Challenges of Aging: Brain Health
by Felicia Juntunen, MA, CMC, ECM Director of Care Management
Our January article introduced the goal of this year’s series to address the challenges of aging within the scope of care management by an Aging Life Care Professional and their eight areas of knowledge. Dealing with changes in brain health and the subsequent impact on daily living is a core area of the care management practice. Individuals and their families who find themselves faced with complex issues associated with changing brain health reach out to Elder Care Management for guidance and support on a regular basis. We serve clients who are interested in maintaining brain health, those with mild cognitive impairment, and those in the early, mid, or late stages of dementia.
When we join a client in their aging journey, we provide ongoing assessments to monitor for changes in cognitive status and signals of changes in brain health. Care managers problem-solve with clients and families to address issues that arise and assist families in determining which issues are suitable to address and develop strategies to deal with challenges. Frequently, we find that the modification of the environment or introduction of suitable activity is key to dealing with challenges that can arise from dementia. Aging Life Care Professionals promote the benefit of mental stimulation, exercise, and good nutrition for brain health- for those living with or without the challenges of dementia.
The subject of brain health intersects with each of the eight knowledge areas (in italics) of Aging Life Care and examining each with an example helps explain how care managers regularly assist those living with dementia. In the area of Health and Disability, an Aging Life Care Professional understands the impact of brain health on a client’s overall health, can help manage and prepare for changes ahead, and educate clients and families about accessing available benefits. This guidance can help clients and families better prepare and make Financial resources last. A care manager understands levels of care and Housing options and provides insight about if or when to change care settings as dementia progresses and care needs change. A care manager helps a client’s Family cope with the challenge of dementia by providing education about communication and caregiving.
An important function of a care manager is connecting clients with other Local resources and organizations, for example, caregiver support groups, respite care, or life enrichment specialists. Aging Life Care Professionals continually employ Advocacy skills by maintaining familiarity with clients and promoting their well-being at each level of care and particularly in medical settings like a doctor’s office or hospital. A care manager educates clients about the importance of establishing Legal documents before or at the onset of a dementia diagnosis and guides families to resources when no documents are in place or before capacity is questioned. Finally, an Aging Life Care Professional provides compassionate Crisis Intervention and assists with navigating the health care system while promoting the integrity of the patient living with dementia.
Next month we will dive into another topic that relates to the health of your brain, mental health. Facing the challenge of finding “Engagement & Purpose” within your aging journey will help prevent feelings of isolation and depression. In the meantime, be sure to take a few minutes today and every day to care for your own brain health!