As many family caregivers know all too well, caring for an elderly loved one can overwhelm you quickly. Whether your senior is losing strength and dexterity as they age or they’re struggling with specific medical issues, important decisions start to pile up with each passing day. If you’re simultaneously trying to juggle your senior’s needs, your career, and your family life, prioritizing everything gets more and more difficult. Unfortunately, things can spiral out of control if you leave these compounding issues unaddressed for too long. In many cases, the quality of care your senior receives begins to suffer.
Fortunately, geriatric care managers (or GCMs) help you deal with this burden in an efficient, organized manner. In this article, you’ll learn why geriatric care managers are so effective, why they might be the right choice for your senior, and how to implement care management services into your overall elder care plan. At the end of the day, a geriatric care manager can simply make life easier for both you and your senior.
SeniorsMatter created this guide to provide you with detailed information about geriatric care managers, including what they do and how to locate the most qualified individuals in your area. For more help, check out our Resource Hub, where you’ll find local listings and reviews of top geriatric care managers near you. This resource makes it easy to pick the best geriatric care manager for your unique needs. While you’re at it, you can also browse a number of other local senior care services like estate planning, home care, and even laundry services.
Geriatric care managers – a convenient and effective care option
What are geriatric care managers?
If you’re a little unsure about the role of a geriatric care manager, it helps to break down the phrase into two parts:
First of all, “geriatric care” simply refers to geriatric medicine, which focuses on health care services for elderly individuals.
The second part of the phrase is quite straightforward, as a “manager” is simply someone with strong organizational skills who is in charge of making important decisions.
Put those two elements together, and you have a knowledgeable and organized individual skilled in advocacy and care coordination for seniors. They are a specialist in senior care who can guide family caregivers and others in providing the best support for their seniors.
Many family caregivers think of senior care managers as unofficial family members. These are people you can trust to make the right choices when it comes to eldercare services, and they often develop bonds with the entire family.
What qualifications do geriatric managers have?
Geriatric care managers bring strong qualifications to the table. Many have professional experience in case management, physical therapy, nursing, social work, or occupational therapy. Others have worked as gerontologists. While these qualifications are undoubtedly important, it’s worth pointing out that the GCM doesn’t need to directly provide seniors with all of the medical treatment they need. A significant part of their role involves finding other qualified medical professionals and senior care providers who can offer more specialized assistance.
How can a geriatric care manager help remote family caregivers?
Primary caregivers often struggle to oversee their senior’s geriatric care because of factors like work, family obligations, and physical distance. As responsibilities and needs pile up, it gets harder to provide the kind of direct, regular oversight that many seniors require.
In a long-distance care situation, a senior care manager can play an important role with a “boots on the ground” approach. Family members can check up on seniors remotely without enduring long drives or racking up costly travel expenses. In 2012, there were about 7 million long-distance caregivers in the United States, and studies have shown that these individuals often report higher levels of stress because they receive less information about their seniors’ well-being.
A geriatric care manager can ensure quick response times in the case of an emergency. When important health care decisions must be made, even the slightest delays can raise your senior’s risks. By trusting a care manager to make the right call, you have more time to arrive on the scene knowing that all of the necessary steps have already been taken.
Can geriatric care managers help caregivers who live with or nearby their seniors?
Geriatric care managers are just as effective for family caregivers who live close to their elderly loved ones as those who don’t. Employed individuals run the risk of job performance issues if their responsibilities as caregivers become too overwhelming. Geriatric care managers can take on this burden, allowing professionals to create a healthy balance between other priorities and their obligations to their seniors.
But it’s not just career-driven individuals who feel overwhelmed by their senior care obligations. You need to manage day-to-day household tasks, maintain relationships with other family members and friends, and tend to your own mental and physical well-being.
Even if the time commitment of informal caregiving isn’t an issue for you, a geriatric care manager can be a welcome source of advice, guidance, and advocacy. It’s easier to feel confident about important decisions when you can consult with a qualified senior care manager who can navigate the complex issues associated with proper care coordination.
