Celebrating the Women Who Created Our Profession

March is Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate women’s accomplishments and contributions. We want to honor a group of women who envisioned a new way of caring for aging people and created our profession of care management.

Many of us here at Windward are members of the Aging Life Care Association® (ALCA). ALCA is a national nonprofit association with members who are experts in the field of aging and disability. Aging Life Care Managers® – also called geriatric care managers – have knowledge in crisis intervention, housing, health and disability, advocacy, family legal, financial and local resources, and other areas.

Solving the puzzle of elder care
Today, millions of older people and their families are served by Aging Life Care Managers, but this holistic approach to elder care is relatively modern. Historically in the United States, families or friends cared for aging adults. With the development of medically oriented nursing homes in the 1960s, many older adults moved into these facilities. Some nonprofits and social services were available, but it was up to the individual or their family to find them, a task made harder when loved ones lived far away. Demographic changes such as more women entering the workforce and families living at a distance from one another contributed to the challenge of finding and organizing elder care services for an aging loved one. In addition, older people who lived at home did not have the many resources we now take for granted, including home-delivered meals and in-home hospice care.

In the early 1980s, some like-minded professionals working with aging clients in New York City decided to act on the need for a wholistic approach to elder care. According to the ALCA website, “A group of social workers, psychologists, and nurses met regularly at the Manhattan home of Adele Elkind to discuss their work with elderly people in the private sector. Out of these meetings emerged their newly formed group – the Greater New York Network for Aging (GNYNA).”

In 1981, the New York Times reported on this emerging approach to caring for the aged. “Private geriatric family services are a recent development in New York City and other metropolitan areas,” said an article in the Times. The services, it said, “provide one-stop personal help to older persons, their spouses and adult children in coping with medical, financial, housing and emotional problems.”

Thanks to the networking and organizing of a core group of women, the GNYNA eventually became the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM). In 2015 the association was renamed the Aging Life Care Association. According to ALCA, the founders of the organization included:

Adele Elkind, Babette Becker, Jerie Charnow, Maureen Clancey, Sarah Cohen, Lenise Dolen, Jacquelyn Efram, Vanessa Gang, Leonie Nowitz, Ellen Polivy, Bernice Shepard, Gloria Scherma, Miriam Scholl, Mary Ellen Siegel, and Vera Themal.

Dedication to excellence
We’re grateful to these “founding mothers” for creating a much-needed solution for the coordination of care and services for older people, and for their dedication to excellence. Over the years, ALCA has developed certifications as well as standards of practice and a code of ethics.

Today, ALCA has more than 2,000 members nationwide, professionals from fields such as nursing, social work, and geriatrics. Many ALCA members, including many on the Windward team, have obtained certification through a combination of working many case management hours in the field as well as passing an exam.

ALCA continues to celebrate Adele Elkind’s legacy with an annual award that recognizes an association member’s tenure in the field, leadership, and professionalism. In 2000, Windward Life Care’s founder, Norman Hannay, was honored to receive the award for his commitment to the advancement of the field of professional geriatric care management, and his collegial support and mentorship to others.

We’re proud of our profession’s history and its visionary women founders. Their mission to make life better for older adults and family caregivers has had a lasting legacy.