Have you ever wished there were two of you to take care of an aging or disabled adult? While you can’t make a copy of yourself, the next best thing might be a geriatric care manager. Families across the country rely on these professionals to provide support for an aging or disabled adult.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What’s a Geriatric Care Manager?
- What Does a Geriatric Care Manager Do?
- Knowledge Areas of a Geriatric Care Manager
- Why or Why Not Hire a Geriatric Care Manager?
- How Do You Choose a Good Geriatric Care Manager?
Not everyone can afford a geriatric care manager for ongoing care, but in many cases, families see the value in hiring one for a consultation and to have a written plan of care. A good care manager can save time, reduce stress, and improve the quality of care.
What’s a Geriatric Care Manager?
A geriatric care manager is a health and human services specialist who acts as a coach, guide, and advocate for families who are taking care of an older or disabled adult.
Some other defining characteristics of a geriatric care manager are the following:
- They can have educational backgrounds and expertise in psychology, social work, mental health, gerontology, and nursing. Not every geriatric care manager will have expertise in all of these areas.
- Geriatric care managers are experts in local resources and the costs of care in their community.
- They are also licensed as nurses, gerontologists, or social workers. The certifying body for geriatric care managers is the Aging Life Care Association (ALCA). Membership in the organization requires formal higher education, supervised work experience, and professional certification. Some members of ALCA are also certified as care managers.
- Just because a geriatric care manager does not hold these certifications, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t outstanding care managers. Some care managers are social workers or nurses and aren’t affiliated with certifying organizations.
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What Does a Geriatric Care Manager Do?
A geriatric care manager helps reduce family stress and worry by ensuring that an older or disabled adult is maximizing resources and has an advocate to increase their quality of life. They do this by engaging in the following:
- Assessment. The first task of a geriatric care manager is to do a complete assessment of the client, the living environment, and any caregiving services that the client is receiving. A good assessment covers all medical diagnoses, medications, healthcare providers, durable medical equipment, client history, and preferences.
- Planning and problem-solving. Once the assessment has been completed, a geriatric care manager establishes short-and-long-term goals based on problems and areas of concern. There may be immediate goals such as getting an emergency response system in place or setting up a medication system. Long-range goals might include home accessibility modifications improvement in function and independence.
- Education. Many families and clients rely on geriatric care managers to educate them about insurance, care options, costs of care, and covered services.
- Advocacy. Advocacy is a significant and important part of a geriatric care manager’s job. Attending doctor’s visits, coordinating healthcare, asking questions about care are just a few of the many tasks they undertake. The client is always at the center of any advocacy efforts and should be included in all decisions.
- Local Resources. A good geriatric care manager knows local resources very well. They are able to make appropriate referrals based on client needs.
- Family caregiver coaching. Geriatric care managers can assist family caregivers by connecting them to supportive resources. These may include respite care, caregiver support groups, how to deal with a parent who refuses help, and in-home care. Sometimes an older adult will be more willing to accept suggestions from a geriatric care manager than from a family member.
- Monitoring. Your loved one may be home with in-home care, in assisted living or other senior living. Regardless of where a client lives, a geriatric care manager monitors and manages their care. If that care is problematic or unsatisfactory, the geriatric care manager is responsible for problem-solving the situation, even if it means firing and hiring.
Knowledge Areas of a Geriatric Care Manager
The expertise of geriatric care managers can be summed up in these categories.
- Health and disability. This includes physical, mental health, and neurological problems. Managers interact with the health care system and connect people to the appropriate resources based on their health needs.
- Financial. Geriatric care managers are not estate planning attorneys nor are they financial planners. They do however, have knowledge of entitlement programs, cost of care, and resources for bill paying. Included in financial planning is an understanding of health insurance and educating families about what it will pay for and what it won’t.
- Housing. Geriatric care managers help families select and evaluate appropriate levels of care and senior housing options that fit their budget.
- Families. Geriatric care managers help families address care concerns, resolve internal conflicts, and assist long-distance caregivers. Ideally, care managers and families are partners in ensuring safe, quality care for an aging adult.
- Legal. Geriatric care managers refer to elder and estate planning attorneys. They also make sure that their clients have advance directives in place and can assist with that process.
- Crisis intervention. Care managers are the people that respond in the middle of the night to an emergency room visit. They are on call 24-hours a day and can help clients and families navigate emergency room visits, rehabilitation placement, and home health services.
Why or Why Not Hire a Geriatric Care Manager?
Hiring a geriatric care manager is a personal and sometimes, financial decision. There are several factors that go into making that choice.
The cost of hiring a geriatric care manager can be a significant deterrent. Insurance rarely pays for care management and costs can range between $50-$200 an hour or more, depending on where you live.
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Peace of mind
Peace of mind and relief from caregiving duties are the main reason people hire geriatric care managers. This is especially helpful for out of town families who have no one locally to advocate and supervise an older or disabled adult.
A geriatric care manager can respond to a crisis and navigate the healthcare system. They can alleviate client anxiety by providing support and making necessary changes to the plan of care.
Loss of control
Even though someone would benefit from hiring a geriatric care manager, they don’t want to give up control to someone else. It takes a great deal of trust to turn over the care of your loved one to a non-family member.
How Do You Choose a Good Geriatric Care Manager?
Choosing a good geriatric care manager is part investigative reporting, luck, and instincts. There are some guidelines to help you choose a good one. After a time, a good geriatric care manager can become like a trusted family member.
Credentialing and experience
If credentialing is important to you, look at the Aging Life Care Association website to evaluate care managers in your area. In the event that a care manager is not credentialed by ALCA, ask about their certifications and licenses.
You may want to ask about how many clients they have served, how long they have been in business. If they are a sole proprietor do they have someone to cover during an absence? What kind of clients have they worked with?
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Personal or professional referral of a geriatric care manager can be valuable. That means they have had direct experience working with the person and can vouch for their integrity and commitment.
When you conduct your interview, ask for several client referrals that you can call and talk to. Having a list of questions ready will help you stay organized.
An interview with a prospective geriatric care manager is very important. It isn’t so much the credentials or the experience as it is how you feel about the person. Do they take their time in listening to you? Are they empathetic and do they ask questions about the client that signifies a deep understanding of what is important to that person?
Ask about their assessment process and goal planning. Also, inquire about their professional relationships in the community. Being able to call on professional connections to help staff client decisions is an asset. Cultivating these relationships is like having a team of experts.
Inquire about the basics such as hourly fees including after hours or weekend costs. Is the geriatric care manager available 24-hours a day? After the initial assessment work, how many hours do they anticipate needing per week to manage your family member? Most geriatric care managers are very flexible and should be able to stay within a budget if that is important to you.
A good care manager should be responsive, available, ethical, and responsible. If for any reason you are dissatisfied with the geriatric care manager you have hired, don’t hesitate to terminate services and find someone else. Trust your instincts.
Hiring a Geriatric Care Manager
Hiring a geriatric care manager can be a very positive and supportive decision. If you are constrained by finances, let a prospective care manager know that. They may be able to assist you temporarily in getting a plan in place that will give you guidance and resources as you care for your loved one.