As the youngest members of the Baby Boomer generation approach age 65, the percentage of older adults living in the U.S. is quickly increasing. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by 2030, one in five Americans will be 65 or over. As this large demographic group progresses into their senior years, countless family members will face the question of how to best care for their loved ones. For many caregivers, seeking elder care services or the assistance of a Geriatric Care Manager (GCM) offers much-needed support and expertise, allowing them to ensure that their loved one’s needs are met while freeing up time and energy.
At Senior Support Solutions, our team of experienced and certified Geriatric Care Managers offer elder care services for families throughout the greater Phoenix area. If you are thinking about seeking professional support to help care for your loved one—or if you expect that you will in the future—we’ve compiled the following overview to explain how the process works and what you can expect.
What is elder care/geriatric care?
Elder care, also known as senior care, is a general term that refers to a broad range of services designed to help older adults live comfortably, safely, and as independently as possible. Elder care may range from basic services, such as cooking, cleaning, or transportation, to more complex needs, like medical care, assisted living, or even hospice care. The specific forms of elder care required will depend on the individual’s unique needs and stage of life.
The term “Geriatric Care Manager (GCM)” is a professional title referring to a specific type of provider of elder care services. GCMs are often licensed nurses or social workers who serve as consultants with a specialty in assisting seniors and the family members who care for them. They may offer a variety of services designed to address the client’s physical, mental, and emotional needs while supporting their caregivers. For example, GCMs may provide the following services:
- Assessing the client in his or her place of residence to identify problems and create a proposed Plan of Care tailored for the client’s needs
- Scheduling and monitoring private caregivers
- Guiding clients and their families toward outside resources, such as social services and programs
- Scheduling medical appointments and arranging for transportation
- Making referrals to legal, medical, or financial professionals if needed
- Serving as an advocate for clients and their families
- Managing communications between the client, designated family members (including those who may live far away), and other care providers
- Providing assistance with moving as the client transitions from a private home to an assisted living or nursing care facility
- Arranging for respite care and other types of relief for caregivers
- And more!
When is it time to seek elder care services or hire a geriatric care manager?
Most senior citizens will require some form of caregiving during their later years, but the timing and extent of care needed will vary greatly based on an individual’s physical, mental, and emotional health, as well as their existing living situation and support system. In some cases, the need for elder care arises suddenly, such as if your loved one has sustained injuries in a fall or has suffered a stroke. The decision to seek elder care services is deeply personal and may require input from other family members and your loved one’s healthcare providers. In general, however, it may be time to consider hiring a GCM or other provider of elder care services when your loved one begins experiencing difficulty performing activities of daily living (ADLs), which include personal hygiene-related matters, dressing, feeding oneself, walking from place to place, or getting in and out of bed.
If you are unsure whether the time has come to seek elder care services, here are a few areas in which to watch for warning signs that your loved one may no longer be able to manage their ADLs safely and without assistance:
- Physical problems. As we age, our bodies become more fragile and less resilient, and the likelihood of developing illnesses, including chronic health problems, increases. Signs that these physical conditions may be interfering with your loved one’s ability to care for themselves without assistance include problems with gait or stability when walking, conditions like severe arthritis that cause physical limitations, excessive or unexpected bruising (which may indicate problems with falling), and sensory issues, such as a loss of vision or hearing.
- Cognitive problems. While some degree of cognitive decline is inevitable during the later years of life, your loved one may no longer be able to live without assistance if their cognitive struggles could pose a threat to their health or safety. For example, they could begin forgetting to take necessary medications or even forgetting to eat. As you try to assess your loved one’s mental capacity, watch for red flags such as unexplained weight loss, changes in sleep patterns, or increased confusion when it comes to completing day-to-day tasks.
- Emotional problems. Many situations that commonly occur later in life—such as the loss of a spouse, declining health, and reduced independence—can cause seniors to begin experiencing depression and other emotional problems. The support offered by a GCM can help alleviate these problems while providing guidance for caregivers navigating potential changes in their loved one’s personalities. Signs that your loved one may be struggling emotionally may also include unexplained weight loss (or gain) and changes in sleep patterns, as well as mood swings, a decline in personal hygiene, and a poorly cared for living environment.
If you have noticed that your loved one is exhibiting any of these worrisome signs, it may be time to explore your options for elder care services. As a caregiver, you will also want to examine your own circumstances when deciding whether to hire a GCM. For example, if your work, family, or financial lives are being negatively affected by taking care of your loved one, if you are struggling to stay on top of your own daily responsibilities, or if you’re concerned that you lack the time or expertise required to make the best decisions for you loved one, a GCM may provide much-needed respite that restores balance to your personal life and your family relationships.
Paying for elder care
Once you’ve determined that your aging loved one may benefit from some professional support, one of the first questions you will likely have is how to pay for elder care services and whether they are covered by insurance. Unfortunately, if you are considering hiring a GCM, most insurance plans—including Medicare—typically do not cover the costs. However, some long-term care plans offer reimbursement for the GCM’s services.
While insurance might not step in to help pay, it’s important to consider the cost savings that working with a GCM can yield in the long run. For example, a GCM can help you:
- Avoid wasting money on unnecessary services by offering guidance as to which professionals are best suited for your loved one’s needs, streamlining the list of care providers that you work with, and connecting you with any free or lower-cost resources that may be available.
- Minimize your time off work—and therefore lost revenue—by handling some of your caregiving duties.
- Avoid spending money on long-distance travel if you live far from your loved one.
- Monitor expenses charged by your loved one’s living facility (if applicable) to ensure that all costs incurred are valid and necessary.
In addition to the long-term financial benefits of hiring a GCM, their services can free up some of the time and energy required by the caregiving process—thereby allowing you to spend more quality time with your loved one—and alleviate the stress of having to make decisions that may have a significant impact on your family. As you navigate the changes that this stage of life brings, the comfort and support offered by a GCM can be invaluable.
What to expect when hiring a GCM
If you’ve decided that hiring a GCM is the right choice for your family, the first step is to find a trustworthy provider. At Senior Support Solutions, we offer the experience, expertise, and education needed to provide reliable, professional support for your loved one and anyone involved in their care. Here is a brief overview of our process and what we offer when meeting with a new client:
- We begin by setting up a free consultation to discuss your loved one’s needs and confirm that our services would be beneficial at this time.
- We then meet at the client’s place of residence to identify problems, determine potential solutions, and develop a customized Plan of Care that will help your family understand our recommendations and proposed next steps.
- We connect your family with any outside resources that may be needed, such as physicians, mental health professionals, attorneys, financial advisors, and professional caregivers. We help oversee these relationships, facilitate communication between the various parties involved, and monitor the care that your loved one receives in order to ensure that the best outcomes are reached.
- We serve as advocates for your family, providing guidance and education as needed.
- Offering 24/7 support, we assist with various special circumstances that may arise in your loved one’s life, including moving to a new living arrangement, medical conditions, or crisis situations.
As your loved ones grow older, the changes that naturally come with the aging process can trigger a wide range of emotions, including a great deal of stress as you assume a caretaking role. Working with a qualified GCM and elder care team can help ease the process of navigating these changes, resulting in greater quality of life for you and your family.
To learn more about the elder care process, call Senior Support Solutions today at (623) 249-3927!