Geriatric Care Managers Coordinate Care for Seniors

North America has more seniors than ever before. If you are interested in helping the elderly, this is good news. With an increase in the amount of seniors who need help, the demand for geriatric care managers could rise.

In this case, the word "manager" doesn't mean being the manager of a company. Instead, geriatric care managers help people manage their lives. Geriatric care managers can work as part of a company, or they can set up their own private firm.

They don't do the daily tasks that a caregiver might do, such as assisting with personal care. They can, however, help an elderly person decide which caregiver to choose.

Essentially, a geriatric care manager helps elderly clients plan and figure out which services would suit them best. They can act as a middle person between a client and social workers, caregivers, attorneys or staff at residential facilities. In a nutshell, they act as an advocate for their clients.

Sometimes a geriatric care manager also acts as a middle person between younger family members and the elderly person they're working with. They can help with things like making sure the client pays their bills, or assist with nutritional issues. They can also deal with crisis management and discuss legal issues. Clearly, they can do a lot!

With so many responsibilities, education is important. Geriatric care managers often have a bachelor's degree, but a master's degree is even better. They study areas related to human services, such as social work, gerontology, nursing, occupational therapy or psychology.

And it all leads to rewarding work, according to Liz Barlowe. She is the chief operating officer of a company that offers care services for the elderly. When asked what she personally enjoys most about her job, she says, "Although it sounds cliche, the sense of really helping someone.

"We get to know our clients and their families very intimately," she adds. "Caseloads typically run around 10 - 12 [per geriatric care manager]. We are able to assist them with many aspects of their lives, including crisis intervention, health advocacy and overall quality-of-life improvements. We make a huge difference in the lives of our clients."

Barlowe says an average salary in the U.S. is above $32,000. She adds some people make $100,000 and over. But geriatric care management is the kind of career you should go in to because you love helping the elderly, not because you want a six-figure income.

"It is a great career if you enjoy older adults, family dynamics and problem-solving," says Barlowe.

Phyllis Mensh Brostoff is the president of the National Association of Geriatric Care Managers. She says that income can vary, depending on many things. "[It depends] if you work for yourself out of your home, or if you work for a large organization, which provides all of the materials you need -- phone, car allowance, computer, training, etc. I think it is not unreasonable to expect to make between $45,000 and $80,000 a year if you work full time as a geriatric care manager."

However, partly because this is a relatively new career, it can be difficult to establish a client base. One reason for this difficulty is that people aren't aware of everything a geriatric care manager can offer them.

Peter Silin is the principal of a company that deals in geriatric care management. He says public awareness is one obstacle he faces.

"People don't know what we do," he says. "They don't know the value of it. Once they get it, then they really get it. But they don't quite see what someone like me can do for them at a practical level."

This means some of a geriatric care manager's time could be spent finding clients, instead of helping them.

"There are not very many of us yet, and it can be a struggle to develop a financially viable business. One needs to be able to do a lot of marketing, and have a solid business plan. I charge $110 per hour, and supplement my income with individual and couple counseling too," says Silin.

Silin says it's possible that the demand for geriatric care managers may grow with an aging population. And while he is realistic about the career, he still loves it.

"There's a lot of independence in it, assuming you're working on your own," says Silin. "You're not stuck in an office. You really know you're making a difference in people's lives. It's a very people-based profession. The basis of a successful practice is your ability to form and maintain good relationships with people. The other thing for me is that I like the inter-professional collaboration. I work with nurses, physios, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physicians."

Changing demographics does play a part in the demand for geriatric care managers. Brostoff says that is one of the reasons demand is currently growing in some areas.

"People are living longer and can have more health issues as a result," she says. "In addition, more people understand that they can get expert advice when they need it. Today, people live about 10 more years, on average, than they did 50 years ago."

The more mobile nature of our society also leads some clients to hire a geriatric care manager.

"Often, families live many miles away from each other, and an adult child with an aging parent does not live in the same city. Some people do not have families at all. They never had children, did not marry and need help from someone who is not a relative," says Brostoff.

The market for geriatric care may be expanding, creating opportunities for those up for the challenge and willing to spread the word about their services.

"What I do is rewarding, but it's a struggle, that's the thing," concludes Silin.


National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers
The national association for geriatric care managers

Florida Geriatric Care Managers Association
An example of a state's association for geriatric care managers

Aging Wisely
A group that offers care to the elderly

Association for Gerontology Education in Social Work
This site provides leadership and assistance to social work professionals

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