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May marks Aging Life Care Month, yet very few people know the responsibilities and benefits of an Aging Life Care Professional or Expert. Aging Life Care Experts, formerly known as "Geriatric Care Managers," have been around for 30 years serving the aging population as well as those of all ages needing navigation through the health care system.

If you were to ask a class of students (average age 20) "What age do you think is aging?" (as I did) you would get a range of answers. Actually, the range was 50 years to 80-plus years, with the exception of one astute student who answered, "We are all aging from the time we are born!" The point being that aging encompasses all ages.

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The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers recently re-branded and is now known as The Aging Life Care Association (ALCA). This recent change was brought about due to the lack of consumer knowledge about what a geriatric care manager is and what one does and overuse of the term. Many have not heard of geriatric care managers, while others have heard the term overused in many different venues, most recently in the Obamacare language. Confusion about initials behind names and credentialing in the world of aging has prompted the profession to clarify and set itself apart from those who may misrepresent themselves as experts in the care of the aging. The ALCA website contains information about Care Managers known now as "Aging Life Care Professionals or Experts."

So what is an Aging Life Care Expert/ Geriatric Care Manager and what do we do? An Aging Life Care Expert works with clients who may have health problems whether they be physical, mental health or cognitive in nature — guiding and advocating for them. Most often family members are involved and the care manager/Aging Life care Professional develops a relationship as a source of support for those caring for a loved one.

An Aging Life Care Professional is educated and experienced in the field of aging life care/care management and usually has a background in nursing, social work. psychology, or gerontology with a special focus on issues related to elder care or aging. The profession requires members to meet stringent requirements for education, certification and experience. Professionals must adhere to a code of ethics and a strict standard of practice.

Professionals strive to assist clients to attain their highest level of functioning in the least restrictive environment. The client's independence is encouraged while focusing on safety and security. An Aging Life Care Expert has extensive knowledge of community resources and costs as well as how to navigate through the health-care system. We assist clients in a wide variety of areas such as: housing, home care services, medical management, communication with family and other professionals, social activities to engage the client in social interaction and stimulation, legal, financial, entitlements, safety and security.

How does Aging Life Care management work and how do you know if you need services? If you or your loved one is experiencing health issues that are becoming difficult to navigate and most importantly overwhelming and emotionally draining, then it may be advisable to seek help and guidance. An Aging Life Care Expert will usually come to the client in their environment to perform an assessment and create a plan of care, which involves and encourages the clients' goals and wishes to be heard. Care managers coordinate, plan, educate, provide advocacy and support the client and their caregivers and loved ones. The ultimate goal is to encourage the highest quality of life for the client and instill peace of mind for the client and their loved ones.

Thank you to the Aging Life Care Association for permission for us to share this information. You may learn more about Aging Life Care at http://www.aginglifecare.org.

Jill Rosner is a registered nurse, certified geriatric care manager and owner of Rosner Healthcare Navigation. She provides patient advocacy and care management services to clients with health and aging issues. Contact her at JillRosnerRN@aol.com.

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