Professional help for all geriatric problems

Life After 50

April 23, 2000|By Mary Moorhead | Mary Moorhead,Knight Ridder/Tribune

As I patrolled the hallways of two skilled nursing homes and one board and care home, I closely observed patients' morning care rituals, and read the most recent Department of Health Services inspection survey. I listened for cries of loneliness or poor treatment. Back in my office, I researched the Internet for more information.

As a geriatric care manager, my goal was to locate a caring, affordable home for an elderly client with Alzheimer's disease and a broken hip. After choosing a home with fabulous caregivers, comfortable decor, a dog and large, well-tended garden, I accompanied my client in the hospital van to her new board and care home. Next, I ventured into her flea-ridden house to pick up clothes and pictures.

These tasks are all in a day's work for geriatric care managers, or GCMs, a little-known part of our nationwide elder-care services.

Whether you are a concerned relative, older adult, or an attorney, bank trust officer or certified public accountant, you can expect these services from GCMs:

* First, GCMs provide comprehensive geriatric assessments of frail elders, which include all physical limitations, medical needs, medications, mental health, dementia, current living, financial assets and legal needs and family and community supports.

* After this assessment, GCMs develop a care plan, which is communicated to the client, family or professionals. This care plan should describe all the details of care at home or in a facility, and how to pay for this care.

* Finally, if you wish, GCMs are available to set up care and monitor and address any problems that emerge.

You can expect GCMs to have a master's degree in social work, nursing or psychology, and many years of working with frail seniors. GCMs work both in the public and private sector and can be a company of one or 100.

Sometimes, a GCM company also provides in-home caregivers and perhaps Medicare- reimbursed visiting nurses and rehabilitation. A few GCM com-panies have offices in several cities. Private GCMs' fees range from $60 to $100 an hour, depending on the locale. Low-fee or no-fee GCMs, often called case managers, work for cities or nonprofits to help low-income older adults.

GCMs often become involved when families are too stressed to sort out and provide elder care or when families live thousands of miles away from their elder.

Most importantly, families and professionals appreciate a GCM's ability to carefully peel away the layers of an elder-care problem and find the best solution. A frequent response is "I didn't know you existed and I am so glad I found you."

You can also find GCMs in the long-term-care insurance industry, and sometimes hospital discharge planners call themselves care or case managers. If you meet them, make sure their first priority is to help you find the best, most affordable elder care. These case managers are often employed to limit care benefits or to expedite your hospital leave, all to save money.

If you would like to get a GCM's advice and are worried about the cost, consider requesting a consultation. Sometimes that is all you need to find your way through the elder-care maze.

For more information, check out the National Association of Geriatric Care Managers' web site at www.caremanager.org. Or call the offices at 520-881-8008. The association publishes a directory of GCMs. The cost is $15.

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