Editor’s note: Age Wise Care Management is a sponsor of Chambanamoms.
Father’s Day is a fun, lighthearted, familial opportunity to show your love for one of the most important people in your life. And it can also be an opportunity to express that love in a crucial, more serious, way: By having family conversations about caring for a parent.
It has the potential to be a delicate topic, and a tricky conversation.
“When it comes to our children, we love to talk about their growth, but when it comes to our parents, it can be tough to talk about their eventual decline,” said Melissa Cronin, owner of Age Wise Care Management in Savoy. “Find a relaxed moment when you have plenty of time to talk, and then speak gently and from the heart. Get your siblings or other family members on board, and make sure you’re respecting your own boundaries and limitations while also listening with empathy to your parents’ wishes.”
Care managers such as Cronin are professionals who advise and guide families in both long-term and short-term care planning. Much like attorneys guide clients through legal issues and accountants handle tax questions, care managers help families caring for older adults or other family members facing ongoing health challenges.
Cronin started Age Wise Care Management Inc. based on her own personal experiences navigating the elder care system. As a daughter and granddaughter of patients in life transition, Cronin discovered firsthand the logistical and emotional challenges that arise.
Coordinating services while attempting to manage her family life revealed the need for professionals who bridge the gap where traditional services do not extend.
“As a direct family member, we don’t have the objectivity as well as the knowledge of all of the resources,” Cronin said. “When you’re in the midst of the crisis, it’s good to have somebody who is not affiliated with one particular option and can give you an array of possibilities.
“We frequently lead family meetings like these – bringing our wisdom and knowledge to the table while helping to guide a gentle and compassionate conversation.”
Age Wise provides professional care management services to families caring for an aging loved one or a family member with a disability. It serves most of central Illinois, and has clients across the life span. “Our youngest client is around 14 and our oldest is 102,” she said.
Cronin’s role is to turn the complex into the simple, and she has the education and experience to do it. She has a bachelor’s degree in social work, a master’s in rehab counseling, is a licensed clinical professional counselor and a certified rehab counselor, and since 2006 has been a certified case manager. “All of our staff has a background in human development, counseling, nursing, and/or social work,” she said.
While Age Wise “makes no decisions based on somebody’s care on our own,” Cronin is often the first point of contact when situations or changes arrive. Age Wise maintains professional relationships with local hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted care facilities.
“Part of our role is to help oversee different parts of care and to help coordinate any changes that need to occur or review,” she said. “Typically, with a lot of our clients, we’re the first person called.”
There is one thing they are not.
“We do not provide direct care. We are not caregivers,” she said. “We are option providers looking at the whole picture, whether it’s trying to take all the pieces — medical, financial, spiritual — and give a variety of possibilities. We help navigate and advocate and counsel.”
Cronin stressed that Age Wise’s approach is highly individualized and tailored to the needs of each patient and family.
“We are solely here for the client and their family. That is our job,” she said. “We’re always about a dialogue and how do we help Mrs. Jones, or how do we help 12-year-old Tommy? We all have to work together.”