GERIATRIC CARE MANAGERS:
WHO ARE THEY? WHAT DO THEY DO?
Over the past few weeks, I have been
asked on multiple occasions to explain what a Geriatric
Care Manager does. Briefly, a geriatric care manager is a
professional who develops and implements a plan to assist
the elderly and their families with all aspects of
long-term care. They often have have graduate degrees in
social work and/or nursing and are certified and/or
The concept of a nuclear family is
very common amongst our culture. Families are often
separated by many miles and many children find themselves
juggling careers that are demanding, families, and the
responsibility of caring for an aging parent. Survey after
survey confirms that we are busier now than ever before.
Ideally, it would be perfect to live in a society where
our parents and our elderly could be cared for easily,
where extended families were in close proximity, and where
both family members were not working full time. The
reality is that for most of us this is not the case. There
are many older people who live alone, far from children
and other relatives. Even for those who live near
children, family members may be working and may not be in
a position to do all that is required.
When older people begin to have
trouble coping with their daily lives, they often cannot
turn to family members for help. Even more importantly,
they do not wish to burden those they love with their
care. Under these circumstances a geriatric care manager
can be crucial.
A geriatric care manager must
perform an assessment and first evaluate an older person's
needs, including physical and mental health, family and
community resources, and medicines being used. The
importance of an appropriate living environment cannot be
over-emphasized. Will the client have the kind of
services, companionship and surroundings that she or he
wishes to have? The geriatric care manager must understand
the people he or she is working with, what their values
are, and come to each situation with no prescribed
It is the care manager's job to make
certain the client has what he or she needs to remains
safe and comfortable. A plan is subsequently developed
based on a close examination of a client's requirements
and then implemented. Once these arrangements are in
place, the care manager can coordinate all services to
ensure the client's health, safety and general well being.
There needs to be a continuous monitoring and
re-evaluation process to make necessary changes as needed.
A care manager can come in simply to advise a family on
resources and help develop a plan or can come in as a
long-term member of the care team.
Often care managers are brought into
a situation by an adult child, spouse or other responsible
person because there has been a change in health status or
the time has come to plan for the future. Sometimes the
older person who is aware that the daily tasks of life
have become overwhelming will initiate the first call.
Whether it is a bank manager concerned about a customer or
a resident manager, or a lawyer concerned about his
client, the first call is usually from someone who is
expressing real concerns.
Developing a care plan and putting
it into place can be a short-term process if there is
family willing and available to do the follow-up work.
When no family lives in the area, however, the process
tends to be on-going. Each situation is different, and
geriatric care managers are very flexible in working with
individual families who have their own needs and concerns.
Families have different expectations
about care managers as well. Communication is key (as
with any profession), to make sure that that expectations
on both sides are met. There needs to be a trusting
relationship in order for the arrangements to work. A
trusting relationship is at the core of any plan for
Hiring someone to help look after a
parent is a serious, but often a necessary, thing to do.
You want to make certain that the person can be your eyes
and ears, and can bring to your parent's care a wealth of
resources, understanding, and compassion. A Care Manager
should be willing to answer all your questions and should
be concerned about the things you are. If a parent is
vulnerable, everything from having valuable items in the
house inventoried, and appraised, to arranging proper
medical care should be as important to the care manager as
it is to you. All aspects of an older person's life and
well being, as well as easing the burden for family
members and friends, are the concerns of a responsible and
caring geriatric manager.