Behind the Scenes: A Day in the Life of an Elder Care Coordinator

What does an elder care coordinator do? To the uninitiated, the role may seem somewhat mysterious. What could possibly keep an elder care coordinator busy all day?

Laura Buck is qualified to answer that question. As one of three elder care coordinators at Clinkscales Elder Law in Hays, Kansas, one of the original Life Care Planning Law Firms in the nation, Laura’s experience confirms that caring for older adults is a labor-intensive activity. There’s never any shortage of things to do. And no two days are alike.

Laura’s day starts early, typically at 7:45 a.m. Charged with managing more than 50 client cases, Laura’s first order of business is checking her email and voice mail to see if there are any client emergencies. “There are always a few and I'll handle those situations first,” says Laura, a Registered Nurse who joined the Clinkscales Elder Law staff just under three years ago. Before that, she worked as minimum data set coordinator and assistant director of nursing for a long-term care skilled nursing facility. “That first half hour or so of the day is precious. I call it my ‘catch-up’ time.”

Like many elder care coordinators, Laura most often works remotely. On Monday and Wednesday mornings, she participates in staff meetings by videoconference. Topics include case reviews, resolving open issues, and developing action plans to respond to various client situations.

By 9:30 a.m., Laura is either returning phone calls, meeting with current clients, or checking off items on her to-do list. “I could be answering a health-related question or researching residential options for a client who needs to transition to a different level of care,” notes Laura. “I could be accompanying a client’s family caregivers to a care planning meeting at a nursing home or be on the phone with a health care provider or a pharmacy technician helping to straighten out a medical or drug claim.”

After lunch, Laura is often in back-to-back meetings with prospective clients and other members of the Clinkscales Life Care Planning team. Following the meetings, Laura often lingers in the conference room to visit with clients and family members who’ve decided to move forward with a Life Care Plan. “I use that time to make sure that everything is situated,” she explains. “If the client doesn’t hire us, then at least I have all of those pieces ready to go for when they come back to hire us. And they often do.”

If Laura’s afternoon schedule doesn’t include meetings with clients, she could be updating case files or networking in the community with professionals who refer cases to the firm, such as social workers or discharge planners. Late afternoons are usually a grab bag of activity. “In the last few weeks, I’ve helped a client find a hospice provider,” Laura explains. “I’ve helped set up a client’s transportation between two long-term care facilities. I helped connect a client with the Kansas Gas Service, so they could get on the fixed flat fee average utility plan.”

One or two days a week are designated for travel. Laura crisscrosses the Kansas countryside, conducting client assessment visits, visiting nursing homes and long-term care facilities, attending care meetings with family caregivers, and more. “My travel days are extremely long days, but they’re very productive,” Laura laughs. “When you’re an elder care coordinator, there’s always something to do.”