Overwhelmed by the care and financial needs for an elderly, mentally ill, or developmentally disabled loved one? Geriatric care management may be an invaluable option.
In a nutshell, geriatric care management involves assisting families through health care and other important services such as housing, home care, nutrition, socialization, psychological/psychiatric needs and some assistance with financial and legal planning.
Trish Colucci of Peace Aging Care Experts, LLC of Flanders, New Jersey describes geriatric care management as health and human services specialists who act as guides and advocates for families who are caring for older relatives, friends, and wards. Typically, geriatric care managers are “educated and experienced in any of several fields relating to aging life care, such as nursing, gerontology, social work, or psychology with a specialized focus on issues related to aging and elder care.”
Colucci is a licensed Registered Nurse and also a credentialed member of a special association of geriatric care managers, called the Aging Life Care Association, or ALCA for short. The work of geriatric care managers typically includes assisting the elderly, as well as the mentally ill, and developmentally disabled persons and their families who need assistance either managing care or navigating out of a crisis.
Geriatric care managers typically start with an initial comprehensive assessment, and then continuously monitor and modify its care plan as necessary. Geriatric care managers can also (with permission) review medical records, medical history, and also medications. Based on this review, he/she may make recommendations concerning a person's care and things that may improve that person's quality of care and life.
“Most often, we are called upon when there is a crisis. Stepping in at a time when families are frightened or at a loss for what to do is when we really shine. We assess the situation, learn about the client's budget, and then put a Plan of Care in place that addresses the needs in the most cost-effective, budget-sensitive way.” Colucci said.
Care managers can do a little or a lot depending on the family and the situation. “For some clients, we just do the assessment and send families on their way armed with resources and options specific to their loved one's needs.” Colucci said. “Other families want more hand-holding to get through a crisis and so we provide ongoing assistance and support at home, in the hospital, or at any level of care. Still others need us to take care of everything – in those cases, we coordinate all medical care, we manage medications, we make sure there is food in the pantry and someone to prepare it, we provide an extra layer of oversight when there is a caregiver in the house and we are on-call for emergencies 24/7.”
When looking for a geriatric care manager, a good place to start is to look at the Aging Life Care Association, or ALCA web site. Insofar as qualifications, Colucci recommends “that families look for someone with a professional background in a ‘caring' field. Clinicians such as nurses and social workers bring a special touch to their clients as well as the knowledge and experience to advocate for their vulnerable clients.”
While geriatric care managers may be a necessity for a family in crisis, they do come at a cost – and they are not typically covered by insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. However, there are instances that care management may be covered by long-term care insurance plans.
According to Colucci, in New Jersey, most care managers charge in the area of $125 to $175 per hour for their services.
“At my agency, we never do anything without the family's consent – the families hold the reins of our services, using us when they need us. This means there are no surprises when the bill arrives,” she said.
“For a family in crisis worried about the cost of ongoing care management services, I always recommend that they invest in an assessment. We create an individualized and a very ‘turn-key' Plan of Care, which is basically a road map the family can follow to help navigate themselves out of a crisis.” Colucci said. “The Plan of Care provides specific information about what services or items or actions we recommend along with solid resources that are tried and true. These Plans of Care lead the family toward the services and products that will get them to a better place.”
However, frequently for a family dealing with the sudden onset of an illness of an elderly family member, or increased problems with psychological or psychiatric episodes, care management is an important component to ensure quality of life for the entire family. Care Managers typically come armed with years of experience and a large supply of resources and contacts so they are ready to handle almost any situation in a manner that is efficient yet individualized for that family.
“I like to compare Geriatric Care Managers to lighthouses. We are the beacons to which families look when they are turned upside down by a crisis involving an elderly or vulnerable adult.” Colucci said.
For more information about Geriatric Care Management:
Aging Life Care Association: http://www.aginglifecare.org
Peace Aging Care Experts, LLC: http://www.peaceagingcare.com