For anyone who has ever lost sleep worrying how their parents are doing half a country away, hiring a geriatric care manager (GCM) might be a worthwhile consideration. Baby Boomers should be thinking about them as part of their own long-term care strategy.
Who are geriatric care managers? They come from diverse backgrounds in nursing, social work, psychology and finance, and they provide service in all levels of the geriatric care process:
- They are the eyes and ears of children and friends who can't be on the ground to support an older relative. For example, if a senior suffers a sudden, debilitating stroke, they are the go-to people to find that community's best rehabilitation and long-term care options.
- If a child simply wants to make sure their parents are checked on a couple of days a week to ensure that the house is clean and they're eating properly, geriatric care managers can coordinate that too.
- They also serve a watchdog function over billing and whether a senior is getting proper health care services in a hospital, nursing home, assisted living facility or at home.
- Sometimes their most valuable service is providing mediation between siblings and other relatives who can't agree on how to care for their loved ones.
Searching for a geriatric care manager is best done when there's not an emergency, because GCMs are not currently regulated by states and it's definitely worth taking the time to find a good one. Their services range from $80-$200 an hour based on their assigned tasks, and typically, those are mainly out-of-pocket expenses since some long-term care insurance policies only pay a portion of the cost.
The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, the field's trade association, is a good starting point to find GCMs in a particular geographic area. Many GCMs have earned certifications that train and certify them to do various tasks. The NAPGCM recognizes the following: Care Manager Certified (CMC), Certified Case Manager (CCM), Certified Social Work Case Manager (C-SWCM) and Certified Advanced Social Work Case Manager (C-ASWCM).
An experienced geriatric care manager will readily tell you their specialty and where they find it necessary to bring in help. For instance, a GCM who senses a family doesn't have a plan to pay for care or access the senior's assets will generally suggest the family bring in its own tax or legal help or suggest help on the ground in the community.
Bringing in help. Optimally, the first step in hiring a GCM or any other assistance for a senior relative is to talk to the senior first, and preferably while everyone is healthy and willing to talk. Here's what should be discussed between the senior and their chosen decision-maker:
- What is your preferred choice for long-term care (where do you want to live)?
- How do you want your assets used to pay for your care?
- Is your healthcare power of attorney up to date?
- Do you have any particular choices of professionals or facilities in mind?
If that discussion settles on the need for a geriatric care manager to enter the process, then here are the questions that need to be asked:
- What is your professional background and what are your various certifications?
- My relative has the following health conditions and wishes for dealing with them. What is your experience in this area, and how would you deal with such a client?
- Are you available for emergencies? What constitutes an emergency?
- Does your company provide home care services? Are they licensed?
- How do you communicate with family members?
- What are your fees, and how do you prefer payment? If my relative was in a hospital/nursing home/rehab facility/their own home, what would your visitation schedule be, and what would you do while visiting?
- Are you qualified to interpret billing statements, and how do you handle payments for expenses that my relative needs?
- What is your liability coverage? Have you ever been sued?
- Can you provide references?