Help! I’m At The End Of My Caregiver Rope

An Aging Life Care Manager can make all the difference when caring for a loved one. Find out what a Life Care Manager does and who can benefit from using one.

Navigating the aging journey for yourself or a loved one can be overwhelming. It’s difficult to know where to begin and the fear that you are missing something very important always lingers. Managing doctors appointments, medicines, bill paying, home maintenance, meals, shopping and more have put an end to any me time you had before and have left you feeling drained and frustrated. You miss just “being” and enjoying the relationship with the loved one you are caring for. You are not alone. Most caregivers feel this way at one point or another, but the good news is that you have options and  help is available. In episode 6 we discussed Home Care options. If you missed that you can find episode 6 at SageAging.us along with our whole catalog of shows. The option we will discuss in this episode Is a Life Care Manager, also known as a Geriatric Care Manager. Guest Barbara Herrington of All About Aging provides a wealth of information and sheds some light on this topic.

Here is what we covered:

  • What is an Aging Life Care Practice 
  • About Barbara and what brought her to found All About Aging
  • Who is a good candidate for a Life Care Manager?
  • When is the right time to engage a Life Care Manager?
  • What types of things can a Life Care Manager assist with?
  • Types of caregivers. (physical caregiver, long distance caregiver, local but living separately)
  • Is using a Life Care Manager a cost effective option for families/How services are paid for
  • Questions to ask when choosing a Life Care Manager
  •  Book/web site recommendations

Links & Resources Mentioned

Read the full transcript here:

Closed Captioning
Sage Aging Episode 8 (recorded May 15 2020)

Thank you to our Sponsor
Support for this episode of Sage Aging comes from Polk ElderCare Guide. Designed with families in mind, Polk ElderCare Guide gives you the tools and education necessary to make quality choices about senior care and living options in Polk County, Florida. available in both English and Spanish. You can view the guides and much more online at polkeldercare.com.

Intro

Is the responsibility of caring for a loved one becoming unmanageable or causing stress in your relationship? Do you feel that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to handle all that needs to be done? Do you have concerns about your aging parents that live in another state. If you are a caregiver who’s wondering how you can possibly keep up the pace, then you’re in the right place and this is the podcast episode for you.

Hi, I’m Liz Craven, and like so many others. I face the overwhelming task of being a caregiver for people that I hold dear. I understand how tough the day to day of a caregiver can be and how hard it is to come by good information. Here’s one thing I know for sure. Education is key. Equipped with the right tools and good information. Caregivers will experience less stress and find better balance day to day life. For the past two decades, I’ve built my career on connecting older adults and those who care for them to the education and resources they need to navigate the aging journey. This show is dedicated to the same. Welcome to the Sage Aging podcast. Hit subscribe now, and let’s get started.

Welcome Barbara!

Hello, and welcome to episode eight of the Sage Aging podcast. I’m your host Liz Craven. Navigating the aging journey for yourself or a loved one can be overwhelming. It’s difficult to know where to begin. And the fear that you’re missing something very important always lingers. Managing doctor’s appointments, medicines, bill paying, home maintenance meals, shopping and more have put an end to any me time that you’ve had before and have left you feeling drained and frustrated. You miss just being. Enjoying the relationship with the loved one you’re caring for. You’re not alone. Most caregivers feel this way at one point or another. But the good news is that you have options and help us available. In Episode Six we discussed homecare options if you missed that, you can find episode six at Sageaging.us along with our whole catalog of shows. The option we’ll discuss today is a life care manager also known as a geriatric care manager. My guest today is Barbara Harrington, owner and lead life care manager at All About Aging, an aging life care practice. Barbara is the founder of All About Aging and her journey into the aging care industry is a personal one that ultimately led to her earning a degree in gerontology from the University of South Florida before founding her company. Since 2006 when All About Aging opened its doors, Barbara and her team have been helping families to navigate the aging process to learn more about Barbara and her company, be sure to look in the Links section of the show notes for this episode, which can be found in the blog post for Episode 8 at Sageaging.us. Welcome to the show, Barbara and thank you for joining me.

