Geriatric Care Managers

Geriatric care managers coordinate the many aspects of caring for the elderly. They must be able to assess the changing needs of their clients and find the best solutions to the daily problems with which they are presented. This career was born in response to the country's large and growing elderly population, the needs of families who are caring for elderly members, and the numerous and complex health care plans available today.

Geriatric care managers perform tasks that are similar to some done by social workers, counselors, advocates, other health care managers, and family members. Their duties, depending on the individual, can include providing full-scale assessments of a client's needs, seeing to it that their clients take their medications and make it to scheduled doctors' appointments, taking clients grocery shopping, and providing other family members with written reports detailing how the client is doing. Mainly, though, their role is that of a coordinator. Care managers understand the health care system as well as know about services, such as Meals on Wheels or dog walking, social activities for seniors, and other such resources in their area. It is their job to put clients in touch with the services that they need.

A geriatric care manager's day might include time spent on the phone arranging services for a client; touching base with a client's family members; assisting a client with making a move from a current home to one that provides a higher level of care; conducting an assessment of a new client to determine his or her needs; talking with a bank trust officer about a client's increased care needs; accompanying a client on a trip to the emergency room; or monitoring plans and provided services. One of a care manager's most important tasks is to help simplify and explain options to clients and assist them and their families in making informed decisions about their health management.

Many geriatric care managers are called upon by family members who live too far away to continue to assist and care for their parents. Known as the "sandwich generation," these adults are struggling to both raise their children and take care of their aging parents. These are often two-career couples and neither the wife nor the husband can leave their work on a regular basis or for long periods to take care of an elderly parent's needs, such as going to the dentist one day and an optometrist's appointment the next. In these circumstances, a trusted, reliable professional who assists in taking care of the elderly person's needs can make a big difference in quality of life, for both the elderly person and the other family members.

One of geriatric care managers' most valuable attributes is that they are educated, experienced, informed resources who understand the range of services available and have the knowledge and savvy to navigate any red tape involved. They are able to assess a client's medical needs, mental health, financial situation, legal needs, medications, physical limitations, and family and community support. They are experts in the wide range of services available to the elderly, and they recommend services based upon each client's means and needs. They find assistance that meets the client's needs but does not exceed their resources, financially, emotionally, or physically. In so doing, geriatric care managers not only help contain expenses for their clients but also help ensure the elderly person remains as independent as possible.

Usually, care managers get new clients when a family is faced with a crisis involving an elderly member and seeks out help. While it's not preferable to make decisions in emotionally charged situations, a crisis is often the impetus that spurs a family into action. Often this situation is complicated because the family feels that some kind of intervention is needed, but the elderly person might feel everything is fine and not want help.

Many times families on tight budgets have simple needs in mind when they contact a care manager. For example, they might call on a geriatric care manager to help an elderly member take care of tasks such as getting the house painted or taking a pet to the veterinarian. Such help allows the older person to remain at home for as long as possible, which is a financial advantage as well as a lifestyle preference. Such an arrangement also provides peace of mind to other family members.

Geriatric care managers must also do a lot of paperwork, keeping up-to-date files on their clients, scheduling meetings, and writing reports for families. And, since many care managers are in business for themselves, they must also do a number of administrative tasks. These tasks include recordkeeping for the business, billing clients, managing the business's finances, and doing advertising or marketing work to attract new clients. Clearly, the geriatric care manager must be comfortable taking on many responsibilities.

The significance of this job should not be underestimated. Geriatric care managers hold positions of great importance, and their work benefits society, the elderly, and the families involved. It should be noted that this work can take an emotional toll, as care managers must deal with their feelings about the inevitable decline and death of their clients. Nevertheless, many find this a rewarding career, knowing that they are working to improve the lives of the elderly.

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