“YOU NEED TO FIND A CASE MANAGER”, says the nurse, social worker or discharge planner. As reality begins to “hit you between the eyes” following the brain injury of a loved one, many terms will be “thrown at you” and often you, the survivor are so overwhelmed that even the decision of when to take your next breath, seems difficult. For the next few months, I will attempt to assist you in understanding some of various words and phrases you will hear through this sometimes difficult journey.
Let’s start with the term CASE MANAGER:
A case manager is a health care professional, typically a nurse, rehab counselor or a social worker whose job is to manage your loved ones health care services and advocate (be the voice of) their client, your loved one. Their goals for their clients include but are not limited to:
1. Help their clients enjoy the highest quality of life possible
2. Maximize the use of available benefits, resources and services
3. Assist them to live as independently as possible and smoothly help to integrate them back into the community when able
Case managers do these things to assist their clients to recover to the best of their ability. It is the case manager’s responsibility to achieve these goals in a cost-effective way assuring the health and safety of your loved one. In short, you and your case manager have the same goals. A good case manager has the knowledge, skills and experience to accomplish these goals. Case management typically should start within weeks of the injury but, it can begin and end at any time throughout the lifelong recovery process.
The big question for all survivors is Where do I find one? How do I find one? Contact your state brain injury association or the Brain Injury Association of America for names of local case managers, check your yellow pages under rehabilitation, google “case managers” in (your town/state), ask health care professionals, pharmacists, your insurance company, etc. When your loved one is in the hospital, an inpatient rehab facility or day rehab program, there will be an “in-house” case manager/social worker who will do your “negotiating” for you. Your health insurance company may provide a case manager to oversee reimbursable medical services but long term, after discharge you may still need a case management advocate on your team.
REMEMBER…YOU ARE THE BOSS! A case manager can and should be interviewed by you just like any member of your loved one’s “team”.
You or your loved one will then become their “employer”. Some things to consider when interviewing a case manager are:
1. Is he/she licensed in her profession?
2. Is he/she a certified brain injury specialist? (CBIS) (not mandatory but very helpful)
3. How long has he/she been representing brain injured victims?
4. How many families has he/she helped?
5. ASK FOR REFERENCES
6. Does he/she sound informed about brain injury?
7. Does he/she seem to understand the issues you are facing?
8. What are the costs?
9. Will you and your loved one feel comfortable working with this person for weeks, months and, possibly, years?
10. How frequently will he/she communicate with you and how? In person, phone, email, and/or fax?
Keep in mind that your case manager works for your loved one. You have the right to “fire” them if you do not feel they are working in your loved ones best interest.
As a side note, look for a support group for TBI families and victims. Ask ICU/CCU nurses, physicians, friends to put you in touch with other families who are experiencing or have experienced the same “journey” you and your loved one are traveling right now. They will be thrilled to help. Again, we can only keep what we have by giving it away and especially for TBI survivors and their families, as they all wish they had the knowledge that only comes from going through the very unfortunate experience that they have.
Source: Successfully Surviving a Brain Injury-A Family Guidebook by Garry Prowe