Barbara Herrington 4:15
I am glad to be with you.

Lightning Round

Liz Craven 4:17
I’m so glad to have you here. So, we we talked about it a little before and you know, I like to have a little fun at the beginning of each show. So we’re gonna do a little lightning round. Are you good with that?

Barbara Herrington 4:28
I am ready. Go for it. Liz.

Liz Craven 4:30
Perfect. First question. Do you have a hobby?

Barbara Herrington 4:34
Yes I do, I have a few hobbies. I would say my first hobbies my being a grandmother. That is so fun, but I’ve always been a quilter and I love making quilts. I love fabric. I have a lot of grandbabies now. So a lot ofquilts that I need to be making.

Liz Craven 4:49
Oh, those are special gifts. I’m sure I’ve seen some of your pictures on social media and I’m jealous. I tried quilting once. Okay, second question. Toes in the sand or boots in the snow?

Barbara Herrington 5:04
You know, that is a good question because I like both but really I go to the mountains doesn’t have to be snow but put me in the mountains any day.

Liz Craven 5:11
Nice. I love it. Okay, what’s the best thing about being a grandmother?

Barbara Herrington 5:17
Probably just the unexpected. There’s just so much joy. You just watch these children grow and develop and watching your children be the most amazing parents is just so surprising all the time.And it is pure joy.

Liz Craven 5:30
I’m so looking forward to that. I think we’re a couple of years off yet but 28 years old and married. I’ve got one coming sometime soon.

Barbara Herrington 5:39
Watch out. We have eight grandbabies. And it’s been a lot of fun. Oh, that’s awesome.

Liz Craven 5:43
Thank you for sharing that. And your last question, audio books or a book you can hold.

Barbara Herrington 5:50
You know, lately I have loved the audio books because I have been sewing so I can listen to audiobooks whether I’m on my sewing machine or whether I’m doing my hand sewing or applique or wilting. So I’ve always I’ve got my good collection of books, but the audio books have been great.

Liz Craven 6:04
That’s really perfect. You get to participate in two hobbies at one time. Exactly. That is called time management

Barbara Herrington 6:11
and the books on fast speed.

Today’s Topic

Liz Craven 6:13
Oh, I haven’t discovered that. Good to know. Okay, well, let’s jump into our topic because, you know, honestly, I think we could do an entire season on what is a life care manager and what do they do because you guys are superheroes. For real, I can’t think of another profession that can take a family from chaos and feeling overwhelmed to being able to just love on one another and feel confident that the person who needs extra care is getting what they need. So exactly what is an aging life care practice?

Barbara Herrington 6:53
You are so right in that we have the joy of being able to take people from chaos and sadly a lot of people wait until it is Chaos before they ask for help. But we are able to help people assess the situation. And it does mean we look at everything. So we don’t know all the answers. But our great thing that we know is how to coordinate the care how to connect you with the services you need. But first identify what is it that you need. So we do look at all the domains, we look at everything from the financial and the legal, what is set up already, we look at medications and driving. And I feel like those are the four pillars that if something happens, one of those four areas, you can have serious consequences. But then we look at things like nutrition, we look at the home safety, their functional status, their social and spiritual support, what brings them joy, you know, what are their worries? And the beauty of it is we get to listen to the adult children and what their concerns are, but also to the adult themselves. And sometimes, you know, the adult is the one saying I don’t need anything, maybe most of the time and the kids are the one worrying you know, so we want to find out what are the worries from both of them, and with the assessment, we can determine what are the strengths? What is going well, and what do we need to help you cover you were the voice.

Liz Craven 8:09
That makes a lot of sense. So essentially, it’s almost like having another family member who is present but doesn’t have all of those relational attachments.

Barbara Herrington 8:21
Exactly. And I think you hit the nail on the head also that by having a professional involved, who is objective, but also the advocate for the older person, then the adult child gets to go back to being the child. Yeah, they get to go back to really improving the relationship, and it does help so much.

