In last week’s blog post, I discussed the steps you and your family can take in advance of a healthcare emergency to reduce some of the stress of a difficult situation—what’s referred to as “pre-crisis planning.” From exploring assisted living facilities in your area to working with an experienced financial advisor to prepare your assets, there are a number of things seniors can do proactively to feel they are empowered and prepared for the unknowns of life. Read the full blog post on pre-crisis planning versus post-crisis planning here.

But there is an additional step that more and more seniors and/or their families are taking as a part of their pre-crisis planning strategy: connecting with a geriatric care manager. Geriatric care managers (GCMs, also known as care coordinators) are professionals who are specially trained to assess care needs, plan for, coordinate, and monitor that care, and provide other services to elderly patients and their families. Most are either a licensed nurse or social worker specializing in geriatrics.

What will a geriatric care manager do?

One way to think about the role is as a “professional relative”—someone who will advocate for a senior and help coordinate resources for them just as a loved one would. Among the many services that might be provided to a senior and their family by a geriatric care manager are:

  • Making home visits or visits to a healthcare facility and offering suggestions on needed services
  • Coordinating medical services as well as short- and long-term care plans
  • Selecting the proper care team and/or making hiring decisions
  • Evaluating existing in-home care and/or living arrangements
  • Discussing difficult topics and complex issues with the senior and their loved ones
  • Talking through the family or patient’s emotional concerns
  • Offering support and guidance on caregiver stress relief

While these types of services can be helpful to any family who is dealing with a medical crisis, they can be truly invaluable for people who live far away from their aging loved one. A geriatric care manager can provide family members (whether they are in-town or long-distance) with honest, objective updates on the patient and their care needs—a task that can be difficult for some people to do on their own since we may have a natural inclination to “sugarcoat” conversations about difficult circumstances to protect those we love.

It is also valuable for financial advisors to have a good relationship with qualified care coordinators in their area—someone to whom they can refer their clients and turn for assistance with questions they may receive.

>> Related: So I’ll Probably Need Long-Term Care, But for How Long?

How much will it cost?

Most geriatric care managers charge by the hour. Some bill on a monthly or weekly basis; others require payment after the completion of certain tasks or objectives, so be sure you understand their billing structure upfront. An initial consultation and evaluation may be pricey—from $50 to upwards of $200 an hour—and clients may also be charged for other out-of-pocket expenses like mileage and caregiving supplies.

In certain cases, long-term care insurance (LTCi) may pay for some portion of the cost of an initial care assessment, but the ongoing services of the geriatric care manager must be paid for out-of-pocket. Many families who have chosen to work with a geriatric care manager maintain that, while their costs can be high, their services and the peace of mind they provide are invaluable.

>> Related: A Concise Explanation of Long-Term Care Insurance

How to find a geriatric care manager

If your pre-crisis planning includes identifying a geriatric care manager for yourself should there come a time you need their services—or if you have a loved one who has experienced a health emergency and you are looking for support resources—there are a couple of ways to begin your search.

  • The Aging Life Care Association, formerly known as the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM), is a non-profit professional association for care managers. All members must hold at least one of four approved certifications: care manager certified (CMC), certified case manager (CCM), certified advanced social work case manager (C-ASWCM), and/or certified social work case manager (C-SWCM). The NAPGCM website has a searchable database of members that can help you locate a geriatric care manager near you, as well as a number of other resources that may be helpful with your research.
  • The Eldercare Locator is a free service of the government’s U.S. Administration on Aging and offers a database of care resources by ZIP code and category. It can provide you with a list of local agencies that may be able to offer a recommendation on geriatric care managers.
  • Local support groups for age-related diseases are another potential resource for getting suggestions for good geriatric care managers who have helped other families in your area.

>> Related: The Long-Term Care Ombudsmen Program: Advocating for Seniors

What to ask

When contacting prospective geriatric care managers, there are several questions that you will want answered to determine if they will be a good fit for you (should you ever need them) or for your loved one.

  • What are your fees and payment structure (weekly, monthly, task-based billing)? Will you provide information in writing on your fees prior to beginning your services?
  • What degrees and/or certifications do you have that are applicable to your role as a geriatric care manager?
  • How long have you been providing care management services to clients?
  • Are you available 24/7 for emergencies?
  • How will you communicate information to me and how often?
  • Can you provide several recent references?

Also, the NAPGCM website offers some additional guidance on how to choose a well-qualified geriatric care professional.

A great resource before (or after) a crisis

Geriatric care managers are becoming a more and more common solution for families who are dealing with a healthcare emergency for their aging loved one. In a recent article in the New York Times entitled “Why Hire a Geriatric Care Manager?”, reporter Jane Gross interviews a geriatric care manager named Patricia Mulvey, who succinctly summarizes the value of her unique profession:

“A relationship with a professional geriatric care manager can allow the [adult] children of the elderly person to be children, while someone else manages the situation. When a son or daughter is providing the hands-on care to the parent, the quality time they have to be there emotionally for their parent is limited…The care manager can handle the difficult interpersonal issues, address the immediate problem, remain connected once the crisis passes, and get back involved as the situation requires it.”

And for seniors who want to feel empowered and in control of their future care, or who hope to alleviate some of the stress from their family should a crisis arise, locating an experienced and qualified geriatric care manager may be a great all-around solution.

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