What is a geriatric care manager, anyway?

A relatively new profession and one that is on the rise, a geriatric care manager may be a term that comes up in family discussions about aging parents and loved ones. So what is a geriatric care manager, anyway?

They are human service professionals and they act as advocates and coaches for their clients and their families and help to navigate them through the difficult journey of aging. The geriatric care manager assists clients to maintain their independence, safety in their living environment and maximum functional abilities, both physically and cognitively. They are knowledgeable on resources for the elderly and will know the costs and quality of such resources which can reduce a lot of stress on clients and families who would otherwise be doing the research on their own. 

Geriatric care managers can also be very helpful to families who live out of town, state or who have limited time to offer because of their jobs or their own family obligations. Having a trusted resource such as a geriatric care manager can alleviate a lot of guilty feelings that often happen when family members cannot be there for their aging loved ones as much as they wish they could be.

Geriatric care managers can assist in the following ways:

  1. Assessments involving cognition, depression, self neglect, social needs, physical functioning and the safety of the living environment. Long-term monitoring and communication back to the family on such areas is also available as things may change over time or during an illness or emergency situation.
  2. Education and coaching for the clients and their families on areas such as dementia and other chronic illnesses, family dynamics, caregiver stress and other topics impacting quality of life. 
  3. Advocacy and assistance in the areas of medical/healthcare systems (nursing home or hospital advocacy if family cannot be there and additional support during care plan meetings with medical personnel that are held at such facilities, and/or help understanding Medicare or other insurance coverage), financial (help with paying bills or organizing check book), legal (referring to or consulting with elder law attorney, providing expert opinion for courts in determining level of care) and/or entitlements such as VA Aide and Attendance.
  4. Planning and problem solving for overwhelmed clients and families. A care plan can be developed to outline identified areas of concern as well identified strengths of the client and family and recommendations to move forward and maintain the safety and quality of life for the client. 
  5. Referral-making for areas such as home care services, housing, durable medical equipment and/or environmental changes to the home.
  6. Concierge services such as transportation to medical and social events, shopping, errands or other needed tasks.
  7. Communication back to families on assessments, recommendations and things such as attending doctor appointments, facilitating communication between doctor, client and family, and if appropriate, monitoring client’s adherence to medical orders and instructions.
  8. Other individualized needs and requests of clients and families are always open for discussion.

Many times people don’t know whether or not they need a geriatric care manager. You should consider if you have the time, skills or inclination to manage the needs of your aging loved one. Hold a family meeting and get some input from other close friends or advisors. The cost of a geriatric care manager can range anywhere from $50 to $150 an hour.  Contact your local senior center for more information on geriatric care managers in your area. 

Kristi Vaughn

I am a Licensed Social Worker and owner of Adult Comfort Care: A Person Centered in-home assisted living resource for seniors and their families.

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Volume 5, Issue 8, Posted 10:38 AM, 04.16.2013