Liz Craven 8:38
That’s such a big deal when when I was caring for my mother, when she had cancer, she used to call me the mommy daughter. And I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about that. You know, it was it was great in the sense that I understood that she knew she felt protected with me, and she knew that everything would be taken care of and that she would be safe and In that sense, that felt really, really good. But in another sense, I wanted to be the daughter daughter, you know that I longed for that time in our relationship when it was just us loving on one another and sharing our deepest secrets. Instead of having to have that caregiver care receiver relationship, your entry into this whole world of elder care came by you naturally, didn’t it?

Barbara Herrington 9:29
It did. It did. And so interestingly enough, probably I should have taken some business classes through the years because I’ve always had a little entrepreneurial spirit, even like at 12 years old selling Christmas cards that were engraved with a name for the neighbors. But then I, I did become a kindergarten teacher. My background is early childhood education. So I’ve always been fascinated with brain function. And I’ve always wondered about the memory loss and how can you lose memory, you know, so, through the years, I was always intrigued with that. My mother in law had some challenges, and the doctors assured me she was fine. So we ended up moving away and sure enough, it didn’t take six weeks for things to be very bad and the psychiatrist actually had told me I was the worrywart. We said “something’s wrong” and the hardest part was, she sounded so good. When she was at the doctor’s office. She was sharp, she was cute as a bug. She was the ultimate Southern belle. So that was a hard time. You know, she took a seven hour drive to Orlando, which is an hour away. Yeah, nobody knew where she was. And unfortunately, the friends didn’t tell us till they got her back and called us where we had moved away and we were able to come back eventually and it was quite the journey learning about how to help her manage the Alzheimer’s diagnosis. And then when the officer association was looking for somebody to open an office here in Polk County in 99, a good friend saw the ad and she said you need this job. They need you. And it was great because I really wanted local support you I did not want to call an 800 number. So I loved it. It was a great opportunity to Established services hear more support groups really help the community know there is local support. And the part that I found that I was good at was when people would come in, and you never knew you know where they are in the journey, are they going to come back and I would load them up with information, even though you know, Alzheimer’s can be a many year process. But I found that was the part that I was really good at helping them recognize this is normal for what you’re going through, but let’s teach you how to cope with it. So I ended up going back to get my degree in gerontology, I thought I need to put a name to what it is that I was doing. And from that I took this class on Geriatric Care Management. And I thought this is what I get to doing. So we use I am a member of the Aging Life Care Association, formerly known as the National Association of Professional geriatric care managers. So nobody wants to be geriatric, you know, and a lot of care managers around the country, manage all ages of people, my practice specifically we are good with older people. And especially people with dementia and even families that mom and dad both have dementia, we have had managed a lot of couples. But some of our care managers around the country deal with children or with people with disabilities through their life or people who have had, you know, significant injuries due to a car accident or whatever. And so there’s all kinds of care management, but we are all aging. So the association rebranded a few years ago to be the Aging Life Care Association. I think it’s perfect.

Liz Craven 12:28
You know, I’ve been saying that a lot lately. You know, the name of the podcast is Sage Aging, and I try to communicate to folks that, in truth, we begin aging, the moment we’re born, it’s a process and by educating ourselves and being ready for that process, before we get to different stages, we can put ourselves in a much better position to succeed. So when is the right time for a family to consider engaging someone like you,

Barbara Herrington 12:58
You know, that is a great question. We have a situation with somebody that’s been on the back burner for several months. And when she called this week, I felt so bad. I said, you know, sounds like you’re putting up the white flag. And she said, Yes. So I said, Okay, well, we’re ready, we can absolutely help with the situation. And it’s every situation is very different. So I will tell you, if it’s easy, you probably don’t need a care manager, you know, if your relationship with your parent is a good one, if they will let you get in there and help if they’re willing to stop driving. If they’re willing to let you look at how they do their medications. If they’re willing to let you go to the doctor with them, you probably don’t need a care manager. I will say what we have seen the past few years is a lot of the adult children are being more proactive. So they are coming in earlier and saying, you know, this is where we think we are, what should we be looking for? When is the time that we need to make a change? When we need to start bringing in caregivers how do we get mom to stop driving, you know, so that has been really good. So some families we do more consulting and coaching them through. Whereas other situations, we’re the one that’s taken mom or dad to the doctor. Better is better than later we can we do well in a crisis, but we sure love to be there ahead of time and avoid the crisis.

