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Private geriatric-care managers assist elderly and their families

The Jackson Herald - 2/13/2018

Hart Fetsko feels grateful and fortunate to be able to care for her aging mother.

But after she had provided for her mom's every need for 14 months, a health care worker warned her recently that if she didn't look after herself, she couldn't be her best for her mother.

"I was starting to feel run down, frazzled, even quick to anger," said Fetsko, 65, of Columbus, Ohio. "I was told I needed to get out of the house."

Yet after having problems finding reliable home-health care, she didn't see a way she could leave her mom, Martha Hays, who will turn 92 next month, even for a bit.

She had already cut back her hours, and then retired, as a tax professional after work and home responsibilities became too hard to juggle. And she didn't feel right asking her 74-year-old husband, Joe, who is in the early stages of Alzheimer's, to do more than he had been doing.

Then just over a month ago, the couple's financial planner recommended that they hire a geriatric-care manager to help with care planning and coordination.

"It's like having your own personal concierge," Fetsko said. 'I can finally sleep at nights. I feel such a sense of relief."

Although the profession has been around for decades, it's only recently started to take off as the population of baby boomers hitting older age grows.

By 2050, the number of seniors is expected to more than double, to nearly 89 million, according to census estimates. And as people live longer with more chronic diseases, there will be a growing need for more people in senior-caring professions, experts say.

The geriatric-care management field is growing. The Aging Life Care Association, a trade association for the industry, reports about 300 new members a year.

Geriatric-care managers are educated and experienced in any of a number of fields, such as gerontology, nursing, psychology, social work or occupational or physical therapy. They typically start by assessing an older adult's situation and figuring out what services can help them, said Melanie Hankinson, managing director of IKOR of Northwest Columbus.

'We want people to have the best quality of life, in the safest place possible, for as long as they can," said Hankinson, who worked as a physical-therapy assistant and medical-equipment and-services saleswoman for 18 years before becoming a care manager last year.

Geriatric-care managers can provide a variety of services, including:

· Reviewing a senior's living situation and recommending changes, home-care services or a move to a facility, if needed. In the event of a move, they can help determine whether independent living, assisted living or skilled nursing care would be best.

· Serving as an extra set of eyes and ears if an elder is in a long-term-care facility. That could include visiting the facility on different days and times to check on the older adult's physical care, emotional state and social engagement.

· Attending doctor appointments, helping seniors and their families communicate with medical professionals, and making sure that doctors' orders are understood and followed. Many care-management companies employ nurse advocates to help with this and other medical-related issues.

· Helping with routine bill-paying or financial planning for future care. That could include working with a person who has power of attorney, an estate-planning lawyer or a financial planner. Some companies can hold power of attorney for their clients or act as guardians or agents.

· Providing support to caregivers who often try to take on too much. They also can help families work through internal conflicts and differences of opinion about long-term-care planning. They should be familiar with local services available to seniors and their caregivers and how to access them.

 
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