Marion’s ‘Happily Ever After': How Geriatric Care Management Helps

Late one afternoon, social worker Jennifer Ronzio got word of a letter sent from one of the families she served. Carol, her supervisor, suggested Jennifer sit down before reading it.

“I am writing,” began the letter from Wayne, “to express the most sincere appreciation for the assistance our family has received from your agency. My mom, Marion, moved to Laclede Groves (a Webster Groves retirement community) on Oct. 20 and seems to be thriving in the environment there.”

But it was the next part that made Jennifer catch her breath. “The highlight of our family’s experience has been Jennifer Ronzio. She has shown a level of care, knowledge, and professionalism that must be recognized. Her energy and capabilities have helped our family turn an unbelievably stressful situation into a survivable one.”

Jennifer had been working with Wayne for some time, helping him arrange in-home health care and private duty visits for his mother. “Marion loved being at home,” Jennifer remembers, “but she needed 24/7 care.” Soon, she was assisting Marion as she moved into her new home at Laclede Groves.

“Oh, it’s just lovely here,” Marion says. “The staff are fun – they ALL are. I just love it here.”

Jennifer served Marion’s family as a Geriatric Care Manager  (GCM), a member of a relatively young career field that incorporates aspects of social work, detailed research, advocacy, and care management. The goal is to streamline seniors’ search for assistance, and to provide ongoing oversight to ensure all of the client’s needs are being met.

As Carol Melka, Jennifer’s supervisor at Lutheran Senior Services’ (LSS) Outreach Social Services agency, explained, “Geriatric Care Management means seniors and their families count on you to make recommendations regarding personal, medical, and financial decisions. Aging in America today is getting increasingly complicated; having someone on your side to help you navigate the in’s and out’s of all the different systems seniors face at any given time can be an enormous help.”

GCMs are especially useful for most anyone: families who live in a different area from their aging loved one, individuals who need to explore and link to local services, those who have a hard time understanding the complexities of available benefits like Medicare or Medicaid, or seniors without an existing support network of family members to assist them.

Starting with an assessment of needs (usually conducted in the home), a relationship with a GCM can involve the development of a comprehensive care plan, arranging housing options, coordinating appointments and transportation, and helping clients apply for various types of benefits. They also serve as a go-to resource for a client’s doctors, attorneys, trust officers, and financial planners to help carry out the family’s wishes.

That attention to detail made all the difference for Marion. Today, Jennifer Ronzio keeps a copy of Wayne’s letter on the wall of her office. It concludes, “The facilities and staff at Mom’s community offer our family a dramatically improved situation, support for her continued recovery, and peace of mind.”

Jennifer taps the glass on the framed letter approvingly. “And they all lived happily ever after,” she says.

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To learn more about Geriatric Care Management, contact Carol Melka and the rest of the LSS Outreach Social Services team at LSSOutreach.org

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