Liz Craven 14:13
Well, just as with anything, the more planning you can put into place, the more smoothly things will go along the way. And that makes a whole lot of sense. And I love that people can engage your services as a coach, because sometimes it’s just navigating that sticky relationship. I mean, how do you take the keys away from mom or dad? And they revert back to that parent role and say, No, I’m the parent, and you can’t tell me what to do.

Barbara Herrington 14:43
And then the other fun part is looking at the family and the resources and what are each person’s strengths. So who is the one that might be best to approach that but who is the other one that might be best to approach the idea of we need to look at your medications. So it really is a lot of the fun getting to know the families and the support system.

Liz Craven 15:02
This seems like a good spot to talk about the different types of caregivers that you encounter. Because what I’ve found is a lot of people don’t recognize that they are a caregiver, if they’re not in the home, physically providing care to someone else. They don’t believe themselves to be a caregiver. Can you kind of enlighten us about that a little bit?

Barbara Herrington 15:26
Sure. That is a very wise observation, because you’ve got a lot of people so frustrated with whatever the situation is. And it’s frustrating because you care about the parent, you want them to be happy, you want them to be safe. So you might be the caregiver, even though you’re thousands of miles away as we have one situation with a daughter who’s way far away. But mom calls her every morning about nine o’clock our time, but it’s about four o’clock her time, though. So yes, she’s worn out with the stress of taking care of mom from a distance. So it’s very important to acknowledge Who is the caregiver? Sometimes within the home, you know that you’ve got a couple? And is the other spouse really the caregiver? Or are they not able to do it is the adult child the one that needs to come in and really be the caregiver and help maneuver the situation? Sometimes it’s a friend, that is really the one who is doing the caregiving and managing and you need to help support them, especially it legally helped guide them as to what should they be doing? What should they not be doing? So that is a great point.

Liz Craven 16:33
Do you find that physicians are generally knowledgeable about life care managers?

Barbara Herrington 16:37
That’s a good question. We wish they were. They certainly appreciate the help because what’s so important in this country is care coordination, you know, we can save so much time and money and lives with good care coordination. You know, we make sure doctor’s orders are followed, but we also made sure doctors get the right information, because it’s very hard when the person sitting there saying everything’s lovely to really know what’s going on behind the scenes. So doctors are becoming more and more aware of patient advocates. And that’s basically what we are. We are members of the Aging Life Care Association, but we act as a patient advocate. I would say the other ones who are very aware are the CPAs, that trust officers, financial planners, you know, they’re the ones who often see a change in people’s thinking and abilities and thinking what has happened, what’s going on here? Maybe we need to get a little support in place.

Liz Craven 17:30
That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about those folks. But it makes a lot of sense when they do their annual reviews, and they’re seeing the difference from this year to last year. That makes an awful lot of sense. So how do you see what role do you see Aging Life Care Management as it relates to the changing landscape of healthcare because that is changing drastically every day, It seems like.

Barbara Herrington 17:53
Isn’t it? Yes. I think people need to have a care manager available. Whether It’s a professional or somebody in the family who can learn to do the role. It’s it’s a huge important role with the care transitions. Many, many of the big companies, you know, the HMOs, they are working with care managers helping manage the situations. That is a very different role than ours. You know, as a professional care manager, we often only have 12 to 15 clients per person. We don’t have 80 people. So we’re heavily, deeply involved. So I wish it was available to everybody. Because everybody could really benefit from it. The system is so fragmented, and you would be amazed the simplest things that are just so challenging to get accomplished, whether it’s getting a refill, or getting this doctor to talk to that doctor, getting the discharge properly done from the hospital or from a rehab center.

Liz Craven 18:46
It’s an overwhelming prospect.

Barbara Herrington 18:47
It’s unbelievable. Yes, it takes a lot of persistence and tenacity.

