What I Learned from Hiring a Geriatric Care Manager for My Mom

Thanks to our clients who have graciously shared their stories and feedback about working with a geriatric care manager. We hope what they learned will be useful when you’re considering hiring a care manager. And, even more importantly, that you might discover there’s help out there for challenges your family faces.

Worried about aging parents?

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The Difference Between Case Management and Geriatric Care Management (Or Aging Life Care Management)

When Mom was hospitalized, we were assigned a case manager. A friend mentioned how much their geriatric care manager had helped with a similar transition. But, I assumed this was what the case manager did. We soon learned that while the case manager was helpful, her role was limited. We ran into a lot of logistical difficulties. Additionally, Mom had trouble once she returned home and we really needed help. After an emergency room visit, I decided it was time to have a geriatric care manager to help us throughout all these different settings. She's able to navigate all the providers and help no matter where we are or what we need.--Mary B.

We were lucky to get Mom into a community program which offered her some in-home support services. One benefit was a case manager. He had an initial visit with Mom and then provided telephone coordination. The program also included quarterly visits. Mom had regular caregivers in the home too. But, I live several hours away. We started encountering some issues with the caregivers but this wasn’t something the case manager could address. So, I was constantly contacting the home care agency. Not having eyes on the situation, it was hard to really know what was going on.

I decided to try a consultation and some oversight from a care manager to see if it could save me emergency flights into town. It was amazing what the care manager garnered on her first visits and was able to accomplish on subsequent visits. She even explained that we had the choice of other home care providers within the program. We were able to secure a better situation for Mom. Once she set things up, we retained the care manager to be on call for crises. What a relief to hear they could respond to emergencies any time.--Joan

The Dollars and Sense of Getting the Right Help

Mom doesn’t have a lot of resources so when we first contacted EasyLiving we decided we couldn’t afford a care manager. Months later, I looked at what we’d been spending to help Mom. Not knowing what programs could help, reacting to crises and making a few expensive mistakes. It all added up. So, I went back to EasyLiving to discuss how they thought a geriatric care manager could help us.

Yes, it cost us. But, looking back a year later the balance sheet indicates more savings than costs. Our care manager analyzed Mom’s medical expenses and Medicare plan and found two areas for significant savings. We stopped going through rounds of crises which always came with costs to Mom and missed time from work for me. The care manager even tapped into a local program to get some reduced-cost home repairs done. And, that’s to say nothing of the emotional payoff.

I’d recommend just talking to a geriatric care manager. Find out specifically what they can do and how much time they might need to be involved. Be honest about your cost apprehensions. Ask them if they’d be able to help you find assistance programs. --Bob

When we asked around, people kept telling us about state assistance programs. Mom didn’t qualify. She had just a bit too much. It didn’t make a lot of sense that someone who saved a bit now couldn’t get services she needed. No one told us about geriatric care managers. I was doing a bunch of internet research when I came across a caregiver’s blog that talked about their geriatric care manager.

I guess everyone was afraid to recommend something that costs money. Yet, they couldn’t offer us any free resources either.

Well, except for one hospital mentioning free “placement services”. We talked with them but quickly found out it wasn’t for us, as we wanted to keep Mom at home. When, down the road, we began to look at ALFs, we asked the care manager for help because she knew the situation. She was able to find just the right place for Mom. The facility was in Mom’s old neighborhood and would continue taking her to her church. They offered tiered services, which met Mom’s needs and budget. Our care manager made sure we asked the right questions and looked at the little (but important) things like food, activities and the facility layout. It was worth paying to know we got an unbiased, expert opinion. I learned that the placement services get paid via referral fees (it was simply presented as a “free service”).

We discovered how important it is to know all the resources and how they work. And, we discovered many people will make assumptions about what you will pay for or can afford. --Mary L.

Family Issues Often Need an Outsider

Our family was having a lot of disagreements about how best to help Dad. I finally went to a counselor to talk about my anxiety and anger with my brother. She helped me work through my feelings and suggested some boundary setting. But, she knew we also needed practical help and mediation. It turned out the care manager she recommended was just the solution. It was honestly pretty simple once we had a clear picture and expert guidance.

My brother was a bit reluctant, thinking some outsider was going to take over. The geriatric care manager totally won him and Dad over. She asked for everyone’s input when she did the assessment. Her recommendations clearly weren’t just some generic filler. I had never realized there was a professional trained to deal in these family aging issues. I also learned how much more an outsider can sometimes get accomplished. We all had too many feelings wrapped up in the situation to deal with it rationally.--Liz

The Experts Know How to Approach the Situation

Every encounter with my aging parents was like going around in circles. They rejected all my suggestions, yet Mom called me every day to complain. I called a geriatric care manager with little hope. My first question was “How will I get them to talk to you?” She spent a lot of time listening and suggested some ways we could get started. The biggest thing she told me is that we needed to take clues from them and give it some time. She suggested focusing on a couple concrete solutions for Mom’s specific complaints. And, in the meantime, I should consider stepping back from overwhelming them with all the things they “should do”. She talked about how clients often feel a loss of control. They don’t like to feel “old” and in need of help, and they want to be heard.

Even in the first meeting, I could see progress. The conversation changed completely. I thought because I knew my parents so well, I could handle these things best. Well, I’ll readily admit I was wrong. Now I tell people it’s a lot like handling legal or tax matters. I’m so much better off with someone who has professional training and deals with this stuff every day.--Marie

How to Find the Right Fit

I’d been referred to some geriatric care managers and guardians in Mom’s area. I wasn’t sure how to distinguish one from another. A couple of them weren’t responsive or suggested things that didn’t sound right. So, I was able to narrow down the list. I met with someone but  she didn’t really listen to my concerns. The next person had very restrictive policies that worried me. Then, a friend told me about the Aging Life Care Managers Association. I searched for a professional geriatric care manager in Mom’s area.

I also found EasyLiving’s website and downloaded the Checklist for Hiring a Geriatric Care Manager (Click Here to get your copy). When I called the care managers, I used the list to gather information. We finally found someone who not only had the proper credentials, but lots of experience in Mom’s condition. It was really helpful to know what to ask. I was especially glad we didn’t go with the first person someone recommended. Mom would not have been happy and I think it would have created more problems than solutions. Sometimes we forget we should be discerning consumers with elder care services just like with anything else. Actually, more so!--Dan

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