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    Geriatric care field is growing

    By Francine Brevetti, Business Writer

    People see more options for loved ones


    GERIATRIC CARE MANAGER Susan Anderson, of Cohen Cormier Home Care & Care Management, helps Oakland resident Jim Parker figure out his bills. Although Parker has in-home care, Anderson is there to monitor his caregiver and oversee the full range of the services he needs. Photo: Josh Birnbaum Staff
    THERE IS NO Dr. Spock for adult children who take the role of parenting their parents. Most baby boomers are unprepared to care for their octogenarian and nonagenarian relatives. They don't have the expertise, the resources or the time. And the costs for care can be staggering.

    A practical and increasingly popular solution for many is to hire a geriatric care manager, a professional who is trained to assess, orchestrate and monitor their relatives' care for a sum typically several hundred dollars a month that will not break the bank.

    Before Berkeley resident Jim Balandra's wife, Kay, died seven years ago, he promised her he would look after her 87-year-old mother, Margie Wolthuis. Even though she lived alone in Crockett, it didn't seem like a great burden to him at first. But within a year, Wolthuis was hallucinating and was forgetting to feed herself.

    "Margie would call me several times a day telling me she saw people in the house. Often I could talk her down and calm her, but increasingly I would have to go out there," Balandra said.

    "Those were whole half days out of my life, sometimes in the middle of the night. My employers were very understanding at first, but it was becoming a strain on my colleagues and it was very stressful for her and me."

    When 89-year-old Jim Parker fractured his hip in February 2005, he went into an assisted-living facility for eight months. During that time his daughter Patti Morelli and her husband, who live in Butte County, renovated Parker's Oakland residence to accommodate his new needs. By the time he returned, Morelli said, she "had lost a lot of work and it was impacting my colleagues."

    I could've taken family leave, but that would have been unpaid," she said. "Instead, I took vacation time. It was very stressful and affecting my health." And all that traveling back and forth was expensive.

    Both Balandra and Morelli found the same agency to oversee the care of their aging relatives Cohen Cormier Home Care & Care Management of Oakland and Walnut Creek. The company's employees are not the caregivers themselves but are professionals who have the expertise to monitor the care that elderly clients receive.

    Geriatric care managers have been growing as a profession for the last 20 years. The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers claims to have 2,100 members and estimates there may be three times that many individuals working in the field in the U.S. They tend to be registered nurses or social workers. While no certification is required in California, the growing trend is for professionals to acquire a care management certification (CMC) from the National Academy of Certified Care Managers. However, specialists in geriatric care refer to themselves as GCMs, for geriatric care managers.

    As Balandra said after finding a care manager to direct his mother-in-law's care, "It took a world off my shoulders."

    Morelli hired care manager Susan Anderson to look in on her father. "She is my eyes and ears. She's always on it and I find out about new developments after the fact.

    Geriatric care managers can be counted on to assess the elderly person's situation and determine whether he or she needs a caregiver in the home or must be transferred to another facility. Whatever the decision, they find in-home assistance or the proper facility and assign a care manager who monitors the home caregiver or the care administered in the facility.

    Cohen Cormier Home Care & Care Management's care managers, for instance, do more than tick off blank boxes on clipboards. These professionals have had to go as far as to call the sheriff when an elderly person has been intimidated or virtually imprisoned by his caregivers.

    It can be expensive when your elderly relative needs home health care services or receives care at a live-in facility. Hiring a geriatric care manager to help monitor that care is an added cost but may be well worth it.

    "Families save time by using professional geriatric care managers and that equates to money. They make sound decisions based on reality and on knowing the options available to them," said Ann Krauss, spokeswoman for the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers. "Monitoring could avoid serious medical issues and also self-neglect that could end in costly health or financial exploitation of the elder."

    And that's a point stressed by the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers and clients like Jim Balandra and Patti Morelli that paying for a geriatric care manager saved them money in the long run by saving them time and stress.

    This article is an excerpt of the original article and was printed with permission from ANG Newspapers

    Call (510) 536-3377 or (925) 945-8855 or email the Cohen Cormier Group for a free personal review of your elder care situation by telephone with no obligation. We'll help you identify affordable solutions and ways we can help you achieve them. Click here.