Here’s a tip for families with a parent, relative or ailing sibling who are overwhelmed, don’t know what community resources are available, or want someone to oversee their loved one’s care. It’s called a geriatric care manager (GCM).
At a time when you’re already overwhelmed, stressed, and time-starved, a GCM can be a godsend. They do the legwork for you and know the best programs and experts in the senior’s community.
Think of them as a concierge service, but one that coordinates care, advocates for the client, and looks for ways to improve the quality of their life. In hotel concierge terms, they don’t just get you tickets for a play. They also tell you which play is the best, find a way for you to get there, and make sure you have everything you need, including a companion.
GCMs make a home visit and evaluate your loved one. Then they educate you and other experts about what the senior needs, advocate on their behalf, and problem-solve. Most importantly, a GCM comes up with a care plan.
They can be valuable, regardless of your situation--if Mom, Auntie or your sister lives far away, across town or even in the same house.
A GCM can nicely complement a professional caregiver who you hire on your own. And, if staying at home isn’t in the cards, they know about good assisted living, skilled nursing and memory care places.
Here are some of the things GCM’s may do:
- Steer families to vetted specialists such as a geriatrician, therapist, elder law attorney, elder mediator, accountant
- Make sure documents are in order (power of attorney, health care proxy, living will)
- Act as the eyes and ears of the parent/spouse and family so that everything runs as smoothly as possible. Monitor the help. Head off potential problems like exploitation or financial or elder abuse. Give long-distance family members detailed reports from the home front.
- Advocate for the client in the healthcare system and within the family. Attend doctor appointments, coordinate care and communication between multiple health professionals as well as families and physicians
- Address differences of opinion between siblings or members of a family
- Tackle finances. Explain the difference between Medicare and Medicaid, for example. If they suggest adult day care or respite care, they’ll know if your parent/spouse is eligible for any government reimbursements or payments.
At the home assessment, the GCM determines: What can Mom do independently, what does she need help with? Can she still pay her own bills or make meals, and if not, who in, or out of, the family will do it? Is the place where she’s living safe, set up for her, and appropriate? How is she doing with her medications? Can she take them independently or is there something that can remind her, like a special pillbox with sensors or a talking clock? How is her memory? How will that be addressed?
A GCM helps with other issues: Does Dad need transportation to appointments or someone to take him to the movies or out to lunch? Is there a senior center nearby where he can discuss current events, play cards, listen to music or just stay socially connected?
The background of a GCM varies (typically nursing, gerontology, psychology or social work). Some GCMs charge for an initial home visit and overall assessment, which might range from $250-$1,000, and then an hourly fee of $75-$200. How and what they charge depends on the person or company they work for. You can use this professional a couple of times or as often as you want. Medicare won’t pick up the tab, but some long-term care insurance companies do.
If you’re think of going the GCM route, be certain the person belongs to the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (http://www.caremanager.org) and that she (or he) is certified. You must use a certified geriatric care manager and someone who can step in 24/7. And speaking of stepping in, don’t wait for a crisis to start your search. Help you find a GCM the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers