New tip sheet explains growing role of geriatric care managers

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Photo: National Institute on Aging – NIH

Family caregivers often struggle when finding appropriate care options for their loved ones. Siblings may argue over different approaches. Spouses may need a helping hand at home. Finding an assisted living or skilled nursing facility can be frightening and confusing. Cost and quality of care are always concerns.

The good news is they don’t have to wade through these issues alone. Geriatric care managers — specialists in helping older adults and their families plan and coordinate care — can be a lifesaving option for many people. As this new tip sheet by Melissa Patrick explains, these care professionals can do everything from mediate family discussions about care to researching hidden benefits to driving clients to their doctor appointments. They help guide an older adult and family through the confusing maze of state and federal regulations, develop a plan of care, and monitor the situation to ensure the person’s health and social needs are met. For caregivers, they can provide much-needed emotional support and help relieve anxiety and burnout inherent in the caregiving process, according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA).

Back in 2008, Jane Gross wrote in The New York Times of her personal experience in hiring a care manager for her mom.  While some things have changed in the nine years since that article appeared — notably more baby boomers are caring for more aging parents — much of the article’s advice remains solid. It’s a story many of us can relate to.

Melissa Patrick

As Patrick points out in her tip sheet, many families are unaware of the existence of geriatric care managers or unclear about what they actually do. While there may be some up front costs involved for an initial assessment, the experts she spoke with said that in the long run, it can be more cost effective to hire specialist who knows their way around the care system and has a handle on appropriate local resources, than for a spouse or adult child to make decisions which may not meet their loved one’s needs.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates there will be nearly 89 million adults over age 65 by 2050. The 80+ cohort is the fastest growing part of the population. Most are living with one or more chronic diseases. We know older adults use health services at a higher rate than other age groups.

There is a growing need for geriatric care managers, most of whom are nurses and social workers. They can overcome some of the gaps in care while helping avoid hospital admissions, allow older adults to age at home longer, and ensure the needs of the elder come first.

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