Geriatric Care Managers and Other Professionals to Help Navigate the Senior Care Maze

Overview

Published: 04/05/2012

by Michelle Seitzer

Photos

You can read all the caregiving books, blogs and articles you want, or attend every last caregiving seminar and workshop offered, but you still might feel lost about what to do or where to turn in your new role as caregiver... especially when the Medicare, Medicaid, and other financial/legal paperwork starts flooding your mailbox.

 

Sometimes the best thing is having a knowledgeable person sitting right beside you, helping you sort through all the options, decisions, resources, financial aspects, and other pieces of the senior care puzzle. Many liken the experience of caring for a senior parent or aging relative to a labyrinth or maze; having someone to guide you through it could be just what your family needs.

 

As senior care is currently a booming industry, finding a trained, experienced professional (as opposed to a fly-by-night operation or an individual who only claims to know it all) can be a challenge in and of itself. Many profess to be elder care advisors or geriatric care managers, and while a specific degree or training does not always equal competence, having some type of specialized licensure, education or credentials certainly helps. Besides, the more they know and the more experience they have, the better help they can offer you.

 

Per the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, a geriatric care manager is “a health and human services specialist who helps families who are caring for older relatives. The geriatric care manager is trained and experienced in any of several fields related to care management, including, but not limited to nursing, gerontology, social work, or psychology, with a specialized focus on issues related to aging and elder care.” Go to http://www.caremanager.org/ to learn more about this special cadre of professionals, where to find a GCM in your area, and why certification matters.

 

You may also want to consider enlisting the services of a patient advocate. Per this eHow.com definition, patient advocates “provide patient support in various capacities: communicating with physicians and insurance providers, identifying the best treatment options, clarifying doctors’ instructions, and ensuring that a patient's rights aren't overlooked.” Patient advocates and RN patient advocates (who do similar work but have the extra level of medical knowledge that comes from being a registered nurse) are becoming increasingly popular, helping understandably overwhelmed consumers navigate today’s complex healthcare system and serving as a liaison between the multiple members of the care team.  Care Coordination keeps everyone on the same page

 

Your local Area Agency on Aging is another good source of information and referrals for these types of professionals. You may even be able to work with a care manager in the AAA office, depending on what services your care needs (and other eligibility requirements).

 

Most all of these professionals work in a variety of care settings: at home, in hospitals, in assisted living, and in nursing homes. They can “follow” your senior loved one through the various care transitions that may come and continue to support you, the caregiver, at home.

 

Whomever you deem is the best fit for your family’s needs, be an informed consumer: when seeking professional help in making elder care decisions, ask around and do some research on the individual’s background and reputation before signing a contract or making a payment for services. A local elder law attorney may also be able to advise you or point you in the direction of reputable care managers.