By Maureen Hewitt
I am one of more than 65 million Americans who has been a caregiver for an aging loved one. My mother, Margaret, was among those who wanted to age in place. She was a strong, independent woman who spent her life in the business world. My mother didn’t want to live in a nursing home. She wanted to remain in control: to live on her own in her own home. And that’s what she did.
She moved in with my daughter and lived across the street from me. She had independence, a home of her own, a sense of community and family nearby.
Through the journey with my mother, I’ve learned there are two universal truths about aging:
- One: Despite declines in physical or cognitive abilities as we age, we want to continue living in our homes and within our communities for as long as we can. We seek to live as independently as possible.
- Two: It’s tough being a caregiver. We need help: there are many health and medical tasks that are simply beyond our expertise.
After being a caregiver for my mother and struggling to ensure her health needs were met, I began to search for a better way to help older adults continue to live independently.
I found it in care management.
In my mother’s case, I was her care manager. I learned as I went. I made mistakes. I got better. I was like most caregivers in the United States: a full 72 percent of us provide care for a parent or family member.
So implementing care management programs for older adults became my mission. And, in fact, this is the mission of InnovAge, which was founded in 1969. While InnovAge Care Management today looks much different than it did in the 1960s, our vision remains the same: help individuals live as independently as possible in their homes and provide respite to their caregivers.
Care Management Advantage
Care management frequently reduces cost through better, more efficient use of healthcare services. It also improves quality of life for families who get some extra help and downtime. Care management is a good choice for older adults who want to age in place, because services are brought to them. These services include:
- Medical services to monitor health and wellness
- Assistance in making and getting to medical appointments
- Working directly with multiple providers
Care managers work directly with an individual’s healthcare provider and report information to the primary caregiver, usually an adult daughter or son. In general, care managers are there to ensure the family knows what’s going on in the day-to-day care of their loved one and to answer any questions. This eliminates a lot of stress for the family and ensures the loved one receives the best possible care. Care management is especially helpful for family members who live far away and who visit loved ones infrequently.
In addition, care managers call providers and assess the needs of the individual and identify appropriate resources. If a loved one is hospitalized, care managers ensure hospital discharge orders are followed as well as the doctor’s orders, including prescription medication regimens.
Just recalling the days I managed these elements of care makes me feel overwhelmed. Today, I’m glad to report there are organizations providing care management services to older adults allowing them to age in place and providing a break for their families.
Maureen Hewitt is the President and Chief Executive Officer of InnovAge, a Denver-based provider of comprehensive healthcare services for older adults in California, Colorado and New Mexico. Hewitt has held this role since 2006 and has led for-profit and nonprofit health care organizations for more than 25 years. Hewitt’s experience includes leading skilled nursing/sub-acute care facilities and acute care and rehabilitation hospitals, as well as serving in volunteer board positions. http://MyInnovAge.org.