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Carol Bradley Bursack, Published April 11 2010

Bursack: Elder care managers can bridge distance

Dear Carol: I am an only child and live 600 miles from my elderly parents. They need some assistance, and I worry about them. I’m married, have a job and young children. My parents don’t want to move. How do I care for them and still keep my job and family life going? – CeeCee

Dear CeeCee: There are so many adult children in circumstances like your own that a fairly new industry has evolved from the need.

Geriatric care managers, or care coordinators, can be hired to watch over the changing needs of your parents. Not all communities have people with this title, but with a little checking at local agencies, you should find a person who can fulfill this role.

The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, at http://caremanager.org, describes what care managers do: “Geriatric Care Manager is a health and human services specialist who helps families who are caring for older relatives. The Geriatric Care Manager is trained and experienced in any of several fields related to care management, including, but not limited to nursing, gerontology, social work, or psychology, with a specialized focus on issues related to aging and elder care.”

Care managers charge a fairly steep fee, but for busy or long-distance caregivers, these people can be worth their price. A good care manager should have the right personality, and the background, to handle elders’ needs on many levels. As with all potential care providers of vulnerable people, you will want references; and you should check these references. You may want to check the Better Business Bureau for complaints, as well.

Once you’ve lined up someone to head the team, this person should communicate closely with you. If you hired them for “full service,” that may include visiting with your parents on a set schedule, checking into local agencies that provide support and even looking into financial help for seniors. Be sure to get a signed contract and know exactly what you are supposed to get for your money.

Even with a care manager in charge, it is wise to find a close friend of your parents, a faith community leader or someone you trust to keep an eye out for your folks. Your care manager should be introduced to this person.

I hope you can find someone in your parents’ community to take some of the administrative load off of you, CeeCee. Then, when you can visit your parents, you won’t have to spend all of your time arranging help. You will be able to really visit.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a Web site supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carol@mindingourelders.com.