If you are exploring options for providing additional care for an aging loved one, you will likely come across the terms “Caregiver” and “Care Manager.” While it may seem that these can be used interchangeably, there are several differences between the duties, responsibilities, and benefits of hiring a Caregiver and/or a Care Manager. Understanding these differences can help you make the best choices for hiring a care team for your family member.

At Senior Support Solutions, we have compiled the following guide to help clarify the similarities and differences between Caregivers and Care Managers and highlight the valuable services that each professional can offer for seniors and others who need assistance in carrying out their medical, physical, mental, emotional, and sometimes, their financial tasks. Although we are focusing on geriatric care, keep in mind that people of all ages who require extra assistance may also benefit from the services of a Caregiver and/or a Care Manager.

What is a Care Manager?

According to the National Academy of Certified Care Managers (NACCM), a “Care Manager is a health and human services specialist who acts as a guide and advocate for clients and/or families who are caring for older relatives or disabled adults.”

With a mission of helping clients live as independently as possible while ensuring that their needs are met, Care Managers offer a comprehensive collection of services designed to improve the client’s overall health and wellbeing. The duties of a Care Manager may include:

  • Identifying the needs of the client
  • Establishing a personalized Plan of Care
  • Putting the Plan of Care in motion and revising accordingly
  • Overseeing, supervising, and helping to manage ongoing care
  • Assisting with medication management
  • Providing patient education
  • Offering referrals to outside resources
  • Advocating for all of the client’s needs and requests

Care Managers also serve as liaisons between the various parties involved in the client’s care. For example, they coordinate with the client’s families, physicians, clinicians, specialists, and Caregivers. They also interact with the clients, encouraging their input in decision making and taking control of their complex health needs with proper guidance and assistance.

What benefits do Care Managers offer?

Care Managers offer a range of benefits for the different parties involved in a person’s care. For the clients themselves, Care Managers provide the peace of mind of knowing that they are in the care of someone who is experienced, trained, and educated in guiding and assisting them through what could be a very difficult journey. The Care Manager becomes their partner in traveling this road and helps to ensure their safety, comfort, security, and happiness. Care Managers encourage clients to be engaged in their own care and strive to meet their own needs—but with proper guidance and assistance in order to eliminate costly and potentially dangerous outcomes.

For the client’s family, working with a Care Manager frees up valuable time and energy, enabling family members to spend more quality time with their loved ones. Care Managers can also reduce the risk of caregiver burnout by allowing family members to hand over the often-overwhelming tasks that come with assisting an elderly person with their daily needs.

When Care Managers are brought into the picture, there are also benefits for the client’s physicians and insurance companies. For example, physicians can rest assured in knowing that a trained professional is guiding the patient/client to comply with their orders, including taking medications as directed, and enhancing the client’s engagement in his or her own care plan. As a result of the Care Manager’s involvement, clients tend to experience improved clinical outcomes. Insurance companies and healthcare organizations may enjoy lower costs, as Care Managers improve efficiency and quality of care by streamlining tests and procedures and helping to eliminate costly mistakes, unnecessary medical visits, and preventable hospitalizations. In addition, Care Managers work closely with Caregiving companies, serving as a coordinated team that helps enhance each other’s services for the same common goal of improved client care.

Certified Geriatric Care Managers

While Care Managers have an abundance of resources and training to help them identify the best solutions to meet clients’ needs, Certified Geriatric Care Managers provide all of the same services and benefits—but with additional education, experience, and ongoing training to offer their clients. “Certified Geriatric Care Manager” is a professional credential granted by the International Commission on Health Care Certification™ (ICHCC) to “rehabilitation and health and human services professionals who provide case/care management services to elderly individuals with health and/or disability issues.” To receive the certification, Care Managers must fulfill a variety of criteria, including:

  • A minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in a healthcare-related field
  • A minimum of 120 hours of post-graduate or post-specialty degree training in geriatric care management, or a similar area that can be applied to creating and managing a care plan for an elderly person
  • At least three years of work experience in the field and/or an internship under the supervision of a Certified Geriatric Care Manager
  • And other requirements designed to ensure that the Care Manager is qualified to oversee a care plan and advocate for the needs of an elderly person

In practice, Geriatric Care Managers help to facilitate the assistance, requests, and desires of clients and their families, and work with them as a team member to offer the best possible care and the valuable opportunities that the client deserves. At Senior Support Solutions, we use the following example to explain the role: Geriatric Care Managers are similar to a car’s GPS. They help navigate the journey to the client’s destination, offering suggestions, alternate routes, and ways to avoid hazardous conditions along the way. They can help their clients avoid going down a rocky and treacherous road and guide them to a safe destination.

What is a Caregiver?

While Caregivers and Care Managers (including Certified Geriatric Care Managers) work in conjunction with each other, they engage with the client in different ways. The Caregiver offers more hands-on care and is involved in the client’s activities of daily living. For example, they assist the client with needs such as showering, toileting, meal preparation, light housekeeping, and offering companionship. Since Caregivers usually see the client more frequently than Care Managers, they can offer valuable insight into the client’s current status—which is particularly helpful if changes (either positive or negative) are occurring.

Caregivers may be with the client for anywhere from three to 24 hours per day, or even live with them if round-the-clock supervision is needed. While the Caregiver is more involved with the client’s day-to-day activities, the Care Manager sets up these duties and oversees the administration and outcome of the care.

Hiring a Caregiver and/or Care Manager

If the time has come for you to hire a Caregiver and/or Care Manager to assist your loved one with daily activities, one of the key decisions that you’ll face is whether to hire a provider directly or through an agency. While hiring directly may be less expensive, there are several benefits to working with an agency. For example:

  • Most agencies conduct background checks, contact references, verify that the Caregiver/Care Manager has the proper certifications and experience, and ensure that providers are up to date on training requirements. If you hire a private provider, you’ll need to manage this vetting process yourself—and some of the individual’s background information and credentials may be difficult to verify.
  • The agency will handle scheduling, payroll (including tax withholding), and other administrative duties, helping you save time and effort.
  • If you hire privately, you run the risk that the Caregiver/Care Manager could quit without notice or not show up for a shift—leaving you scrambling to find a replacement. Agencies, on the other hand, will take care of replacing providers who are unable to fulfill their duties.
  • An agency will handle any liability issues that may arise. Unfortunately, caregiving situations can sometimes give rise to allegations of theft, abuse, or exploitation—which may originate from either the client or the Caregiver/Care Manager. If you hired privately, dealing with these issues may be an emotionally charged experience with significant legal and financial implications. While these situations are obviously worst-case scenarios, hiring through an agency can help mitigate the consequences if they do arise, since a reputable agency will have the proper insurance to deal with such cases. In addition, working with an agency minimizes the chances of having a Caregiver/Care Manger who engages in misconduct in the first place, due to the thorough vetting process that agencies use.

The process of hiring a Caregiver/Care Manager can present many questions, as you strive to build the right team to meet your loved one’s needs and those of your family. At Senior Support Solutions, we have the expertise needed to guide you through this journey. Our team includes both experienced Caregivers and Certified Geriatric Care Managers, and we will provide you with a personalized Plan of Care that includes the right level of assistance for your family. Our 24/7 support solutions range from an initial in-home assessment to identify problems and potential solutions, to advocating on your behalf and connecting you with outside resources as needed, to managing communications between the various parties involved in your loved one’s care.

To schedule a free consultation, call us today at (602) 880-9105!