Aging Well Press

To be published this summer: How to be a Care Consultant and Care Manager: Working With Elders and Their Families With Compassion and Respect, by Joan McGinnis and Gary Bloom

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A short excerpt from Chapter 1:

Recently, I spent several unanticipated hours attending to some basic needs of my client: was she fed, was her phone installed?

She had just moved into a pricey assisted-living facility, and during her first day there, had not received the services for which she was being charged. I ended up subsidizing the services of this facility by attending to these things, which meant that my client was paying me for what should have been taken care of by the facility.

Returning home, I complained to my husband (the co-author and my go-to consultant) with the statement that it was a good thing that I’m detail-oriented because those at the facility don’t seem to be. After listening to my rant, he suggested that being detailed-oriented was an inadequate description. He pointed out that I am vigilant with my clients—alert to their needs, sensitive to their moods. What needed to be done for them, detailed or not, followed from that.

That discussion got me to reflect on the difference between being detailed-oriented versus being sensitive to the needs of clients. A detail-oriented person (or efficiently run facility) would make sure that dinner was always served at 5 p.m., sharp. An individual (or facility) that was sensitive to the needs of clients would make sure their clients are not hungry. Being detail-oriented means every necessary service has been put in place. Being sensitive to the needs of clients means that you make sure those services are working for them. Being detailed-oriented means making sure meds are taken, as prescribed. Being sensitive to clients’ needs means that you observe the effects of those meds: are they helping, are they causing problems, or are they helping in some manner, but causing discomforting side-effects?

There are countless examples of the difference between being detail-oriented and being sensitive to the needs of clients, but in general, it boils down to this: being detail-oriented is about efficiency; being sensitive to the needs of clients is about service.

The Responsibilities of the Care Manager

I could attempt to describe the profession of care management by listing common services that we provide, but as with any complex profession, being a care manager is not service by rote, and it’s not a list of stuff we do, it’s service guided by expertise and concern. The concern part comes from what I expressed above, being sensitive to clients’ needs. That’s necessary, the way fine-motor coordination for a surgeon, dentist, or mechanic is necessary. Expertise comes as always from experience and the training training and education necessary to learn from experience.

A care manager is hired for several related reasons. Often, after a care consultant advises a family on the services that need to be put in place, the members of the family decide that they are too busy, too much in conflict, or lack the confidence or skills to follow through on the initial or ongoing advice from the care consultant. Along with having knowledge of a wide variety of services, and knowing which ones will best serve a particular client, a care manager’s main job is to get those services to work in harmony.