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Geriatric services extended at TSZ

Laurel Hed started in her position as the Geriatric Care Manager at the law firm Thomason, Swanson & Zahn on Jan. 2 and provides services to elderly clients facing challenges related to living arrangements, medical needs, and social issues. (Kevin Cederstrom/Enterprise)

There's a growing number of retirees and elderly in the Park Rapids area, and with that, a need for services.

Along with providing legal services, Thomason, Swanson & Zahn of Park Rapids now offers something new in geriatric care management.

Geriatric care management includes an initial assessment by Geriatric Care Manager Laurel Hed, a licensed social worker. From there she determines the needs of the client. This may include:

• Referrals for home modification

• Arrange and monitor in-home help, manage medical care and attend appointments

• Act as a liaison to families (living near or far), establish a written care plan which sets forth the goals and recommendations, assist with transitioning an individual to or from home to retirement, assisted living, residential care home or a nursing home if that is necessary

• Advocacy, support and guidance by geriatric care manager while at home, in the hospital, in rehabilitation, or in an alternative care setting

• Support with financial and legal concerns as well as public benefits application.

Hed started in her position as geriatric care manager with TSZ on Jan. 2 and so far finds what she does is different for each family, and the services she provides is a continuation of what she was doing for Living at Home.

"The goal is to help them (clients) stay at home as long as possible, and if not, we help them find the resources they need for the next step," she said. "A lot of times it's just connecting them to the resources in the community."

Some of these things may be finding a housekeeper or a plumber or contractor needed to renovate a bathroom.

Hed does not manage clients' finances and a big part of what she does is act as a liaison to family members.

"A lot of that is keeping open communication with the children. I just assist and make recommendations, make the contacts and phone calls for them."

Sara Swanson and partners at TSZ do elder law and what they're finding out in meeting with many families is the adult children need financial guidance to help get parents' affairs in order. For example, mom may not be able to stay on the lake much longer and dad has dementia.

Swanson and Roger Zahn started looking at geriatric management services a few years ago in working with Hed through Living at Home. Swanson said, as attorneys they may not have all the answers when it comes to the geriatric management, so they put together a team approach through Living at Home.

"We started seeing our elder clients coming in needing a lot more in the way of guidance and life help," Swanson said.

The transition and partnership was easy for Hed as Living at Home has an office in the TSZ building located at 120 North Main in Park Rapids. By combining what Living at Home does in providing volunteer services and legal and social work services through TSZ the team approach provides a clearer picture for clients, Swanson explained.

"This is kind of my dream come to reality," said Hed of her work with Living at Home and TSZ. "To work as a team is going to make it successful."

Hubbard County offers many of the same services as care managers to qualified individuals and families. What TSZ and Hed are doing is providing services to those who don't qualify for assistance and are potentially falling through the cracks because they are not sure where to go for answers.

"Every single situation is unique and that's what makes it exciting," Hed said. "You get to be a part of their life and be able to provide the children that peace of mind knowing someone is there and they have somewhere to turn."

Thomason, Swanson & Zahn describes its first priority is to keep clients living in the home of their choice as long as possible, and oftentimes legal services are not enough to serve all the needs of the firm's elderly clients.

"We know that many of our elderly clients are facing challenges related to living arrangements, transportation, medical needs, family communications and/or social issues. Our geriatric care manager will assist with crisis management when necessary, and will refer you to speak with a lawyer in our firm if legal needs need to be addressed," the firm states in its description of services.

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