Guest blogger Cathy Jo Cress, author of Handbook of Geriatric Care Management, Third Edition and Care Managers: Working with the Aging Family writes that,
"NPR’s Morning Edition is doing a series called Family Matters. A new segment titled "Time to Move Grandma" featured Linda Fordrini Johnson, the former president of the National Association of Geriatric Care Managers (GCM). The GCM expert commented on using a GCM to help make the wrenching decision to move or not move an older family member from their home.
Fordrini Johnson referred to a checklist families can use when considering whether to move elderly parents. In the chapter, "Integrating Late Life Location- The Role of the GCM," in the 3rd edition of Handbook of Geriatric Care Management, Cathie Ramie and I offer an in depth checklist.
This list is a guide to help geriatric care managers, showing them how to help aging families decide whether to consider a move or remain at home. The chapter starts by looking at what kind of safety net the family needs to keep the elderly person at home. If there are holes in this web, it might mean ordering Meals on Wheels or adding a care provider that may be either family or private. It includes checking the environment and eliminating safety issues in the house, like area rugs or installing safety bars in the bath. This might mean moving the older person to a bottom floor so they do not have to use stairs or adding ramps for easy access.
Making a decision to move can be a difficult choice for an aging family. Often, the stakes are much higher than family members realize. Frequently, we don’t look into the real meaning of home. It is not just a house but can a feast of family memories.
Look at that old piano in the clients’ house. It not just a piano. It may have been a childhood gift to an older person and represents a lifetime of musical talent and memories. You can find another piano in an assisted living but it is not that special piano-- in a sunny spot in the living room topped with pictures of treasured children and grandchildren.
What an older person loses when they move is a sense of place. Why is that? Think of when you travel. The meaning of home equals self-maintenance. This translates into the things you do every day, like find the bathroom, brush your teeth, or take a bath with all your right shampoos and soaps. When you travel you are trying to carry out these basic activities in a strange unfamiliar place. But you are having fun, so you get through it. Now try envisioning an older person doing all this. They are not on an exciting vacation but experiencing a tremendous loss. They don’t have 'the hotel experience' but a jumble of bewilderment when they already may be confused.
This is not to say there is not a time to move. Health challenges might be a real reason. If the older person has lost visual acuity and cannot negotiate steps, this may be a reason to move. If the senior has dramatically lost social supports then it might be another good reason to move.
Geriatric Care Managers can effectively move an older person by finding the right time and the right place to move to right level of care, sort of like the story of Goldilocks:
After she'd eaten the three bears' breakfasts she decided she was feeling a little tired. So, she walked into the living room where she saw three chairs. Goldilocks sat in the first chair to rest her feet.
"This chair is too big!" she exclaimed.
So she sat in the second chair.
"This chair is too big, too!" she whined.
So she tried the last and smallest chair.
"Ahhh, this chair is just right," she sighed.
A geriatric care manager can provide this 'just right' experience by finding just the right place to move. They can also help you decide if a move is the answer or if staying at home, with the right support, would be even better."