Introduction to a Career
If you were anything like me, when you were a small child, you yearned to be a care consultant. You dressed in care consultant costumes on Halloween. You asked for care consultant outfits for birthday gifts, and you asked the multicultural gift-giver of your choice, sometime around the winter solstice, to deliver care consultant action figures. Your parents humored you, realizing that you’ll grow out of this fantasy because, when you were growing up, there was no such thing as a care consultant.
I began working with elders in 1984, but I didn’t start calling myself a care consultant until about a decade later. Even today, hardly anyone labels themselves as such, sticking with the more well-known term, care manager. Yet, there is a significant difference between their roles. In short, a care consultant guides the concerned parties — usually, family members of the client (who is the elder, or otherwise, infirm) — to appropriate services. This typically requires a thorough assessment of the situation that includes the needs and wishes of the client, and an agreement among those involved in the care decisions (usually, the family). If the family is unable or uninterested in managing the ongoing care, they often hire a care manager to do so. About one-third of the time that I’m hired for care consultation, I am retained in the role of care manager.
Schooling and Training
While you may have guessed that I didn’t really plan, let alone “yearn” to be a care consultant as I was growing up, I did plan to be a social worker for as long as I can remember. However, my work with elders came from an indirect route.
Before grad school, I did some work in an in‑patient hospital setting, and became determined to work with the severely mentally ill. Following getting my MSW, I took a position working in a residential treatment center for chronic schizophrenics. During my five years there, I rose to Program Director. Moving on from that program, I followed my husband-to-be to a small town, where the only opening in the counseling center was director of geriatric services. I was hired for my supervision experience, as I had no experience with elders.
My former grad school classmate and close friend had been working with elders since graduation. My agency agreed to pay for her long distance supervision, via phone calls. With her help, I managed my own work, supervised a nurse and clinician, and earned State recognition as a Geriatric Specialist.
The last decade, has seen care consultation/management programs spring up as a geriatric specialty, taught primary by academics, who probably have never done clinical work. As with any clinical profession, knowledge and theory can help you only so far. That’s why health-care professionals do internships and residencies.
Clinician-lead care consultation and care management training is still rare. This course book is an attempt to guide new practitioners into the profession, whether within a college training program or through self-education.
Principles for review
- A care consultant guides the concerned parties — usually, family members of the client (who is the elder, or otherwise, infirm) — to appropriate services.
- A care manager manages the services.
- Care consultation and care management are clinical, not academic, vocations.
- Though the demand for trained professionals is growing, rapidly, appropriate training is still rare.
- This course book is designed to be an aid to that training.