In The Beginning

Prior to the early 80s, the term “Care Management” was non-existent. Over the span of 35 years, how did this concept lead to a growing national organization of 1,700 members? A small group of women, who were social workers, changed the industry; they decided that regimented ‘Case Management provided through facilities wasn’t enough the help their clients.

Leonie Nowitz. LMSW, one of these pioneers, worked in a nursing home with her older clients and their families  However, she believed that families of older people in the community would benefit from one on one care and support to keep their relatives at home. Leonie’s friend, Adele Elkind, provided care for people with disabilities and agreed that their clients required more services. Both Adele and Leonie wanted to offer solutions for home care, access to doctors, legal and financial care providers; a “one stop shop” to provide  comprehensive care to older people and their families in the community.

They were not alone. In 1982, they brought together a group of ten to 12 professionals in New York City to discuss the services they offered to clients and receive support from each other in this emerging field. The term “Care” Management was born. Although the idea was not popular with others in the field, this did not deter the small band of social workers. Sarah Cohen, one of the original members, reached out to journalists to discuss the needs of the growing senior population. As a result, the Wall Street Journal and New York Times wrote about this emerging group and others across the country.

Once these articles were published, the New York group was shocked to discover other firms with social workers and nurses across the country with similar ideas of service provision.

In 1985, the first national Conference of Private Geriatric Caregivers was held in New York City with 100 people in attendance from across the country. The National Organization of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM) was founded the following year, 1986, in Philadelphia, PA and Sarah Cohen was the first elected president.

In 1988, Miriam Zucker, LMSW was working for the Alzheimer’s Association and was ready for a career change. She was passionate about having her own business and the ability to offer direct and personalized care based on what people needed.  She attended her first local NAPGCM meeting to network and start her own GCM practice. According to Miriam, there were about ten to 15 people at the meeting providing a supportive network.

The organization had humble beginnings. Miriam recalls that the chapter telephone was kept in Leonie’s closet and their marketing consisted of 8.5” by 11” flyers with tear off pieces at the bottom. By 1996, Miriam was Chapter President, and the Conference was being held again in New York City. Although the NAPGCM was about 10 years old, the concept of Care Management and charging for Care Management services was still not accepted in the aging space. Miriam and her colleagues believed this was because Care Management was so new or because they were Women. Either way, Miriam and her cohort were determined to redefine that stereotype.

As the aging population and their needs increased, NAPGCM, which is now the Aging Life Care Association, grew to more than 1,700 members.

With all the changes ALCA has seen, Leonie and Miriam both agree the constant force has been the people; the Aging Life Care Professionals themselves. The pioneers and professionals who followed have not lost sight of their vision, which also keeps them involved– to provide support for each other, to seek the support of others and ultimately to provide the utmost care for their clients.

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