As a wealth advisor, I have witnessed many clients struggling to care for their aging parents and thought it would be years before I found myself in the same situation. But a few years ago, when my mother-in-law’s seemingly simple surgery resulted in complications, we were suddenly thrust into a struggle of our own, made even more difficult because we live several hours away.
My mother-in-law, Charleen, is 73-years old and lives alone in Ashtabula, Ohio – about 4½ hours from Cincinnati. A few years ago, she had surgery to implant a pacemaker and was scheduled to be home the next day. Unfortunately, Charleen experienced multiple complications and required two additional operations before she was finally on the road to recovery.
My husband, Tom, and I wanted to do everything possible to ensure her recovery would continue once she was released, but with career and family obligations in Cincinnati, we were limited in terms of how much hands-on care we were able to provide. To fill the gap, we hired a Geriatric Care Manager, Terry, to help us manage the extra care Charleen needed and to help all of us navigate the many elder care decisions she faced. I found Terry through the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers – which has rather strenuous credential requirements for membership – and selected her because she is both an RN and JD. She has proven to be a valuable resource in both managing acute issues, such as when Charleen was released from the hospital, as well as the ongoing issues she faces day-to-day.
A Geriatric Care Manager can assist not only with the medical aspects of care, but also help family members evaluate housing options, determine what Federal or state assistance programs may be available, and consult with other professionals, such as an elder law attorney or accountant, on their client’s behalf. Importantly, Terry meets with Charleen on a regular basis – at least monthly, but more often when issues arise – and then communicates with us, providing reliable and timely information about how Charleen is doing and serving as a ready resource for suggestions and referrals when needed.
After an initial assessment of Charleen’s health, Terry furnished us with a report listing all of her medications, any potential interactions between drugs, follow up questions for her next doctor’s visit and a list of recommendations to make Charleen’s life easier. Based on this report, we discovered she needed a cleaning service to help her with heavy cleaning on a monthly basis and that she had started feeling isolated as her arthritic knees have started to limit her mobility. It is doubtful Charleen would have mentioned these things to Tom or me. With the help of our Geriatric Care Manager, we now have local contacts for transportation during the winter and social activities for seniors.
The biggest benefit to hiring a Geriatric Care Manager is peace of mind — for all of us. Because we cannot see her in person as frequently as we would like, it is comforting to know that Terry can visit when needed and give us an assessment of Charleen’s progress. And my mother-in-law likes having a medical professional she can call when she has questions that she wouldn’t typically call her doctor to ask.
Our parents spend years taking care of us. Now it is our turn to return the favor. A possible knee replacement is in Charleen’s future. With Terry’s help, we feel much more confident assessing Charleen’s options so that the decisions we make with her will ensure Charleen continues to enjoy her retirement and is able to live life to the fullest.
As an aside, just as I was finishing up this Viewpoint, I had the chance to hear local physician and leading medical oncologist, Dr. Rebecca Bechhold, speak at Truepoint’s Fourth Annual Ladies’ Luncheon about how to manage and optimize medical care for yourself and your loved ones. How appropriate that her key message was that communication is the key to a successful partnership! This has certainly been the case with our Geriatric Care Manager, my mother-in-law, and my husband and me. Not surprisingly, it is also the case with your Truepoint team. Like health concerns, it can sometimes be difficult to open up about financial circumstances and decisions. But to achieve your goals, it is critically important that you and your financial advisor are open and honest with each other. With forthright communication and a relationship built on trust, the result will be a plan perfectly suited to your exact situation and the greatest chance for complete success.