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Aging Wisely April 2012 - Aging Wisely

Checklist for Aging Parents: Planning Ahead


We were recently interviewed on a radio show about the topic of aging parents.  The host, like many adult children we hear from, wanted to educate himself (and his audience) on considerations in thinking ahead to a time when his parents may need assistance. 

So, how to get started?  Is there a simple checklist of what to do or consider as the adult son or daughter?  Here are our top three “to dos” of eldercare preparation:checklist for aging parents

  1. Initiate conversations.  In the best case scenario, you can have these conversations over time in a relaxed natural way.  This enables you to bring up topics around windows of opportunity and give your parents the chance to express their feelings and desires at their own pace. 
  2. Explore the financial side of things.  A lot of people think about retirement planning, but don’t always consider the costs of care.  One of the most common misconceptions we hear is the assumption that Medicare will cover aging care.  Medicare DOES NOT cover long term care and the most common day-to-day care needs that come with age and infirmity.  Having a better understanding of the financial picture and potential gaps provides planning opportunities or allows you to begin exploring additional resources that might be needed.
  3. Get the legalities situated.  There are essential legal documents related to healthcare and decision-making.  Every adult should have these in the event that an accident or illness requires someone else to step in to make decisions on behalf of the patient.  Key documents to discuss with your attorney (and ensure are up-to-date): Living Will, Durable Power of Attorney, Healthcare Power of Attorney/Proxy. Estate planning documents are also important in preparing for later years and helping loved ones more easily settle your estate.  

We created our Eldercare Consultations for families to get affordable, quality professional advice on topics related to their aging parents, disabled spouses or their own healthcare situations.  Contact us to about a Care Consultation or call us at 888-807-2551.

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Using a Patient Advocate


What is a patient advocate?

According to the Professional Patient Advocacy Institute, “Patient advocates come from a broad spectrum of professional disciplines that make up today’s healthcare team…(They) have a health-related degree and possess the skills to assist patients and families in navigating the complex healthcare system. The patient advocate is viewed as a professional who can objectively assist consumers in understanding and making sense of their healthcare needs”.

You can read more in our article, “What is a professional patient advocate?” which outlines situations in which an advocate can assist.

How does a professional advocate differ from the advocacy role of a family caregiver?

A professional advocate is a support for both the patient and any involved family/caregivers.  Often a family member(s) helps an ill or elderly loved one in many ways, including being their advocate over many years and situations.  As that family member, there may be times when you would benefit from professional advice, help navigating the healthcare system, insurance, etc.  A professional advocate boosts your effectiveness as your loved one’s advocate.  This may be through advice/care consultation or one-time support in a crisis, a professional assessment or ongoing support especially if you are advocating from a distance and need a local contact.

Read more about the benefits and uses of a comprehensive care management assessment.

How do I select a professional patient advocate?

As with any professional service you hire, it is important to find out about the patient advocate’s qualifications and experience.  One of the best ways to locate an advocate is via referral, such as from a trusted professional/medical provider.  You can also speak to references and talk directly to the advocate (or advocacy organization) about their experience with the issues and concerns you are facing.

We offer a number of resources to help you as your loved one’s advocate.  You may want to subscribe to our blog posts via email for our latest articles or check out our various eldercare downloads on topics of interest to caregivers.

We also invite you to join our conversations on Facebook!

Patient Advocacy Award winner Aging Wisely LLCAging Wisely, LLC

National Winner, 2011

Patient Advocate Organization

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Care Management Services: What to Expect


You’re worried about Mom or Dad and someone suggests you get in touch with a geriatric care manager.  You get a recommendation for a geriatric care manager in the area, or you select some care managers from an internet search.  What next?

Assuming you have done some due diligence beforehand (read up on the backgrounds and qualifications of the care manager/geriatric care management company, prepared a list of questions, gotten references or been referred by a professional or client), your inquiry will start with a conversation.  At Aging Wisely, you will most likely talk to our Community Liaison, Jeannine Hodges.  Jeannine has worked with our team for a number of years and has in-depth experience in the Pinellas County/Tampa Bay healthcare system. 

Your typical first call starts with us listening to your situation, so we can figure out the best way to help you.  During that conversation, we’ll answer some of your questions and also share some information about how we have helped families with similar issues in the past.  To talk to Jeannine, call 727-447-5845.