Questions to ask yourself as you consider geriatric care management
If you’re wondering whether you might need to get help from a geriatric care manager, ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I sacrificing my personal goals to care for my senior loved one?
- How much do I spend per year on travel expenses to care for my senior?
- Do I feel unsure about what my elder loved one needs to live their best life?
- Is my career starting to suffer due to my elder care obligations?
- Does my family struggle to discuss important elder care decisions?
- Does my senior live alone with no one to contact in case of an emergency?
- Do I find it difficult to locate health care providers for my senior?
- Am I suffering from burnout due to my obligations as a caregiver?
Being honest with yourself about these questions can have important implications for both you and the senior in your care. This is especially true for caregivers when it comes to burnout.
Questions to identify burnout
When you’re moving fast and tending to many responsibilities, it can be difficult to detect that your performance and mental health are taking a hit. You hardly have the chance to take time and think about burnout, but it’s important. Multiple studies have shown that burnout syndrome can negatively affect well-being for both family caregivers and seniors in their care. Here are some questions that help you identify the signs of burnout:
- Do I feel like I have less energy than before?
- Am I starting to experience sleep problems?
- Is my diet suffering?
- Am I gaining too much weight?
- Am I losing too much weight?
- Do I feel a sense of hopelessness?
- Do I feel like my caregiving responsibilities are taking over my life?
- Am I starting to become frustrated with my senior loved one?
- Am I starting to lash out at the people I love?
- Am I starting to develop mental health issues, such as depression and mood swings?
- Does my immune system feel weaker?
- Are my relationships with family and friends feeling any strain?
- Am I starting to suffer from more frequent headaches or stomach aches?
These questions all represent some of the most important warning signs of burnout. If you’re starting to experience this issue, a geriatric care manager can help.
What services do geriatric care managers provide?
Geriatric care managers can provide a wide range of specific services, including:
- Responding quickly to emergency medical situations
- Finding solutions for senior care
- Helping families discuss and agree upon health care options
- Providing referrals for nearby professionals who can provide assistance
- Attending doctor appointments with seniors
- Providing general guidance and counseling for both seniors and family members
- Providing regular updates on a senior’s well-being for faraway caregivers
- Helping families choose the most affordable and financially responsible care options
- Educating caregivers and family members on how certain treatments work
- Performing home health visits to assess the current care plan and identify if changes are needed
- Helping family members and caregivers create both short-term and long-term health care plans
- Providing advocacy on behalf of seniors and caregivers with service providers, medical care staff, and other stakeholders
Geriatric care managers provide customized services based on your needs
While the list above shows common duties that a GCM can take on, many will also customize their services to your unique needs. Whether your senior needs physical therapy or memory care services to help manage dementia, a geriatric care manager can pivot based on your priorities. Many care managers, especially those with a background in social work or psychology, can even address the mental and emotional aspects of aging, including loneliness, depression, anxiety, and more. The CDC reports that depression among seniors rises considerably when they require health care or become hospitalized.
Can geriatric care managers help prevent elder abuse?
Elder abuse affects one in every ten seniors, proving it’s a persistent risk. As a caregiver, you can’t stop elder abuse if you don’t notice the signs, which are often subtle. And when you’re trying to juggle elder care, family obligations, and your career responsibilities, it can be difficult to notice when something isn’t right. Fortunately, geriatric care managers can maintain a watchful eye over your elder loved one, ensuring that no one is taking advantage of them.
More importantly, a geriatric care manager can help you take action in the face of abuse, making immediate changes to your care plan to get the senior out of any dangerous situations. Advocacy is an important part of care management services. A care manager can act as a liaison between the care provider and the appropriate government agencies, reporting abuse instances so guilty parties can be held accountable for their misconduct. They can also help you take further action with the help of elder law representatives.
