Sandi Kistner is the owner of Aging Care Management, a privately owned service that can professionally evaluate and provide quality assistance to older adults in Peoria and the surrounding counties. She is a social worker who has dedicated her professional life to enriching the lives of older adults.
What prompted you to begin your company, AgingCare Management?
I have worked in the long-term care industry since graduating from Monmouth College. After I got my master’s in social work from the University of Illinois, I was a social worker at a local nursing home for 20 years. As part of my position, I listened to the frustration and saw the exhaustion of spouses, children and friends trying to care for an aged person. Their challenges seemed never-ending. The healthcare system is overwhelming—with a language of its own—and I felt I knew both of these very well. I had been hearing about and doing some reading on geriatric care management. Then, like many others, my mother began having mood and cognitive issues. Despite knowing the system and the language of the industry, it was difficult and time-consuming to get my mom the help she needed. The benefits of a geriatric care manager became very clear.
Who is a typical client?
The client is always the person who is actually going to use my services—generally an elderly individual or couple. The client may not have been the person who made the inquiry. Typically a spouse of a family member contacts me. This individual has seen a need, has become overwhelmed or is in crisis, and calls to ask about AgingCare Management and/or make a referral. While the client is the service recipient, my services benefit all who are involved with the client.
What types of services do you provide?
Services provided by AgingCare Management are dictated by a client’s needs, which are determined through an interview and assessment. Once this is completed, recommendations are provided, which may conclude our service. However, continuation of services could include: referral to needed resources, resource coordination, oversight of an individual/ couple continuing to live at home, check-in visits, education, advocacy, support, accompaniment to a doctor or crisis intervention. The goal is for the client to receive the best service available at the lowest cost.
What are the most critical issues facing elderly people, outside of their health?
There are so many issues that it is difficult to pick the most critical. Finances are always a concern, but not necessarily the most critical. I am a social worker, so the critical issue to me is the value and worth of an individual. The pace of our world is not consistent with individuals’ needs. Communication and taking time to hear and understand is becoming a lost commodity. Concerns I see far too often include ageism, transportation, social isolation, diminished self-worth and lack of safety/vulnerability.
Do you provide counseling to clients or their caregivers?
I am not a clinical social worker, so I do not provide counseling. If it is determined that clinical services are needed, I educate clients and their families on available resources. This type of assessment/referral is no different than recommending they see a doctor. Having said that, I do a lot of listening and corresponding education of both the client and their spouse/family/support network. I try to enhance communication in an effort to minimize everyone’s frustration. There is an enormous, ever-changing, learning curve in caring for an aging individual.
How can busy professionals begin communicating with their parents regarding potential physical and social needs as they age?
The simplest answer for busy professionals is to listen for an opportunity, and then ask their parent(s) if they can be involved in some way. Ask what their parents are thinking and how they are feeling about their changing lives. The mistake that I see made repeatedly is telling our parents what they need. That rarely goes over well—we will always be children to our parents. Consider asking them to tell you. Seek their guidance on what they want their future to look like. Listen. Let them know that it is important to you as their child. If it does not work the first time, try later. If you start before a crisis, there are a variety of resources available, including printed materials, television programs that generate conversation, videos/DVDs and public programs regarding aging parents. The time involved in utilizing these resources varies, but the benefits can be significant. A professional geriatric care manager can also be beneficial in this area. iBi