What’s next?  It depends on your situation and needs.  We may send you more information or you may go to discuss the situation with other family members.  If you need a different resource, we will make a referral so you can get the help you need.  Often, families contact a geriatric care manager when in a crisis, so you may want to find out how quickly a care manager can begin to assist you.  Other families reach out to a care manager to begin getting some advice or answer some targeted questions.  In this case, you might schedule a care consultation with a geriatric care manager.

The geriatric care assessment forms the basis of the ongoing care plan, whether carried out by the family or managed by a geriatric care manager.  You can read more detail about The Benefits of a Geriatric Assessment and The Components of a Geriatric Assessment

Some of the questions we hear about what to expect from care management services include:

I am on a budget.  How much will I spend on care management services (do I need to hire a care manager for an ongoing period)?

Most care managers have some set fee services, such as a consultation or assessment, along with tailored ongoing service at an hourly rate.  Most care managers can work with you on a short-term or more long-term basis.  It is not uncommon for families to hire us for a consultation only, or to help with a specific need or do an assessment.  They may hire us again later to help with something else, or may decide to have the care manager’s assistance to carry out the plan.  Ongoing oversight can be particularly beneficial for long-distance families’ peace of mind, coordinating medical/senior care and preventing further crises.

What qualifications does a care manager have?

This is a vital question to ask, as this is not a licensed profession.  However, for example, the National Association for Professional Geriatric Care Managers, has set standards for members which includes education, experience and certification.  Many care managers have extensive experience and credentials.  You should be able to review the care manager’s CV/bio and learn about how he/she has helped clients in similar situations as well.  Read the Aging Wisely Care Management Team‘s bios.

We will continue to share answers to your questions about care management and elder care services.  You can get our blog updates via email–just enter your email in our “subscribe” box to get notified of new posts! 

Want to give us feedback or ask your question?  Fill out our feedback form (private) or leave a comment (public).

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Managing Complex Senior Care


We previously shared some of the Challenges of Senior Care Coordination, along with some take away lessons family caregivers can learn from our professional experience as patient advocates.

The more complex a senior’s medical condition, the more important coordination is to outcomes.  Some of the facts about healthcare spending illustrate the high costs of complex care:  

  • People with chronic conditions account for 85 percent of all health care spending.
  • 96 percent of Medicare dollars is spent on patients with multiple chronic conditions.

But, more importantly to the individuals and their families, a lot of evidence suggests that much of the healthcare received is not wanted by the patient and probably not what is needed based on clinical evidence.  Integrated (what is often termed “whole person”) care provides solutions by viewing the “big picture” and emphasizing prevention of further problems.  For seniors in particular, many factors outside of high-tech medical interventions affect their medical outcomes.

Is the senior getting proper nutrition to support healing and his/her age-related and medical needs?  (Is cooking becoming more difficult?  Is the senior isolated/lonely and not enjoying meals?  Can he or she no longer get to the store?)medication and senior care

Is the senior forgetting medical appointments or unable to communicate between various providers, thus causing fractured care?

Does the person have an outdated glasses prescription which is causing her to misread medication labels?

There are numerous factors impacting a senior’s care and medical outcomes, from functional issues to social supports.

Coordinated, whole person care benefits the patient by reducing the burden of planning, organizing and tracking so may different factors, appointments, etc., which lets the patient focus on the process of getting well and staying healthy.

Want to get more information on how a professional patient advocate can help coordinate care and improve health outcomes? 

If you are a medical provider or senior care professional we’d love to talk to you more about how we can help with coordinated care and assistance with chronic disease management!

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Coordinated Senior Care


senior care doctorOlder adults with multiple chronic health conditions have an average of 37 doctor visits, 14 different doctors and 50 separate prescriptions each year.  (Read more statistics and this citation: Chronic Illness: The Cost to Society fact sheet.)

This comes as no surprise to those of us who assist elders and their families in navigating the healthcare system.  As care managers, it is not unusual for a client or family to come to us for a geriatric care management assessment to find that the client has five, seven, ten or more different medical specialists.  Many times the client is on ten or more medications as well and perhaps receiving treatment for various conditions at various locations.  One of the reasons a family may seek the assessment is the realization of this fragmentation and resulting problems.