A geriatric care manager’s quick and effective response to elder abuse can lead to better outcomes for seniors. It reduces stress levels for caregivers too, giving you peace of mind that your senior is in good hands.
Questions about geriatric care management
How do I know I can trust geriatric care managers?
Geriatric care managers carry an immense responsibility on their shoulders. There are often complex issues a GCM will have to weigh based on each senior’s unique situation. After being hired, these individuals may have to make decisions about your senior’s care without your immediate consent or input. That’s why it makes sense to assess potential candidates very carefully.
Fortunately, there are independent organizations that offer licenses for geriatric care managers and the underlying professions that bring them to this role. This ensures that you’re always working with a qualified, licensed individual who has been thoroughly assessed based on their ability to handle this responsibility.
Which organizations regulate geriatric care management?
There is no requirement for a senior care manager to be licensed as such, but it is an option. Quite a few capable professionals simply maintain their existing credentials in physical therapy, nursing, and other fields. Many states do require those licensed in social work to stay current in licensure to practice in any way, including if they want to perform care management services.
There are other qualifications a GCM may choose to pursue. The International Commission on Health Care Certification (ICHCC) offers a credential called Certified Geriatric Care Manager (CGCM). In order to earn this qualification, applicants must first earn a healthcare-related Bachelor’s degree and complete 120 hours of training in the field of geriatric care management.
There’s also the National Academy of Care Managers, which offers a formal certification program for geriatric care managers. In order to earn this qualification, applicants must first earn a relevant university degree. The level of their degree determines how much work experience they need to earn their certification. For example, if applicants have a Master’s degree in a field related to care management (such as gerontologists), only one year of care management work experience is required to earn certification with the NACCM. NACCM holders must recertify every three years.
Being a form of case management, the Commission for Case Manager Certification (CCMC) credential is also considered a viable form of licensure for geriatric care managers. To earn this certification, applicants must also have a relevant degree and work experience, and then they must pass the exam. This certification requires renewal every five years, including passing another exam and completing continuing education.
Anyone meeting any of the above criteria may also be a member of the Aging Life Care Association (ALCA). They offer continuing education that qualifies for the CCMC, NACCM, and others.
If you’re trying to figure out whether a particular geriatric care manager is the right fit for your family, it’s always a good idea to verify their qualifications.
Can a geriatric care manager actually improve outcomes for my senior?
There is real evidence to support the notion that care management services improve outcomes for seniors. According to data from SeniorBridge, caregivers who enlisted the help of a geriatric care manager to set up home health services saw 90% fewer emergency room admissions and 80% fewer hospitalizations for their seniors. In addition, these seniors experienced 70% fewer rehospitalizations within 30 days of returning home from a hospital.
Seniors themselves attest to the fact that geriatric care managers improve their quality of life. According to a recent survey, most seniors who work with care managers describe them as both a “medical professional” and a “friend.” 88% of seniors in this study indicated that their care manager would be among the very first people they contacted in the event of a healthcare emergency. When asked to rate how a senior care manager improved their quality of life on a scale of 1 to 10, the mean score was 8.72. Almost half of the respondents gave their GCMs a score of 10/10.
Talking about geriatric care management
Family members often disagree on potential elder care options, and it’s important to discuss the possibility of a geriatric care manager in a careful, considerate manner. The best way to approach this discussion is to bring everyone together in the same place. Although an in-person conversation is always preferable, family members can attend via video chat if necessary. Everyone should have their turn to speak and share their opinion.
If possible, have the potential geriatric care manager attend this meeting. These professionals can explain the services they provide and how they believe they can help. During this assessment stage, the care manager will also listen to the concerns of family members. Helping family members develop trust with a GCM is crucial because they can help mediate any future family care disputes.
How to approach the topic of geriatric care management with your senior
Of course, your senior should also play a role in deciding on a GCM as well. After all, it’s their care and well-being we’re talking about. During this discussion, you might want to ask your elder loved one the following questions:
- Do you feel like you have enough support from family members?
- Who would you call in case of an emergency?
