If you do not see your parent(s) in person often, changes in their physical and mental health may seem dramatic each visit. Long-distance caregivers have shared countless stories on the Caregiver Forum about how they have witnessed dramatic changes in a parent’s condition between visits and struggled to support them from afar.
Caring for parents is difficult enough when they live nearby, but when they live hours away or across the country, caregiving becomes much more complicated. How can you monitor for subtle changes in a loved one’s condition, realize that they need more help at home, ensure they’re taking their medication, or help them if they have an accident or medical emergency?
An elder care professional, such as a geriatric care manager (GCM), can function as a lookout for an aging loved one and keep family caregivers near and far up to date on their condition.
How Geriatric Care Managers Support Seniors and Long-Distance Caregivers
Geriatric care managers (also known as Aging Life Care Professionals) are experts in all things elder care. GCMs are individuals with education and experience in fields like nursing, social work, psychology, human services and gerontology.
A GCM can assess an elderly parent’s needs, coordinate their medical and personal care across different settings, assist with making short- and long-term care decisions, and recommend legal and financial planning strategies. One unique advantage of hiring a geriatric care manager is the fact that they are knowledgeable about all kinds of benefits, programs and resources that are available to a senior on a local, state and federal level. They are also familiar with many of the elder care providers in their area, how much they cost and the quality of their services. Managing and monitoring all aspects of a senior’s life is hard work, but GCMs are well versed in each of these areas, making them excellent advocates.
Not only does hiring a GCM support a senior who could use some help, but it also reduces the caregiver burden that their family members are experiencing. Long-distance caregivers tend to find frequent visits with their parents to be expensive, time consuming and difficult to balance with work and family obligations, but in-person check-ups are crucial. Fortunately, GCMs can serve as lookouts in between visits, ensuring that the senior is safe, healthy and content. While actual hands-on care is not typically part of the services that care managers offer, they can arrange meetings, tours and interviews with providers and attend care plan meetings. These professionals check to see that an elder’s regular routine and care plan are working well, and they can also provide guidance and support during crises.
A GCM’s expertise allows long-distance caregivers to continue leading their lives knowing that their aging parents are getting the care and attention they need. All changes, recommendations and decisions are discussed with the proper family members and GCMs can also help with problem-solving and family disagreements regarding an elder’s care. This peace of mind is invaluable for adult children who cannot or do not wish to be local, hands on caregivers for their parents.
Finding a Geriatric Care Manager
Note that it is important to choose the right GCM. Before hiring, ask candidates about their training, education and background. They should have been a GCM for some years and should be certified by an organization, such as the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), the Commission for Case Manager Certification (CCMC) or the National Academy of Certified Care Managers (NACCM), and be a member of the Aging Life Care Association.
The National Institute on Aging (NIA) recommends asking the following questions when interviewing a geriatric care manager:
- What licensing and certifications do you have?
- Are you a member of the Aging Life Care Association?
- How long have you been providing care management services?
- Are you available for emergencies? How do you handle them?
- Does your company also provide home care services?
- How will you communicate information to me?
- What are your fees? Will you provide them in writing prior to starting services?
- Can you provide references?
The services listed above are all fairly standard, but a GCM’s offerings may vary. Be sure you understand all that a GCM will do for you and your family and how they determine billing rates. In fact, get a written service agreement that provides this information in detail.
To begin your search for an elder care professional in your parent’s area who can help you navigate caregiving from a distance, consult the AgingCare.com Geriatric Care Manager Directory.
Sources: Long-Distance Caregiving Twenty Questions and Answers (https://order.nia.nih.gov/sites/default/files/2017-07/L-D-Caregiving_508.pdf)