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Geriatric Care Managers

History

The elderly must deal with changes that may include diminished hearing or sight, an inability to remember certain events, loss of the ability to concentrate for extended periods of time, and reduced physical strength. Historically, a long life was only possible for those who had the means and support systems to provide for their own care late in life. Disease and natural threats severely limited the life spans of middle- and lower-class people; only the wealthy were shielded from the more acute threats to their lives.

Over the centuries, advances in medicine, technologies, education, and other fields have combined to dramatically improve the conditions of the average person's life, and, as a result, life spans have greatly increased. In the United States today, there are more senior citizens than at any other time in our history, and that number continues to increase. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that the population age 65 and over will more than double by 2030 (increasing from approximately 35 million in 2000 to 72.7 million in 2030). In addition, the number of people age 85 or older may more than quadruple by 2050 (increasing from approximately four million in 2000 to more than 17.9 million in 2050). 

Traditionally, several generations of one family (grandparents, parents, children) lived in the same area. One benefit of this arrangement was that it made it possible for family members to easily care for each other. By the last decades of the 20th century, however, generations of one family were quite frequently living apart. It had become common for elderly parents to be living in one city while their adult children lived several hundred, if not several thousand, miles away in another location. This situation, obviously, made it difficult to care for elderly parents. In other cases in which the elderly parent and adult child still lived in the same area, the adult child often had difficulty managing his or her personal and professional life as well as trying to cope with an elderly parent's needs. The adult child may not have even known about resources in the area that were available to senior citizens. Geriatric care management is a profession that developed when a handful of caring and entrepreneurial individuals began to recognize this niche needed to be filled. The profession of geriatric care manager was all but unknown until the 1980s. The Aging Life Care Association (ALCA) reports that between 1984 and 1998, the number of geriatric care managers grew from just 30 to over 1,300. Today, the ALCA has more than 2,000 members. The need for geriatric care managers should increase steadily as the number of senior citizens grows and as families struggle to juggle the demands of children, careers, and elderly parents.