Caregiving & Care Management: What’s the Difference?

Sometimes I describe what we do as care managers and people get it confused with caregiving.  To be fair, there is some overlap and if you aren’t in the elder care industry or don’t have a loved one using such services, then it definitely sounds similar.  But what we do is very different.  We don’t do what caregivers do, but we do LOVE working with them.

As Aging Life Care professionals, our job is to advise the family or individual on what care options best fit their needs.  Here are some basic questions we help answer:

  • Can the client stay home or is it time for a facility?
  • What in-home support is needed?
  • Should they stop driving?
  • What diagnoses are there and how are they being managed?
  • How well are they taking their medications?
  • Do they have advanced directives (Durable Power of Attorney, Healthcare Surrogate, Living Will)?
  • How will they pay for care?

Once we answer those questions, our job is to make it happen.  Some clients are agreeable to the necessary changes and their families can implement the care plan quickly on their own.  But others are resistant to outside support, so we work very closely with them and their families to ensure they are comfortable with the choices and then take many baby steps to ease them into accepting care from others.  Once the main components of the care plan are established (e.g., professional caregiver support), we continue to provide ongoing troubleshooting, problem-solving, recommendations, and emergency support.

Should the client need caregiver support, and they often do, we are happy to refer to a caregiver agency.  Caregivers provide personal care, companionship, housekeeping, transportation and more that is not our wheelhouse.  Typically, they are with clients for many more hours per week than we are.  It’s not cost effective for us to do things that a caregiver could do, so we work with them to determine what needs to be done on a weekly, if not daily, basis.  They are our eyes and ears and work hard to make each day wonderful for our mutual client.

Our job regarding caregivers is to help them be successful.  We make sure the caregiver will be a good fit and then help the caregiver understand our client: their personality, their preferences, their motivations, their past, their hobbies.  We help make sure the client will accept the caregiver.  We resolve issues between clients and caregivers (sometimes it’s just hard having someone in your space!).  We create a customized caregiver notebook for each client to help them understand what the caregiver’s specific tasks and goals are.  Caregiver agencies provide their caregivers with a task list; we build on that with notes pages tailored to each client’s needs.  It provides us with information to do our job better.  For example, we include things like:

  • What were their sleep patterns?
  • Did they request any PRN medications?
  • Did they refuse any medications?
  • Did you notice any new side effects?
  • What did they eat for meals and snacks?
  • How much fluid did they drink and what kind?
  • How much alcohol did they consume?
  • What physical, cognitive, and social activities did you do?
  • What visitors did the client have?
  • Was there any agitation or anxiety? What caused it?
  • What are you, the caregiver, concerned about?

Our objective here is to catch anomalies and find the source of problems.  Maybe they have digestive issues and we realize it’s because of a new food.  Maybe they are napping more than usual after starting a new medication, so we relay this information back to the physician.  We also don’t just ask yes or no questions, the notebook gives directions and recommendations and asks open ended questions to get the most information from the caregivers.

Caregivers are often our best source of information on the day-to-day status of our clients.  Without their input, feedback, and collaboration, we would be severely limited.  Caregivers are the front line, constantly resolving physical ailments and behavioral challenges.  It’s our goal to support them, to encourage them, to make their job easier.  We have had some of the most collaborative relationships with local caregiver agencies through the years, which we so appreciate.  We take pride in being able to support caregivers when they are in the middle of a challenging situation, giving them guidance and resolving the situation.  We aim to be a lifeline for caregivers, building a strong relationship so they are comfortable turning to us for help when things get tough.  We could not do our job well without you, so thank you!