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Social Workers and Geriatric Care Managers
Social Workers

Professionals Who Support You While You're Caring for Aging Parents

“Before my mother became ill,” Ben said, “I never had much contact with social workers and I was never quite sure what they did. Now I know that without the social workers at every step of Mother’s illness, I would never have been able to care for her long distance.”
Social work is a profession dedicated to helping people function as well as they can in their environment. Social workers see the overall picture—the impact of health care, psychological wellness, and physical ability—to suggest the best services to help your parent live as independently and happily as possible.
Social workers serve in different settings and as in other professions, many specialize in particular areas of care, such as geriatrics, psychological counseling or home care. As you arrange for your parent’s care, seek out these professionals to give you a hand.
The Hospital Social Worker
Can arrange for your parent’s placement in another facility after the hospital stay
Can act as a witness to the signing of a Power of Attorney
Provides information on how to choose a nursing home
Provides referral information on local services that might be needed after a hospital stay
Can coordinate your parent’s move from one place to another, e.g. hospital to nursing home, hospital to home.

The Nursing Home/Assisted Living Facility Social Worker
Can act as your contact at the facility for status reports
May coordinate your parent’s care program 
Will visit with your parent
Can give you advice on care, clothing and personal items that your parent might need
Contemplating a Change?
Whenever you contemplate a change for your parent, whether it be a change in health care, living facility or personal care services, talk with a social worker, explain the situation and ask what services are available. They can draw on many resources and point you in the right direction.
National Association of Social Workers. 750 First Street, NE, Suite 700, Washington, DC, 20002-4241. Website accessed on 3/5/2008. 

The Merck Manual of Geriatrics. Chapter 9: Geriatric Social Work.  Accessed 3/5/2008.
Geriatric Care Managers
Because Don lived so far away, he felt uneasy that he couldn't often visit his dad at the nursing home to judge how things were going. He felt overwhelmed by the doctor’s reports, financial affairs, and care issues he faced.  He heard about geriatric case workers from a friend and thought that he might need an objective observer to visit the nursing home regularly, check on the care given his dad, and let him know how his dad was doing. Then the hospital bills, including Medicare claims, started arriving at a fast clip. What to pay, what not to pay, how long to wait--Don realized that he would need help.
The Geriatric Care Manager (or geriatric case worker) can be a nurse, psychologist or social worker, who can perform a variety of functions. If your parent is still living at home, the care manager can locally coordinate all the in-home care and services that your parent might need. A care manager can also visit the nursing home or other facility regularly while your parent is a resident, check on the care and report to you. The manager will regularly reassess the situation and suggest options for future care.
Important Tips Concerning a Care Manager

If your parent is living in a nursing center or other facility, work with the staff on site before bringing an "outsider" in. The LTC staff may view the care manager's arrival with distaste and your relationship and that of your parent's could be damaged. However, if you feel strongly that there is something wrong with the care your parent is receiving and discussions with the staff have brought no changes, then a care manager is an objective observer who can set the record straight and help you make a decision how to proceed.
The services of a care manager may be available free or low cost from your local Agency on Aging office or hospital.
Questions to Consider
Is your parent still living at home and does she need many in-home services which you are having difficulty arranging long distance? Would a coordinator be of help?
Is something seriously wrong with your parent's care at the nursing home and has the staff been unresponsive? Would an objective observer help you decide your next move?
Are you unsure just what your parent might need? Would an objective opinion help both your and your parent decide what comes next?

If you answered “Yes” to any  of these, consider hiring a geriatric care manager. 
To Learn More

The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers 
1604 N. Country Club Road
Tucson, AZ 85716-3102
520-325-7925 FAX 

• Use the federal government’s Eldercare Locator 1-800-677-1116. 
Counseling Social Worker
Provides psychological support and social counseling for you and your family to deal with issues that may be affecting your ability to care
Is someone to talk to

Geriatric Social Worker
Often works at the Eldercare Locator and referral programs to advise and counsel
Can serve as a case manager for your parent, coordinating local services
May be trained to manage all insurance claims processing
Authors many of the books on caring for your parent
Text excerpted from Caring for a Distant Parent, Care Tips # 32 and #34. 
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