Monday, August 3, 2009

What’s in a Name?

The main reason I got my graduate certificate in geriatric care management (2008) was to bring my skills up to date as I shifted from hands-on caregiving to consulting. So much of the suffering I’ve seen in my work could have been prevented with better information and prior planning.

For example, I work with an elderly woman who was diagnosed some years ago with myasthenia gravis, a degenerative neurological disease that can result in difficulties with swallowing and increased weakness in the arms and hands. Simple daily tasks like feeding and dressing oneself become impossible. As she begins to experience these disabilities it is obvious that none of her healthcare practitioners have discussed this condition with her. After the initial diagnosis the subject was dropped. Instead her various health care practitioners tell her how great she looks and that she will get to be 100. Now, at 94 and living alone, she is experiencing all those symptoms. She is caught by surprise. There is no plan. It’s crisis time.

Initially I called myself a geriatric care manager. This didn’t feel right. I don’t want to manage anyone and most adults don’t want to be managed. Then I tried geriatric care consultant which is a better description. Also people of my generation are used to working with consultants. However feedback from friends and colleagues was that most people hate the term geriatric.

A good friend asked me point blank “what was I trying to accomplish in my work with clients and their families?” My answer? Aging well! Working with individuals and their networks to design a style of life uniquely tailored to his/her specific circumstances. Key words: collaboration---coaching---confronting---creating.

Now---how do I put that on a business card?