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Care Connections offers support for geriatric caregivers

Care Connections owner Chris Duggan has always enjoyed working with the elderly. While working as a physical therapist, her elderly patients were her favorites.

When her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, she needed a lot of help. She was in chemotherapy for a year.

“She wasn’t able to understand what the doctors were saying to her,” said Duggan, who lives in Red Bank. “I realized from a family member’s perspective how much we needed a better support system for the elderly.”

So Duggan decided to start Care Connections, which provides for families or individuals different aspects of support including medical advocacy, help with legal issues such as wills or power of attorney, financial assistance and social and emotional support.

“Caregiving is one of the hardest things a family member will do and it takes an emotional toll on you,” said Duggan. “You can call this one person/company [Care Connections], and I have a network of resources I work with that I will pull in to meet that person’s needs.”

She advises that anyone use caution when deciding on a person to provide assistance for their loved one.

“They’re at a very vulnerable time,” she explained. “They should choose my services because I’m experienced and educated on dealing with issues related to aging individuals, and I’ve been through it myself with my mom, which puts a whole different perspective on things.”

She said the best time to call a geriatric care manager such as herself is when one notices a change in their loved one’s functioning — stacks of mail in the house that have not been opened, spoiled food in the refrigerator or hygiene habits that are not what they used to be. Taking medicine may become confusing, the house is in disarray or one’s parents are unsteady on their feet.

“All of those things are red flags that something is changing and their parents may need help,” said Duggan. “A lot of people don’t think about calling a geriatric care manager until there’s a major crisis. It’s better to plan ahead and hopefully avoid that crisis.”

She said some people confuse her services with that of a caregiver or home helper.

“I don’t provide any sort of medical care,” said Duggan. “I act as a guide or resource for people to navigate the system, whether that be the medical or legal system. One of the things I do most is help people interpret medical information and follow through with their doctor’s recommendations.”