Geriatric Care Management [Interview]
Pull up a chair, get a cup of coffee or tea, and enjoy this warm conversation on geriatric care management services with Judy Siderer, Senior Care Manager and Geriatric Care Manager at Intervention Associates.
Listen to the podcast here.
Etta: Hi, this is Etta Dale Hornsteiner, and today I will be speaking with Judy Siderer who has been a care manager with Intervention Associates for over 25 years. She offers clients extensive experience working with diverse populations including geriatric, intellectually disabled, mental health, special needs, and traumatic brain injury. Judy’s clinical expertise, communication skills, insight and sensitivity make here uniquely qualified to manage the most challenging circumstances. Judy Siderer earned a Master of Social Work degree from Temple University and an undergraduate degree in Psychology. Judy, welcome.
Judy: Thank you so much for having me, Etta.
Etta: Well, Judy, I am so excited to hear about your work that you do. Tell us specifically what do you do? Because I know you work in various areas with various populations.
Judy: I’m Senior Care Manager at Intervention Associates. I’ve been with Intervention Associates for about 28 years now, almost from the beginning of its founding. I’ve worked with many various populations including special needs, traumatic brain injury, mental health, and geriatrics. And my main focus continues to be and always has been geriatrics. I have a special love for that population and I feel that it’s a very vulnerable group that really needs assistance on many, many different levels. That’s my main focus right now is with the geriatric population.
Etta: Why would a family or individual want to hire a geriatric care manager?
Judy: There are many, many different reasons why a family might want to hire a geriatric care manager. I think that today we have many, many working families or single parent families. A lot of people are in what they call the “sandwich generation” where they have aging parents and may have children of their own. We’re finding that a lot of people live far from their aging parents, so you’ve got a situation where they have to look out for their parents long distance, which is very difficult as people age. Sometimes people are just burned out by the needs and demands of their aging parents. I think people are also finding that our health system today is so fractured that it’s extremely difficult for people to navigate on their own.
For a lot of those reasons, with the bottom line being peace of mind, I think—for families, to know that there is somebody on the ground right nearby their parents, who can take care of the multitude of needs that the aging parent has including having these benefits, medical care, different kinds of connections to resources, and caregivers. As care managers, we always like to say we take care of everything from soup to nuts. There’s very, very little we can’t do to keep a person safe and secure with the highest quality of life as they go through the aging process.
Etta: Approximately how old are your clients? When you talk about geriatric age, what ages are we talking about?
Judy: Really, the geriatric population is kind of anything over 65. But it’s very interesting that you say that because we have had a number of people approach us in their 50s. Sometimes these people have no family or they don’t have any family nearby or they feel as if they don’t want to bother their family. They arrange a meeting with us to get to know us and for us to get to know them, so that as they head toward being seniors, they know that they have something in place and somebody in place that should they have need for care, for assistance in navigating the medical system, or for an advocate, they know that they can come to us. So it’s interesting that we’ve seen people start at a younger age than what might typically be considered geriatric.
Etta: That’s amazing. To me that’s pretty wise because isn’t that really about building relationships?
Judy: Yes. It’s a preventive, proactive step that is so wonderful for people to take. We just recently had a situation where somebody was going in for surgery and she just wanted to get to know us before and make sure that she had an advocate and someone who could shepherd her through the entire process.
We accompanied her to the pre-op testing and helped her navigate that. We helped her stay in touch with her family while she was having the surgery and updated her power of attorney. Actually, after she was ready to come home—leave the hospital, we helped her to choose a rehab to go to from the hospital. Then when she was ready to go home from the rehab, I drove her home from the rehab and we had a caregiver waiting at her apartment who we arranged to stay with her for a few weeks while she rehabbed. She couldn’t thank us enough for providing all that assistance, all that care, and all that peace of mind for her.
Etta: I know a little bit about your other sister partnerships that you have like for example with Friends Life Care.
Etta: Don’t they do something similar to that where you hire a care coordinator? Is that different?
Judy: That’s different. The Friends Life Care is the branch of our organization that offers long-term care at home for their clients. It’s a long-term care insurance.
Etta: Okay. So that’s a little different then?
Judy: It is. It is different. They offer care coordinators to help through that.
