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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Care Management & Guardianship Business Seminar

When I started Bridge Builders, Ltd. over eight years ago I had no idea it would turn out to be such an adventure. I started with a business partner and we thought we had the tiger-by-the-tail. We believed everything we were told [actually by others who had no experience in this type of business] that all we had to do was hang out a "shingle" and we would have more business than we knew what to do with. NOT! Did we do any due diligence? No. We were starry-eyed and optimistic. I think that I can comfortably say that we made just about every mistake that could be made when starting and building this type of business. Some "mistakes" weren't really mistakes, we had to try ideas to see if they would work. Some did and some didn't. The partnership didn't last, which was traumatic. With hard work and a lot of determination I turned my business into a well-respected business, not only locally but statewide.
Recently, I was nominated for the Washington State Small Business Person of the Year Award for 2011 and was one of twenty-six finalists. Most of the other businesses were far larger and more established than my tiny business. I feel just a bit smug "rubbing elbows" with these "big leaguers."
I want to share what I've learned with others who want to start or who are struggling with similar Care Management and/or Guardianship businesses. I hope to help others avoid some of the pitfalls that I experienced. The industry of Care Management is really a very new concept and often misunderstood. A guardian is really just a "glorified" care manager as the only difference is that the guardian has decision-making ability [and a lot more paperwork!]. Lately, the media wants to make guardians villians and I'm afraid that care managers might come under fire as well. We all need to have high ethical standards in our business practices and stand up for our industry when it comes under attack by media who are only looking for articles that shock. In order to do this we care managers and guardians need to develop a close network with each other. I literally get calls from all over the country from people who have heard of Bridge Builders, Ltd and want to know if there is something similar where they live. It makes me and my referral look good if I can say "yes" and the care manager or guardian that I refer them to does a great job.
To this end I am sponsoring a seminar about this topic in August 2011. It is open to all who are interested and will provide difficult-to-find forms and "secrets" that the agencies we deal with don't volunteer and examples of how to fill out the forms; where to find the "go-to" people in your area; example business forms and where to find free business forms... and more!
Date: Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Place: Kitsap Conference Center, Bremerton, WA
Time: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Cost: $250.00 (Breakfast and Lunch included)
***Early Bird Special of $225.00 of paid by June 30, 2011***
If you would like a brochure, please email and put "Business Seminar" in the subject line. You may also call us at (360) 683-8334.
This seminar has been approved for continuing education credits for Certified Professional Guardians in Washington State and I am happy to provide whatever documentation is needed for other professional organizations.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Care Manager vs. Caregiver

I am frequently asked if my agency is a caregiving agency. I explain that we do Care Management, not Caregiving. However, we work closely with caregivers to ensure our clients receive appropriate care. Both a Care Manager AND Caregivers are important in providing ongoing care AND planning for future needs.

Caregivers are "in the trenches" and take care of the day-to-day needs of clients. Good caregivers are worth their weight in gold and don't be paid nearly enough for the work that they do. They will clean house, plan and cook meals, remind clients to take medications, run errands, buy groceries, do laundry, assist clients with shower and toileting, and deal with any number of other issues and crop up.

A Care Manager, depending on their specialty, can plan for the future. He/she can assist with getting long-term care insurance activited (some need close to an act of congress to get though the confusing web of documentation), assess the financial situation of the client and plan for the future such as applying for veteran's benefits, Medicaid or other assistance clients may need and knows what other resources are available within the community. A good Care Manager will advocate for the client's care preferences even though what the client's wishes may not seem to be in their own best interests. A good Care Manager knows their clients and can educate the Caregivers on the best way to get around resistance or behavioral problems. A good Care Manager knows what questions to ask medical personnel and/or the client in order to optimalize medical care. A good Care Manage can coordinate care given by caregivers, family and friends in order to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

Even if you don't need the on-going services of a Care Manager, an periodic consultation can be invaluable to find out if you, as family or friend, are missing something.

To find a Care Manager in your area look up

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Recognizing Dementia Behaviors 1

The behaviors that are exhibited by someone with Dementia can be very confusing to family and friends. I'm going to tell several stories that demonstrate some of these behaviors with suggestions of how to manage them. I've changed the names and some features to help keep anonymity.

Adjusting to Living Away from a Spouse
After caring for his wife of 60 years for as long as he could, Joe had to finally put his wife, Cloe, into a residential facility. He never dreamed he would have to do this but his own health was declining and he just couldn't take care of her anymore. He felt incredibly guilty to "have to do this to her." On top of his guilt he had to contend with Cloe begging him to take her home every time he visited. She would vacillate between tearfulness to anger. Poor Joe was devastated. When I was at the facility I would make a point of finding her to see how she was adjusting when Joe wasn't there. She would be visiting with a caregiver, reading or just contentedly watching other activities. I made a point of explaining to Joe about "associative memory" and would tell him how I found Cloe behaving so that he didn't think she was pining away for him all of the time. Joe finally made the decision that he could no longer visit because Cloe's behavior was too upsetting for him.

Why does this happen? Memories often become spotty as dementia progresses but I have found that "associative memory" sometimes lasts a long time. Something the person with dementia sees triggers a particular memory and they react to it. The reaction has no reality to it and when the memory trigger goes away, typically the person will quickly calm down again. The memory trigger will often lessen and go away over time but it can take months. Here is a story that is a more amusing example of this:

A client of mine, Mary, was a smoker who lived in assisted living. Usually, as some point during my visits she would ask me to walk outside with her so that she could have a smoke, which I would do. This went on for several years. Then Mary's dementia got to the point that I knew I needed to move her to a dementia facility but I had a problem. She smoked. No dementia facility would take a smoker. While I understood the inherent liability issue, it was a real dilemma for me. Then, Mary got very sick. So sick that she ended up spending several days in the hospital. Low and behold she forgot that she smoked! I quickly got her moved into the dementia facility and told the staff that if she brought up smoking they should say something like, "I though you gave up smoking years ago." For months, every time I visited Mary she would at some point tell me that she was dying for a cigarette. I would say something about her giving up smoking and was able to redirect her to other topics. I talked to the staff who said that she never brought it up around any of them. I was that memory trigger. It look a good nine months for that memory to fade away.

When a Spouse dies.
I was contacted by a family who's grandfather had recently died. Visiting grandma was perplexing to the family because grandma would talk as though grandpa was still alive. When they would remind grandma that her husband had died, grandma would experience grief as though she had heard it the first time. The family didn't know how to best handle this situation.

When a person has dementia with memory problems, short-term memory is the first to go. Severe short-term memory can mean that hearing sometime distressing is just like hearing it the first time, each time. The best way to address this is to avoid reminding the person, in this case grandma, that grandpa has died. If grandma brings up the fact that grandpa isn't there have a simple explanation ready such as he went to the store and then redirect the conversation to something else. This may take some trial-and-error to find what works but it's far more compassionate than making your loved one experience the shock over and over.