• Gregory McCarthy

What You Should Know About Geriatric Care Management

When looking into home health care, geriatric care management is one of the many types of professional services you're likely to come across. But what exactly is it, and how does it differ from other professional services such as home caregiving?

An Overview of Geriatric Care Management

According to Stephanie Peters, the founder and owner of geriatric specialists EnABLE Care Management, a Geriatric Care Manager is basically like an adult relative who's specially trained in the ins-and-outs of caring for older adults. “Geriatric Care Managers are certified and trained in all of the areas that an adult daughter does her best to bungle through and learn about,” says Peters. “while she still presumably has to deal with everything that comes along with having a family, job, and life of her own.”

However, rather than juggling so many different life components, Geriatric Care Managers have the time and professional skills to focus solely on your loved one and make life easier for them, not to mention you and your family.

Geriatic Care Managers might be a licensed nurse, gerontologist, social worker or mental health professional that helps to evaluate, plan, and monitor care services for older adults and their caregivers. In general, there are two ways individuals can interact with Geriatric Care Managers:

  1. Frequent home visits, meaning once a week or more, along with daily check-ins with the family and/or responsible parties with updates on how things are going

  2. Intermittent visits—perhaps once a month or so—just to assist family members who prefer to do the legwork for their loved one but just want to assure that what they're doing is right.

Ways It Differs from Other Forms of Care Management

Unlike skilled home health care or home caregiving services, geriatric care management skews away from assistance with medical duties or activities of daily living (“though we can provide it in a pinch,” says Peters), and instead focuses specifically on the broader picture of managing care. This means things like coordinating medical services, connecting clients with relevant resources, helping to relay complex information in a way that's straightforward and understandable, and providing a bit of extra relief to caregivers.

Although it’s entirely possible to hire a Geriatric Care Manager without hiring home caregivers and vice versa, in most cases it's far more cost-effective to hire a combination of the two. For example, while home caregivers focus their energy on custodial assistance such as feeding and bathing your loved one and handling household chores, a geriatric care manager is then free to manage medications, arrange and attend all doctor appointments, and keep relatives who are unable to be present in-the-loop, up-to-date, and aware of any changes or adjustments being made to your loved one’s overall care.

Another way that geriatric care managers can work in tandem with home caregivers is in securing and implementing new home safety devices or durable medical equipment (DME), such as a walker or a bed rail. “A Geriatric Care Manager might decide on a recommended product,” says Peters, “and then once the family gives the go-ahead, show the caregiver how it works and when to use it. “It's about all of us working together,” she says, “to produce the most optimal outcome.”

Things That a Geriatric Care Manager Can Assist With and Help Advocate For

The scope of geriatric care management is vast. They can assist with smaller tasks such as grocery shopping and laundry as needed, or focus entirely on running the show when it comes to arranging needed services or laying out long-term plans. “Our whole philosophy is if we're able to, we will,” says Peters.

Still, the one thing that many Geriatric Care Managers do shy away from it is taking on power of attorney, which means speaking on behalf of the senior that they're caring for. “We find it best when there's someone else—like a spouse or other close relative—making the final decision,” says Peters. “We can counsel, educate, and offer resources based on our many years of experience, but at the end of the day the decision is yours.”

What to Look For in a Geriatric Care Manager

“First and foremost you'll want to look at our experience and credentials,” says Peters. “In the world of Geriatic Care Management there are two sides, so to speak: there are those who are credentialed or certified, such as social workers and licensed nurses, and those who are not, like a life coach. Those of us who are certified are typically also part of the Aging Life Care Association (ALCA),” an association of professionals that have been properly vetted in eight distinct areas:

* Health and Disability: Using their professional knowledge to make sense of the healthcare system and facilitate communication between the doctor, patient, and family.

* Financial: Overseeing bills, helping with insurance claims.

* Housing: Evaluating various options, including assisted living and hospice

* Families: Problem-solving and helping smooth out any internal bumps in planning long-term care.

* Local Resources: Knowing and accessing whatever resources are locally available.

* Advocacy: Addressing and advocating for a client's needs.

* Legal: Referring directly to the client's power of attorney.

* Crisis Intervention: Helping with the navigation of hospitalizations, rehab stays, etc.

While ALCA is not a certifying body, it does provide an extra layer of vetting by an outside entity that you won't have to do yourself.

Another thing to look for is experience. “I would ask how long the Geriatric Care Manager has been in business,” Peters says, “because in this industry so much of it is learning through doing, case by case.”

Finally, there's personality. “This is a big one because in many ways Geriatric Care Managers become part of the family,” says Peters. “We're on level with a caregiver, so you want to really make sure you get along.”

How to Find a Geriatric Care Manager

Geriatric care management services range from smaller practices (employing around 12-20 care managers) such as Peters' that are largely independent, to sole practitioners and a few larger entities like LivHOME, which provide a mix of Geriatric Care Managers and home caregivers. The U.S. Administration on Aging's Eldercare Locator is a good place to look for more information. You can also ask your skilled home health care or home caregiving providers for recommendations.

Medicare and Geriatric Care Management

Unfortunately, most Medicare plans do not cover geriatric care management. “But there are some exceptions,” says Peters. “It really just depends on how the policy is written, and what exactly the care manager is providing.” If the two mesh, you may be able to get some Medicare assistance.

In Conclusion...

“If you're unsure if a care manager could help your situation,” says Peters “reach out to us because, in all likelihood, we can.”

Authored by Laura Kiniry

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