Who Can Help During A Health Crisis?

Professionals are available to help families through a senior health crisis 

There are a number of professionals who can help during a health event.  Geriatricians, Case Managers, Chaplains, Geriatric Care Managers, and hospice professionals are trained to assist an older adult during a health crisis.  Geriatric Nurse Practitioners are also available to help and often assist with geriatrician practices.


Geriatricians specialize in older adults and the aging process.  These medical professionals are in tune with the changes in the older adult that can affect medications administered.  Geriatricians work toward prevention and preservation of the condition of older adults but are also aware that aging cannot be cured unlike typical medical professionals who ascribe to the “medical model” of trying to cure.  Geriatricians will perform cognitive assessments and look for signs of dementia so that they can prescribe medications to prolong the functioning of the older adult.  They will monitor the gait of the patient so that physical therapy can be prescribed to keep the older adult mobile.  Geriatricians tend to be more attentive to older adults because they genuinely like older adults and chose to work with them in this profession.

Case Managers are normally social workers who assist the older adult patient in a facility such as a hospital, rehabilitation center or residential facility.  Their job is to facilitate all of the patients needs while in the facility.  This may include monitoring insurance benefits, arranging  therapy, chaplain services and discharge planning after the patient leaves the facility.  Their responsibility stops once the patient leaves the facility.

Chaplains are available in residential care facilities and in hospitals to assist families and patients in dealing with illness and the repercussions of illness.  They also work with death and dying issues.  They can be an invaluable support to the patient and family.  Often the patient will open up to the chaplain when they cannot talk to family members about their feelings and desires.

Geriatric Care Managers can be nurses, social workers, physical and occupational therapists and gerontologists.  Select someone with the background that is matched to the needs of the older adult.  Geriatric Care Managers will assess the physical, cognitive, psychosocial, legal and financial condition of the older adult and develop a Care Plan to address the unmet needs of the person.  They are available to accompany older adults to medical appointments and monitor for changing condition.  Because they are the advocate for the older adult, they can often speak on behalf of the older adult with family members who are pushing for a specific course of action that may not reflect the desires of the older adult.  They will also offer alternatives and explain the normal outcome of certain decisions or courses of action.

Hospice professionals are invaluable in supporting the patient and family with end-of-life issues.  They offer comfort measures for the patient so that the highest quality of life can be attained at this time.  They offer counseling for family and patient regarding death and dying.  In addition, they offer continued support to the family after the death occurs.  Hospice takes place in the facility or at home.  The hospice nurse will treat the patient when a minor physical ailment occurs but no extreme measures are taken to keep the patient alive.

In summary, geriatric professionals can make a significant difference in helping family caregivers get through difficult times.  Their experience and knowledge can offer caregivers the alternatives and likely consequences of actions.  Geriatricians are specifically trained to work with older adults.  Case managers will guide care and discharge plans in a facility or hospital.  Geriatric Care Managers advocate for the individual.  Chaplains and hospice professionals help both family members and the patient deal with end of life issues.  Knowing how to work with these professionals will ensure your loved one’s care will be the best it can be.

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