Liz Craven

So how important is it for families to be connected to community resources and Is that something that you’re able to assist with

Barbara Herrington

Absolutely, that is such a good question, Liz, I appreciate that. Because, like I say we we don’t do the direct care, our task is to connect the family with the services and agencies that they need. So we want you to know what’s out there. And certainly we don’t want to do anything that somebody else can do for free. So we want to be able to connect with anything that Medicare can provide anything that’s out there in the community, anything that churches can provide, and we want to help people connect with all of the community resources that are available. And a lot of times we have people call who cannot afford private care manager. So we certainly want to connect them with the senior connection Center, which is our local area agency on aging in several of the other services available.

Liz Craven 19:42
I think community resources are grossly underused, I think and I think that just goes to the point that people just don’t know where to find resources. Which makes you so valuable, because you’re able to connect people to the things that they don’t really even know they need.

Barbara Herrington 19:59
Right and how to even get those services started.

Liz Craven 20:02
So is using a life care manager a cost effective option for families and how our services paid for it does insurance ever cover any of your services?

Barbara Herrington 20:12
So most of it is private pay. We do have a few long term care insurance policies that might pay for the assessment. We have one that does pay quite a bit annually for a care manager, which is wonderful. But almost always it is private pay. We do find that sometimes, oftentimes, the adult doesn’t think they need any help, much less do they want to pay for any help? So a lot of times one of the adult children is the one who actually gets us in the door gets us hired, and they may be the one paying for services, whether or not they’re reimbursed by the family later is up to the family and the resources available, but cost effective, yes, we are cost effective because we reduce errors. You know, we reduce problems that are recurring, so If somebody wants to know, let’s move to assisted living, then they just go to wherever the neighbor says what we’re going to do instead of saying, Let’s really assess what do you need, what do you like? what’s going to work best for you? So hopefully, it’s only one move and not repetitive moves. So it is cost effective that way. it’s cost effective because we work with the doctors. And make sure, like I say medications are done right. They show up on time for labs, which means the doctor visit is more effective.

Liz Craven 21:26
I think doing things effectively and efficiently, one time is a heck of a lot better than doing them over and over. So if someone were shopping, I guess we’ll use that word shopping for a life care manager. What kind of questions should they be asking?

Barbara Herrington 21:44
Well, for one thing, go to www.aginglifecare.org for our national association website, and anybody who is a member of the association is listed on there. So most of us are certified through as a certified care manager. But you also even to be a member of the Association you have to have the education, the experience and the ethics. So I find it really important to know who you’re hiring. You know, there’s a lot of people who have a great heart for people that may have taken care of a neighbor or their mother, but they don’t have the broad knowledge and the background and maybe the ethics. So starting with the Aging Life Care Association, you put in the zip code, you’re going to find a care manager in your area, hopefully, and then look at their experience and talk to them. You want to ask them, How long have they been in business? What is their area of expertise? You know, are they heavily nursing? Are they more Alzheimer’s care, dementia care? Are they more disability care? What are they doing? You want to know? Is there a fee for the initial consultation? You want to know what are the fees? What do they cover? You want to know who they hire? You know, are they hiring care managers? Are they hiring care manager assistants? What are the qualifications of people on the staff? You want to know their hours are they 24 seven, we’re available 24 seven, not all eight. He’s our, but we are available 24 seven, you have your mom goes to the hospital, we’re going to be in the ER with her until she gets settled. But not all agencies will do that. A lot of them misunderstand that we do not provide the direct care, we are not going to be in the house with them several hours a day, you know, we will help facilitate talking them into us and the caregiver agency and make that happen. But they need to understand, you know, how much is this group going to do for you? And then I would ask for references. You know, I think that’s very important that when people call me I want to say, I can tell you, I can give you the numbers of a few families that would be glad to talk to you who have had a similar situation, if you want to know their experience, and then also professional references from other groups that we’ve worked with.

Great Resources

Liz Craven 23:45
That is a great list. Do you think you could provide that to me to place in our show notes for listeners? I will and it is actually from the aging Life Care Association website. Fantastic. For our listeners sake, we will make sure that the link to that question list and links to anything that we’ve mentioned in this episode, you’re gonna find those in the show notes so that you’ll have direct and easy access to that information. So the last thing I want to ask you is can you point us to some great resources, whether that be books or videos, websites that can help people to be proactive and prepared when it comes to aging?

