While family caregivers provide a great sense of comfort and relief to their loved ones, there may come a time when additional professional advice and expertise are needed to ensure the care and safety of an older adult living with chronic illness or disabilities. As age or infirmities advance, it may be helpful to explore assistance from a Geriatric Care Manager (GCM), a highly skilled home care clinician who specializes in helping individuals and families anticipate and navigate all aspects of health issues that may arise as people age.
What Is a Geriatric Care Manager?
Usually a registered nurse or social worker, a Geriatric Care Manager assesses individual needs and provides services that can include physical and mental health counseling, crisis intervention, care management and coordination, medication management, and assistance with benefits enrollment or other financial resources.
At Partners in Care, Geriatric Care Managers coordinate and oversee a team of home care professionals who provide services according to a customized Plan of Care that might include skilled nurses, licensed rehabilitation therapists, nutritionists, social workers, physical therapists, behavioral health counselors, elder care attorneys and licensed home health aides. GCMs are responsible for creating individualized care plans for each client while keepings their lifestyle, physician orders and goals in mind.
Where to Find a GCM
Searching for the right person to join your care team can be challenging for a variety of reasons. It is not always easy to admit that we or our loved ones need additional help, or that we are no longer able to provide the kind of care that is needed. Your doctor can refer you to specific local resources, but here are a few pointers that may help you explore other options and decide if a GCM is right for you or your loved one.
- Check Out Your Local Hospital
A serious hospitalization is often the starting point for families and physicians to begin talking about care management for a frail or elderly loved one. Geriatric specialists at your hospital can direct you to local licensed home care agencies or private professionals that provide Geriatric Care Management services. They may also be referred to as “Care Navigators” in order to lessen the stigma associated with the term “geriatric.” Speak with your physician or the hospital discharge clinicians about getting a referral to a care manager certified by the Aging Life Care Association (ALCA).
- Licensed Home Care Agencies
Licensed home care agencies provide highly skilled and licensed caregivers who are experienced, compassionate, reliable, highly attentive and dedicated to ensuring the safety and comfort of those they provide care for. They are expert liaisons between a patient, family members (near or far away) and physicians. Many agencies offer Geriatric Care Management programs specifically.
- Learn from Others
Caring for a loved one requires both emotional and physical support. Connecting with family members and friends who have been in your situation is another way to find ideas and answers to your dilemmas. It is also a great way to find a GCM match. Remember not to underestimate your personal support system!
Credentials and Qualifications to Look For
As you look for a Geriatric Care Manager, you’ll want to interview several candidates to find the one that best suits your family’s needs and who has the qualifications for the job. All Geriatric Care Managers should have college degrees and significant experience in working with elderly clients. Educational backgrounds might include nursing, social work and psychotherapy, but all candidates should be excellent listeners and committed to providing comprehensive and compassionate care.
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, and why did you decide to become a Geriatric Care Manager?
- 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 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 the client’s family well informed on the client’s progress?
Costs of Hiring a GCM
The cost of hiring a Geriatric Care Manager usually varies from manager to manager, as well as the details of the services being provided, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $75 to $250 an hour. Most Geriatric Care Management is private pay; however some insurance plans do provide coverage, so be sure to check your explanation of benefits statements and policies carefully. Although the cost may be intimidating, it is important to remember that a trusted GCM is trained to observe and monitor a vulnerable older person and help them live the best and healthiest life possible as they age comfortably in their own home.
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 »