Being a caregiver to an aging parent is both an act of love and a journey of challenge. Even if your parent doesn’t have any major health issues, you will likely face a variety of situations that are entirely unfamiliar.
It’s easy to end up feeling overwhelmed, out of your depth, and at a loss about how to make the right choices. And if there is a health issue or crisis, the stakes are that much higher, and the scenarios that much more complex.
If you have the means to pay out of pocket for supplemental support, a geriatric care manager can help alleviate your anxiety, cover gaps in your knowledge, and even manage coordinating family engagement with caretaking.
What Is a Geriatric Care Manager?
Sometimes called an aging life care manager or an aging life care expert, these people are professionals who typically are licensed as a nurse or social worker, and who specialize in health care for older adults. Many have backgrounds in occupational or physical therapy.
What Does a Geriatric Care Manager Do?
A geriatric care manager is someone who supports family members by acting as a private advocate and guide, helping caregivers navigate a variety of care choices by providing specialized expertise and taking on research, coordination, and other responsibilities that can quickly become time consuming.
Depending on a family’s needs, a geriatric care manager may provide a one-time assessment or ongoing coordination-of-care services.
Initial assessments are often focused on ensuring that an aging parent will be able to remain safely and comfortably at home. Such assessments typically include an in-person visit to evaluate in-home health and care needs, identify any potential issues with the living arrangements, and generally provide expert opinions about the levels of service and supervision required to maintain a certain level of independence.
Ongoing care coordination and family guidance can cover a range of services including:
- Designing short- and long-term care plans, including options like rehabilitation centers and assisted living communities
- Acting as a central hub of information and communication for dispersed family members
- Providing impartial guidance to help families navigate complex or emotionally difficult topics and questions
- Coordinating, evaluating, and monitoring third-party paid caregivers such as home health aides
- Scheduling doctor’s appointments and other medical services as well as managing related transportation
- Researching and assessing relevant services, programs, and aid
- Referring to other financial, medical, and legal professionals based on specific challenges
- Providing stress relief to caregivers, including helping to resolve family conflicts related to care decisions
How Much Does a Geriatric Care Manager Cost?
Costs for a geriatric care manager vary depending on location and the individual’s level of experience. Julie Wagner, CEO of the Aging Life Care Association, shared estimated costs in an AARP article, which stated that you can expect to pay between $800 and $2,000 for a comprehensive initial assessment. From there, care managers charge by the hour for ongoing coordination and other services, typically at a rate somewhere between $90 and $250 per hour.
Unfortunately, neither Medicare nor Medicaid provide coverage for geriatric care management services, so families have to pay out of pocket. In some cases, long-term care insurance — if you have it — may cover a portion of the expenses. If you are employed full-time, it may also be worthwhile to inquire if your employer offers any assistance programs to help defray the costs of hiring a geriatric care manager. Some companies will provide this benefit in order to reduce the need for caregiver time off.
Where Do You Find a Geriatric Care Manager?
One good place to start looking for a geriatric care manager is to ask your doctor or other health care provider for recommendations. If your loved one has been diagnosed with a specific disease or condition, you might also reach out to related support groups for information on care managers who have specific expertise. Our team here at Czepiga Daly Pope & Perri is also happy to refer you to a geriatric care manager in the area.
Furthermore, there are several organizations that connect families to geriatric care managers. Two of the most well known are:
How Do You Choose a Geriatric Care Manager?
Because there are no licensing requirements for geriatric care managers, it’s important to do your due diligence when interviewing. This is especially critical in cases where you do not have a personal referral from someone you trust, like your doctor.
Experience & Qualifications
- What credentials and professional licenses do your practitioners have? (There are two non profit organizations that offer certification programs: the Commission for Case Manager Certification in New Jersey, and the National Academy of Certified Case Managers in Oklahoma.)
- How long have you been in business?
- Do you have specialized experience and expertise dealing with cases similar to ours? (Including specific diseases and conditions)
- Can you provide references?
Services and Protocols
- What services do you provide — assessments, in-home care, coordination, etc.?
- How do you manage communicating with family members?
- Do you offer emergency and 24/7 services?
Costs and Payment Policies
- Do you charge a fee for an initial consultation?
- What is your fee for an initial assessment?
- How do you charge for ongoing services and what are your rates?
- Do you provide estimates prior to delivering services?
- Do you provide detailed statements of services?
A Geriatric Care Manager Can Provide Invaluable Peace of Mind
While there are out-of-pocket costs involved in retaining a geriatric care manager, those costs are well worth it for many families. Having an expert, impartial advocate and guide to help you navigate the often complex and emotionally fraught experience of being a caretaker can help you save a lot of time, reduce your stress, and ultimately improve the quality of time you spend with your loved one.