What is a Geriatric Care Manager?
A Geriatric Care Manager (GCM) is a professional health and human services advocate who provides guidance to seniors and others in a number of areas. While the professional title includes the word “geriatric,” GCMs actually help clients regardless of the clients’ ages, that is, the clients do not have to be seniors. However, due to the nature of their work, most GCMs perform most of their work with the elderly.
GCMs are skilled at (1) assessing a person’s care needs, (2) creating and implementing a plan for getting those needs taken care of, and (3) serving as the person’s advocate in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, doctor’s offices, emergency rooms, residential care facilities, governmental offices, and more.
How Does A Person Become a Geriatric Care Manager?
There currently are no state or Federal laws that establish licensing or regulations regarding GCMs. Because of that, everyone can call themselves a GCM regardless of whether or not they are qualified to perform care management services.
Therefore, it is important to ask a prospective GCM what makes them qualified to provide GCM services. The best way to ensure that your GCM is qualified to practice is to ask whether they are a certified or associate member in good standing of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (“NAPGCM”).
The NAPGCM requires a significant level of professional experience and education in order to qualify for “certified” or “associate” memberships in the organization. In order to be “certified”, NAPGCM further requires that the member hold one of the four professional certifications issued by third party certification agencies primarily involved with social work and nursing. Most NAPGCM members are social workers or nurses.
For more information about NAPGCM’s certification standards, see http://www.caremanager.org/join-us/certification/.
How Do I Select A Care Manager For My Loved One?
When selecting a GCM, first make sure that care manager you are considering is a certified or associate member of the NAPGCM. That should be the minimum standard for you to apply in selecting a GCM.
Besides that, consider carefully how closely the prospective GCM’s background and experience align with your loved one’s specific situation and needs.
· For example, if your loved one is experiencing a profoundly disabling medical condition, a qualified GCM with nursing experience may be the best choice.
· On the other hand, if your loved one has become increasingly isolated, lonely and depressed, a qualified GCM with a social work background could be a great choice.
· Finally, if your loved one has care needs and is also faced with having his or her financial affairs in crisis, a qualified GCM who is also a professional fiduciary or trustee could be a valuable resource for your loved one’s needs.
Besides these obvious expertise-based suggestions, it may also be helpful to consider whether the prospective GCM’s personality and life experience is a good “fit” with your loved one’s likes and dislikes. For example, would your loved one respond better to a man or a woman, or to a younger person or a more mature person? Would your love one have trouble understanding the prospective GCM due to language, hearing or cultural factors? You probably know better than anyone else which of these factors might be a key to the successful introduction of the GCM into your loved one’s life.
How can a Geriatric Care Manager Help My Loved One?
GCMs assist in a multitude of matters including but not limited to:
· Medical Management – Attending doctor appointments, keeping open lines of communication between the client, physicians and family members, and helping to ensure that the client is following medical orders and instructions provided by their physicians and other healthcare providers.
· Legal Matters –Geriatric Care Managers generally have good rapport with local attorneys and other legal services providers. GCMs can refer clients and their families to appropriate specialist attorneys for their needs, provide advice on administrative procedures and what to expect, and sometimes serve as expert witnesses in courtroom situations intended to determine levels of care needed.
· Housing – GCMs can offer expert opinions and options when it comes to housing choices for your loved one. They can assess the options available, including whether or not it is possible for your loved one to remain in their own home with the proper caregiving services.
· Entitlements – Geriatric Care Managers generally have expertise regarding local, state, and federal programs that your loved one may be entitled to. GCMs will also generally have the right connections to get the paperwork started and wheels moving to enroll your loved one in programs that can help them in a variety of ways.
· Socialization – GCMs can provide opportunities to engage your loved one in programs and social activities that they will feel comfortable in and enjoy. They will help your loved one engage in cultural events, religious activities, and recreational activities that help enrich their life greatly.
· In Home Caregiving Services – GCMs usually are well informed on the type of in-home caregiving services available in each community. After helping to arrange for in-home care service, GCMs can help by continuing to monitor the services and report back to you and your family regarding your loved one’s condition and any changes in condition.
· Financial Guidance – Some GCMs assist with some areas of financial services for their clients. Depending upon local regulations, they may offer to oversee regular bill paying, and more. They can work closely with the person who holds Power of Attorney as well as the accountant for your loved one to help ensure financial resources are being used wisely.
· Communication – Many families live across the globe and it can be difficult to get together to discuss how a loved one is doing and what they need. Sometimes families find that having a GCM help moderate these conversations can help to foster a more constructive conversation between all those involved.
Utilizing a Geriatric Care Manager can help ensure that no one person is put in the position of making all the decisions, doing all the work, filling out all of the paperwork and letting the whole family know what’s going on. Your GCM can help you make informed decisions by offering advice and advocacy based on professional knowledge in the field of care needs assessment and planning.
How Do I Know We Would Benefit from a GCM?
There comes a time when you need to decide whether it’s time to find a certified, professional Geriatric Care Manager. If you say ‘yes’ to one of more of these questions, hiring a GCM could be just what you need:
- Your family argues constantly about caregiving choices for you or your loved one.
- You and your loved one have very limited support, or no support at all, when grappling with the complexities that come with an increasing need for care.
- You and your family have very limited knowledge of the issues your loved one is dealing with.
- You’re burned out and confused.
- You’re at the beginning of dealing with the issues your loved one faces (dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.) and have no idea where to turn.
- You and your loved one are not happy with your loved one’s current medical guidance and your loved one is not making progress towards living a quality lifestyle.
- Your loved one is unable to live safely in his or her current situation without help or change and you need help to assess their needs and options.
A Geriatric Care Manager is one of the best ways to have someone guide you with making tough decisions about things you’ve never had to deal with before in your life. It also helps to ensure that the first priority is the quality of life for your loved one and yourself. Think of your Geriatric Care Manager as the one who helps you “connect the dots” in care needs assessment and planning.
JOYCE APPERSON, RN, GCM
Joyce Apperson is a Registered Nurse and Geriatric Care Manager with 15 plus years of experience working with advocating for seniors. She is the founder and President of Caring Connection, Inc., which provides in-home care and geriatric care management in Harford County, Baltimore County and Cecil County in Maryland. Joyce currently serves on the Harford County Advisory Board on Aging. In addition to writing articles here for the Caring Connection's blog, Joyce has been a regular contributor on senior care topics to the County Gazette.