If you are thinking of becoming a geriatric care manager in the booming field of services for the aging, heed the words of Cathy Cress a national expert on Aging Life and Geriatric Care Management and author of the Handbook of Geriatric Care Management, a leading publication on geriatric care management.
Calling it "a very tough profession," Cress says to enter the field one must be "steely-nerved" and have compassion, business acumen and have a broad knowledge of financial systems and family dynamics.
"Even a normal family becomes dysfunctional when dealing with this," Cress says. Once an elder who is the head of the family goes out of commission, it is, Cress says, as if the queen bee is gone. What happens? "The hive goes crazy." The GCM must manage all this and more, including understanding the health care system and local and government regulations and programs for the aging.
It should be no surprise, then, that becoming a GCM, especially one that is certified and recognized by the profession's association, has stringent requirements.
The professional association for GCMs was founded in 1985 and was once called the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM). In May 2015, it renamed itself the Aging Life Care(tm) Association (ALCA). ALCA now calls geriatric care managers Aging Life Care(tm) specialists, meaning that the person is considered a GCM.
The ALCA, like other professional associations, establishes criteria for certification, publishes a journal, conducts conferences, offers tools for the profession and grants continuing education credits. ALCA also sets ethics and conduct standards.
The aspiring GCM would probably want to have his or her name listed at the Aging Life Care(tm) Association (ALCA) website. It provides a database for "Finding an Aging Life Care(tm) specialist" and is searchable by zip code for local results. It is linked to Healthfinder.gov, a website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Being part of this database requires certification by one of three "certifying bodies," as outlined below.
To become a certified Aging Life Care(tm) specialist, candidates must pass an examination issued by ALCA. The examinations are administered by the National Academy of Certified Care Managers (NACCM), the Commission for Case Manager Certification (CCMC), and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).
The National Academy of Certified Care Managers (NACCM) certifies GCMs. It requires them to update their credentials through certification renewal every three years and maintain stringent standards.
The examination registration fee is $245. Study materials and preparation courses cost an additional $400.
There are eligibility requirements for the examination. The academy offers four options to be eligible to take the examination, which includes a mixture of educational and work experience.
The higher a college degree a person has and the more closely the degree is related to care management, the less work experience is required. Conversely, the lower or more unrelated a college degree is, the more field work is required.
For example, a master's or doctoral degree may be coupled with one year of full-time, paid care management service work. The one year of work must include at least 50 hours of supervision by another care manager as training. If a person has a bachelor's degree in a related field, the work experience requirement rises to two years. With an associate's degree in a related field, the two-year requirement of work experience under 50 hours of supervision by a CCM is required and a year of direct work experience in related fields.
For persons with degrees in unrelated fields, the experience component rises to three years. In addition, he or she must have one year of direct experience in related fields.
Being a GCM or Aging Life Care Specialist is similar to case management. A case manager must understand a spectrum of services and resources. He or she must also have the skills to assess the specific person's or patient's needs and to craft a care plan. Thus, the ALCA recognizes certifications granted by the Commission for Case Manager Certification.
Certification and renewal of certification is by examination. The application and examination fees cost $385.
The requirements for admission to the exam include licensure, education, employment experience, and moral character as explained in the commission's code of ethics.
Specifically, a candidate must have a baccalaureate or graduate degree in a closely related field, including supervised field experience. He or she must also be licensed by the Case Management Society of America (CMSA). The license is often earned by candidates at the same time as a college degree.
Employment experience must include one year of full-time case management under the supervision of a CM. Two years of similar experience unsupervised by a CM also qualifies. If the candidate has had one year of supervisory experience over individuals working in case management, that is acceptable. Part time work counts on a pro-rated basis, but volunteer work or internships do not count.
The ALCA recognizes the National Association of Social Workers as a certifying body. Certification is based on an educational degree, professional licensure, and work experience.
To be an advanced social worker in gerontology, a master's degree in social work (MSW) is required along with licensure. To be a social worker in gerontology, a bachelor's degree is required, plus licensure. To be an advanced certified hospice and palliative care social worker, an MSW and licensure are required. To be a certified hospice and palliative care social worker, a BSW and licensure are required. Advanced case management certification requires an MSW and licensure. To be a certified social worker case manager, a bachelor's degree in social work and licensure are required.
In all cases, three years of work experience under social worker supervision are required. Continuing education credits in direct care and adherence to a code of ethics are also required.
Not all employers require certification for geriatric care managers. The Commission for Case Manager Certification website states that 40% of employers do so, making it possible to become a GCM without certification. However, certified workers usually earn more than uncertified workers.
Cress notes that certification is beneficial. For a family that is in great need as they face the crisis of an elderly loved one's decline in health, certification shows that the person has the met standards showing a minimum array of skills. GCMs need computer skills because they must understand billing, technology, legal issues, and business. They need to be patient care advocates, navigating the health care system and understand and address families' challenges.
Although in previous times people in healthcare may have evolved into GCMs, Cress sees no viable alternative to certification. The profession is complex and Cress likens it to going to a doctor. Patients want their doctors to be properly and verifiably trained.
Without certification, Cress says, it is the Wild Wild West. In managing the constellation of care that an aging loved one requires, there is little room for error. Certification proves that the GCM has the necessary skills and expertise to put together the best possible care plan for a beloved elder.
Aging life Care Association. Find an Aging Life Care Expert Search. Available online at https://www.aginglifecare.org/ALCA/About_Aging_Life_Care/Find_an_Aging_Life_Care_Expert/ALCA/About_Aging_Life_Care/Search/Find_an_Expert.aspx?hkey=78a6cb03-e912-4993-9b68-df1573e9d8af. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
Commission for Case Manager Certification. Certification Guide to the CCM(r) Examination. Available at https://ccmcertification.org/sites/default/files/images/2015/Cert%20Guide%20-%20Posted%20to%20website%203.3.15.pdf. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
Cress, Cathy. (December 2016). Interview. Please see http://cathycress.com/my-blog/entry/category/blog/geriatric-care-manager/. Retrieved January 6, 2016.
Healthfinder.gov. National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers-GCM. Available online at https://healthfinder.gov/findservices/organizations/organization/hr3370/national-association-of-professional-geriatric-care-managers. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
National Academy of Certified Care Managers (NACCM). Eligibility Criteria. Available online at: http://www.naccm.net/wp-content/uploads/sites/52/2016/12/Eligibility-criteria_NEW2017.pdf. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
National Association of Social Workers. NASW Professional Social Work Credentials and Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials. Available online at https://www.socialworkers.org/credentials/default.asp. Retrieved January 5, 2017.