While exploring caregiving options for loved ones, you may hear of healthcare professionals called ‘Care Managers’. It’s no surprise if you’re unfamiliar with the profession, as the concept is relatively new to our local healthcare scene.
In the US, the profession is termed as Geriatric Care Managers as they specialise in elder care issues. They are trained to help family caregivers by discerning an elderly patient’s needs and aligning them with resources – such as healthcare providers and government funding – to implement a care plan addressing those needs. Due to their integral role in the care delivery process, Geriatric Care Managers need to be certified by institutional bodies.
In Malaysia, the term is used more loosely as there are no such certifications by institutional bodies. In an interview with the team behind Managedcare Sdn Bhd – a one stop platform for healthcare services – we discuss what defines a Care Manager and their scope of duties in our local setting.
“Our concept is similar, but we don’t limit it to geriatrics and the elderly. For us, a Care Manager can act as support for anyone that needs help navigating through the healthcare process and care management” said Melinda U, General Manager of Managedcare Sdn Bhd.
How Do Care Managers Help?
A Care Manager is the custodian of their client’s – be it the patient or family caregiver – healthcare journey. They lead their clients through the healthcare process, advising them on the best options to take for care and executing their client’s decision. To give a clear picture, we outlined below the typical duties performed by Care Managers for their clients:
1. Assess The Condition
Once an enquiry is made and a set appointment date is accepted, a Care Manager will visit the patient to conduct an assessment of their condition.
During the assessment, the Care Manager would evaluate the patient’s physical, mental, emotional, social and financial aspects. A head-to-toe assessment is conducted for the physical portion, which entails checking the patient for physical abnormalities such as non-symmetrical facial features (indicative of stroke), skin integrity for infections, as well as their physical strength, vital signs and medication.
The Care Manager would also take note of the patient’s emotional and mental state, in addition to their social surroundings such as their hobbies, relationships with family and prior lifestyle. A home environment assessment is also done to determine hazards such as areas that are prone to falls or furniture placements that impede mobility pathways.
The Care Manager would also ascertain the patient’s source of funds for their care in order to determine priority care services and help the primary caregiver avoid making unnecessary expenses. For example, a client’s mother may only require caregiving aid in daily living activities for 4 hours in the morning when no one is around, instead of 8 hours.
These assessments are done with the purpose of developing a holistic care plan and to mitigate disruption in the flow of care.
2. Develop A Care Plan
After the assessment is completed, the Care Manager develops a personalised care plan for the patient by identifying the care services needed to address the patient’s quality of life. Bear in mind, Care Managers from differing healthcare providers may have different approaches to developing care plans.
For Managedcare’s Care Managers, the guiding principle in developing a care plan to raise the quality of the patient’s care journey is based on the healthy ageing concept – whereby, patients work together with healthcare providers to restore their independence and previous lifestyle as much as possible.
Based on this principle, the patient’s level of independence is taken into consideration. The Care Manager – after vetting through a list of credible healthcare providers – incorporates services with the expressed purpose of addressing the patient’s dependent aspects, while encouraging the independent aspects.
The care plan is then discussed with the primary caregiver for a decision to be made and for the patient’s health goal to be set.
3. Supervise The Care
If the care plan is accepted, the Care Manager begins supervising the patient’s care by coordinating the recommended services – such as physiotherapists, dietitians or speech therapists – into a cohesive team to implement the care plan.
At this stage of the care delivery process, it is the Care Manager’s duty to ensure the patient’s continuity of care in order to maintain the upkeep of the patient’s health holistically.
4. Conduct Evaluations & Follow Up
Care Managers would receive monthly reports from the respective service provider working on the patient’s case on a weekly basis, barring an unexpected deterioration in the patient’s condition.
The Care Manager then compiles the reports and walks the primary caregiver through them to ensure they understand the situation. If the patient shows improvement, the evaluation begins anew.
Are They Should Haves Or Must Haves?
The thought of hiring a Care Manager may sound extravagant, especially if you’re a ‘sandwich generation’ caregiver – i.e. you’re caring for your children, as well as ageing parents – and you need to stretch whatever your modest savings.
However, a Care Manager would likely have a real impact on the choices you make and improve the quality of the care journey for the care recipient, yourself and that of your family. Even if it is within your ability to personally manage your loved one’s care, it can be helpful to engage a Care Manager for just a few hours – the initial assessment, for example.
Depending on your circumstances, a Care Manager’s services may or may not be for you. If not, there are other alternatives to receive advise from, such as other caregivers and support groups that provide free assistance.
However, there is no substitute that can equal the breadth and depth of advice from a professional who knows your family well and is able to customise their recommendations for your specific situation.
First Published: Smart Investor, February 2018
Written By: Aged Care Group