How Do I Select a Geriatric Care Manager For My Parents?

Introduction – Why not just rely upon the government to protect us through regulation?

Most people believe that the state of California licenses and oversees professional Geriatric Care Managers (“GCMs”). After all, California regulates everything , doesn’t it?

Well, not in the case of professional Geriatric Care Managers. California does not provide any type of licensing, regulation, oversight, minimum standards, or any other sort of controls over the GCM industry.

In effect, the state is leaving it up to older adults and their families to protect themselves and leaving it up to them to think about all the right questions to ask and the things to watch out for. Caveat emptor!

In this article we’ll provide information about what to look for and what to watch out for so that you can make well-grounded assessments regarding the GCMs that you select to work with you and your loved ones.

Criteria for selecting a Geriatric Care Manager

Get a little help from your friends

Referrals from people you know are often the best starting point. If someone you know gives a strong endorsement to a GCM with whom they have worked regarding their own loved ones, that is a valuable starting point.

The most important qualifications

You should look for professional GCMs who are:

  1. Competent
    They know what to do, and how to do it.  That’s important in order to make sure that your parent will get the types of help that they need without mistakes or waste.
  2. Trustworthy
    They are reliable and keep their promises.  That’s important in order to make sure that you can depend on the GCM to deliver the help that your parent needs, when the GCM says that it will be delivered.

These are the two absolutely essential criteria. If the GCM you choose to help your parents doesn’t meet these two criteria, you’re just wasting your time and money and putting your parent at risk.

Competence

Since we don’t have licensing and regulation of GCMs in California, how can you tell whether or not a GCM has the knowledge and experience that it takes to provide excellent help to your parents?   Here are some important tools to use to assess GCMs’ competence:

  • Education
  • Certification
  • Membership in NAPGCM

Education

Does the GCM have a college degree, preferably a graduate degree, in a relevant field of study?  This is important because the GCM’s educational background should include study on topics that matter to your parents’ care needs.

Most GCMs have a masters degree in Social Work, Gerontology or similar fields involving social work and psychology because their studies in those fields prepare them to understand “the needs of the person” as a whole including psychological, health, social, financial and spiritual needs.

Note: Sometimes nurses practice as GCMs.  Because nurses are not required to have a bachelor’s degree, many nurses only have the equivalent of a community college “Associate’s” degree or no degree at all.  If your parent has a nurse as a GCM, ask whether the nurse has a college degree and if so, what type of degree it is.

When you are considering a nurse who offers services as a GCM you must ask yourself whether your loved one’s primary needs are:

  • Psycho-social needs, in which a social worker might be the best choice.  Examples of psycho-social needs that your parent might have include these:
    • Loneliness
    • Lack of socialization
    • Need for advocacy such as with doctors or authorities
    • Need for supervision or observation
    • Care needs assessment
    • Gero-psychological issues
  • Medical needs, in which case a nurse might be a good choice (if properly qualified with geriatric care experience).  Examples of medical needs that your parent might have include disease issues and wound care.
  • Both needs, in which case your parent might need help from both social workers and nurse case managers.   Some care management firms have both social workers  nurses available so that clients have access to both disciplines.

Certification

There are several different certifications available for GCMs that are broadly recognized and accepted as authoritative.  The one most widely recognized is the “CMC” certification, granted by the National Academy of Certified Care Managers.   “CMC” stands for “Care Manager, Certified” and is granted after a comprehensive examination based upon knowledge of care management issues, laws and practices.

Certification is important for your parents’ sake because legitimate certification demonstrates that a third party has made a well-grounded assessment of the GCM’s knowledge and ability to provide care management services.

Membership in NAPGCM

The primary professional association for GCMs is the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (“NAPGCM”). If you are considering a prospective GCM who is not a member of the NAPGCM ask yourself why they aren’t a member and what that says about their qualifications.  NAPGCM has strict standards for membership and full members must possess at least one of the recognized care management certifications to qualify for membership.

Membership in NAPGCM matters because they have independently verified the GCM’s experience and certification and because they provide ongoing continuing education and training for GCMs.  Your parents will benefit from their GCM’s having up-to-date training, information and knowledge about the ever-changing landscape of laws and technology that affect older adults and their families.

Trustworthiness

There are several ways to assess the GCM’s trustworthiness, including:

  • Experience
  • Client References
  • Professional References
  • Interview Impressions
  • Better Business Bureau Reports

Experience

How many years has the prospective GCM been working as a professional GCM? Before that, did the GCM have other experience that is truly relevant to GCM work, such as working in a hospice organization or a geriatric medical group?

If the GCM has significant professional experience, they are more likely to know what to do to assess and provide for your parents’ needs and help your family.

Client References

Ask the GCM provide at least three client references who will attest to the GCM’s performance and reliability.  Ask the references questions like, “Tell me about a time when the GCM really came through even though circumstances were difficult” and, “Tell me about the times when the GCM failed to keep the promises that he or she made to you?”

By asking for references you are more likely to find out whether or not the GCM really has the experience that he or she is claiming.  That way, you can make sure that the GCM that you select for your parents is going to be a good choice to help them.

Professional References

Can the GCM provide at least three references from professionals who have referred clients or patients of their own to the GCM and who are satisfied with the results?

This is important because other professionals like doctors, attorneys, fiduciaries, hospice case managers and other are very careful to only refer to GCMs who they know will do a good job.  By asking for professional references you will ensure that your parents’ GCM is someone who is respected not only by former and current clients but also professionals in the community who can make well-grounded assessments of the GCM’s skill and ability.

Interview Impressions

It may be wise to conduct phone interviews with several prospective GCMs before selecting one to work with your loved ones.  Most GCMs will do this at no charge as an initial consultation.

After initial phone screenings with prospective GCMs, it may be wwise to conduct a final interview with your first choice in the GCM’s office before committing to beginning service.

At the end of the interview, how do you “feel” about the GCM? Although this is not a precise measurement, you should ask yourself whether someone who makes you uncomfortable or about whom you have post-interview doubts is going to be the best person to trust with the care of your loved ones.  Your parents’ care depends upon your making a choice that you have a real peace about.

Beware of Pretenders

One last thing to watch out for: Some companies call some of their employees “care managers” who really aren’t professional Geriatric Care Managers. Often these so-called “care managers” are people who are staffing or scheduling coordinators for non-medical in-home care companies.

Scheduling and staffing coordinators are different from true professional Geriatric Care Managers, but there is currently no law preventing them from being called Care Managers in California.

When a company tells you that they provide “care managers”, ask questions using the information in this article to make sure that you know what those “care managers” really will be doing.  If they’re not real professional GCMs as described earlier in this article, you can’t count on them to provide excellent GCM services to your parents.

Summary

As you can see, there are many factors to consider when selecting a professional Geriatric Care Manager, especially in a state like California where there are no consumer protection laws that apply to this type of professional service. By following the suggestions in this article, you will be able to select a great GCM to work with in protecting your loved ones and providing for their care in the best possible way.

About Us

With A Servant’s Heart Senior Care, older adults and their families can navigate through the next steps in aging with expert care and advice while enjoying The Servant’s Heart Difference.

Whether it’s providing caregivers so that your loved ones can remain at home, resolving an immediate crisis, help with finding an appropriate retirement home or assisted living facility for them, taking them to the doctor, or just providing expert answers and advice and looking in on your loved ones from time to time to make sure that they’re ok, our full-service, CAHSAH-certified company can help.

For more information call us toll-free at 1-800-777-4750 today!

Originally posted 2008-06-13 18:17:44.