When a loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia, you might need a guide who understands every angle of what to do next, from caregiving to financial decisions to family communications to hiring care and all the issues in-between. Geriatric Care Managers are like family members who know all about dementia and have the time and patience to help.
The job of a geriatric Care Manager can be boiled down to assessing your loved one’s needs and then creating a care plan that covers those needs by accounting for medical, personal, and financial considerations. They hire the right people, make a schedule, and supervise to make sure the plan is followed.
Geriatric Care Managers are experts (most are licensed) in the field of geriatrics, which covers the health and care of older people. They are trained to know options for seniors in need of medical care, supervision or assistance with the activities of daily living. They have the expertise to make smart recommendations and the connections to help with arrangements. They have been called “professional relatives” who offer an objective or neutral voice at a time that can be highly emotional for families.
Geriatric Care Managers reduce stress by making decisions easier. More specifically, they can:
– Hire and supervise caregivers and healthcare professionals
– Determine caregiver needs
– Advocate for your loved one
– Identify helpful local services
– Coordinate insurance coverage and government benefits
– Know when your loved one should move into assisted living
– Find the best living arrangement when a move becomes necessary
– Meet with management over issues in assisted living homes
Geriatric Care Managers are not geriatric caregivers. The difference is in the title: Care Managers manage clients’ well-being. They coordinate care by communicating with any healthcare professionals who are treating your loved one as well as with daily caregivers. Geriatric caregivers, on the other hand, are trained to deliver hands-on care, like taking medications or bathing. Caregivers might cook or do chores around the house, while a Care Manager would not. A Care Manager is more likely to hire, monitor and coordinate caregivers.
Also, don’t confuse geriatric Care Managers with case managers. Often, case managers work for a hospital or residence where your loved one receives care. Or a case manager may be assigned to the individual by an insurance program such as Medicaid. Geriatric Care Managers, on the other hand, work for you and are not tied to a residence, hospital, or other institution.
Another term that often gets mixed up with Geriatric Care Managers is patient advocate. Patient advocates are experts at navigating the healthcare industry but are not specifically trained in the field of elder-care like a Geriatric Care Manager. Most Care Managers also play the role of patient advocate.
Geriatric Care Managers typically charge an hourly rate between $75 and $200. There is usually an in-depth, initial consultation that costs $200 or more, where the person with dementia’s needs are assessed and long- and short-term care plans begin to be made. Most families engage with a Care Manager on an ongoing basis to manage a loved one’s care. The hours required are typically more upfront and then significantly less on a long-term basis.
Unfortunately, Medicare does not cover the cost of Care Managers. Neither do most insurance companies. Some “consumer-directed” care programs from Medicaid and the VA allow families the discretion to spend their cash benefits as they see fit and therefore this assistance can be used to pay for a Care Manager. Also, some long-term care insurance policies will pay for Care Managers.
While paying for a Care Manager out-of-pocket can be expensive, doing so can also lead to cost savings. These are the ways a Geriatric Care Manager can help a family save money:
– Knowing free or affordable medical services available in your community
– Identifying the exact services required so you don’t make a premature (expensive) commitment to a form of care before it’s necessary
– Coordinating insurance payments so there is no confusion or repeat billing
– Covering care of your loved one so you don’t have to take time off work
– Finding cost savings related to the home, like senior discount programs for utilities or other services
– Finding best options for food, transportation, recreation, etc.
– General guidance of financial decisions prevents a costly mistake like paying for a service that sounds good but you don’t actually need
It is important to set guidelines early for how you’ll work with your Care Manager. You should only hire someone who is licensed and qualified, understands your family’s needs, and has a process for communicating and advising. The Care Manager is your loved one’s advocate, and may join you at doctor’s appointments to make sure everything the doctor says is understood and next steps are clear. You want someone who acts like a concerned family member, except instead of an emotional attachment to the situation, your Care Manager has the experience and knowledge to ask important questions, schedule appointments with the right healthcare professionals, and identify necessary resources. Make sure, therefore, that you are comfortable communicating with and taking advice from your Care Manager, and that you trust the person.
Good questions to ask when considering hiring a geriatric Care Manager include:
– Are you licensed?
– How long have you been a Care Manager?
– What is your availability? (Full-time, day and night?)
– What are your costs, including any optional fees? (Ask for this in writing.)
– What programs will help pay for care?
– How knowledgeable are you about local health services?
– Do you have references?
– How will you communicate any issues with me?
– Can you tell me about any challenging on-the-job experiences, and how you handled them?
– What do we do if my loved one refuses care or medications?
A few options exist for finding Care Managers. Asking your local Area Agency on Aging for a recommendation is one approach. Or online, you can search the Care Managers’ national association database.