ALCA New England's National Family Caregiver's Month Recognition
Joan Garbow, MSW, LCSW, CCM
Aging Life Care Advanced Professional TM
Geriatric & Disability Care Manager
Joan Garbow & Associates, LLC Serving Fairfield County, CTS
About Joan - My professional background comes from over 20 years as a clinical social worker and case manager in the healthcare field. I was a hospital case manager for many years, helping families cope with new or chronic illness, or physical or cognitive disabilities. I always enjoyed working with older adults, although the beginning of my career was focused more on children and families. I left hospital case management to start my practice as an Aging Life Care Manager, and have been working privately for 10 years, assisting families with eldercare challenges. I also have had the challenge within my own family, caring for an elderly relative with dementia. Through this experience I gained a deeper insight into the stress caregivers go through in a crisis and why a support system is so key, along with taking care of yourself.
What’s Rewarding about Aging Life Care - I tell families I work with that my approach to care management is to be a “proactive problem solver” with them. I find it very rewarding when I can be a catalyst for change in a situation where others have not been able or effective in fixing a problem. It’s very rewarding to not only help an elderly client improve their care or quality of life, but also to help families decrease their stress level and burden of care.
How I Help Caregivers - As an Aging Life Care Professional, I support and help family caregivers in their roles by adding the expertise, insight, and objectivity they need to solve the problems they are dealing with in managing the care of their elders. Sometimes part of the problem lies within the family dynamics which can be long-standing and challenging to solve. Aging Life Care Managers help support family caregivers, even when other family members are not in the picture. Identifying roles and responsibilities is key for families to be effective in working together.
Joan Harris, LSW, MBA, CMC
Aging Life Care Professional
Founder of Symphony Care Management
2017 Vice-President of Aging Life Care Association® New England
About Joan - I began working with an older population straight out of college when I was offered a job with a state-funded home care agency. I was fortunate, I found my home right then and there and have never looked back. Those first five years out in the field doing case work were the foundation for everything I have done over 33 years. I do not see my clients for their age, they are individuals with unique stories and experiences. My passion is to help them reach their goals, support them through difficult times, and work toward prevention of problems and crisis. My experience with my father’s illness and passing three years ago was very humbling. Being on the other side, the family side has made me a better Care Manager. I understand more on an emotional level the dynamics between family members when a parent or loved one is going through the end of life.
How I Help Caregivers - Our role is to listen and to provide access to the appropriate emotional supports for family members that enable them to function in their role as primary caregiver, especially if there is family conflict. Often we can mediate these dynamics by facilitating a family meeting that will focus on how we can reach the goals the client and family want. Building the “team” and providing our expertise and guidance will very often mitigate some of the issues that families face that are getting in the way of meeting the client’s needs. Additionally, if there are no local family members our communication with status reports and summaries of doctor’s appointments is vital. With today’s technology we can offer families who do not live near by tremendous piece of mind though our partnerships with them.
What’s Rewarding about Aging Life Care - There are many aspects of this profession that I find rewarding. When I come home from a full day out with clients and feel that its been particularly rewarding, it is because of the following reasons:
First, I’ve made a positive difference in someone’s life and/or their family’s life. We have sat down together, made a trusting connection and a positive working relationship. Once I listen to the story of their lives and their current concerns, and obtain all the pertinent information for a complete assessment I can translate it into education about options and a plan. I can offer guidance to implement that plan. Families and clients no longer feel as overwhelmed or scared. They are empowered to make good decisions and have the support they need to move forward. When families know they have a trusted partner who will guide them through a difficult time, they are relieved and more able to be there for their loved one as a family member, instead of “the bad guy” or the one who only has time to execute tasks. When clients have the appropriate supports, there is an opportunity for families to focus on their relationships.
Second, I personally love finding the right resources for challenging situations. It is a creative process of looking at the client holistically. As a Care Manager, every client’s circumstances and needs are unique with family dynamics, financial limitations, and location needs. Ultimately, seeing the client and family move to a “new normal,” a better quality of life, and peace and comfort is extremely rewarding. When a progression of a disease or circumstances do not allow for a positive outcome, I find it very meaningful to be on that journey with clients and families and support them in every way possible.