Feeling anxious and overwhelmed as a family caregiver? A geriatric care manager can relieve your stress by helping you make caregiving decisions, navigate the elder care system, and supervise care.
First, let’s cover the reason a person might not want to hire a GCM (besides the fact that many caregivers do not know that GCMs exist):
Geriatric Care Management aka GCM services are not covered by most private insurance and at this time are not covered by Medicare or Medicaid. Services cost between $50 and $200 an hour, depending on the geographic area, with initial assessment visits of an hour and a half often charged at a higher rate. While many people find it helpful to hire a GCM for just a handful of hours—for the initial assessment, for example—many other people find that the cost, even for a few hours, is beyond their reach.
Benefits to hiring a geriatric care manager
Geriatric care managers can help you:
1. Save money
It’s counter-intuitive, but true for many people. Hiring a GCM either for a one-time assessment or for ongoing support is likely to lower your expenses in the long run by helping you plan ahead and avoid hasty decisions that might prove unnecessary or overly expensive.
If you care for a loved one at home, for example, a GCM can help you decide which home care services may be necessary, and help you supervise that care. A GCM may help with financial planning for future care, working as a liaison with a person’s power of attorney, elder law attorney and financial planner, perhaps helping caregivers avoid costly mistakes. GCMs should also be able to give you information about entitlement programs and benefits for veterans.
2. Make better decisions
A GCM can assess a person’s living situation and recommend changes such as modifications to their home or a move to a facility. I know now that a GCM could have assessed my mother’s ability to care for herself when she still lived alone, assessed her ability to drive, and offered us suggestions for the next steps to take.
3. Navigate the medical system
Geriatric care managers may attend doctors’ appointments, help you communicate with health care professionals, and make sure doctors’ orders are understood and followed. In addition, according to Nataly Rubinstein, a geriatric care manager and author of the book Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias: The Caregiver’s Complete Survival Guide, if you need help getting an accurate diagnosis for your loved one, a geriatric care manager can help you find the right specialist and then walk you through the evaluations necessary for receiving a diagnosis.
An ongoing relationship with a GCM should also help you avoid unnecessary hospitalizations for your loved one.
4. Supervise care and advocate for your loved one in a facility
A GCM can coordinate all aspects of a loved one’s move to a facility, or simply serve as an extra and discreet pair of eyes and ears to visit the facility at odd hours and check on a client’s physical care, emotional state, activity level, and social engagement. A GCM can also help facilitate communication between family caregivers and facility staff.
5. Find caregiver support
A GCM can help save your sanity as a caregiver. Family caregivers often try to take on too much—either out of guilt, a feeling of being obligated, or just love and good intentions. A GCM can not only share the burden of weighty decisions, but gently suggest ways you can pay attention to your own needs. GCMs should be able to recommend sources of caregiver support in your area such as respite care, caregiver counseling, and adult day service centers. GCMs may also be able to guide you through the process of building your own “circle of care” in which you let other family members, friends, and community members help with caregiving duties such as driving, grocery shopping, or just spending time with your loved one.
How to find a geriatric care manager
If your loved one lives with you or in your county, contact your county’s Office for the Aging for their recommendation of a local GCM. If your loved one lives farther away, you can contact the Office for the Aging in that area, or find a GCM through the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers. Make sure the GCM is certified through the Commission for Case Manager, the National Association of Social Workers, or the National Academy of Certified Care Managers, and ask for references.