As a parent or loved one ages, the issue of caregiving can become very challenging. Often family members are part of the sandwich generation, caregivers to both their children and their parents, many of whom live great distances from their adult children. The stress associated with caregiving can cause great strains on personal health and relationships; more than 40 percent of all caregivers report lost opportunities to advance their careers.
Many elderly patients have multiple medical issues, which are treated by different specialists and caregivers, who may not always communicate with each other or the family. For example, the wife of a client came to me thoroughly confused and upset. Her elderly husband was in the hospital with many co-morbidities. One doctor was telling her he needed to increase his fluid intake; the other was requiring that he drastically reduce his fluid intake. Don't these doctors talk to each other? ... Why are they telling me completely different things? Well, each doctor was treating his area of expertise and failed to look at the overall picture, let alone the whole person.
The patient advocate acts as a surrogate family member, managing the patient's case by facilitating communication and coordination among all of the doctors and caregivers. The patient advocate oversees and monitors geriatric care, from initial diagnosis to discharge planning, finding and monitoring the appropriate rehabilitation facility, as well as locating and overseeing long-term care either at home or in a senior residence.
When a home healthcare agency comes into your loved one's home, the family has peace of mind knowing the agency has been screened and is being monitored. The patient advocate provides as little or as much geriatric care as the family needs. The geriatric care clients benefit from their own customized care plan based on their own individual needs.
Patient advocates are also a good resource for caregivers. They can refer clients to trusted services, both private and those within the community. Patient advocates differ from geriatric care managers in that PA's do not do financial work. However, we do refer to money managers and eldercare lawyers. Geriatric patient advocates direct the family members to appropriate agencies, and teach them how to get organized and how to get help.
There are some wonderful organizations out there that help caregivers manage and organize patient care. Aside from government agencies, there are some websites such as eCarediary , which is a free service that offers online tools and resources to assist for those caring for elderly patients.
Also look into your local library, as very often towns will offer caregiving workshops. In addition, many assisted living facilities do outreach to the community, giving health fairs, lectures and presentations on aging and geriatric care.
Keep in mind though, that when dealing with the challenges of geriatric care, it is imperative to have feet on the ground.