When you need somebody to lean on
by Gail Arno, CMC, ECM Director of Care Management
Even in the best of times, incomplete and under-developed family support systems with strained familial relationships and poorly developed communication skills can be extremely challenging and futile. As one is aging and in need of support from the many resources necessary for successful aging, gaps in these basic areas can often make the aging journey an even bigger struggle.
Our client, Susan, was a single parent of a son with whom she had a very unstable and co-dependent relationship. They had intermittent and often disconnected interactions with one another. As Susan aged, her needs, both physically and emotionally increased, while her son’s ability to support her needs remained limited due to a weak foundation from their lifelong relationship, poor communication skills, and limited acceptance of formal support systems that were being established. As Susan’s physical health failed, her son continually came in and out of her life. She pined for him and was often incapable of making a decision without first consulting him. This under-developed relationship often left Susan unable to move forward in her life, which resulted in additional medical issues and visible mental anguish. These ineffective relationship skills were a lifetime in the making and were so ingrained that making a profound change would have been formidable and improbable.
As Care Managers, it is our job to step in and offer tools and assistance amidst challenging family dynamics like Susan’s. We offer, orchestrate, and put into place formal support systems for the client so that delays, dysfunction, and the arrested development of family dynamics impact our clients as little as possible. We provide targeted, proven, and valuable resources to support our clients during our time with them. From formal mechanisms, such as legal support, to identifying decision-makers outside the family unit, to professional counseling options, to mediation, and beyond. It is our job to not only seek the physical or medical support often necessary during the aging of our clients but also to manage the emotional side of the aging journey. We address the whole person and take aim at honoring our clients and all of their needs, striving for a gentle aging journey. As a wise Care Manager often said to me, “we didn’t create these family dynamics and we likely aren’t going to change them, but we are obligated to support our client in every area that a need arises”. And so we aspire to be the very best Care Managers we can, using the tools and resources we have developed over the last decade of serving our community and clients.
*names have been changed to protect the client’s identity