Etta: I see. Let’s get back on track with you then. So you’re this marvelous intervention person, the Wonder Woman, so to speak, that can do all these great stuff for someone who is at geriatric age and going through changes. What type of changes or limitations or why would someone of geriatric age need your help? Is it based on the family calling, asking for you to help out, or someone who is at the geriatric age wanting someone to be there for them? What is it?
Judy: I’d say mostly it’s families that are reaching out to us. Also, we do get a lot of referrals from attorneys and from trust officers who are working with clients who are finding out that the clients are having difficulty. By that I mean that as somebody ages, most people start having some health problems, some people start having cognitive decline and signs of dementia. Both of those tend to impact how the person is functioning and how the person is able to function at home.
Most people, when we meet them, do start out at home. Most people are beginning to have difficulties managing. They may have trouble remembering certain things. They may have trouble making meals for themselves. They may have trouble paying their bills. They may be confused about the multiple medications that they have to take. They may be missing appointments. Family may notice that they’re not taking care of themselves than the way they used to.
It’s interesting because there are so many families that are long distance, living far away from their loved ones that we find after holidays, after Thanksgiving and Christmas when families get together, we get numerous calls from families that spend a few days with their parents and begin to see the changes that are concerning to them and realize that their parents do need some kind of assistance. Most of the time, they really don’t know where to start or where to turn or what kind of assistance the parents need. A lot of times we’ll get the call right then, which is great, which is a perfect time to get the call and then we would come in and do a complete assessment of the situation.
Etta: That’s interesting that you said usually after holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas you would get the call.
Judy: A lot of times people will speak to their folks on the phone especially if they’re out of state. And it’s interesting because people can keep up a façade. You do see this a lot of the time that people can present themselves as still functioning very, very well. I think that’s a matter of pride for a lot of seniors and they don’t want people to know they’re having trouble. We see it a lot of the time that they don’t want their family, their kids to know that they’re having trouble so they’ll say, “Everything is fine, fine.” They’ll be speaking on the phone and you don’t pick up the cues that might tell you that there are some problems here. But when families come in and they spend time with the person, that’s when they really notice that mom and dad might be slipping in certain areas. I think the more proactive and preventive people can be, the better the outcome.
Etta: That’s certainly true. There’s nothing like face-to-face communication, so that is so true. Tell me, if someone wants to hire a geriatric care manager, what should they look for in an individual or an organization?
Judy: Because the population that we deal with is so vulnerable, I think it’s critical for people to look for an organization with a lot of experience, a stellar reputation. They need to check references. One thing about Intervention Associates is that it’s based on Quaker values. Our organization is a not-for-profit.
Etta: What are those Quaker values for those listening who may not be familiar with the Quakers?
Judy: Just a couple of the main values are community, peace, simplicity. These are values relating to others’ relationships are critically important and helping others is critically important. We’re an organization with a heart and I think that that’s what people need to look for as well. We really care about our clients and the people we come in contact with. We become surrogate family members with special expertise.
We value our long-standing relationships with families, with our clients. And I think that that’s what people need to look for. They need to look for an organization with a lot of depth that’s based on solid values. I think that something that we offer to people, we have an extremely experienced staff of care managers who work with us. They have wonderful experience. They have their people who have a heart. They really care about their clients. This is not just a job for them. They will go above and beyond, and I think that’s another hallmark. I can’t think of anything that we don’t do to keep our clients safe and ensure the highest quality of life for them.
We also have a lot of respect for our clients, and I think that something that’s critical. We see that a lot when you’re working with people with dementia. I think many people don’t treat them with respect. One of our hallmarks is that we treat everybody with respect and with dignity. I think that’s a critical piece of what someone needs to look for also in a geriatric care manager.
Etta: How can you as a geriatric care manager make a difference in the lives of families?
Judy: I think that for one thing, we give them peace of mind. I think that’s a critical piece. It’s interesting. I’m thinking of so many families that I’ve worked with over the years and when I think of the first phone call when they’re just finding out what care management is all about and what we might be able to do for them. Through the years they all say the same thing that they’re just so happy to have found us, to have found an organization that could take care of all the needs of their parents at the same time including them in the process and communicating with the families. That’s another important piece of what we do. We communicate constantly with the families to keep them involved. They’re part of the team. We’re all in this together to help their parents so they feel very much included and they’re up to date as to what is going on with their parent.
