When You Can’t Go It Alone, Try a Geriatric Care Manager

Written by Valerie Hopson-Bell

A good geriatric care manager can help seniors through every aspect of the aging process:  finding the right primary care physician, making plans for retirement, understanding how Medicare fits into the picture, assisting in plans to downsize their living environment, helping caregivers create a plan for their loved ones, and helping the family find the right long-term care facility when needed.

What is a Geriatric Care Manager?

A geriatric care manager is a health and human services specialist who helps families who are caring for older relatives.  The professional is trained and experienced in fields related to long-term care, including, but not limited to, nursing, gerontology, social work, or psychology with a specialized focus on issues related to aging and elder care.

So, who uses a geriatric care manager? Clients include families struggling to accept their loved one’s diagnosis; families that have no idea where to begin in caring for a loved one; long-distance caregivers; adult children trying to juggle busy careers, young children and caring for aging parents.

The geriatric care manager can assess how well your loved one can function and how safe his or her living environment is.  The care manager will write a customized care plan.

Although oftentimes the role of the geriatric care manager is equated to that of a surrogate adult child, the geriatric care manager is a professional and should be certified through one of four certification programs approved by the Aging Life Care Association (ALCA).  The organization began in 1985 to help institute a professional code and continuity of practice for geriatric care managers.

The certification programs are; Care Manager Certified (CMC), Certified Care Manager (CCM), Certified Advanced Social Worker in Case Management (C-ASWCM) and Certified Social Work Case Manager (C-SWCM).  The ALCA consistently holds the geriatric care manager to a certain standard of practice and code of ethics.  The association also conducts a review when a complaint is received about one of its members.

This profession, though it can be extremely important in helping families contain the cost of care and minimize the stress of care-giving, remains relatively unknown to many.  Even professionals in the healthcare industry don’t embrace the whole uniqueness of geriatric care management.  I find that some professionals think that because they do a very small aspect of the professions’ functions, that there may not be a need for the geriatric care manager.  This thinking is wrong.

A geriatric care manager should be secured early in the process of caring for a loved one so that a more holistic approach can be used; thereby connecting all aspects of the person’s health care and their quality of life.

Educating Family Members is Key

Communication between the geriatric care manager and the caregiver should be effortless and comfortable for both parties.  At times, the care manager might need to share difficult information with a client.  The care manager will help the family move through the state of denial and on to the reality of the situation.  With the geriatric care manager’s involvement, the number of hospitalizations can be reduced, duplication of services avoided, and the loved one will receive the appropriate resources and care needed.

Expected fees and services should be given in writing.  The geriatric care manager should be willing to share a fee schedule and provide a contract for all services discussed.  You should know ahead of time how much a certain service will cost.

Some care managers will charge separately for travel and mileage.  Some will offer free consultations, while others charge for every referral shared.  Some send weekly invoices, while others expect payment when each visit is completed.

How to Find a Geriatric Care Manager

Word of mouth is one of the best ways to find a geriatric care manager.  Maybe a friend, relative, church member or co-worker has already worked with one.  Facebook friends and various websites on aging tend to be the most popular method used by those 60 and younger.

Good professionals tend to seek out other good professionals.  Ask for referrals from elder-law attorneys, physicians, home health workers, medical social workers, discharge case managers and staff at long term care facilities.

To find a certified geriatric care manager in a specific area, log onto Aging Life Care  This is the website for the Aging Life Care Association.  They have a directory of geriatric care managers listed by city, state and/or zip code.

Now that you’ve learned what a geriatric care manager can do, use their service to the fullest. Geriatric care managers are there to help alleviate stress for the senior and the family.  Consulting a geriatric care manager is not free, but peace of mind is priceless.

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