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Geriatric Care Managers:

A Valuable Resource for Families Caring for An Aging Relative

Laurie White

As a geriatric care manager, I receive inquiries from family members who are caring for a relative, and “don’t know quite why I am calling but I was told you could help me”. Or sometimes I receive calls from family members who admit to needing help but ask “What exactly do you do?”

Here is a brief description of geriatric care managers and how they might be helpful to you and your aging relative:

Who are geriatric care managers?

Typically a geriatric care manager (GCM) is a social worker, counselor, gerontologist or nurse. Many GCMs have their own private practice, and some work for an agency such as the Council on Aging, Jewish or Catholic Social Services, etc. Geriatric care managers can help caregivers and older adults, whether they live close by or a long distance away with the multitude of issues related to an older relative’s and caregiver’s personal well being.

What do Geriatric Care Managers do?

The scope of practice can vary from GCM to GCM, but generally speaking, most or all of the following services are offered.

Geriatric care managers:

LISTEN. Before a geriatric care manager knows how she can help you, it is important to hear your story: your parent’s health and situation, how you are doing and what is concerning you. During your initial, as well as on-going conversations, GCMs listen to what you have to say. They value your input. They ask questions to make sure they understand your unique situation and how they can help.

Conduct an assessment of your relative’s health, safety, capabilities and needs. In my practice, I try to conduct assessments in the older person’s home, so she can feel more relaxed and in control. A casual conversation blended with some direct questions and observations can give me a good idea of the abilities and needs of the person. An assessment can take 2 hours or more depending on the complexities of the situation.

Report the results of the assessment, including recommendations for planning for the near future and beyond. Families often use this tool to make sure everyone has the same information about what is happening, what needs to be done, and who is going to do what needs to be done.

Coordinate and oversee services that your relative is receiving. Having a professional involved who is experienced in working with community and health care providers and ‘speaks their language’, can not only be efficient but can ensure that quality services are delivered. For example, if your relative could benefit from some part time help in the home, a GCM can schedule caregivers (or companions) orient them to what is needed and then work with you to make sure the level of assistance is being given. Some GCMs employ caregivers, others do not.

Advocate for what you and your relative need with doctors and other health care providers, attorneys, bankers, and community services and residential care settings. I have several clients who live in residential care settings, a distance from their adult children. I am not only able to report how their relative is doing when I visit, but I am able to meet with the managers about any changes that need to take place to maintain my client’s health, comfort and safety.

Support the older adult and family through transitions such as bringing help in the home, attending an adult day center, or moving from home to a residential care setting. These decisions and changes can be made easier with the guidance and support of an experienced care manager.

Facilitate family meetings. When a parent’s health, memory or situation changes, family meetings can be an opportunity for families to get together to talk about the present situation and how best to help the parent or the caregiver. Family meetings can also be a time for a geriatric care manager to educate families about a disease, present and describe services that can help, and answer any questions. If a parent is reluctant to accepting help, or the family cannot come up with a plan that everyone can agree to, a non-partial facilitator can help.

Act as a resource person and make referrals to services that can help now and in the future.

Geriatric care managers are committed to ensuring that families have the best quality of life possible, given their individual situation.

How much do geriatric care charge for their services?

The fees for private geriatric care managers vary from state to state and region to region. Many GCMs have a set hourly fee; some require a deposit for services when a contract is signed. Hours are then billed at the hourly rate and deducted from the deposit. It is best to ask up-front what the billing rate is, what it includes and if a contract needs to be signed before services can be started. Keep in mind that most care managers will work with you on an ‘as-needed’ basis, for a specific length of time or as long as needed.

How do I find a geriatric care manager?

Members of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM) can be found on www.caremanager.org or by calling 1-521-881-8008. Questions to ask when you interview GCMs are posted on the site. To find GCMs that are not members of the National Association, call your local Council on Aging.

Laurie is President and owner of Dementia Care Consulting, based in Santa Rosa, California.

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