WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AN AGING LIFE CARE PROFESSIONAL®?
By Spencer Brown, CMC, LNFA, MSG
My introduction to the field of aging was shaped heavily by having close relationships with all four of my grandparents and seeing my parents in a caregiving role. As a college freshman in the town where one set of grandparents lived, I spent even more time with them. In the first three months of collegiate life, my grandfather had a significant stroke and my grandmother called me to report a change and asked me to come to the house. Over the next five months as a “boots on the ground” resource until my grandfather’s death I spent a lot of time assisting in simple ways while my mom and uncle dealt with the challenges of long-distance caregiving.
One day while on the phone with my parents and I were talking and my dad said, “Your mother and I have picked a career for you.” While I always appreciate my parents’ perspective I paused with a bit of skepticism. My reply was terse when I asked “what?” Then my dad said gerontology to which I replied “What’s that?” After some explanation my dad said he and my mother had observed in their regular trips to Texas how I interfaced with my grandparents and that they saw in me a demeanor that seemed to lend itself to work with older adults.
While not sure what to make of the career path guidance, I began exploring the field of aging. First I volunteered at an adult care center after my first year of college. Then other opportunities came up such as participation in the college ministry to a nursing home where I played the piano most weeks. Along the way I took an introduction to gerontology course where I met my lead professional in the graduate program I would enroll in later. I also met an executive director/administrator of a senior living community via a connection through my dad’s civic involvement. It was meeting someone who knew about the residents, their stories and seemed to care about the well-being of older adults where I first said, “I want to do that.”
The rest, I tell people, is history. As I completed a Master’s degree in gerontology, I concurrently became a licensed nursing facility administrator in Texas. My full-time career began managing nursing homes and evolved to opportunities managing assisted living and independent living communities. What engaged me for many years was being of service to residents and their families who were often stressed about the challenges in aging. As an executive in various settings, my ability to help these families navigate issues was often limited. Knowing I was in a burnout profession I told myself early on that I would keep doing what I was doing as long as I didn’t see any other service opportunity. Then one day I couldn’t say definitely I wanted to remain on this path and contemplated leaving the field of aging altogether.
My experience with the field of Aging Life Care™ was very limited but I interacted with some care managers who were assisting residents in communities that I managed. When I was part of a company reorganization where my position was being restructured I told a professional whom I respect that I was considering an opportunity in geriatric care management. This person then told me Accountable Aging Care Management® was hiring in their San Antonio market. Within one month I was working as an Aging Life Care Professional®.
During my years as a care manager, three key aspects of this work have motivated me.
Humility – Given all of the issues in aging I realize that it is humbling for our team to partner with families who are in the middle of very complex and emotional issues with their loved ones. The opportunity to be right with families at pivotal moments is an honor. Walking alongside them, providing coaching, coordination and management support is not something to take lightly.
Learning – One of the traits discovered about myself is a desire to learn. Working in Aging Life Care allows me to learn every day. More than any other position in my career, the continuous learning process has never been more evident than now. Not all client situations are the same and I thrive off discovering appropriate resources for clients and helping a plan of care work efficiently.
Variety – When I entered the profession I thought that all I would be doing was work with older adults. Quickly I learned that there are all kinds of adult aging issues where a care manager can make difference. Working simultaneously with two almost 18-year old clients with an array of issues and needs early on my career changed my thought process completely about who is a typical client. When ALCA rebranded the profession, I was so grateful because Aging Life Care in my client work has really meant any adult aging issue regardless of chronological age.
I view myself as an ambassador to help promote the profession so that others will understand that there are organizations across the country to help family caregivers who find themselves in a new role of coordinating care and navigating the maze of options. We have much to be done but as a larger profession Accountable Aging Care Management and many companies across the nation have a rich opportunity to partner and serve many.
Spencer Brown, CMC, LNFA, MSG, is a care manager at Accountable Aging Care Management in San Antonio, TX. He was named as the Aging Life Care Association South Central Chapter 2017 Member of the Year.
This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.