For many families, senior care planning and coordination can be overwhelming. In some cases, a loved one’s health needs are at a crisis point and there are just too many decisions to make all at once. Perhaps you live too far from your loved one to check on her regularly, or maybe family conflict has become a major issue. In these situations, geriatric care managers (GCMs) are qualified to help. A GCM is usually a social worker, psychologist, nurse, gerontologist, or other professional who has training and experience in a number of eldercare scenarios.

Among other functions, a GCM can assess an elder loved one’s needs and help to accomplish vital tasks, such as:

  • Crisis management (for crises like emergency hospitalization)
  • Arranging placement in a long-term care facility
  • Moderating or solving family disputes
  • Locating community resources
  • Filling in for family caregivers at doctor appointments
  • Providing assistance with other daily care

A GCM is like an eldercare quarterback. They coordinate all the different moving parts of senior care, from logistics and scheduling to emotional support and family mediation. Having a care manager can significantly improve health and longevity outcomes for people who see multiple doctors and therapists.

Tammy Hoyle, a retired licensed practical nurse of 35 years, says the positive impact of a care manager on provider teams can be enormous. “The better you work as a team and the more you collaborate with peers and colleagues, the better the outcome for the patient,” she says, “and a care coordinator helps ensure all that happens.”

Services Provided by Geriatric Care Managers

Geriatric care managers can fill an ongoing health maintenance role, and they can also be hired in times of crisis should you need a full-time point of contact to coordinate vital services or to monitor progress or decline. But according to Jennifer Voorlas, CEO of of Geriatric Care Consultants, LLC, a care manager also acts as an advocate for patients and family members, which looks different in every case.

Jennifer describes her job as being “the boots on the ground” for the family in need, whether that means visiting a nursing facility, coordinating care with providers or establishing viable options for those who simply don’t know what to do next about their loved one’s care. Private care managers, Voorlas notes, are there to advocate for and protect the interests of the client.

“Around 80 percent of my clients are adult children who live out of state or are working,” says Voorlas. Those family members simply can’t keep up with all the needs of their loved one, and going it alone results in burnout. They also want a relationship with their family member — a real parent/child or other type of relationship, but that’s hard to do when they take on the role of caregiver,” she says. Getting a professional involved and on your side reduces a lot of these burdens.

GCMs begin a relationship with caregivers and their dependents by conducting a comprehensive care assessment to mutually establish what their needs are. The objective of an assessment is to draft a plan of care, which is based on the health, social, emotional and physical needs of that person. GCMs often work with other long-term care professionals to coordinate as few or as many services as are necessary to meet the specific needs of your loved one.

The caregiver support that a GCM provides includes:

  • Arranging and monitoring the services your loved one requires
  • Preserving financial resources by helping you avoid inappropriate placements and duplicated services
  • Intervening in a crisis
  • Counseling and supporting
  • Educating and advocating, and much more

The following is a list of steps you can expect to take after hiring a geriatric care manager.

When you first begin working with a geriatric care manager, he’ll meet with your loved one (and family members, if appropriate) to evaluate the current situation. He’ll assess your loved one’s physical environment and mental, social, and emotional functioning, as well as their level of independence. Based on this assessment and conversations with family members, the GCM will identify your loved one’s care needs.

Once the assessment is complete, the GCM will make recommendations about the types of care your loved one needs. He’ll meet with you to review these recommendations in detail and get your feedback. After noting his recommendations, the GCM will begin to plan a strategic health maintenance routine so that things like medication administration, exercise, and doctor’s visits are kept as regular and comprehensive as possible. As care progresses and needs change, care managers record progress and make updates as needed via reassessment.

A geriatric care manager can be as actively involved in the care of your loved one as you need her to be, so be sure to clarify expectations at the outset. Most GCMs will be familiar with the majority of senior care providers in your area and are well prepared to help you find the best match for your needs. You can expect her to help you find agencies to provide in-home care, hospice, or skilled nursing care, as well as to coordinate the comings and goings of the caregivers.

If your loved one needs residential care, the GCM will help you find the best assisted living or nursing home for your personal situation and budget. Some GCMs will also help with day-to-day care, which can mean picking up prescriptions, taking your loved one to doctor appointments, or visiting for regular check-ins.

GCMs also provide invaluable support to family members as they cope with the decline or illness of someone they care about. Care managers can help smooth communication and mediate disagreements.

GCMs are always on the lookout for new types of services and tools to make caregiving easier and to help keep your dependents safe. Many will be able to tell you about new technologies, tools, or aids that help aging people maintain independence and mobility for as long as possible.

Geriatric Care Manager Rates and Ways to Pay

Some local government agencies and charitable groups offer consulting services free or on a sliding scale according to income level. However, if you hire a geriatric care manager privately, expect to pay $75 to $250 per hour.

Private geriatric care management isn’t covered by Medicare or Medicaid plans, nor by most private insurance (including insurance for long-term care), but it can result in overall cost savings to the care recipient and family. Additionally, the following factors are important to note when considering the cost of hiring a geriatric care manager.

  • Family members can mitigate lost earnings as care managers take over phone calls and provider coordination, which takes time.
  • Care managers ensure more positive outcomes for patients, which can reduce hospital readmissions or other health issues that could lead to greater costs.
  • Out-of-state family members may be able to engage in less emergency travel with a trusted advocate near their loved one.

Using Veterans Benefits Toward Geriatric Care Management

While Veterans Benefits do not cover geriatric care management, they do cover Geriatric Evaluation and Management (GEM), a similar service that includes a comprehensive assessment of the veteran’s physical, medical and emotional needs.

The objective of the assessment is to build a customized plan of care that may include a combination of treatment, rehabilitation and social services. Geriatric care managers do provide this service as a central function of the care relationship but, unlike Veterans Affairs, must do so at a private cost to the consumer.

Conditions and Limitations

The veteran must meet the eligibility criteria for VA benefits. For more information, see Using V.A. Benefits to Pay for Long-Term Care.

How Do I Find the Right Geriatric Care Manager? provides national GCM listings along with information about how to assess GCM services so that you can find the care manager who is right for you. Look for a geriatric care manager near you by entering your city, state or zip code in the search box at the top of the page or by clicking on one of the states or metro areas below.