As we age and have more medical conditions needing management, we are at the same time more vulnerable to the negative effects of uncoordinated care.  It is challenging for the patient navigating and coordinating between the various providers.  Failures in communication may lead to inefficient and even ineffective care at times.

As patient advocates, we serve in the role of care coordinator for our clients and their families.  Here we share a little more about that role, as well as some “take aways” that any family member/advocate can incorporate.

A care manager coordinating care makes sure all the pieces of the puzzle are in place…connects the dots so to speak.  This helps to ensure problems do not fall through the cracks and helps patients and families take a step back to ask the questions they need to feel comfortable with decisions about their healthcare.  Often, when a family contacts us one of their primary concerns is the number of tests or procedures taking place and their purpose/goals.  Take away: consider having someone attend appointments with the elder and keep notes as well as help the medical providers by giving them the information they need to understand the “big picture” of the patient.

When someone has multiple conditions and providers, it is impossible to rely on memory and casual communications to relay information back and forth.  Our Aging Wisely care managers have long used an electronic personal/health records system for clients, enabling access and sharing of appropriate information amongst permitted parties.  This information is as invaluable at a standard appointment as it is during a middle of the night emergency room visit.  Take away: use a system to record and track information and communicate amongst various providers (there are numerous electronic personal health records systems available, which have the benefit of accessibility).

Transitions are especially problematic for frail elders, individuals with dementia and persons with multiple medical conditions.  Planning and good communication is imperative during care transitions (such as hospitalization and discharge, moving to a care facility or bringing in care or changing providers).  Take away: get Aging Wisely’s Discharge Planning checklist and check out our website/blog for loads of resources you can use to assist you in a care transition.  Transitions are key times when you may want to consider hiring a patient advocate to coordinate.  Can’t find something you need?  Contact us/send a comment and we’ll help!

Need help today? 

Call us at 888-807-2551


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Elder Care Management


Suddenly find yourself in the role of caregiver for an aging parent?

Stressed about how to manage your parent’s elder care?  No idea how to juggle their needs and everything else you have to do in life?

There are many articles on caregiver stress and many tips for caring for yourself as a caregiver.  We often hear from families who seek practical advice and better ways to manage the tasks of caregiving.  Each individual and family’s situation is somewhat unique, but there are common lessons we can share that may help you as you manage the eldercare of someone you love.

Start with these four ideas for improving your eldercare experience:

  1. Two top areas in which to do a little bit of preparation (which we’ll cover a little more in-depth and give you some resources in our next post-stay tuned to the Aging Wisely blog or sign up for updates!): 1.  advanced care planning and legal documentation for decision making 2.  gaining a basic understanding of health and long-term care coverage and what your loved one has or lacks.
  2. Tools can help ease your life as a caregiver if they address some of your challenges or help you better organize.  Using tools like electronic medical/personal health records or even simple notebooks or journals for key information can make everything from appointments to emergencies easier.  Anything that helps you organize, easily access information and perhaps share information with other relatives is worth trying.
  3. Emotional support is key…but can be hard to find (and who has the time?).  A support group can be wonderful, but if you cannot find the time or an appropriate group to attend, consider the support you may be able to find online.  It might be as simple as joining a Facebook group for caregivers, visiting some of the many eldercare forums online or something more formal.  Your friends can be a great support as well but many caregivers tell us they felt they needed an additional outlet because they felt friends were tiring of hearing about a situation to which they couldn’t really relate.
  4. The #1 role of any caregiver is advocate.  You will have to advocate for your loved one in all types of situations.  This role requires you to ask a lot of questions and manage many different areas.  Sometimes rather than becoming an expert, it may make sense to hire a professional patient advocate to help you.  The role of advocate is the most consistent caregiver role–it will be there whether you are physically providing the care, your loved one has other caregivers, or your loved one resides in an assisted care setting.

We’re glad to help if you need resources in any of the areas we mentioned, from good caregiver tools, our reviews of what to look for in an electronic medical record to finding support online!

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Payment Concerns
Not sure how you are going to pay for elder care?

Is the Time Right?
Find out if its time to seek help for your loved one.

Aging in Place
How to keep a loved one safe at home, and when it may be time to consider assisted living.

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Mission Statement

Our goal is to enable every individual we work with to live the most fulfilling life possible, with utmost dignity, focusing on their physical, mental, spiritual, family and financial wellbeing.