Older adults find themselves increasingly faced with a bewildering universe of new situations about health, finances, housing, legal, and many other issues. Trying to keep up with all these moving targets is a daunting task for even the healthiest and most knowledgeable among us. However, when physical or mental health (or both) start to decline, dealing with these complex concerns can become overwhelming.
Even if family or friends try to help, they often lack the knowledge to deal with these subject areas confidently. Additionally, for loved ones trying to help from distant geographies, the frustration level can build to boil for all concerned.
Of course, there are experts in all these areas. For example, as described in my recent blog post, What is Elder Law, attorneys specializing in legal issues about aging can be a tremendous resource. Another example is a health care advocate who can help older patients find solutions for their medical and insurance problems.
Yet, organizing these specialists and others is itself an immense task. To address this need, a new kind of profession has evolved to help older adults across a broad spectrum of concerns. Called Geriatric Care Managers (GCM), these people have experience with the maze of healthcare, housing, financial, and other challenges seniors face.
How Geriatric Care Managers Help
What differentiates Geriatric Care Managers from other experts is their comprehensive view into the multiple moving parts of a senior's situation. What follows are the many areas covered by these professionals.
Planning With a Geriatric Care Manager
One of the most significant advantages of retaining a Geriatric Care Manager is the development of a comprehensive care plan. Possessing a broad spectrum of knowledge about senior issues allows a Geriatric Care Manager to craft a plan covering all the essential aspects of a client's needs. The plan becomes the guide for maximizing the client's well-being across the board and into the future. As needs evolve, the Geriatric Care Manager works with the client, family, and other caregivers to tweak the plan.
Advocate on Healthcare Issues
Geriatric Care Managers play a pivotal role in ensuring the healthcare needs of their clients are handled effectively. They do this in several ways:
- Locate appropriate healthcare services and specialists
- Accompany clients on doctor visits to ensure they get to the appointments on time and document needed follow-up
- Advocate for clients' needs with doctors, hospitals, and senior living facilities
- Act as a communication facilitator between medical personnel, clients, and families
- Assist with organizing medications
- Coordinate rehabilitative care and housing
- Support clients emotionally
Integrative View of Finances
Geriatric Care Managers understand how financial considerations affect all aspects of a senior's life. Financial stresses take an enormous toll on health and well-being. Geriatric Care Managers assist in many money-related areas.
- Organize and otherwise help with paying bills
- Coordinate tax filing with a client's accountant or tax preparer
- Provide information on local, state, and federal assistance or entitlement programs
- Help with insurance matters such as applications, benefits, and claims
- Locate resources to help with moving and home selling
Knowledgeable about Housing Alternatives
Understanding senior housing options is a fundamental expertise of a Geriatric Care Manager. A careful evaluation of the client's needs can help tailor a solution to safely maintain independence and well-being as long as possible. For example, staying at home longer may be possible if the residence can be adapted with items like grab bars and ramps. The Geriatric Care Manager can provide referrals to contractors who can make these renovations.
If home healthcare is required, theGeriatric Care Manager can provide a list of reputable vendors. TheGeriatric Care Manager will assist in interviewing to help the client make the best choice from the quality of care and cost perspectives. Also, the "chemistry" between the provider and the client makes a big difference, and the Geriatric Care Manager can provide guidance to get that right.
If a move outside the home is called for, the Geriatric Care Manager can help pinpoint the residence type that best fits the client's needs. Armed with a short-list of options, the Geriatric Care Manager can participate in site tours and evaluate the facilities to help the client make an optimal choice. Further, the Geriatric Care Manager can coordinate the downsizing of the client's home and preparation for the move. Once the client has moved to the new senior living site, the Geriatric Care Manager can monitor the facility's performance to ensure all needs are being met. The GCM can interact with facility management on behalf of the client if any problems crop up.
No matter the housing situation, the Geriatric Care Manager makes frequent visits to keep close tabs on the client to be aware of any emerging needs.
Recommend Legal Resources
Geriatric Care Managers are not legal experts, but they are aware of the legal issues affecting seniors. They can make referrals to legal professionals specialing in estate planning, Powers of Attorney, and other elder law areas.
Families geographically separated from loved ones needing care will find great value in using a Geriatric Care Manager. The Geriatric Care Manager can act as their surrogate in ways that only a person "on the ground" in the client's community can handle effectively. Another Geriatric Care Manager capability is helping families cope with the challenges of caregiving. The Geriatric Care Manager knows the signs of caregiver stress. They can recommend resources for getting more help or methods caregivers can employ to take a break. In cases where there is family conflict over caregiving arrangements for a loved one, a Geriatric Care Manager can help mediate the differences.
Especially important for geographically separated families, a Geriatric Care Manager serves as the local 24/7 emergency contact in a crisis. Even for families located locally, having a knowledgeable advocate in a crisis can ensure the correct decisions are made quickly to achieve a positive outcome.
Finding and Choosing a Geriatric Care Manager
There are several options for finding a Geriatric Care Manager. Organizations like local or state aging councils will have listings for GCMs. An internet search for "Geriatric Care Manager near me" will provide possible contacts also. The Aging Life Care Association, formerly called the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, is another good source.
People calling themselves Geriatric Care Managers vary widely in experience, cost, and breadth of services. Choosing the right GCM is a matter of getting answers to some critical questions:
- What experience have you had as a Geriatric Care Manager?
- How long have you been a Geriatric Care Manager?
- Can you provide references?
- What is your educational and work background?
- What credentials do you have?
- What is your process for working with clients?
- How do you communicate with clients and families?
- What is the cost?
- What paperwork/contracts need to be signed?
- Do you subscribe to a code of ethics?
- What is the dispute resolution procedure?
- What is your availability in an emergency, and how can you be contacted?
A note of costs: You may find that Geriatric Care Manager services are expensive. This is especially true for experienced practitioners offering a wide breadth of services. It may be worth the cost to achieve peace of mind for families, quality of life for older adults, and avoidance of unnecessary expenses