As an adult child, you do your best to care for your elderly parent, but there are some things even you can’t do. That’s why lately you’ve thought of reaching out for additional help to a geriatric social worker, also referred to as a geriatric care manager or Aging Life Care Professionals.
What kind of services could this person provide? Could they really help you and your senior loved one through the complex issues of aging and the health care system?
A geriatric social worker works with older adults in their own homes for the benefit of their physical, mental, and emotional health. This care manager may provide the following services:
- Support and counseling
- Access to local resources
- Living arrangement evaluations
- Advocacy and education on senior care
- Setting up medical care appointments and services, including referrals
- Contacting a family member or caretaker after an incident or accident with the senior
- Choosing personnel for a senior’s care
- Becoming a liaison for long-distance families
- Visiting the senior’s home or nursing facility
- Handling a senior’s medical, legal, and even financial matters
- Ensuring the senior has access to a nutritious diet
A geriatric care manager, according to the National Institute on Aging, is usually a licensed nurse or social worker who specializes in geriatrics. The NIA calls a GCM “a sort of ‘professional relative’ who can help you and your family to identify needs and find ways to meet your needs.”health.usnews.com
You may have never heard of a geriatric social worker before, but they could be the right person for your needs.
They may be just what you need for your senior’s care. In this article, we will talk more about what these care managers do, the importance of their care, and the costs associated with hiring one.
Understanding Geriatric Care Managers
Geriatric care managers (GCMs) require a minimum of a bachelors college degree.
Their educational requirements can differ depending on whether they were previously a licensed nurse, gerontologist, counselor, or other related field.
First, let’s begin with a discussion about what a geriatric care manager is, then we’ll get into what they do.
Sometimes referred to a geriatric social worker, a geriatric care manager is a professional who cares for a senior through a myriad of services.
The family of a senior is not left out, as they often communicate with the geriatric care manager for the best interest of the senior.
There are three goals any GCM should have for the senior in their care.
These are to allow the senior to have some degree of independence, to boost the senior’s quality of life, and to provide care over the long run.
Geriatric care managers tend to have experience in the aging process, family dynamics, human development, psychology, and health.
This extensive knowledge can make them an excellent source of assistance for all the difficult decisions that families and seniors have to make.
They may have worked in gerontology, social work, and nursing.
Many geriatric social workers even have certification through the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers or other associations.
What Are The Benefits Of Hiring A Geriatric Care Manager?
Now that you understand a bit more about GCMs and their background, let’s elaborate on the benefits of hiring one:
- Emotional support, counseling and crisis intervention: A senior’s mental health is very important, and a geriatric social worker knows this. Through their support and counseling, they can ensure the senior and the family have someone to talk to about the issues that may bother them.
- Access to local and community resources: There are many resources available through community programs and local charities and establishments that you may not be aware of. A GCM can help you to access these as needed.
- Living arrangement evaluations: Since “social worker” is in the name of a geriatric social worker, one of their duties involves confirming that the senior has a hospitable and safe environment to call home. After all, family conflict is a very common issue in many families.
- Advocacy and education on senior care: This aspect of care is mostly aimed at a senior’s family. They might have the intentions but not the knowledge to pull off the right type of care themselves. Through more education, that can change.
- Time savings: Adult children often have full-time jobs and other family duties that render them unable to care for their senior parent around the clock. A GMC can save you time by scheduling doctor’s appointments, transportation for the senior, and other services and care for the senior needs.
- Cost savings: GCMs can help you save money by finding the most cost-effective care options and negotiating with insurance companies.
- Contacting a family or caretaker in the event of an issue: Should the senior have a slip and fall or some other sort of accident, who would get in touch with the adult children? With a geriatric care manager, there’s no need to worry. This person is a reliable source of information, which can give peace of mind – especially to a far-flung family, should something go wrong.
- Choosing personnel for a senior’s care: If the senior needs a primary care doctor, specialist, or another type of medical professional, the geriatric care manager can select the personnel for the senior. They will screen the personnel as well as rely on their own vast professional network for the best fit.
- Becoming a liaison for long-distance families: If you’re in one state, your brother in another, and your sister two states over, it’s hard to keep in touch about your senior parent. In the same way that the GCM can contact family when an incident occurs, they can also help maintain more regular communications between long-distance family members. They become a long-distance caregiver for everyone in the family to stay connected on the status of the elderly parent.
- Visiting the home or nursing facility: Besides just ensuring the senior has a good home environment, the geriatric social worker may also visit the senior in their home to check on their health. If the senior needs additional services, the geriatric care manager can make recommendations.
- Handling medical and legal issues, and even financial matters: From a senior’s medical bills to life insurance and bank accounts, that’s a lot for an adult child to have to take care of on top of their own lives. This is where a GCM can step in. With the approval of at least one adult child, they can consult with financial planners and family elder law attorneys about legal, and financial issues that will inevitably crop up in the life of a senior.
- Ensuring the senior has access to a nutritious diet: What a senior puts into their body matters a lot in providing them the best health. Your geriatric social worker can even aide the senior in getting their diet on track. When they’re at a better weight, they potentially reduce the risk of having a slip and fall accident.
- In constant contact: Geriatric care managers continuously monitor the families and seniors under their care by in-person visits, emails, phone calls and of course, video calls.
