly, it helps you prioritize. And, it eliminates chasing down options that won’t work.
One Family’s Story: An Organized Approach to Helping Dad
When Dad was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s, we knew he’d need help. Each of us kids had an idea of what would be best, so we realized we needed to get professional input. The care manager came out and assessed Dad and his home environment. She talked to all of us and Dad in depth and gathered his medical history. We then met and she presented her findings and suggestions for a plan.
What surprised us most is how much guidance this plan provided and how it balanced the various needs and input. We siblings were of two camps beforehand. One tended to think we should “leave Dad alone” since he hadn’t had any major problems. Others of us were afraid of something happening and felt highly protective. We wanted to jump forward with plans that might have been a little aggressive for the current situation. The care manager presented options and walked us through them. They were specific and gave us actions we could take. We asked her to help us in certain areas, while the siblings took on some tasks.
Within a couple of days, we had a solid plan in place that gave us all comfort. Everything wasn’t done that quickly, but the immediate needs were met. Then, we had actions to take and choices to look into for the future. She outlined the long-term planning steps to be prepared for this progressive disease. I can’t even estimate the time we saved. But, more importantly, it helped us come to an agreement (Dad too!) and feel confident.
One of the biggest benefits of having a care manager is having a personal advocate. Navigating the medical and elder care systems can be like trying to put together a 10,000 piece puzzle only to realize it’s pieces from multiple puzzles. Sometimes it’s difficult to even get answers. Finding them is a fragmented process. Unfortunately, it often feels like you’re doing battle for your parent, rather than working with a team.
A care manager works for your family, serving as your advocate to help make sure your needs are met in the best way possible. They can be your partner in heading up the “care team”. And, they can advocate for you no matter where your parent is or what they need. They provide consistency and coordination..from home to hospital, doctor’s office, care facility, etc. Their goals are your family’s goals. And, they look at the broader picture and the whole person. Without this perspective, solutions fail because they address an immediate problem only to ignore or even create others.
A Family Caregiver Plus Patient Advocate=Successful Outcomes
I realized Mom was having difficulties with her medications one day when I was visiting with her. So, I contacted her doctor. I had to go to the office and fill out paperwork and then schedule an appointment for us to come in. Then, it turns out Mom was seeing a number of different doctors who’d given her a variety of prescriptions. Some of the medication bottles were things one doctor had replaced with another, but Mom never removed them. This is when I realized we needed coordination. I was exhausted trying to figure it out. Additionally, I wanted to figure out how to put a system in place to make this better going forward.
We hired a care manager as our patient advocate. She quickly organized all the records and made sure all the providers had the full, up-to-date information. I couldn’t believe it when one of Mom’s doctors said “This is great. How do we get someone like her for all of our patients?”
She began attending some of Mom’s key appointments, while I attended others. With the system she set up, we had everything in sync. If I wasn’t sure about something, I could reach out to her to help us.
She was a life saver when Mom had surgery scheduled. Beforehand, she organized everything and helped us ask all the right questions. We put everything into place so it went smoothly. I can’t imagine how it would have gone otherwise. There’s really no one there telling you all these things to anticipate for an elderly parent if you don’t have a care manager advocate.
3. Peace of mind
How does a care manager give you peace of mind as a family caregiver? First, they’re there to coach you through caregiving’s ups and downs. You’ve sought a professional, independent opinion and you don’t have to wonder anymore. When things come up, you can turn to your care manager for information, education and reassurance. Our clients often cite this as the most valuable thing the care manager gave them to reduce their fears.
Second, you gain new peace of mind when it comes to those unexpected phone calls. First of all, you’ve put things into place to make them less likely to happen. But, if something does happen, you can have a care manager on call for crisis intervention. It’s a huge relief not to be alone to deal with the situation as a family caregiver. And, if you live at a distance, you don’t have to worry about your ill elderly parent being alone in the ER waiting for you to get on an emergency flight.
Sometimes the call isn’t a crisis, but a nurse calling to suggest a medication change or notifying you of some issue with your parent’s care. Or, you might get paperwork explaining their insurance is changing or they no longer qualify for help. Now, you now know you aren’t alone to deal with it. You don’t have to worry. You can call your advocate for help.
A Solution Born from a Family Caregiver Crisis:
I first contacted a care manager after experiencing one of those crises we all fear as caregivers. Mom was sent to the ER from her ALF. I only found out about it the next day when she’d been there alone overnight. The nurse who sent her wasn’t available and I couldn’t get answers. The hospital said a charge nurse would call me back to update me. I remembered I had been given EasyLiving’s number. I’d already booked a panicked flight to come into town, so I met a care manager at the hospital.
Not only was she able to help me navigate the crisis, but I knew I’d found a more long-term solution. She checked on Mom and updated me regularly. I had been wondering if I should move Mom to a new facility or closer to me. With her oversight and feedback, I ended up deciding Mom was already in the best place. Our care manager helped smooth out my concerns with the ALF and I knew Mom wouldn’t do well moving. And, I never had to worry again about being on our own to deal with an emergency.
Overcome the fear and worries of caregiving. Talk to one of our care managers about your situation and concerns.