GERIATRIC CARE MANAGERS:
WHO ARE THEY? WHAT DO THEY DO?

by Pearlbea Labier LCSW

Because it is a relatively new profession, people often ask what a geriatric care manager is, and what a geriatric care manager does. Briefly, a geriatric care manager is a professional who develops and implements a plan to assist elders and their families with all aspects of long-term care. The care manager should have a graduate degree in social work or nursing and be certified or licensed.

Our culture has become transient. Families are often separated by many miles and many children find themselves juggling careers that are demanding, families, and the responsibility of caring for an aging parent. Ideally, it would be perfect to live in a society where our parents and our elderly could be cared for easily, where extended families were in close proximity, and where both family members were not working full time. The reality is that for most of us this is not the case. There are many older people who live alone, far from children and other relatives. Even for those who live near children, the fact remains that all family members may be working and may not be in a position to do all that is required. When older people begin to have trouble coping with their daily lives, they often cannot turn to family members for help, and often, even more importantly, they do not wish to burden those they love with their care. Under these circumstance a geriatric care manager can be very useful.

What to Expect from a Geriatric Care Manager

A geriatric care manager must first evaluate an older person's needs, including physical and mental health, family and community resources, and finances. The importance of an appropriate living environment cannot be over-emphasized. Will the client have the kind of services, companionship and surroundings that she or he wishes to have? The geriatric care manager must understand the people he or she is working with, what their values are, and come to each situation with no prescribed answers.

It is the care manager's job to make certain the client has what he or she needs to remains safe and comfortable. A plan needs to be developed based on a close examination of a client's requirements. arrangements need to be made to implement that plan. Once these arrangements are in place, the care manager can coordinate all services to ensure my client's health, safety and general well being. There needs to be a continuous monitoring and re-evaluation process to make necessary changes as needed. A care manager can come in simply to advise a family on resources and help develop a plan or can come in as a long-term member of the care team.

Often care managers are brought into a situation by an adult child, spouse or other responsible person because there has been a change in health status or the time has come to plan for the future. Sometimes the older person who is aware that the daily tasks of life have become overwhelming will initiate the first call. Whether it is a bank manager concerned about a customer or a resident manager, or a lawyer concerned about his client, the first call is usually from someone who is expressing real concerns.

Developing a care plan and putting it into place can be a short-term process if there is family willing and available to do the follow-up work. When no family lives in the area, however, the process tends to be on-going. Each situation is different, and geriatric care manager needs to be flexible in working with individual families who have their own needs and concerns.

Families have different expectations about care managers as well. Make sure that whomever you hire understands your expectations and that you understand theirs. There needs to be a trusting relationship in order for the arrangements to work. A trusting relationship is at the core of any plan for long-term care.

Experience

When looking for a care manager, make sure that the person has experience in all aspects of geriatric care. Are they familiar with the area resources? Are they familiar with geriatric specialists in the area? Are they willing to work with the people who are already involved in caring for the older person? Can you reach them easily? What is their position about independence versus nursing home care? How do they monitor the care in the home? How do they charge for their services? Are they sensitive to the need to conserve resources as much as possible in order for the client to remain at home for as long as possible? What exactly are they charging for? Can you call them with a concern without receiving a bill for a ten or fifteen minute consultation? How well do they interview you about your parent's needs? Have they asked about medications, mental status, life style? Do they seem knowledgeable about dementia and seem to have strategies for dealing with the issues that arise? Are they knowledgeable about modifying a home to make the environment safer?

Hiring someone to help look after a parent is a serious, but often a necessary, thing to do. You want to make certain that the person can be your eyes and ears, and can bring to your parent's care a wealth of resources, understanding, and compassion. A Care Manager should be willing to answer all your questions and should be concerned about the things you are. If a parent is vulnerable, everything from having valuable items in the house inventoried, and appraised, to arranging proper medical care should be as important to the care manager as it is to you. All aspects of an older person's life and well being, as well as easing the burden for family members and friends, are the concerns of a responsible and caring geriatric manager.

For help in finding a Private Geriatric Care Manager contact:

Children of Aging Parents (Caps)
1609 Woodbourne Road, Suite 302A
Levittown, PA 19057-1511
800-227-7294

Updated 7/3/08
by Marlene M. Maheu, Ph.D.

Pearlbra LaBier, a licensed geriatric social worker is the founder of ElderOptions, a private geriatric care management firm in the Washington Metropolitan Area. She has been in geriatrics for over twenty years. She can be reached at 8008 Quarry Ridge Way Bethesda Maryland 20815 301-767-0121 fax:301-767-0120

 

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