Barbara Herrington 24:22
Yes, there are so many great websites. You know, when you just put in aging, you’re going to come up with all kinds of interesting things. And there are several that I like to follow. Medically, of course, if there’s anything I want to look off, I’m looking at Mayo Clinic or Johns Hopkins, they’re going to give you all the information that you can really trust the Alzheimer’s Association. The Alzheimer’s foundation is fantastic the Parkinson’s Foundation, you can tell the things that we deal with, you know, those are areas that we always go to. One thing I want to encourage people to look up there’s a book called The Caregivers Path to Compassionate Decision Making, and this is by a lady named Viki Kind and it is wonderful. When you are the decision maker for someone who is incapacitated, and you have to honor that living well, it is a very, very excellent guide for you. Another one that we refer a lot of people to us is How to Say it to Seniors. and that is a good book for helping learn how to manage the situation respectfully and honor people’s dignity. And I think that’s the beauty of a neutral person. You know, the family can get offended by what each other says, but we get to be the objective neutral person helping guide. And of course, you know, like I say, we deal with a lot of Alzheimer’s and different types of dementia. So The 36 Hour Day is the classic book that everybody needs if you’re dealing with any kind of dementia.

Liz Craven 25:39
Those are such good resources. I’m so excited to be able to provide that list for people in the show notes because you can spend some quality time with those resources and come out better prepared to handle your current situation. And that’s fantastic. And I think that reading things like that and following good websites It really is an awesome way to prepare you to be an advocate for your loved one because that’s what you are as a caregiver, you are the biggest and best advocate that that person has. So thank you so much for joining me today and for sharing all of this wonderful information. It will be a blessing to others, it will be a help to others. And I know that spending just a few minutes with us during this podcast will be something that they can carry forward and improve their life all the way around for themselves and for the one they’re caring for. So thank you for joining me today, Barbara.

Barbara Herrington 26:33
Well, thank you for the opportunity to share. We appreciate it.

Liz Craven 26:36
Absolutely.

Thanks for listening. If you found value in today’s conversation, I’d really appreciate it if you would click Subscribe now and share the Sage Aging podcast with a friend. If you have a topic idea that you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line at info@Sageaging.us

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As I’ve been preparing to launch this podcast I’ve enjoyed revisiting stages of my own life and reflecting on how this topic became such a passion for me. While I’ve built my career on helping older adults and their families connect to needed education and resources, my connection to the aging and care process goes much deeper.

Some of my earliest childhood memories are of my own multi-generational family living together in one home. I was 4 or 5 when my grandmother moved into our home to help care for my sisters and I while our parents worked. Soon after, her father and grandfather moved in as well. We had 5 generations living under one roof! That was a beautifully chaotic adventure and knowing what I know now, I have so much respect for what my parents and grandmother did.

Fast forward to age 24. Newly married and pregnant with our first child, I spent several months with my in-laws to help care for my husband’s grandmother who had Alzheimer’s. Fast forward again to about 2009 – Wes and I have two teenagers about to head to college and his mother is diagnosed with cancer. Several years later, my mother is diagnosed with cancer. Several years after that Wes’ stepdad is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and his father is suffering from severe dementia. You can see where this is going right? For the better part of the last 10 years we have been the caregivers. We see it as an honor and privilege to have been able to do that for our parents.

The key to navigating our later years is being proactive about gathering information before we get there and staying engaged once we do. To be sage is to be wise. There is wisdom in taking the time to ask questions, seek solutions and know your options before the need arises.

Each week we will discuss relevant topics of aging with experts who can help us to understand and be better prepared for aging. We’ll also introduce you to some Sage Agers who are totally owning their journeys through life. No topic will be off limits and we will deliver open and honest conversation meant to educate and empower our listeners. Each episode will also be available in video and blog formats.

Whether you are proactively seeking to broaden your own knowledge, a caregiver for a loved one or a professional working in the aging care industry, this podcast is for you. We hope you will join us as we explore and celebrate Sage Aging.