These professionals work to understand the care needs of the seniors and their families under their care and supervision.
Caring for elderly adults comes with many complex issues and a geriatric care manager can help you to maneuver through them with the least amount of resistance.
Why Is Geriatric Social Care Important?
Given the above duties and responsibilities of a geriatric care manager, you can see why their services are so incredibly important.
As we said before, adult children caring for a senior parent or older relatives, have their own lives to tend to as well.
You know what it’s like. You have a career, a home, a spouse or partner, pets, and perhaps children.
You can’t let these other life areas fall by the wayside while caring for their elderly parent. With a GCM, however, you don’t have to.
Even if, as an adult child, you quit your job to care for your elderly parent full-time, there’s another issue. You might have gaps in your knowledge.
That’s natural, since you’re not a doctor, nurse, or medical professional. With a geriatric care manager by your side, you can fill in those gaps with their expertise.
GCMs understand the mental and physical changes a person undergoes as they enter their senior years.
They can approach the senior in a way that can get them talking about these issues that maybe an adult child wouldn’t know how to.
Also, geriatric care managers have a series of contacts, including doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, and other professionals who can aide in caring for the senior.
You can always research these parties yourself, but you don’t know how good of a fit they’d be for your senior parent.
With the screening a geriatric care manager can do, there’s very rarely any question about the fit.
How Are The Costs Of Hiring A Geriatric Care Manager?
A certified geriatric care manager doesn’t necessarily come cheap.
The cost of an initial assessment can vary widely by region but will generally run from about $800 to $2,000, says Julie Wagner, CEO of the Aging Life Care Association. Hourly rates for ongoing services range from $90 to $250.Barbara Moroch on AARP
Even if you only paid $90 an hour for the services of a GCM, if they worked with your senior four hours a day, then you’d be charged $360.
If that manager were to come over five days a week, that’s $1,800 a week and about $7,200 a month.
Some GCMs will also charge for additional items, such as mileage or for their travel time. Be sure to find out exactly when your costs will be if you are negotiating to hire a geriatric social worker.
Does Medicare Cover Geriatric Care?
Okay, now that you’ve done the math, that’s a lot of money, right?
I’m sure you’ve already begun wondering if you could possible get some assistance with paying for the services of an aging life care professional like this, such as through Medicare.
More than likely, no, you cannot. The same goes for Medicaid and most other private health insurance plans.
If you had long-term care insurance for your senior, then there’s a possibility you wouldn’t have to shoulder all the costs yourself, but Medicare won’t take care of the hefty bill that comes with hiring a GCM.
Most adult children or family caregivers who hire a geriatric professional for the care of older adults tend to pay for it themselves.
How Do I Find A Geriatric Care Manager In My Area?
If you are considering hiring a geriatric care manager, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
- Do your research: There are many different GCMs out there, so it is important to do your research and find one who is a good fit for your needs.
- Be clear about your expectations: Before you hire a GCM, be clear about your expectations. What services do you need? What are your budget constraints?
- Get everything in writing: Before you hire a geriatric social worker, get everything in writing, including their fees, services, and scope of work.
If you are having trouble locating a geriatric care manager on your own, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) reports that, “There are organizations that can help you find a care manager near your family member’s home. You can also contact the Eldercare Locator for recommendations. In some cases, support groups for diseases related to aging may be able to recommend geriatric care managers who have assisted other families.“
Another resource is the Aging Life Care Association (formerly the National Association of Geriatric Care Managers).
They have a nifty online search page to help you locate an expert. Just visit the Find An Aging Life Care Expert search page and enter the senior’s zip code to find professionals in their area.
Your local Area Agencies on Aging may also be able to direct you to geriatric care management services near you.
Questions To Ask A Geriatric Care Manager Before Hiring Them
If you can afford a geriatric care manager or you found some financial assistance, you’re going to begin the hiring process.
Since this person will care for your senior parent or loved one, you must screen them carefully.
Here’s a list of questions to ask each geriatric social worker you interview before hiring one:
- How do you lessen the responsibilities and stress of caretakers or adult children?
- Do you have references?
- How much do you charge by the hour?
- What is your availability? Does it include weekends and nights?
- How often will you see the senior? For how long?
- How do you choose the professionals who care for a senior?
- How often can I expect to hear from you about the senior’s progress?
- How will you communicate? Via phone? Email?
- Will you come to the senior’s home or living facility? How often?
- Do you do quality checks? When and why?
- How long have you been a geriatric care manager? What made you want to get into it?
- Do you have any certifications? Can I see them?
- Can I call you in an emergency? If not, can we make a plan for what to do in an emergency?
- What’s a full list of your services?
A geriatric social worker or geriatric care manager is someone who oversees a senior’s care. They may set up appointments, do home visits, check on a senior’s mental health, keep them on a nutritious diet, and refer medical professionals to the senior.
Having a geriatric care manager can take a lot of the responsibility off the shoulders of an adult child. That said, their services cost anywhere from $50 to $200 an hour, and Medicare and Medicaid do not cover it.
Before hiring a geriatric care manager, you have a lot of thinking to do to help you make this important decision. This article should hopefully guide you in making a plan of care for your elderly relatives.