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
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.
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
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
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