When an older parent or loved one needs more care, it is typically a spouse, family member or close friend that needs to step in and help manage the revolving door of medical professionals and their bills. But not everyone is equipped to do this — and some may feel overwhelmed by the myriad of medical and financial decisions they may be required to make.
In this situation, we recommends that a client work with a geriatric care manager or care coordinator to help ease the burden.
Both geriatric care managers and care coordinators perform similar functions: They adhere to a specific process to help the patient reach their maximum level of functioning comfort.
These professionals assess the situation, whether at home or in a facility, and then create a plan of care to include the necessary support team of doctors, nurses and home health aides. They monitor the progress of the patient while managing the team of professionals to ensure the patient is on track — and if not, make recommendations to adjust the plan accordingly.
They will also advocate for the patient and facilitate communication between the patient, their medical team, and their loved ones. If a caregiver, such as a spouse or loved one, needs guidance on how to care for the patient, they also provide education and support. These services can be invaluable in the time of need.
It can be difficult to grasp the difference between these two professionals, especially since the titles seem to be used interchangeably. Indeed, anyone can use the term “geriatric care manager” or “geriatric care coordinator/specialist,” so it pays to do your homework.
However, there are a few key factors that differentiate the two:
A care coordinator is usually appointed by the insurance company at no extra cost as part of the benefits package with a long-term care insurance policy. When long-term care services become necessary, the insurer brings in a care coordinator at the beginning to assess and manage the patient’s care, and help facilitate the claims process.
Geriatric care managers usually act independently — while they may be able to help with insurance issues, there could be limitations to their knowledge regarding benefits and claims, and the long-term care policy may not cover their fee.
Care coordinators must be licensed medical professionals — usually nurses — because they will make clinical decisions on behalf of the client. A geriatric care manager does not need to be licensed and will only make medical decisions if they have the expertise and authorization to do so.
Many geriatric care managers, on the other hand, have gone through a certification process. The basis for certification is often a degree in a field related to care management such as nursing, counseling or social work, plus experience, but you should ask about an individual’s qualifications.
Many geriatric care managers will also take it one step further to provide more hands-on care. They may attend doctor’s appointments, schedule social events for the patient, provide information on entitlement programs, and act as a coach or counselor to the patient and family as they learn to cope, and thrive.
Next, learn where to find qualified geriatric care professionals, the costs of their services and payment options to consider in Elder Care: Finding the Best Care-Giver and Knowing the Costs.