The truth is aging is a complex, highly individualized process, and a geriatric care manager (GCM) may be appropriate at age 65 or 105 and any age in between. The name can be misleading as professional geriatric care managers tend to a senior's unique health care situation needs rather than being responsive to a particular age. A geriatric care manager is a highly-skilled advocate for older adults and is specially trained to help identify resources to make managing your loved one's daily life easier. A GCM is sometimes referred to as "aging life care professional" or "senior care manager," as some find the term geriatric to be outdated. When is it appropriate to employ a care manager for your aging parent or loved one?
You live far away
Even if you leverage in-home technology and the internet of things to monitor and assess your loved ones well being, it isn't easy to manage your older adult's care if you do not live near to them. If you cannot frequently visit, a geriatric care manager can supervise care, alert you to potential or real problems, and work with you to arrive at the best decision for any issues that may prevent themselves.
Your loved one refuses to discuss their health with you
Many seniors, especially parents, do not want to burden their adult children with worries or problems. If you get the feeling your loved one is not telling you the full story about things affecting their health and well-being, hiring a geriatric care manager to check on them is a prudent strategy. Often, a senior is more willing to share their concerns with an expert outside of the family system.
There is a complex behavioral issue to address
Serious behavioral issues can manifest themselves in many ways, such as constant verbal abuse or being physically combative. These issues typically present themselves during the onset of dementia, and the root cause of the problem can be difficult to pinpoint. A geriatric care manager can connect you to an appropriate specialist to diagnose the problem.
You need to solve a problem in the senior living community
You might sense your parent needs more individualized care in their assisted living community, but the community's administrator will not permit you to hire a private aide. A geriatric care manager understands how these communities work, the relevant state laws that may apply to the situation, and can negotiate on your behalf. Because a GCM is an industry insider, they are more likely to find a solution in your loved ones' best interest.
You do not know how best to help your loved one
There comes a time in your older family member's care where you might feel utterly lost and unsure about what to do. A GCM can help you get unstuck by providing available options, tradeoffs, and costs. An initial assessment by a GCM can help navigate complex funding care options or uncover unknown resources for funding care.
Geriatric care managers can provide many services, including:
- Evaluating, arranging for, and monitoring in-home care needs and the personnel that provide it
- Coordinating medical appointments and arranging transportation to them
- Identifying available programs and social services that can help your loved one
- Making referrals to medical, legal, or financial professionals and suggesting ways to avert problems
- Explaining difficult or complex topics to family members or care recipients
- Creating short and long-term care plans that may include changes in living arrangements
- Acting as a liaison to families who live far away from their loved one
- Addressing and answering questions and emotional concerns of caregivers and their loved ones
- Arranging for respite care providing relief to stressed-out caregivers
Medicare and Medicaid do not pay for a geriatric care manager's services, so count on paying out of pocket. The initial assessment cost may range from 300 dollars in more rural settings to 800 dollars or more in larger urban areas based on a survey from 2017. After an initial assessment, a GCM bills by the hour and sometimes on a case-by-case basis. A reputable, certified GCM will have required degrees in one or more health care fields as well as several years of hands-on experience caring for the elderly. They will help assess, plan, coordinate and monitor your loved one's insurance and entitlements, financial and legal matters, medical issues, involvement in activities, and family communication.
National Institute on Aging
The National Institute on Aging (NIA), through the US Department of Health & Human Services, provides links on its webpage to locate geriatric care managers, as do many other organizations specializing in senior care like AgingLifeCare, and caring.com. You can also learn what to ask a potential GCM at caregiversamerica.com and other websites that provide senior information.
There is much to consider about your aging family member's health and welfare, whether aging in place or an assisted living community. An experienced geriatric care manager, along with trusted legal counsel, can provide the best overall planning for a loved one. If you have questions or would like to discuss further how a GCM may help you or a loved one, please don’t hesitate to reach out.