- Compiles an assessment of an older person’s needs and situation.
- Encourages the person to accept help and provides a “plan of care” with specific recommendations.
- Finds and secures services such as legal counsel, home care, nursing care or home maintenance.
- Supports and counsels family members.
When Hugh McGuire made a business trip to the Chicago area, he decided to visit his wife’s 90-year-old aunt and 88-year-old uncle, who lived nearby in their own home.
What McGuire found alarmed him. While the couple was still ambulatory and proud of their independence, there was no food in the house and the formerly fastidious couple were no longer taking care of themselves or their home.
Like a growing number of Americans taking care of aging relatives from afar, McGuire responded to the situation by hiring a geriatric care manager, a relatively new type of professional who helps plan and organize care for disabled elderly people.
More and more people “are learning that geriatric care managers are out there and that they can help with these problems,” says Erica Karp, who runs a geriatric care management firm in Evanston, Ill.
She was able to help McGuire’s relatives by arranging meals for them, straightening out their legal affairs and eventually finding placement for the wife in a nursing home, where Karp continues to visit her regularly.
McGuire’s situation is hardly unusual. At least one in every four American families provides care for an older relative. Many live hundreds of miles apart, compounding the stress and concerns of caregivers. How can they be sure their relative is not refusing to eat or misusing medications or mismanaging finances or feeling depressed?
Family members may also face tough decisions—such as choosing between assisted living, home care or a nursing home—which may be complicated by a limited knowledge of available options.
Geriatric care managers aim to help families in these circumstances. They may be hired either by family members or individuals needing care.
While care managers aren’t regulated by state or federal government, they’re usually licensed in a field of specialization, typically social work or nursing. That means most care managers are subject to disciplinary action by a state licensing board should a violation of standards occur. Technically, however, anyone can hang out a “geriatric care manager” shingle.
Even so, more care managers are joining groups like the National Association of Aging Life Care Managers, a voluntary organization with newly 1,600 members. To qualify, the association says applicants must be licensed in their fields and train in geriatric, and they must adhere to professional guidelines and ethics.
National Association of Aging Life Care Managers has developed grievances procedures and will dismiss members who violate its requirements.