We do become like surrogate family members. I think that the clients feel that way and also the clients’ families feel that way. I think it offers them a lot of assurance and peace of mind to know that we have the expertise and the resources and the heart to take care of all the needs of their parents as they age.
Etta: I like that, the surrogate family.
Judy: Yes. We really feel that way. It’s hard to convey that this is very much about the relationships that we form with our clients and with the families. We select our care managers very carefully. Certainly they have all the education and degrees and training but we also look for people with a heart and a special something that helps them relate and care and respect the people that they work with.
Etta: Do you ever get a difficult parent or client who doesn’t want your service but the family does?
Judy: Yes. That happens very frequently. If you can imagine, most people are going about their business and aging at home and managing or thinking they’re managed, and then the children will say, “I want you to meet this person who’s going to help you, who’s going to bring in some help.” They don’t know what it’s about. They don’t understand why somebody needs to be brought in. They like their privacy. The list can go on and on of the obstacles. But it’s very interesting because we go in to the first meeting in a very, very non-threatening way.
Etta: Give me an example of how you would go in to the meeting in a non-threatening way.
Judy: A lot of it has to do with how we come in and relate to the client. We’re friendly; we’re warm; we’re sincere; we’re caring, and we’re focused on the client.
One thing that I learned way back in social work school was you start where the client is. What I’ll do during the first session is really talk to the client about their life and about their past and how they’re doing now and get a sense of who they are. In the meantime, they’re getting a little bit of a sense of who I am and I’m hopefully coming across as a person who is interested in them, who is caring of them, who is not coming in to make any drastic changes, or who is not going to upend their life. I’m somebody who is here in a more casual way to start building a relationship with them because I think that’s the key to being able to provide good service. I think people have to feel there’s a good relationship and trust. So that’s something that we work on building from the minute we step foot into the house.
And it’s sincere. I want to hear how the person feels and what they feel they need. Now, sometimes an elder person might verbalize, “Yeah, you know what, I don’t drive anymore and I could use somebody to help me drive.” That’s exactly where I would start with that person and that family. Even though the family might have a whole list of other things that they are concerned about and we would do our own assessment that come up with a list, I would certainly try to address what the client wanted initially because that’s another thing that helps build the relationship and it’s something that the client wants. I think we have to meet the needs of the client as they perceive them also – as long as they’re safe. As long as it’s something that’s reasonable and keeps them safe.
Etta: Okay. I’m going to do something that’s a little different here. I’ll give you a fun question. Let’s lighten it up a bit. If you had to be any animal, which one would you choose and why?
Judy: I think I would choose the family dog. I see them as loving, trusting, loyal, and protective. I think the family dog is non-judgmental. I kind of like that and I relate to that, and that’s something that carries over into my practice also leaving out judgments. This isn’t about judgment. If I have to pick one animal, I think that might be it.
Etta: Do you have a dog of your own?
Etta: Did you say no? No, you don’t? You don’t have a dog?
Judy: I don’t. Not yet. My husband and I constantly think about it, but so far no. We enjoy our neighbor’s dogs.
Etta: And I’m sure some of your clients have dogs.
Judy: Yes, they do. A nice side benefit. And they’re actually very helpful to the clients as well.
Etta: Yeah, I have a Golden Retriever.
Judy: Oh, I love Golden Retrievers. Oh my God.
Etta: Talk about loyalty. Like you said, non-judgmental, unconditional when it comes to love, yes.
Well, Judy, we’re going to end here. I want to thank you so much for sharing with us what you do there at Intervention Associates. You seem like such an easy person to talk to and such a great heart. I believe that you definitely transfer all of that into your work. So thank you once again, Judy.
Judy: Thank you so much, Etta.
Judy Siderer is a Senior Care Manager and Professional Care Manager. She has been a care manager with Intervention Associates for 28 years. She offers clients extensive experience working with diverse populations including geriatric, intellectually disabled, mental health, special needs and traumatic brain injury. Judy’s clinical expertise, communication skills, insight and sensitivity make her uniquely qualified to manage the most challenging circumstances. As Senior Care Manager, she also provides clinical training and supervision for new care managers. Judy Siderer earned a Masters of Social Work degree from Temple University and an undergraduate degree in psychology.