Counseling 101

Senior couple receiving counseling

Know who to Call When You’re in Need.

The idea of downsizing can be overwhelming for some seniors and boomers. Just thinking about the process can cause anxiety and sometimes depression. Sorting, categorizing and compartmentalizing a lifetime worth of belongings is a challenging endeavor. While some find it physically draining, others may find it emotionally taxing as well.

It is why at all of our Upside of Downsizing conferences, we provide access to, and information about, the kinds of professionals who can help assist seniors and boomers through every step of the downsizing process. This includes mental health professionals and care managers who can help downsizers cope with the emotional side of things.

Whether support is in the form of therapy, medication or assistance navigating the many senior living options available when downsizing, it’s important to make sure you are seeking assistance from the right professional. Let’s discuss the kinds of professionals available and the specialties for each to help narrow down the right person for the job.

Senior Social Worker

Senior social workers have a very specific role: they protect the welfare of seniors and boomers age 65 and older, and assist this age demographic in finding solutions to a variety of challenges that accompany the aging process.

Among other things, senior social workers are able to help locate assistance programs for seniors and boomers and provide counseling services that can help during the transition from one space to another during the downsizing process. Explaining the importance of items such as living wills and other end-of-life issues also are specialties of the senior social worker.

Senior social workers also are able to intervene in situations where seniors may be living in an unsafe environment or are in situations where abuse and neglect are suspected.

In need of a senior social worker? The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) can assist. Visit the NASW website.

Geriatric Care Manager

Seniors and boomers who are in need of assistance and not sure which kind – or who have more than one need – can seek out the help of a professional geriatric care manager.

Professional geriatric care managers are trained in the fields of human services: social work, psychology, nursing and gerontology. They are trained to assess, plan, coordinate, monitor and provide services for seniors and boomers and their families. They can help seniors and boomers, and their adult children, determine whether it is feasible to “age in place,” or if it would be more financially responsible and safer for seniors to downsize to a senior living community or other assisted living environment. Geriatric care managers provide assistance for every step of the process and, in cases where seniors may need to move to a senior living community that offers continuing care options, make visits to the senior in their new environment to ensure it is meeting their client’s individual needs.

Some geriatric care managers charge an hourly rate for their services, while others may offer package deals or a la carte services to clients. Regardless of how your geriatric care manager charges for his services, it is imperative to check credentials before hiring. The Aging Life Care Association, formerly known as the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, can assist seniors and boomers in finding reputable geriatric care managers.

Psychologists and Psychiatrists

When it comes to psychologists and psychiatrists, there is not a great deal of difference between their educational backgrounds. Both must hold doctorate degrees in their fields; however, psychiatrists are considered medical doctors, and are therefore able to prescribe medication to patients. Unlike psychologists, though, they may or may not have the appropriate training that qualifies them to provide traditional counseling or therapy to patients. If it is determined that a patient would benefit from traditional therapy or services, a psychiatrist may refer the person to a psychologist.

A psychologist is a licensed and certified mental health practitioner who is trained to work in clinical, research or medical environments or with patients in need of therapy. They are the mental health professionals capable of testing for and diagnosing of mental illnesses and disorders. Seniors who have started out in therapy with a regular family counselor, or with a psychiatrist, may be referred to a psychologist if an underlying mental condition is suspected. A psychologist can diagnose conditions and determine which treatment methods are appropriate.

Psychologists and psychiatrists may work together on occasion, especially if a psychologist suspects that a patient they are treating may benefit from medication. If that occurs, the psychologist will refer his patient to a psychiatrist, who is able to determine which kind of medication may help and to write a prescription for it.

Regardless of which kind of professional you are seeking, it is important to select someone who is not only qualified and reputable, but someone with whom you are compatible. The success of therapy is highly dependent on the ability to build a relationship of trust with the provider.

Looking for more tips on how to select professionals to assist with the downsizing process? Consider attending one of our Upside of Downsizing conferences. The next conference is scheduled for April 22 in Tacoma, Wash. More information is available here.

Mary Spann

Mary Spann

Mary Spann is the founder and president of Upside of Downsizing®. In addition to her 26 years in construction, interior design, and home staging, Mary also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work, making her uniquely qualified to assist with the downsizing process. Mary learned the key components of construction and interior design at an early age. Her father was a prominent custom home builder in Minnesota and Texas, and her mother was a successful interior designer and a real estate broker.
Mary Spann
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