The families of those who require long-term care face a bewildering array of choices and questions. Is a nursing home necessary? If so, which one? What about care at home? Who will pay for it?
Answering these and other questions requires not just medical know-how but expertise in elder law, financial services, insurance, social services, and counseling as well. A new profession -- that of "private geriatric care manager" -- has evolved to help families think through these issues and coordinate services for the person in need of care. A geriatric care manager can evaluate the patient to determine the necessary level of care; assist in finding a nursing home or investigate alternatives either at home or in another type of facility; review financial, legal, or medical issues; monitor care once it is being delivered; and act as a liaison to families at a distance, making sure things are going well and alerting families to problems.
Private geriatric care managers usually have a background in either social work, nursing, or psychology and are well enough versed in other areas to offer sound advice and refer to a specialist when necessary. While hospitals and public agencies have social workers who can offer counsel, they are often stretched too thin to provide the level of assistance that patients and their families need.
The field of geriatric care managers is growing and chances are there is, or soon will be, one of these professionals in your area (New York City, for example, has at least 74 geriatric care managers).
To search for a geriatric care manager near you, visit the website of the Aging Life Care Association www.aginglifecare.org
The Web site also lists questions to ask when looking for a geriatric care manager. These include (click here for the full list):
- What are your professional credentials?
- Are you licensed in your profession?
- How long have you been providing care management services?
- Are you available for emergencies?
- Does your company also provide home care services?
- How do you communicate information?
- What are your fees? (these should be provided in writing to the consumer/responsible party prior to services starting)
- Can you provide me with references?