A geriatric care manager helps aging adults and caregivers by advising, planning, and coordinating care with health, social and community-based providers. Can family members do this? Yes, and it can be difficult, time-consuming, sub-optimal, and frustrating. Ask anyone who has done it. 

The value a geriatric care manager brings includes saving time, money, and providing education and advice about services you might not know exist. In addition, some geriatric care managers, also known as eldercare consultants, senior care managers, or advisors, may serve as professional fiduciaries. 

If you have experience with hospitals, nursing homes, or the healthcare system, you may be familiar with the term care management. This broader term encompasses hospital and transitional care management, chronic care management, advance care planning, and care management for individuals of different ages—like infants—or persons of any age with disabilities. Our focus here is on services for older people and their caregivers. 

This article answers three questions:

  • What is a geriatric care manager
  • Why should I hire a geriatric care manager 
  • How do I find a qualified geriatric care manager

What is a Geriatric Care Manager (GCM)?

A GCM is a qualified individual who is self-employed or who works for a healthcare corporation. Geriatric care managers typically have a variety of backgrounds: some are nurses, social or public health workers, while others have health-related, educational, or business backgrounds.  

Professional geriatric care managers are highly educated people and many have additional professional certifications with ongoing education requirements. Many volunteer and participate in community or professional organizations supporting the elderly. 

The breadth of expertise of a GCM depends on the goals and services provided by the organization in which they work. Many care managers are self-employed. 

Care management services can be delivered virtually, by telephone, or in person. The scope of experience of a GCM depends on years of work in the field, the number and the types of client situations served, and the setting of care, such as hospitals, medical offices, nursing homes, assisted living communities, private homes, etc. 

Collaborative relationships exist between traditional care managers, geriatric care managers, social workers, and aging services providers. For example, care managers in hospital, medical, and health insurance settings frequently refer clients to community-based geriatric care managers to support transitions from healthcare settings to the home. 

Why Should I Hire a Geriatric Care Manager

An experienced geriatric care manager can save an older adult or family member hours of investigation, frustration, and worry. A single phone call can answer many common questions and guide older adults and their caregivers. Like other professions with specialized knowledge and expertise (attorneys, financial planners for example) GCMs have specialized knowledge in navigating the healthcare system and community-based services.

Geriatric care managers offer virtual or telephone consulting, care planning, advising, and direct services. The services offered vary by care management agency.  

Many coordinate and organize follow-up care when older adults are released from a hospital or a nursing home. In addition, care managers can attend medical appointments as an advocate. Many are well-versed in discussing health diagnoses with clients and making suggestions and plans that individuals can implement to manage or improve medical conditions. 

Some assist with medication management, coordinate in-home physical therapy, and supervise in-home caregivers. Others have staff that support household organizational tasks like scheduling home maintenance or repairs, including extending to pet care and other needs. 

If there is a time that a client wishes to transition from home to an assisted living community—GCMs help with this type of transition and can remain involved after the move. Professional fiduciary services of power of attorney, guardian, or conservator may also be available.  

Geriatric care managers can reduce the task burdens of adult children caregivers or a spouse who can quickly become exhausted or overwhelmed as care needs grow.  Single or widowed older adults hire GCMs to assist with care planning so that they do not have to rely on family or friends for support. 

GCMs Mindful of a Client’s Financial Situation

Typically, GCMs take their financial responsibility to clients seriously. This means that if a less-expensive method of providing a service is available, the GCM will make a recommendation  

Two examples: 1. suppose a client desires an in-home caregiver to provide light housekeeping, meal preparation, bathing, and errands. In that case, the care manager will identify and recommend an agency for a client. The GCM can supervise the agency and the caregiver if the client wishes. 

2. If a care manager attends in-person medical appointments with a client, a transportation service may be arranged to transport the client to and from the appointment so that the care manager does not have to charge for this time. In today’s world of virtual meetings, care managers can meet with and attend medical and other appointments with clients online.   

Geriatric care managers can coordinate services with many providers on behalf of clients with the appropriate written permissions. These may include  CPAs, tax accountants, physicians, insurance companies, lawn care, home repairs, veterinarians, attorneys, dentists, etc. 

Hourly rates for a geriatric care manager and staff range from $60 to $175 an hour, depending on the service provided. Ask the GCM to provide a copy of their standard rate chart, an estimate of charges, and a copy of their fee agreement before engaging them. 

How Do I Find a Qualified Geriatric Care Manager?

Finding a qualified geriatric care manager might be easier than you think. Begin with people you know who may have used similar services. Ask the staff at your doctor’s office or another healthcare provider you use.

Local community organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association, American Cancer Society, and others can be sources to identify a geriatric care manager near you. Additionally, many professional certification organizations like the National Association of Certified Care Managers, the National Association of Social Workers, Certified Senior Advisor, or the National Guardianship Association have online member lists searchable by state or zip code. 

The most important aspect of interviewing and hiring a certified geriatric care manager is to find a match in personality and the expertise you need. First, ask the basic questions like education level, years of experience, and then ask about client situations similar to yours with an example of the services provided. 

Realize that while care managers offer and implement recommendations, the client remains the decision-maker. You may find that having a geriatric care manager available for consulting is all you need, or you may prefer someone on the ground who can manage tasks in person. 

Geriatric care managers help clients plan for the future and help with present needs. If you are in any health or a care situation and you’ve been struggling to find resources or support, contact a geriatric care manager to learn how they can help. 

PAMELA D WILSON MS, BS/BA, NCG, CSA is a national caregiving expert, author, eldercare consultant, geriatric care manager, and educator serving family caregivers, older adults, professionals, groups, and corporations since 1999. 

©2021 Pamela D Wilson. All Rights Reserved.