It’s a dilemma that almost every family faces sooner or later: an aging parent or spouse can no longer live at home and has to move into a care facility. Sometimes the move into long term care is planned, but often – due to a health crisis, accident, or lack of preparation – it catches families by surprise, leaving them in a panic. With a bewildering array of choices, how do they make the best senior housing decision?
Geriatric Care Managers Give Professional, Objective Guidance
Fortunately, because the issue can be so baffling even under the best of circumstances, there is professional help available: a geriatric care manager. For a better understanding of the role of a geriatric care manager, we suggest this helpful explanation on the Caring.com website. Geriatric care managers (also called “case managers” when they are employed by a care facility) “are usually social workers, psychologists, nurses, gerontologists or others with both training and experience in many aspects of elder care,” the website explains. Families often call in a geriatric care manager when they need a professional, objective assessment of the needs of an aging loved one. If long-term care is the right choice, the care manager helps locate a facility and get the older adult safely settled. When family disputes arise, an all too common reality with emotions high, the geriatric care manager can act as a referee. Sometimes care managers even fill in for family members at doctor appointments. In other words, geriatric care managers are an often-overlooked but critically important member of the family care team.
In fact, the team analogy is common when geriatric care managers describe their work. “The better you work as a team and the more you collaborate with peers and colleagues,” says one 35-year geriatric care veteran, “the better the outcome for the patient.” The team metaphor is particularly accurate because so many adult children are either too busy or living too far away to provide care. “Around 80 percent of my clients are adult children who live out of state or are working,” says another care manager, and are unable to manage the demands of caregiving without major dislocation or severe burnout. Calling in a professional reduces the burden of care and allows adult children to be their parent’s kids, not their caregivers.
Geriatric Care Managers Help Fill Gaps in Senior Care Staffing
According to the Caring.com article, the role of the geriatric care manager is increasingly important to families because so many assisted living facilities and nursing homes are facing chronic staffing shortfalls. “Clinical facility staff often work long hours and could be dealing with manpower shortages,” the article explains, “and communication can get lost in that shuffle.” In a busy care facility, individual patient needs too often fall through the cracks, and part of the task of the geriatric care manager is to visit facilities, talk with staff and close those cracks so the loved one gets the care they need and deserve. Again, this kind of on-site advocacy is critical for many professional families or those separated by distance. “Family caregivers who are working or don’t live nearby, especially find [the care manager’s] support and advice to be a godsend,” says Caring.com.
The expense of hiring a geriatric care manager can be a hurdle for cash-strapped families. Depending on where they live, Caring.com suggests these families turn to local government agencies and charitable groups which sometimes “offer consulting services free or on a sliding scale according to income level.” The cost of hiring a geriatric care manager, which isn’t covered by Medicare or Medicaid plans, typically ranges between $75 and $250 per hour, according to Caring.com, but that cost should be weighed against the benefits and savings that professional care management provides by freeing family members from endless phone calls and emails, keeping loved ones healthier, reducing hospital readmissions, and cutting down on emergency travel when a health crisis occurs.
Questions to Ask a Geriatric Care Manager
Because a geriatric care manager will become a trusted member of your loved one’s care team, it’s important that families ask plenty of questions when selecting one. Besides standard inquiries about references, credentials and experience, Caring.com recommends asking a few additional questions, such as:
- Are you part of a practice or a single provider?
- Who is your backup when you aren’t available?
- What days and hours are you available?
- How do you approach conflict within client families?
- What services will you provide – and which do you not provide?
Hiring the right geriatric care manager can make a huge difference in the lives of your loved one and your family. We encourage you to contact us here at AgingOptions for guidance in the selection process. We’ll gladly refer you to groups and agencies that can help, including our affiliate, Better Care Management.
Housing, Family, and So Much More
At the same time we also encourage you think carefully about your own retirement future. As we always remind our radio listeners and seminar guests, housing is a critical component of a good retirement plan, but it’s only a part of an overall strategy. You also need to prepare yourself financially so you don’t outlive your money. Then there’s medical insurance and everything that pertains to preserving your health and planning for long-term care. You need to protect yourself and your loved ones with a sound legal framework. Finally comes a step many retirees overlook: you need to communicate carefully with your family to make certain they understand your wishes and will support them. The only retirement planning tool we know of that does all this is a LifePlan from AgingOptions.
If you’re ready for a fresh approach to retirement planning, we invite you – along with parents, spouses and friends – to join Rajiv Nagaich of AgingOptions at a free LifePlanning Seminar, an information-packed few hours where many of your questions will be answered. Visit our Live Events page for a calendar of upcoming seminars, then register for the event of your choice. You’ll be very glad you did. Age on!
(originally reported at www.caring.com)