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The Geriatric Care Manager

by Cheryl Ellis, Staff Writer

(Page 1 of 3)

Caregiving can become an unexpected necessity if a senior experiences a sudden illness. We expect the elderly to have special challenges with the passing years. Yet, we may not be able to predict or assess just how challenging their lives may be. This is where a Geriatric Care Manager (GCM) may provide valuable assistance to caregivers and the elderly client.

Geriatrics, a specialty branch of medicine dealing with elderly populations and their medical needs, was a blossoming field in 1989. With Medicare cutbacks among the reasons, fewer physicians are specializing in this branch of medicine. The American Board of Medical Specialties reports a reduction of about 440 less geriatric doctors between 2004 and 2006. More of us are growing older, but there are fewer doctors for this specialty population. Geriatric Care Managers can fill the needed gap, providing assessments and planning, as well as communicating with physicians.

Most GCMs will be degreed in social work, nursing, counseling, or psychology. Like any professional, their experience and ability will vary. Professional regulation is not required of a GCM in all states, and some individuals can earn a “certificate” via online programs.

The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers accepts members who have met specific criteria, and is a good resource for referrals to care managers locally and nationally. Keep in mind that while the organization does check references and credentials, anyone with some affiliation or interest in geriatric care can apply to select an “affiliate” membership.

Interviewing a care manager includes answering their questions, too. Both parties must be sure that the senior’s needs are met. The GCM’s responsibility is to the senior first. Caregivers may be reassured of that, but must also be aware that the elder care professional has access to more information. Once an evaluation is done, the caregiver may be surprised to find the current scale of care should be altered to fit changing needs that a non-medical professional will not recognize.

Care management is exceptionally useful if seniors are being monitored from a distance by phone calls, or occasional visits from local family and friends. The GCM can act as a medical advocate as well as spot imminent health conditions. Since seniors living alone tend to accentuate the positive to retain their independence, an impartial third party can determine which services will help them retain that independence.

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