Geriatric Care Managers: For You or a Loved One

Physician's Money Digest, September 2006, Volume 13, Issue 9

For anyone who has ever lostsleep worrying how theirparents are doing half acountry away, hiring a geriatriccare manager (GCM)might be a worthwhile consideration.Even baby boomers should be thinkingabout them as part of their own long-termcare strategy.

GCMs come from diverse backgroundsin nursing, social work, psychology,and finance, and they provideservice in all levels of the geriatric careprocess. They are the eyes and ears ofchildren and friends who can't be onthe ground to support an older relative.If a child simply wants their parentschecked on a couple of days aweek to make sure that the house isclean and they're eating properly,GCMs can coordinate that too. Theyalso serve a watchdog function overbilling and whether a senior is gettingproper health care services in a hospital,nursing home, assisted living facility,or at home. Sometimes their mostvaluable service is providing mediationbetween siblings and other relativeswho can't agree on how to carefor their loved ones.

Searching for a GCM is best donewhen there's not an emergency—GCMsare not currently regulated by states,and it's definitely worth taking the timeto find a good one. Their services rangefrom $80 to $200 an hour based ontheir assigned tasks, and, typically, thoseare mainly out-of-pocket expenses sincesome long-term care insurance policiesonly pay a portion of the cost.

The National Association of ProfessionalGeriatric Care Managers(www.findacaremanager.org), the field'strade association, is a good startingpoint to find GCMs in a particular geographicarea. Many GCMs have earnedcertifications that train and certify themto do various tasks. The National Associationof Professional Geriatric CareManagers recognizes the following certifications:Care Manager Certified,Certified Case Manager, Certified SocialWork Case Manager, and CertifiedAdvanced Social Work Case Manager.

Optimally, the first step in hiring aGCM or any other assistance for a seniorrelative is to talk to the senior first,and preferably while everyone ishealthy and willing to talk. If you cometo the decision to hire one, you shouldask the professional under considerationthe following questions:

  • What is your professional backgroundand your various certifications?
  • What is your experience with thehealth condition of my relative?
  • Are you available for emergencies?
  • Does your company provide homecare services? Are they licensed?
  • How do you communicate withfamily members?
  • What are your fees, and how doyou prefer payment?
  • What would your visitation schedulebe, and what would you do whileyou are visiting?
  • How do you handle payments forexpenses that my relative needs?
  • What is your liability coverage?Have you ever been sued?
  • Can you provide references?

An experienced GCM will readilytell you their specialty and where theyfind it necessary to bring in help. Forinstance, a GCM who senses a familydoesn't have a plan to pay for care orability to access the senior's assets willgenerally suggest the family bring in itsown tax or legal help or suggest help inthe community.

Reprinted with permission from the Financial PlanningAssociation (www.fpanet.org), the membership organizationfor the financial planning community.