Aging Life Care™ Managers: Partners in Your Mental Health
By Susan Valoff, LCSW, C-ASWCM
Many people are familiar with the term “case manager,” but there is another term you should know: Aging Life Care™ Manager. An Aging Life Care Manager, or Aging Life Care Professional, is an individual with expertise in aging and disability that can help clients and families to live well with chronic conditions.
Many Aging Life Care Professionals are master’s level social workers, registered nurses, or other allied health professionals. Typically, they have had experience working in hospital, home health, hospice, adult day care, and/or mental health settings, and can aptly navigate the various systems affecting older and disabled adults, including the Social Security Administration; the Veteran’s Administration; and health and mental health systems. The eight core knowledge areas of Aging Life Care Managers are: health and disability; financial; housing; families; local resources; advocacy; legal and crisis intervention. Aging Life Care Professionals help clarify options, identify resources, and solve problems. Aging Life Care Managers are well-trained on the issues affecting older adults, but many ALCMs also work regularly with adults coping with chronic physical or emotional conditions. Formerly known as “geriatric care managers,” Aging Life Care Managers can help adults of all ages to live with dignity and as much independence as possible.
The Aging Life Care Association (ALCA) is the national, professional association for Aging Life Care Managers. The association offers continuing education and peer supervision, and encourages all members to obtain certification (there are four recognized certifications for Aging Life Care Professionals, including CMC, CCM, C-SWCM, and C-ASWCM). All ALCA members are required to adhere to a code of ethics and standards of practice. How do Aging Life Care Managers assist people with mental health concerns? Here are some examples of some clients who have been helped by Aging Life Care Professionals:
- A client in her early 70s whose psychiatrist prescribed six weeks of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatment for depression. The care manager and the caregiver she arranged provided transportation to appointments and care after the treatments. The care manager also oversees the care of the client’s husband with dementia. This has helped the adult children to keep their work schedules intact knowing their parents are being cared for.
- A 60-year-old client with an anxiety problem has been able to live independently with the help of an Aging Life Care Professional. The care manager created a plan of care involving a Home Care Aide who accompanies the client to appointments and assists him with following physician instructions. Regular updates and communication from the Aging Life Care Manager give the out-of-state family peace of mind, knowing there is support nearby for the client.
- The primary caregiver for her mother with Alzheimer’s dementia who, on the verge of “burn-out” trying to meet the needs of both her mother and her school-age child, wisely engaged the Aging Life Care Manager for an assessment and recommendations. This daughter is now implementing the suggestions of the care manager, including attending a regular support group, and other family members have rallied to provide assistance.
- A 42-year-old woman with bipolar disorder and substance misuse had out-of-state family who were concerned about her. She was on the verge of homelessness when the Aging Life Care Manager got involved. The care manager has facilitated her seeing a psychotherapist regularly and has helped the client use strategies to avoid drugs and alcohol. The care manager has also helped ensure that medications are used as prescribed and that health insurance payments are current. This client has been seeing her therapist weekly and her psychiatrist monthly, and now has a home to live in.
- A 62-year-old client with a diagnosis of schizophrenia is living with purpose and quality of life, even with increased and medical issues including diabetes and kidney failure. Her previous pattern off missing appointments with mental health care providers has been stabilized with care manager assistance and coordination with the client’s Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare. There are many ways in which an Aging Life Care Professional can enhance the lives of clients and their family members who are coping with mental health and physical health concerns. For more information on how to locate a care manager in your area, and a list of questions to ask when interviewing Aging Life Care Managers, visit the website of the Aging Life Care Association: www.aginglifecare.org.
Susan Valoff, LCSW, C-ASWCM is Vice President of Windward Life Care, a locally-owned company providing care management and in-home caregiving services to adults throughout San Diego County for the past 14 years. Susan is a member of the County of San Diego Aging & Independence Services Advisory Council, and is a certified Aging Life Care Manager and an active member of the Aging Life Care Association.
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Dear friends and colleagues, Thank you so much for attending the Help Therapist 25 yr celebration! It was a big success, looking forward to the future and expanding Help to other areas.
WELCOME Nancy Davies!
I’m happy to let you know that Nancy has accepted a position at HELP as Administrative Support for phones, as well as offering Provider Services such as 1) Answering your questions related to intake services,
2) Verifying insurance, and, providing Graphic Design and printing services.
Nancy has worked 30-plus years of experience in customer service and graphic design. We are convinced she will add another layer of success to our quality efforts at HELP.
Thank you for joining me in welcoming Nancy to the HELP Team!