Wednesday, January 20, 2010

We All Need a Little Help From Our Friends

I was asked recently by a colleague to write a newsletter article on Geriatric Care Management, and I realized this is a topic I haven't even written about here. So, not only did I get a newsletter article out on the topic, I also have a blog post.

My colleague, Zanda Hilger, is a busy, busy lady who does lots of teaching, counseling and consulting on aging issues here in Fort Worth. She has a website,, that is full of information. I encourage everyone to go check it out. And like me, Zanda is a caregiver, so she "gets it".

Being a caregiver is hard work. There is no other way to say it. Many of the people I see on a daily basis have jobs, spouses, children, and now they have the worry of having to provide increasing amounts of time devoted to parents or grandparents whose health is failing, who are functionally able to do less, and who need more and more assistance. It’s no wonder so many caregivers are fatigued and depressed and overwhelmed.

Sadly, little in our current health care delivery system is designed to make caring for older adults easy. Services are sporadic, care is fragmented, and it can feel like you need a PhD in bureaucratese to understand an insurance explanation of benefits.

For some, the assistance of a geriatric care manager (GCM) can be a life saver. A professional Geriatric Care Manager is someone who helps families who are caring for older relatives. GCMs can be especially helpful if the caregiver lives in another city or state from the family member needing help.

Many GCMs are trained and experienced in any of several fields related to care management, including nursing, gerontology, social work, or psychology, with a specialized focus on aging and elder care.

Unfortunately, most services provided by Geriatric Care Managers have to be paid out of pocket and can average $75.00 per hour. Medicare and Medicaid do not cover care management services. Some long term care insurance policies do provide some coverage, so be sure to explore that if your loved one has this type of policy.

Some of the services a GCM can provide include:

  • Conducting care-planning assessments to identify problems and to provide solutions.
  • Screen, arrange, and monitor in-home help or other services, including assistance in hiring a qualified caregiver for home care.
  • Provide short- or long-term eldercare assistance for those engaged in local or long distance caregiving.
  • Review financial, legal, or medical issues and offer referrals to geriatric specialists.
  • Provide crisis intervention.
  • Act as a liaison to families at a distance, overseeing care, and quickly alerting families to problems – especially important when families are engaged in long distance caregiving for a loved one.
  • Assist with moving an older person to or from a retirement complex, assisted care home, or nursing home.
  • Provide consumer education and advocacy.
  • Offer eldercare counseling and support.

When talking to a GCM, there are some questions to be sure and ask:

  • What are your professional credentials?
  • Are you licensed in your profession?
  • Are you a member of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers?
  • How long have you been providing care management services?
  • Are you available for emergencies?
  • Does your company also provide home care services?
  • How do you communicate information to me?
  • What are your fees? (These should be provided to the consumer/responsible party in writing prior to services starting.)
  • Can you provide me with references?

Finding and hiring a care manager can make the hard work of being a caregiver a little less so. A care manager can be there to help understand the medical complexities so you can make informed decisions. They can help unravel insurance. Care managers will be connected to many service providers in your community, and they will be able to do a lot of the leg work and research so you can find the best care available for your loved one.