March 2, 2000
Vol. 19 No. 11

current issue
archive / search

    Eldercare referral service is one phone call away

    By Laurie B. Davis
    News Office

    While the Internet may be today’s hottest source people can access for information, the search for eldercare counseling and services is one phone call away for University employees, retirees and their family members.

    Part of the University Human Resources Management comprehensive benefits package, The Center for Eldercare Choices referral service offers answers to concerns about caring for an ill spouse, parent, grandparent or other older relative. The Center for Eldercare Choices is a private, not-for-profit organization specializing in eldercare concerns.

    When a University employee, retiree or one of their family members calls the center’s hot line, the caller will reach a counselor who is a licensed social worker trained in aging issues. The counselor will advise the client about his or her specific needs, research the available [eldercare sidebar]resources that will meet those needs and respond within two to three days with information and referrals. The service includes referrals and information for local or long-distance eldercare services.

    Mary Kay Buysse, a counselor and manager of the referral service, said when clients call the service, they can explain their specific situations and describe the services they are seeking. Or, said Buysse, counselors may suggest what services would best fulfill their needs. “We evaluate each case individually. Situations are as varied as the people requesting the services,” she said.

    (See accompanying list of concerns The Center for Eldercare Choices addresses.)

    Buysse said counselors respond to each client’s requests and requirements. “The average turnaround is two to three days, but we can turn it around in an afternoon if necessary.” If a client has a relative who is being released from a hospital, for instance, and that person needs to be immediately placed in a long-term care facility, an eldercare counselor will find a facility that can quickly accept a new patient.

    Working with a large database that is constantly updated, counselors are able to directly connect clients with contacts at health-care agencies and facilities. “We give them the actual contact person at a facility,” said Buysse.

    Whereas an Internet search may produce only a listing, Buysse stressed that the service and its database provide more than the names of agencies and facilities from which to choose, and clients can rely on counselors to research services for them. For example, counselors will check placement availability if locating a nursing home is the client’s need. Another example might be a client who needs someone to check on a parent to make sure he or she is regularly taking medication. A home-health service may be the answer to that situation, and the counselor will locate an agency that provides short-term care without service-hour minimums.

    Buysse also said counselors provide three to five referrals per service request, so clients may compare costs and weigh the feasibility of each option.

    She said the database stores information on quality agencies, many of which are accredited by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. Buysse said JCAHO accreditation is not easily earned. The joint commission evaluates and accredits more than 19,500 health-care organizations in the United States, including hospitals, health-care networks, managed-care organizations and agencies that provide home, long-term, behavioral-health, laboratory and ambulatory care.

    The referral service also handles complaints about facilities or agencies to which clients were referred. Counselors update the database by recording client complaints and any serious violations for which a facility may have been cited. Any facility with serious violations is removed from the database, said Buysse. “There is a qualitative judgment to our database.”

    When University employees are unable to look for quality eldercare services because they are balancing work life with family life, or if University retirees need assistance choosing the right eldercare services, they may take advantage of this free referral service offered through UHRM benefits. Clients are responsible for payment of the services they elect to use.

    Eldercare counselors may be reached at the hot line number, (630) 789-8585, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Special time needs and emergencies also can be accommodated.