- Do you feel unsure about your medical treatment plan?
- Would you like someone to attend doctor appointments with you?
- Would you like someone to check in from time to time at your home?
It’s also helpful if a care manager and your senior can form a positive connection. Give your senior a chance to meet any senior care managers you are considering to see if they can build rapport. If the senior feels like they can trust a GCM to make decisions about their care plan, it benefits all parties.
What questions should I ask geriatric care managers?
When interviewing a prospective senior care manager, you will want to make sure their expertise and the services they offer match your senior’s needs. The following questions for geriatric care managers can help you do that:
- What is your educational background?
- How much relevant work experience do you have?
- Do you hold any credentials, licenses, or certifications in geriatric care?
- What is your general philosophy towards geriatric care management?
- Do you have any references?
- How will you communicate with family members and caregivers?
- What will you do during the initial assessment?
- What kind of questions should I be asking home care providers to ensure my senior is receiving the best possible treatment?
- What steps do you take to provide service referrals for my senior?
- When are you available?
- How can I contact you?
- How often will I receive updates about my senior?
- How often will you meet face-to-face with my senior?
- Can you meet with the entire family to help with conflict resolution?
- Can you give me the run-down on different types of care and support systems for seniors?
- Do you or your company also provide home care and hospice services?
- What is your rate?
- Will my insurance cover your services?
- Can you develop a list of eldercare services that you feel may be helpful for my senior?
- What kinds of steps should I take to plan for my senior’s future needs?
If the family agrees to move forward with the geriatric care manager, the GCM will assess your senior and put together a detailed care plan for review. If approved, they will coordinate with other healthcare service providers to put that plan into action while continuing to offer support to both seniors and family caregivers.
Paying for geriatric care management
How much does geriatric care management cost?
The cost of a geriatric care manager may vary depending on a number of factors. Those with higher credentials and more experience may have higher pricing.
It’s also worth noting that different geriatric care managers provide different services. Some might provide round-the-clock assistance, while others may check in from time to time and take action when needed. Some provide more direct medical assistance, while others function like a “medical quarterback” that simply helps seniors find the medical assistance they need. The type of services provided by a geriatric care manager can affect pricing.
Getting help paying for geriatric care management
Generally speaking, geriatric care management is not covered by Medicare or Medicaid. In addition, most private insurance plans do not provide coverage for GCMs. One of the few potential options is to use Veterans Benefits, which provides some coverage for Geriatric Evaluation and Management (GEM).
Some long-term care insurance plans also cover portions of geriatric care management, so it really depends on your senior’s insurance provider and health care plan. Before moving forward with geriatric care management, it makes sense to review your plan carefully. If it makes financial sense, it might also be a good idea to choose a new plan that covers aspects of geriatric care management. Overall, expect to pay significant portions of geriatric care management out of pocket.
Why geriatric care management makes financial sense
Upfront costs aside, it’s important to understand that geriatric care managers can pay dividends in the long run. For instance, when family caregivers can focus more on their careers, their job performance and opportunities for upward mobility may increase.
Additionally, geriatric care managers can help you choose the most affordable and financially-sound health care options in your area. Drawing upon their expertise in geriatric care, they can help you avoid wasting money on care options that a senior doesn’t need. In this way, geriatric care management can actually end up saving you money in the long run.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the cost of unpaid care provided by family caregivers to older adults was about $234 billion in 2013. Many caregivers do the math and realize that general care management is the most profitable move for them.
How can I find a geriatric care manager?
If you’re ready to learn more about geriatric care managers in your area, SeniorsMatter has you covered. To assess your local options for geriatric care management, check out our Resource Hub today. This online resource allows you to browse a range of excellent choices for geriatric care management in your area, including their ratings and contact information.
Choosing a GCM you can rely on is easier when you use the extensive network of reliable professionals provided by SeniorsMatter, where you can easily search for the right service provider based on your unique needs. Check out the Resource Hub now to get started.