Advocacy to Optimize Health Care
by Felicia Juntunen, CMC, ECM Director of Care Management
Dealing with the physical and mental health challenges that can accompany aging begins with understanding and maximizing available support systems. However, finding resources, making connections, and then utilizing those resources can seem daunting – especially when time and energy are diminished because of the stress of coping with difficult situations.
Elder Care Management care managers specialize in providing assistance and advocacy for clients to access the help they need to address both physical and mental health needs. Often, needs on either the physical or mental front can be met by a client’s primary care physician during a traditional office visit and evaluation. If necessary, referrals are made to specialists to further explore causes of concern or distress. One emerging trend in medicine is concierge care; providers who contract directly with patients and provide more direct access to care. Concierge physicians charge a membership fee that guarantees patients will be seen in a timely manner and they often spend more time with patients. Some concierge providers make house calls, a distinct advantage for those patients whose physical or cognitive disabilities make it difficult to leave their home or care setting. Virtual appointments have also become increasingly available option for accessing care, although the evaluation potential is limited during this kind of contact. For mental health needs that exceed the services of a primary care physician, support can include contact with a geriatric psychiatrist or therapist.
Whether care is accessed virtually or in person, care managers help optimize contact with any provider by helping clients prioritize their concerns, document changes in their health, and assemble a list of questions to address. In our care management practice, we regularly accompany clients to in-person medical appointments or assist with facilitating virtual appointments. We apply a holistic, client-centered approach to maximizing the independence and autonomy of our clients while advocating for their needs. A care manager can exchange information with a physician, providing increased insight into the challenges the client may be experiencing or factors that may influence treatment. We ensure priorities are addressed and record needed information for the client. We assist the client in following through with physician orders such as diagnostic tests and follow-up with family members, if appropriate. Health care providers often find that collaboration with a care manager increases their understanding of their patients’ needs and care goals. In the health care community, Elder Care Management works to develop relationships with providers who share our holistic approach to client care.
At Elder Care Management, our ultimate goal is to serve clients by helping them access appropriate care to optimize their health and quality of life.