Elder care carried out with heart ... I’d like to introduce you to M. He is a client, but more importantly, a friend. M has a lovely daughter with a delightful personality and an infectious smile. She loves her dad, is involved in his care, and oversees his affairs. I share all this because, as with many of my clients, M’s daughter lives out-of-state. She is a caregiver across 2,000 miles. You see, M has Alzheimer’s Disease.
I’ve been blessed to know and work with M and his daughter for the past three years. My relationship with M underscores my role as Geriatric Care Manager. Together we’ve ridden the wave of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. I accompanied him to that first brain MRI and sat with him when the doctor shared the news. I’ve held his hand in the ER, I’ve provided reassurance in the middle of the night, and I’ve committed to him and his daughter that I’m here to help traverse this road. M, his daughter, and I have a connection that is based on reciprocity and trust.
While M was still living independently at home, I assessed his situation and decided he would best benefit from in-home caregivers. I knew which agencies to refer to M’s daughter, but more importantly, I knew which agencies to avoid. I broached this conversation with M’s daughter with compassion and a knowledge that stems from my community involvement.
After M’s daughter made the ultimate decision of which agency to use, because she lives more than halfway across the country, she trusted me to interview and oversee the caregivers assigned to her dad’s care. I conducted regular drop-in visits to assure that M was receiving the care he needed – and equally as important, the care for which he was paying. I followed M’s status closely and kept his daughter apprised of when it was time to increase caregiving hours.
Due to my routine and consistent involvement in M’s life, I was able to observe subtle changes in his mood and behavior. I oversaw implementing a specialist as one of his care providers. Knowing which doctor to call on is only half of the solution.
I am M’s voice. When I accompany him to medical appointments I must speak on his behalf. This requires that I know his current status. Although I am a non-medical provider, I must know M well enough to share any health-related changes or observations to the doctor or specialist. Not only am I M’s Geriatric Care Manager and friend, I am his advocate.
When I determined the time had come, I had the difficult conversation with M’s daughter about a move to Memory Care. I counseled her on the added costs of continually increasing in-home care hours and allowed her to explore Memory Care options. When M’s daughter made the ultimate decision to move Dad, I oversaw all aspects of his relocation.
There is a very human-side to my role as clinician. I was not immune to the tug on my heartstrings when I moved M into Memory Care. As I share with families, the move is oftentimes harder on them than on the new resident. I felt a myriad of emotions as I left that day, but through my tears I took comfort in knowing the move was the optimal solution to secure M’s safety and well-being.
My services with M are ongoing. I provide Wellness Visits for socialization and observation opportunities. I work hand-in-hand with the staff of his Memory Care. I continue to accompany him to medical appointments, take copious notes, and provide detailed feedback to his daughter. I celebrate him on his birthday (as pictured) and assure him on a regular basis that he’s thought of and loved.
I’m not only here for M, but also for his daughter. I like to think I’m providing her with peace-of-mind across the miles and a reminder that we’re in this together. My work with M and all clients is carried out with heart and driven by purpose. I take the trust M’s daughter has given me seriously. And I hold it gently.