Geriatric care management is a rapidly growing field in the elder care industry. As most caregivers know, researching and coordinating all the care options and resources available for aging loved ones is a never-ending process. Many would rather use their precious time visiting with their family members or seeing to their own health, rather than filling out paperwork, juggling appointments and searching for financial assistance. This is where geriatric care managers (GCMs) come in.
What Is a Geriatric Care Manager?
Geriatric care managers (also known as Aging Life Care Professionals or ALCPs) are usually registered nurses or social workers who assess seniors’ individual needs, form comprehensive care plans and then help execute them. A GCM’s services can include physical and mental health counseling, crisis intervention, care management and coordination, medication management, and assistance with benefits enrollment and other financial resources.
GCMs are responsible for creating individualized care plans for each client while keeping their lifestyle, physician orders and personal goals in mind. These professionals then work with a senior’s entire care team, which can include family members, professional caregivers, therapists, nutritionists, social workers, elder care attorneys and others, to see their care plan to fruition.
Where to Find a Geriatric Care Manager
Searching for the right person to join a loved one’s care team can be challenging for a variety of reasons. It is not always easy to admit that our loved ones need additional help or that we are no longer able to provide the kind of care that is needed. Your loved one’s doctor can refer you to specific local resources that may be of assistance, but these three sources are excellent starting points for those who are considering working with a GCM.
- Check Out Your Local Hospital
A serious hospitalization is often the point at which families and physicians begin discussing care management for a frail or elderly loved one. Geriatric specialists at the hospital can direct you to local licensed home care agencies or private professionals that provide geriatric care management services. Speak with your physician or the hospital discharge clinicians about getting a referral to a care manager.
- Licensed Home Care Agencies
Licensed home care agencies provide families with professional caregivers who are dedicated to ensuring the safety and comfort of their clients in their own homes. They are expert liaisons between a patient, their family members (near or far away) and physicians. Many agencies offer geriatric care management programs in addition to home care services.
- Word of Mouth
Caring for a loved one requires both emotional and physical support. Connecting with fellow family caregivers is another way to find ideas, solutions and reputable elder care experts, such as GCMs.
Credentials and Qualifications to Look For
Most geriatric care managers are social workers, nurses or other professionals with extensive experience in the elder care field, so look for college degrees in these areas and appropriate state licensing. Elder care providers like in-home care companies, assisted living facilities and nursing homes generally employ care coordinators for use within their agencies, but many GCMs also operate their own private businesses.
One important qualification to look for is membership in the Aging Life Care Association (formerly the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers). Membership in ALCA is open only to qualified individuals with specialized degrees and experience in human services, including social work, psychology, gerontology or nursing. Only members of ALCA can call themselves Aging Life Care Professionals and they must adhere to a strict code of ethics and professional standards.
As you look for a geriatric care manager, you’ll want to interview several candidates to find one that best suits your needs. In addition to checking both personal and professional references, I recommend asking the following questions to gauge their background and ability to handle your family’s specific needs:
- How long have you been a GCM/ALCP, and why did you decide to pursue this line of work?
- What specific qualifications do you have that make you eligible for this type of work?
- What types of services do you generally provide?
- Can you provide examples of how you’ve customized your care management to meet the needs of individual clients?
- Do you have special areas of expertise, such as working with dementia clients, supporting lifestyle changes, communicating with doctors and family members, finding and applying for community resources, etc.?
- What measures do you take to keep a client’s family well informed on a client’s progress?
Services Geriatric Care Managers Offer
Ask GCM candidates for a complete list of the services they provide. Services may include:
- Accompanying an elder to doctor’s appointments
- Working with all team members to coordinate care
- Overseeing bill-paying and financial management
- Managing entitlement programs
- Assistance applying for local, state and/or federal benefits
- Managing health insurance coverage and claims
- Recommending appropriate in-home services or senior living options
- Coordination of family contributions to the care plan
- Mediation of family concerns and conflicts
- Referrals to legal professionals
- Advocating for an elder’s health care wishes
How Much Does a Geriatric Care Manager Cost?
The cost of hiring a geriatric care manager usually varies depending on the professional’s level of education and experience as well as the services they will be providing. Families can expect to pay anywhere from $75 to $250 an hour. Most GCM services are paid for privately, but some insurance plans do provide limited coverage, so be sure to check your loved one’s explanation of benefits statements and policies carefully. Although the cost may be intimidating, it is important to remember that a trusted GCM is an expert in their field. They are trained to observe and monitor a vulnerable older person and help them live the best and healthiest life possible as they age.
Meanwhile, if a care manager is a good fit, they will have enough knowledge to get your loved one the care they require AND give you some room to breathe. In some cases, geriatric care managers may uncover some sources of financial assistance that you wouldn’t have found on your own, in effect “paying for themselves.” Hiring a GCM may not save money, but their help may save your sanity and ensure your loved one gets the best possible care.
AgingCare has created a helpful tool to assist caregivers in finding a GCM in their area.
Visit the AgingCare Geriatric Care Manager Directory to start your search »