Geriatric Care Managers Can Help Busy Caregivers

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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 family members or seeing to their own health instead of filling out paperwork, juggling appointments and searching for sources of 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 licensed social workers who assess seniors’ individual needs, form comprehensive care plans and then help execute them. According to the Aging Life Care Association, a membership organization and certifying body for GCMs formerly known as the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, services can include physical and mental health counseling, crisis intervention, elder care management and coordination, resolution of internal family conflicts regarding long-term care planning, 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, doctors, elder care attorneys, financial planners and others, to implement their care plan.

Geriatric Care Management Services

When interviewing GCM candidates, ask for a complete list of the services they provide. Offerings may include:

  • Accompanying an elder to doctor’s appointments
  • Working with all care team members to coordinate care
  • Overseeing bill-paying and financial management
  • Managing entitlement programs
  • Assisting with applications for local, state and/or federal benefits
  • Managing health insurance coverage and claims
  • Recommending appropriate in-home services or senior living options
  • Coordinating family contributions to the care plan
  • Mediating family concerns and conflicts
  • Providing referrals to other elder care experts, such as elder law attorneys, geriatricians, and financial advisors
  • Advocating for an elder’s health care wishes and quality of life

Geriatric Care Manager Credentials and Qualifications

In addition to extensive experience in elder care, most GCMs are licensed in fields like social work and nursing, so look for college degrees in these areas and appropriate state licensing. Long-term 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.

Another important qualification to look for is membership in the Aging Life Care Association. ALCA membership is open only to qualified individuals with specialized degrees and experience in human services, including social work, psychology, gerontology and nursing. Only members of the 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 will 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 learn about their background and gauge their 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 suitable 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 clients who have Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, supporting lifestyle changes, communicating with doctors and family members, finding and applying for benefits and community resources, etc.?
  • What measures do you take to keep family caregivers well informed on a client’s progress?
  • How do you handle emergencies?

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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. GCM services are typically paid for out of pocket because they are not covered by Medicare, Medicaid or most private insurance policies. Be sure to discuss billing frequency, how a GCM charges for out-of-pocket expenses like mileage and supplies, and any other charges you may incur. Ask for this information in writing to avoid surprises.

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 care options or sources of financial assistance that you may not have found on your own. Although a GCM involves high up-front costs, their assistance may help minimize expenses over the long-term. Even if a GCM doesn’t save money, they will ensure your loved one gets the best possible care and work to reduce your caregiver burden.

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 need assistance managing their care. Your loved one’s doctor can refer you to specific local resources that may be of assistance, but the following 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 companies or private professionals that provide elder care management services. Speak with your loved one’s physician or the hospital discharge clinicians about getting a referral to a senior care coordinator.
  • Contact Licensed Home Care Agencies
    In-home care companies 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 companion care, personal care and home health services.
  • Word of Mouth
    Caring for a loved one requires emotional, physical and social support. Connecting with fellow family caregivers is another way to find ideas, solutions and reputable elder care experts like GCMs to join your care team.
  • AgingCare Geriatric Care Manager Directory
    AgingCare has created a helpful tool to assist caregivers in finding a GCM in their area. Visit the Geriatric Care Manager Directory to start your search.

Sources: What Is a Geriatric Care Manager? (https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-geriatric-care-manager)

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