Caregiving can become an unexpected necessity if a senior
experiences a sudden illness. We expect the elderly to have special
challenges with the passing years. Yet, we may not be able to
predict or assess just how challenging their lives may be. This is
where a Geriatric Care Manager (GCM) may provide valuable assistance
to caregivers and the elderly client.
Geriatrics, a specialty branch of medicine dealing with elderly
populations and their medical needs, was a blossoming field in
1989. With Medicare cutbacks among the reasons, fewer physicians
are specializing in this branch of medicine. The American Board of
Medical Specialties reports a reduction of about 440 less geriatric
doctors between 2004 and 2006. More of us are growing older, but
there are fewer doctors for this specialty population. Geriatric
Care Managers can fill the needed gap, providing assessments and
planning, as well as communicating with physicians.
Most GCMs will be degreed in social work, nursing, counseling, or
psychology. Like any professional, their experience and ability
will vary. Professional regulation is not required of a GCM in all
states, and some individuals can earn a “certificate” via online
The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers
accepts members who have met specific criteria, and is a good
resource for referrals to care managers locally and nationally.
Keep in mind that while the organization does check references and
credentials, anyone with some affiliation or interest in geriatric
care can apply to select an “affiliate” membership.
Interviewing a care manager includes answering their questions,
too. Both parties must be sure that the senior’s needs are met.
The GCM’s responsibility is to the senior first. Caregivers may be
reassured of that, but must also be aware that the elder care
professional has access to more information. Once an evaluation is
done, the caregiver may be surprised to find the current scale of
care should be altered to fit changing needs that a non-medical
professional will not recognize.
Care management is exceptionally useful if seniors are being
monitored from a distance by phone calls, or occasional visits from
local family and friends. The GCM can act as a medical advocate as
well as spot imminent health conditions. Since seniors living alone
tend to accentuate the positive to retain their independence, an
impartial third party can determine which services will help them
retain that independence.
Families living away from their elders can utilize a GCM to keep up
with their loved one’s needs, such as regular bill paying, doctor’s
visits, and intervention with community or medical services. The
GCM’s role does not stop at assessment and recommendation, although
it can, if a caregiver desires.
In situations where one parent has a deteriorating condition, the
GCM will assist with helping the caregiver-parent with much needed
advice and social assistance. Aging parents may be reluctant to
move from their secure environment to live with family. A care
manager can accurately review the current living conditions, and if
needed, act as an intermediary to discuss realistic living options.
In this way, family members are not seen as removing independence
from loved ones by stepping in to alter their living situation.
In multi-child families, one child may have the role of caregiver
fall to them, with too much or not enough input on the part of the
other siblings. A possible solution is through geriatric care
management. Hiring professionals to not only evaluate, but channel
information about health and other issues is a clean way to break
from being the sole decision maker.
The many service options offered by GCMs can also include assistance
when a caregiver must relocate to be closer to the senior, or when
the senior must relocate. This not only includes assisted living or
other long term care, but relocation to the caregiver’s home.
The senior dwelling in Florida must deal with hurricanes and weather
extremes like blistering summer heat. The old saying of “you can’t
change the weather” can stir up tremendous anxiety in long distance
caregivers. Worries about health and emergency needs amplify, but
geriatric care, once in place, plans for these things, too.
Regardless of where one lives in the state, concerns for flu season,
mosquito transmitted diseases and weather associated respiratory
problems exist. Again, care management takes these factors into
consideration, developing solutions before problems begin.
Geriatric care professionals are connected by a network of
professional associations, and they can connect the senior and
family with a GCM locally to keep the service uninterrupted.
Attorneys, banks, and healthcare providers rely on geriatric care
when there are no family members to step in. In this way, the
client’s affairs are kept in order according to the law, and the
client is kept well attended. In so many families where time and
distance have separated people beyond reasonable bounds, geriatric
management provides advocacy and consistency of a senior’s quality
Costs vary from manager to manager, as well as the detail of service
being provided. Medicare and Medicaid do not cover these services,
but when considering out of pocket expenses such as these, a
caregiver must evaluate both senior and caregiver needs.
Overstressed caregivers will require more medical and psychological
care of their own. By relieving some of the natural pressure that
comes with caring for another, stress levels fall, health levels
increase, and doctors’ visits gradually diminish.
Care managers may also find services that are low or no cost (such
as respite care), that will reduce or eliminate the need for paying
for companions or aides. The ability to “find money” is part of a
geriatric care manager’s skills. They reduce the time expenditure
in trying to find particular services, which also helps with
Evaluating a care manager involves cost per hour, but only in part.
Years in the field, degrees currently held (LPN, RN or higher
degree), and any additional specialty credentials (finance
management or paralegal training) should be considered. Caregivers
must also be comfortable and able to communicate with the manager,
because this is where information of all types can be obtained. If
the ability of the care manager to communicate with effectiveness
and compassion is not present, it would be better to continue
interviewing others, regardless of any credentials. This individual
will be a caregiver’s first line of hope, and help.
Rather than viewing a care manager as someone who takes the family
out of the senior care equation, they should be seen as a resource
of information about the individual needing care. Regular contact
with the care manager creates a feeling of well being within the
family structure because the constant anxiety of questioning how the
senior is doing is subtracted.
When a care manager steps in to assist client and family, a new
dimension opens up in the relationship between senior and
caregiver. The deeper bonds of relationship are no longer submerged
beneath stress, tension and fear of “doing the wrong thing.” True
feelings of love and compassion are free to surface. Health of both
senior and caregiver can improve dramatically when the right changes
One person is no longer “in charge” of another, and the feelings of
resentment and/or guilt that can breed between caregiver and elder
dissipate. Individuals move to a new level of relating to one
another, and the geriatric care manager can also guide this journey,
Caregiver and senior may have to adjust to new circumstances, but
their relationship ultimately becomes renewed.
To find a Geriatric Care Professional near you, visit the National
Association’s website at:
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