Geriatric care managers (GCMs) are usually social workers, psychologists, nurses, gerontologists, or others with both training and experience in a number of aspects of elder care. They can assess needs, handle crises (such as an emergency hospitalization), help place an older adult in a long-term care facility, help solve family disputes, locate community resources, or simply fill in for family caregivers at doctor appointments and assist with other daily care.
For many families, senior care planning and coordination can be overwhelming. In some cases, a loved one's health needs are at a crisis point and there are too many decisions to make all at once. Or you may live too far from your loved one to check on her regularly. Some aging seniors are resistant to receiving care. In other situations, family conflict can be a major issue.
GCMs are like a quarterback, coordinating all the different moving parts of senior care -- from logistics and scheduling to emotional support and family mediation. Their experience can guide you through the challenges you face.
What Geriatric Care Managers do
Assessment. When you first hire a geriatric care manager, he'll meet with your loved one (and family members, if appropriate) to evaluate the current situation. He'll assess your loved one's physical environment and mental, social, and emotional functioning and independence. Based on this assessment and conversations with family members, the GCM will identify your loved one's care needs.
Plan of care. Once the assessment is complete, the GCM will make recommendations about the types of care your loved one needs. He'll meet with you to review these recommendations in detail and get your feedback. He'll note recommendations in a written plan of care. As care progresses or as care needs change, the care manager will note progress in the plan of care and make updates as needed.
Coordination of services. A geriatric care manager can be as actively involved in the care of your loved one as you need him to be; be sure to clarify expectations at the outset. Most GCMs know all the senior care providers in your area and are well prepared to help you find the best match for your loved one. You can expect him to help you find agencies to provide in-home care, hospice, or skilled nursing care, as well as to coordinate the comings and goings of the caregivers. If your loved one needs residential care, the GCM will help you find the best assisted living or nursing home that meets your loved one's needs and fits within your budget. Some GCMs will also help with day-to-day care for your loved one -- picking up prescriptions, taking your loved one to doctor appointments, or visiting for regular check-ins.
Family support. GCMs also provide invaluable support to family members as they cope with a loved one's decline or illness. They can help smooth communication and mediate disagreements.
Ideas, products, and innovations. GCMs are always on the lookout for new types of services and tools to make caregiving easier and to help keep your loved one safe. Many will be able to tell you about new technologies, tools, or aids that help your loved one maintain independence and mobility for as long as possible.
Cost of Geriatric Care Managers
Some local government agencies and charitable groups offer consulting services free or on a sliding scale according to income level. If you hire a geriatric care manger privately, expect to pay $75 to $250 an hour.
Geriatric care management is strictly private pay. Medicare, Medigap, Medicaid, and managed care and long-term care insurance do not cover the service.
Veterans benefits don't cover geriatric care management, but they do cover geriatric evaluation and management (GEM), a similar service that includes a comprehensive assessment of the veteran's physical, medical, and emotional needs. For more about GEM, see Using V.A. Benefits to Pay for Long-Term Care.
How to find a Geriatric Care Manager
To find a highly qualified GCM in your area, ask friends and doctors for personal recommendations. Then, search by zip code here in the Caring.com Geriatric Care Manager Directory, and be sure to look for reviews of GCMs written by other family caregivers.