by Mary Keen
One of the most valuable and effective supportive resources available to older adults and their family caregivers is geriatric care management. Geriatric care managers (GCM) are relatively new specialists in the eldercare field, and many people are unfamiliar with the range of services they can provide. In fact, until you have used the services of a GCM, it may be difficult to appreciate their true value. Basically, they help find compassionate and strategic solutions for aging issues when caregivers are unable to handle them on their own for a variety of reasons including: lack of time because of other responsibilities like childrearing; geographic distance; difficult family dynamics; unfamiliarity with complex medical or legal issues; and more.
The concept is easier to understand by reading these real-life examples:
While you are at an out-of-town business meeting, your elderly mother, who lives independently across the country from you, falls and breaks her arm. You are suddenly faced with the difficult decision as to whether or not you need to quickly take the next plane out to make sure mom gets the proper care. If you have any concerns about leaving an elderly parent alone while you have to travel, a geriatric care manager can be arranged beforehand to keep an eye on things. In this case, the GCM can handle your mom’s hospital admission and continue to help with her discharge to rehab or back home, if necessary, until you can get there.
You and your siblings cannot agree on where dad should live and what type of care he should get and are constantly bickering over every issue that comes up. The arguments get very emotional and everyone has hurt feelings. A geriatric care manager can come in as an objective party, see what the problems are, mediate the arguments, discuss all the options and suggest the best solution for all involved.
You work full-time and your mom regularly needs to go to various medical professionals for a variety of health concerns, which means you would miss a lot of work. But you could also make arrangements with a geriatric care manager who could drive mom to the doctor, fill her prescriptions, explain to you the results of the visit and the medical options or medical care your mom needs.
Upon visiting your dad over the holidays you find stacks of bills and collection notices all over the house. Instead of worrying about things piling up, or trying to handle the situation yourself, you can engage a geriatric care manager who can provide a bill paying service to manage payments when due.
These are just a few scenarios. Geriatric care managers do so much more. They understand that all change is hard, and having those difficult “conversations” can be an extremely stressful, but necessary, thing to do. They can:
- Make sure your loved one gets the appropriate care needed from a sprawling health system and coordinate care among multiple doctors.
- Help navigate a difficult medical decision or hospital situation.
- Help family members cope with medical challenges, such as memory problems (including Alzheimer’s disease), falls, pain, multiple chronic conditions, decline in independence, care coordination and end-of-life care coordination.
- Complete advance directives or living wills.
Geriatric care managers provide their services by making personal visits and frequent phone calls, with email follow-up, as needed. They start with an initial consultation and then work by the hour to take care of issues that arise. Care managers are available for newclient emergencies, but it’s best to plan ahead. In planning ahead, all members of the family, especially those in need of care, can have a say in the process. This helps not only to preserve strong family ties, but it also gives older loved ones a sense of independence and meaning.
Geriatric care management is available through CJE’s affiliate, Your Eldercare Consultants(link is external). Our certified geriatric care managers have advanced degrees in social work and special training in gerontology. They understand the complex issues related to aging and, on a day-to-day basis or in an emergency, they provide answers, support, advice and referrals. And, yes, they make house calls.