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Geriatric Care Managers: What They Do and Why You Need One

What is the difference between Medicare and Medicaid? What is a health care proxy? Does Medicare pay for long-term care? What care options are available to meet the specific needs of my elder family member? What happens when they are discharged from the hospital; where will they go? How can I most effectively advocate for them?
Do you know the answers to any of these questions? You might, but chances are you don’t know the answers to all of them. Much like Sherpas guiding outsiders up the slopes of dangerous mountains, Geriatric Care Managers help elders and their families navigate the confusing and often overwhelming field of elder care options. Think back to the first time you bought a house (or if you haven’t, then picture one of those house-hunting TV shows). Did you use a real estate agent? You probably did, and you did so because you know next to nothing about the real estate market and wanted to make sure you got the best deal on your house. Your real estate agent learned your specific needs and desires, surveyed the market, and, using their expertise, curated a list of available houses that best suited your needs and means.
In a nutshell, that’s what a geriatric care manager does in the world of elder care. A care manager will first meet with the elder and/or their family to assess their situation, needs, and means. They will then survey the care options available and present them to you for you to choose from. However, their services don’t end there. A key aspect of the job of a geriatric care manager is to monitor the elder once situated in their care environment and advocate on their behalf when necessary. Like buying a house without a real estate agent, managing your family member’s care isn’t easy and can be extremely stressful.
As Jane Gross put it in a New York Times blog post:
“During one especially dicey period with my mother, then in an assisted living facility, my brother and I hired a geriatric care manager, first for a consultation and then for additional help at an hourly rate. It felt like such an extravagance, given that we weren’t rolling in money, but the care manager helped solve a series of complex problems that I doubt I’d have solved by myself, mostly involving brokering a compromise with the facility, whose management wouldn’t let me hire a private aide for my mom but could not provide what she needed.
Relations had soured to the point that all I could do was scream at them, which was making a bad situation worse, so having an advocate was a blessing. Also, the care manager, who visited regularly with my mother, often was privy to concerns she was keeping from me, and she was always there for me by telephone, which was a lifesaver.”
Geriatric care managers have many tools in their belts. They advocate, they help cut through the confusion of elder care options, and furthermore, they are your connection to the universe of senior care options and services. Do you need an attorney to draft or edit a will, durable power of attorney, or health care proxy (or even to tell you what any of those are)? Your geriatric care manager probably knows an attorney who can help you with that. Looking to sell Mom’s house so she can downsize? Your care manager probably knows a real estate agent who can get the property listed. If it sounds like geriatric care managers are jacks-of-all trades, that’s because they are. And they can be an invaluable resource for helping you through a potentially overwhelming situation. 
Jane Gross’ Blog Article


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