Care Management: An Emerging Profession to Meet an Emerging Need
Increasing numbers of older people are living to advanced ages in the United States. Most older people prefer to remain in their homes as they age, but that may be possible only with the help of family and friends. In many cases, with or without family assistance, other supportive services may be needed.
Finding the right long-term care providers and services can be difficult, however. Consumers often do not know exactly what kind of help they need, how to find and arrange for services, and how much they must pay for services. Persons with low incomes may be able to turn to a local government agency or a nonprofit social service agency for help. A different option has become available in recent years for people whose incomes are too high for publicly funded services — private geriatric care management. Typically, a geriatric care manager (GCM) will, for a fee, assess a client's needs, arrange services, and monitor care on an ongoing basis.
Geriatric care management can be a valuable option for older persons and their families who can afford such services. Care management generally is defined as a service that assesses an individual's medical and social service needs, and then coordinates assistance from paid service providers and unpaid help from family and friends to enable persons with disabilities to live with as much independence as possible. From assessment of needs to advice on available resources, a well-trained care manager can help individuals to remain as independent as possible, to live in one's home with assistance, or to assess other living arrangements such as supportive housing or assisted living facilities.
However, consumers need a professional who is trained to assess medical and functional impairments or limitations, and can advise the consumer on appropriate services and providers. Consumers must have confidence that people who say they can perform this work have the right education and training to do so. Many GCMs are licensed nurses or social workers, but these licenses do not necessarily guarantee an ability to address a client's financial or legal questions or provide comprehensive knowledge of all service options. In addition, many geriatric care managers are not members of any licensed profession. In most states, any person can call himself or herself a geriatric care manager and offer services to the public. Consumers can face the possibility of uninformed advice or outright fraud.
The use of care managers has become common in publicly funded state and local home and community-based care programs across the country. These programs employ or contract for trained nurses or social workers to assess a person's need for long-term care services and to organize the delivery of services. Many geriatric care managers began their careers in these publicly funded programs, which they left to practice in the private sector.
Since private geriatric care management is still relatively new, few consumers know about GCMs, their training, or the types of services they offer. To learn more about this field, in the summer of 2000, AARP conducted a survey of members of a national association of geriatric care managers. Survey results were compiled by Gail Kutner, AARP senior research advisor, and analyzed by policy researchers at the Institute for the Future of Aging Services.
This Data Digest reports on the survey findings. These findings can help lead to a better understanding of the education and training of these GCMs, and of the kinds of services they provide and the clients they serve.
CLICK HERE to view the Data Digest.
Published on May 28, 2013.