By Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Elder Law Attorney
Many of us are probably unfamiliar with the concept of care managers. That may be because geriatric care management is not a clear-cut, licensed profession like nursing or social work. Further, they now call themselves Aging Life Care Managers, a catchall title that does not specify what they can and cannot do.
There is no requirement that someone using this title have a license in any profession. What that means is that the state where they do their work has not set a standard, measured by testing, to use the title nor deliver the services offered. If there is a license in any state there is accountability if a failure occurs to maintain professionalism. However, with appropriate vetting by the consumer of services, the care manager can be an invaluable help to families and elders alike.
In our family, we personally benefitted from the help of a care manager when my mother in law made a sudden trip to the hospital and we had no way to find out what was going on. The nearest family member was over two hours away. We had previously found a care manager, hired her before this happened, and she was at the ready to get to the hospital when we were informed by paramedics of this emergency. We suggest this proactive approach at AgingParents.com for distant family and we were living what we preached.
It can be very useful to have “boots on the ground” when you need a person to oversee what is going on with your aging parent. We were greatly relieved to have someone with whom to communicate when our parent was in the ER. Hours of nervous waiting, not knowing what happened would otherwise have been dreadful.
The advantages of working with a manager can be great. The disadvantages are that insurance does not cover a care manager’s services unless the manager works for a long-term care insurer and that is part of the benefit they offer. Another disadvantage, because there is no state board to check on the status of a licensee is that family must do their own research, reference and background checking to see if the person is legitimate and a right fit. There is a self-governing managers’ organization, and it controls membership without government oversight.
Based on experience, I offer these tips for anyone who is considering finding a care manager for an aging loved one.
- Consider the needs your loved one has. If mostly social, find a manager with a social worker background who is licensed and who is familiar with all local community resources, such as home care agencies, in your parent’s area.
- If your aging parent has complex medical needs, find a manager who is a licensed RN. No one else can spot medication side effects efficiently, determine whether changes in a medical condition are present or communicate as well with physicians. Some social worker managers team with a nurse to address both social and medical issues.
3. Every manager should start with an assessment of your loved one and offer you a written report of their findings and recommendations. If this is not the normal protocol for a candidate, find someone else.
- Before you hire anyone, check all references and if licensed as a nurse or social worker, find out of the license is in good standing.
- Get a written contract with the manager, which should again be done in the manager’s normal course of business. The consumer pays out of pocket.
We recommend the use of care managers for those who can afford the expense. The manager can be your eyes and ears, your liaison with doctors and hospitals and can keep you informed when you live at a distance.
Need more help on how to get started? Download our ebook: How to Find And Use A Care Manager from our original book The Boomer’s Guide to Aging Parents. It’s available to purchase and download here.