What is a geriatric care manager?
Geriatric care managers are professionals who are trained to help older adults and their families to make important decisions related to the care of an older person.
They can help a family decide what types of services are most important, how the family can best work together to support an older person, how to locate needed services, and how to receive entitled benefits to pay for certain services.
Geriatric care managers do not currently need a license to practice but should have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and specialized training in gerontology, social work, nursing, human services, and/or counseling.
What can geriatric care managers do?
According to the National Council on the Aging, geriatric care managers can do the following:
- Act as an advocate for older adults to ensure that they have the highest quality of care possible.
- Act as a service coordinator to make sure that the services you or your older relative need are organized in a way that best meets those needs.
- Act as a gatekeeper to make sure that needed services are available — and that services not needed are not included in a care plan. Geriatric care managers can also ensure that all available insurance or benefit coverage is planned for. For example, they should be able to tell you what things will and will not be covered by Medicare so that there are no surprises.
- Act as a counselor for the older adult and family members. This is an important role because many families have difficulty talking about problems openly and honestly and are well served by an independent and objective professional who can guide them through difficult discussions. As a counselor, however, the geriatric care manager’s first allegiance is always to the best interests of the older adult — not the other family member(s) — when desires and preferences are in conflict.
The specific services that geriatric care managers provide may vary, but most usually provide the following:
- Finding a residential setting, if appropriate, that meets the elder’s needs.
- Educating elders and family members on important issues related to aging and their particular condition or situation.
- Reviewing financial matters and suggesting ways to protect an older person’s assets.
- Counseling the elder and family when needed.
- Developing a care plan that takes into consideration the needs of the elder and the ability of the family to provide support.
- Monitoring the care received by an elder after the care plan is developed.
- Communicating with family members about the care of an elder, if appropriate and approved by the elder.
- Coordinating services on an ongoing basis. This is particularly important for families who live at a distance from their older relative.
Standards that Geriatric Care Managers Should Meet
Although there are currently no requirements for someone who wants to be a geriatric care manager, there are some generally accepted standards that should be met by geriatric care managers. These include the following:
- Be professionally trained and experienced in working with older adults, their family members, and the professional health and social services system.
- Keep good records that are confidential and only available to the elder or, with permission of the elder, his or her family members.
- Maintain a good relationship on an ongoing basis with professionals in the network of services on aging within which the care manager works.
- Conduct a systematic screening of the elder that includes an assessment and personal observation about the elder’s health as well as social and mental well-being. This screening should also include an assessment of the ability and willingness of the elder’s family to provide some ongoing help and support.
- Determine the Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance coverage of elders and assist in selecting services based on their ability to pay or to have a third party pay for needed services.
- Maintain professional knowledge and skills by participating in ongoing training and education.
What Should You Look for when Hiring a Geriatric Care Manager?
It is important that you feel comfortable with the geriatric care manager you select and will work with over time. You are the best judge of your comfort level with potential care managers, but here are some questions for you to consider:
- Are they friendly and compassionate?
- Are they good listeners?
- Can you easily reach them by phone? Do they return calls quickly when you leave messages?
- How experienced are they? Do they have training and education that inspires confidence?
- How long have they been in the area? How well do they know the local service network?
- Are they committed to keeping an elder as independent as possible, for as long as possible?
- Do they put the elder first?
- Are they good communicators? Do they make sure that everyone understands what they are saying?
- Do they explain their ethical requirement of working for the elder and seeking the elder’s permission before speaking with other family members about the elder’s care?
- Do they encourage and foster good communication among all family members?
- Are they up-to-date about services, issues, and reimbursement policies?
- How many other clients do they have? Do they have enough time or staff to take care of your needs?
- Are they honest and forthcoming about their charges, their recommendations, and their ideas about what is needed?
Remember: If you don’t feel absolutely confident about your first choice in geriatric care managers, try another.
How Much Do Geriatric Care Managers Charge?
Some states or localities have care managers who work for public organizations such as the local area agencies on aging or the State Department of Aging or Human Resources. These services are free — but often only free to elders with very low income or on a one-time basis when there is a need.
The private geriatric care managers operate much like other professionals and charge an hourly rate. If you do not have the benefit of a free assessment or care management service in your area or you want to use a private care manager, you can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $150 an hour.
Although this may sound expensive, many families find that it is worth the cost to ensure that their elder receives the high-quality care he or she needs.
A good care manager will also save family members many hours of time and frustration by working through the red tape to make sure all of the services an elder needs are coordinated and that paperwork and insurance claims are managed. The services of geriatric care managers are not covered by Medicare or private insurance.
How Do You Find a Geriatric Care Manager?
Look in the Yellow Pages of your local telephone book or on the Web. You should also call your local area agency on aging to see whether there is a free service of assessment and care management available. They may also be able to tell you the names of local care managers.