Geriatric Care Managers

by Jan Simpson

Once upon a time, families and extended families more often than not lived within a few blocks of one another, close enough to keep an eye on the needs of the young and old alike. Today, siblings tend to stretch out across the country if not the world, juggling children and jobs, elders, siblings, and spouses. When an elder parent or older loved one needs help, some families decide to hire a geriatric care manager to sort through options for short- and long-term care (home care or respite care) or housing needs (assisted living, nursing homes, retirement communities).

To learn more about geriatric care managers, I spent a morning with Meredith Patterson who has been an elder care consultant for 22 years. Meredith is a full member of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAP-GCM), one of a handful of their Fellows nationally, and previously the National Chair of the Standards and Ethics Board.  We met the morning following the death of a client; she had been awake since 4 a.m.

I  posed three questions:

1. Why and when would someone hire a care manager? Geography and Medical Status

Families often seek professional advice on how to best manage home care or the transition to a care facility for more complex medical concerns. Care managers often know and have relationships with all of the housing choices in a geographic area .They also are connected with a community of social workers, nurses, psychologists, elder law attorneys, and other elder care professionals who many be of assistance. Beyond advice, some families, separated by distance from their loved ones, may use a care manager to supervise their loved one, but this option is expensive. Geriatric care managers may charge $ 50-175 per hour or more.

2. How would one assess the skill of a geriatric care manager? Credentials and Experience

To my surprise, geriatric care managers are not certified and have diverse experience, education, and backgrounds. Many are licensed in state as nurses or social workers. Before hiring a care manager, ask about their education and certification. Meredith is a licensed social worker, an MSW, LICSW and CMC. Look for full (not associate) membership in the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, and at least one of four certifications that require testing and continuing education (CMC, CCM, C-ASWCM, or C-SWCM).

Finding a care manager whose personality suits your family is important, but more important is his or her experience and knowledge of the specific issues your family is dealing with. Determine how long the care manager has been providing services and explore areas of expertise. Meredith has experience in neurology, which may explain why nearly 80 percent of her families have a loved one living with dementia.

3. What services do care managers provide? Advice and Coordination of Care

Some care managers are sole practitioners, others work for a practice with two or more care managers. The care manager should be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Many care managers work with home care agencies whom the family must hire independently.

Prompted by my question, “Do you have any financial arrangement with nursing facilities or a particular provider e.g., home care providers?”  Meredith indicated that most families are not aware that they need to ask about financial incentives: many geriatric care managers do receive a placement fee that may be a fixed-dollar amount or the equivalent to the first month’s payment by the family. Meredith refuses to accept fees and years ago, disturbed by the practices she witnessed, she became the National Chair of Standards and Ethics at the NAP-GCM.  So, buyer beware.

If you would like a copy of the questions one may use to assess geriatric care managers, post your email below or send a request to jsimpson@colpartners.com

Have you had any experience using a geriatric care manager?  Let us know the comments section below!

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