One Saturday a few years back, the bare white walls in my bedroom were practically begging for paint. And with my husband out of town and rain expected for the entire weekend, it seemed as though the stars had aligned.
Even though I’d never painted before, I was confident that I was up to the task. For better or worse, my nature in times like these is to channel my inner Rosie the Riveter, throw my shoulders back and jump in…How hard could painting a few walls really be? Several hours later I headed back to the paint department disheveled and defeated. My vision of bedroom walls worthy of the Pottery Barn catalog had faded and reality – which included removing paint from wood floors and furniture – had set in.
The worst part was that I had realized that I didn’t have to go-it alone. I could have hired a professional painter for one thing. But even simpler (and far cheaper) than that, I could have asked the paint salesman to guide me on what supplies to buy and what techniques to use.
Regrets? By then, I’d certainly had a few.
You might be wondering what painting my walls has to do with your decision to hire (or not to hire) a Geriatric Care Manager to help you manage the care of an aging parent.
In a word – everything.
And not because painting is anything like navigating through the elder care maze– if only!
But because what we bring to a challenge and how we approach it is often predictive of how things will turn out.
So what was the big take-away from my painting debacle and more importantly – how will it help you to know if a Geriatric Care Manager will be worth the cost to you?
It’s all about the Self-Assessment.
As I reflected that evening on where I had gone wrong, I realized that there were three things necessary to make my project a success – two of which I had (time, and energy) and one that I lacked (know-how).
Similarly, figuring out whether a Geriatric Care Manager will be beneficial to you begins with an honest assessement of what you can handle on your own.
Whether you’re trying to find an appropriate assisted living for your mother who lives 1000 miles away, or get your father’s doctors to agree on which medications are best (or both), you’ll need time, energy and know-how just as I did.
To get a sense of where you are with these in relation to the tasks at hand, ask yourself the following:
1) Do I have the time for this?
If you have a full-plate, chances are that time is in short supply for you.
Maybe you work, take care of kids or even an ill spouse. If so, then providing the help that your mother or father needs can feel like the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
And raise your hand if you have ever underestimated how much time it would take to make a few phone calls…
Can you help me sign up for Medicare Part D?
Sure, Mom. And you need me to call the insurance company too to find out why they sent you the bill for the x-ray, right?
If you don’t mind…
No, problem. I’ll make those calls first thing tomorrow.
9:00 A.M. becomes 1:00 P.M. in the blink of an eye and something has piled up – maybe its office work and maybe its dishes. Trust me though, the worst thing to be added to the “didn’t do” list is the thing that replenishes you.
This brings me to energy…
2) Energy: How full is my gas tank?
The energy we have for a single day has a lot in common with the gas tank in our car. Like it or not, when we’re running low, we’re running low. And even though many of us push it from time to time and continue driving long after the gas gauge has landed on the “E”, we know we shouldn’t.
So if your life is starting to feel like one big juggling act and every day seems more taxing than the previous one, listen to that. It means you’re human and that you’ve reached your own “E”. Ignore your “E” at your own risk.
3) How much do I know about what I’m trying to do for my aging parent?
There may be several parts of the task(s) at hand that you don’t know how to do. That’s okay. The most important thing is to acknowledge this point and to seek the help you need.
In my work with family caregivers I’m continuously amazed when an adult daughter or son admits to a profound sense of guilt that she/he isn’t better able to manage the care of their parent.
If you’re a member of this “Guilt Group” for any reason…
PLEASE stop beating yourself up!
You didn’t miss the class that gave instructions on how to take care of your elderly parent.
Let’s just agree that if there had been such a class, you would have sat in the front row. So let yourself off the hook already – caregiving is a work in progress.
The Moment of Truth
You’ve got it all…
If you have walked through this little self-assessment exercise and feel you have ample time, energy and know-how for what you want to do, then good for you!
Hiring a Geriatric Care Manager is not likely to be worth the cost to you.
Keep reassessing yourself as the needs of your loved one change over time and be honest about how this change affects you.
But if you’re low on time or energy…
Welcome to the biggest club in the land! Those of you in this group – think about the parts of caregiving that are most challenging for you and consider who or what may be able to lighten the load. Friends, family or even basic community resources like senior centers or Meals on Wheels can make a significant difference.
If these don’t cut it, then hiring a Geriatric Care Manager could be a very smart move as he or she can help you strategize beyond the basics. Whatever money you spend will be well worth it if you’re able to strike a more livable balance between your parents’ needs and yours.
Or you don’t have know-how…
If you’re not sure how to proceed and cost is not a concern to you, you can hire a Geriatric Care Manager to coordinate any/all aspects of your parent’s care. The benefits of this are fairly obvious and this may make the most sense.
But if cost is a concern, then do what you can and consult with a Geriatric Care Manager about the rest. Families often think that hiring a Geriatric Care Manager is an all or nothing proposition, but it’s not.
Tell him or her what you need and what you don’t so you can get on with it…
Now that’s the way to channel Rosie!