For some families, caring for an aging parent or loved one is a full-time job. For other families spread out across the country, arranging medical services and hiring trustworthy caretakers from afar presents its own challenges. No matter what your specific situation is, the dizzying number of decisions related to elder care and assisted living can put undue financial and emotional stress on even the most savvy and well-prepared individuals.
That’s why support and professional insight are crucial when it comes to caring for older adults — and that’s precisely what a geriatric care manager brings to the table.
As professionals that guide families with decisions connected to aging, a GCM can assist with both the day-to-day challenges of caring for a loved one, and the complexities of long-term planning and decision-making. Here are some common questions about the role of geriatric care managers that can help you decide if one is right for your family.
What exactly do geriatric care managers do?
Geriatric care managers are generally trained within one or more area of human services — social work, psychology, nursing, gerontology — and they tend to wear many hats, professionally speaking. GCMs can serve as a liaison between doctors, specialists and caretakers, helping navigate the legal and medical red tape. They often facilitate difficult conversations, and can advocate on behalf of you and your loved one.
When you first meet with a GCM, they’ll probably do a comprehensive assessment of your loved one’s needs before jumping into decision-making. This includes not only their physical health and living situation, but their memory, finances, mental health and more, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Harvard Medical School has a great list of some of the many duties GCMs perform, including:
- Connecting people to helpful services, senior housing, and long-term care facilities
- Hiring and monitoring home care providers
- Communicating with specialists, hospital and home care staff, and family members to coordinate care
- Alerting families to financial, medical, or legal problems and suggesting ways to circumvent difficulties
- Helping with a move to assisted living or other facilities
How do geriatric care managers get paid, and are their services covered by insurance?
The cost of a GCM is generally not covered by Medicare or Medicaid. Families tend to pay out-of-pocket on a fee-for-service basis.
Though it might seem indulgent or unnecessary to add another expense on top of the costs of care taking, many families find that a geriatric care managers are well worth the price, and they save them money in the long run. What’s more, having an objective third party can be extremely helpful when emotions are running high. Complex family dynamics can also make a neutral third party a key addition to the support team.
A 2013 study found that geriatric care managers are valuable in both critical health-related situations and routine health care matters — that means everything from health care emergencies to facilitating physician-patient communications during routine doctor’s visits. You can’t put a price tag on strengthening your support system.
How do you chose the right geriatric care managers?
Credible geriatric care managers can belong to an agency, or work independently. During the hiring process, always ask for references, details about the specific services provided, and certification information. Many GCMs belong to the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers and are certified by one of three additional organizations for care management, according to the NYT’s New Old Age Blog: National Association of Social Workers, National Academy of Certified Care Manager and The Commission for Case Managers.
Who can I turn to in the Chicago suburbs?
If you’re seeking support or guidance with issues related to care taking, Senior Care Manager Rick Graffagna is a great local resource. He and his wife Pam offer consultations at no costs to review care taking options that make sense for your unique family situation. They’ll help you make informed decisions by taking into account your loved one’s desired level of care, financial circumstances, geographic preferences and more.