by Pamela Leland PhD, Executive Director
By the time prospective residents or family members come to tour The Hickman, they have already recognized the benefits of living in community. They understand the positive impacts that increased socialization, better nutrition and support with the activities of daily living can have on overall health and well-being. They are now shopping around for a community that best fits their needs.
But what if you don’t want to live in a community setting? What are your options?
What if you are overwhelmed by the costs of aging and you are struggling to understand the financial implications of various options?
What if your children don’t support your decisions around long-term care … or worse, are bickering over what you should do?
What if you don’t know where or how to get started with figuring all this out?
Then a Geriatric Care Manager (or case manager) might be your best “next step.”
Aging Life Care™, formerly the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, describes a care manager as a health and human services specialist who acts as a guide and advocate for families who are caring for older relatives or disabled adults. This expert serves as a “coach” or “team captain” for families navigating the journey of aging. The National Institute of Health describes the role as a sort of “professional relative” who can help you and your family identify and find ways to meet your needs.
Geriatric care managers help individuals and their families sort through options and make informed decisions as they move through the aging process. They can be especially helpful if parents and children live at a distance from one another. They can help with assessing needs and coming up with a long-term care plan; educating around housing options, insurance issues, Medicaid eligibility, etc.; providing caregiving support and coaching; being an advocate; and, finally, providing referrals to other professionals, e.g., attorneys or financial planners.
Like many professionals, Geriatric Care Managers can obtain certifications as a demonstration of their competence and expertise. Aging Life Care ™ recognizes 4 different certifications for their members; these certifications indicate knowledge and competence in the following eight (8) areas:
- Finances – Managing finances, including applications for federal and state entitlement programs or handling insurance concerns, claims and applications; some may oversee bill-paying.
- Housing – Exploring various housing options, including options along a continuum of care, subsidized housing, etc.
- Families – Working with families to help them work through conflict and family dynamics.
- Local Resources – Being knowledgeable of local resources and the local service landscape.
- Advocacy – Servings as advocate on behalf of their clients.
- Legal – Providing referrals to legal services resources, e.g., elder law attorneys and estate planners.
- Crisis Intervention – Being available to respond to emergent situations, including serving as a much-needed 24/7 emergency contact.
Fees for Geriatric Care Management Services. Geriatric care managers typically charge by the hour, and fees may depend on the particular services being provided. Most insurance plans will not reimburse for these costs, and Medicare does not pay for this service. You should assume that you will probably have to pay for this out-of-pocket, and it might seem expensive. However, the services provided should be viewed as an investment in your quality of life.
Finding a Geriatric Care Manager. A first step in finding a qualified Geriatric Care Manager is to ask a trusted source for a referral. If that isn’t successful, the Federal Administration on Aging offers an Eldercare Locator for recommendations for care management and other types of supportive services (see www.eldercare.acl.gov). Aging Life Care Association also offers a searchable database via www.aginglifecare.org.
Aging in today’s environment can be complicated. You might benefit from help in navigating issues of care planning, insurance, housing, finances, legal needs, etc. You may decide that you do not need the assistance that could be provided by a Geriatric Care Manager, but it is worthwhile to consider the possibilities and ask the question.
Printed in the Daily Local News on Wednesday, April 17, 2019.