Most people I come across do not understand the role of a Geriatric Care Manager. Caring for elderly parents is among the most noble sacrifices a person can make. However, it is also one of the most difficult and stressful responsibilities a person can take on. One of the best ways to alleviate the stress of looking after an aging loved one is geriatric care management; an entire field of endeavor that combines social work, medical expertise, counseling, advocacy, and more into the single goal of keeping senior citizens happy, healthy, and functional.
If you are a family caretaker, you are probably used to feeling out of your depth, tired, and touchy. The sheer number of tasks involved in taking care of a senior citizen is practically worthy of a college degree. That is why the position of geriatric care manager was created; to generate a pool of experts that family caretakers as well as independent seniors can rely on for information, assistance, and advice.
How Geriatric Care Managers Can Help
If you are not already a family caretaker, you might be wondering what exactly a caretaker might need a manager for. If you are a caretaker, you have probably experienced one (or several) of these situations:
- You and your siblings disagree, sometimes profoundly, on the best way to take care of your aging parent.
- You would love to be able to take care of your aging parent, but you do not know how to balance caretaking with your existing job, children, and other responsibilities.
- You have been caretaking for some time now and you are simply getting burned out, but you do not know what your options are for taking a break.
- Your elderly parent is becoming more dependent due to physical, mental, or emotional disability and you are not sure you can keep up.
- Your elderly parent is concerned about their estate plans, legal status, or other complex/abstract items and you do not have the understanding necessary to help them.
- Your family doctor has referred your parent to a variety of different specialists, but they are not communicating effectively and you are having trouble keeping track of their differing information, advice, and medicines.
- You have decided that you simply cannot continue caring for your elderly parent on your own, but you do not know where to turn for information on the next steps to take.
- Your elderly parent heard something about a program that might be able to help them in some way, but you cannot find anything about it online.
All of these scenarios and more fall under the purview of a skilled geriatric care manager. Such an individual is tasked with knowing all about all of the Federal, state, and local programs and initiatives that can help a senior with their health, safety, and legal issues. They are also trained to communicate effectively with your parent’s medical staff, social workers, elder law attorneys, and other experts to ensure that an overall plan of action for their lives is in play and being followed.
You can think of it as something akin to a sports team; the caretaker is the team captain, executing the plays one day at a time, the geriatric care manager is the coach, putting the playbook together and keeping the team pointed toward the goal.
The Cost of Care Management
Naturally, a skilled expert such as a geriatric care manager does not come cheap, and there are no programs (Medicaid, Medicare, and so on) or forms of insurance (Medigap, LTC, managed care, etc.) that cover this important service. There is one exception; VA benefits do cover part of care management, but the coverage is limited to the assessment of a vet’s physical, medical, and emotional needs.
Some states and/or municipalities offer senior consulting services (‘care management lite’) on a sliding scale that varies with the elderly patient’s income. In general, however, you can expect to spend between $60/hour and $250/hour for certified geriatric care expertise. Though geriatric care management can be costly, many families (and specifically many family caretakers) have reported that a single 1-2 hour consultation gave them the resources, insights, and help they needed to continue caretaking when they felt like they were at the breaking point.