As the population of baby boomers hits older age, the senior care system is poised to grow exponentially, sparking a need for trained geriatric care managers.
With the aging of the baby boomers, the size of the population 65 and older is experiencing one of the biggest increases in history: between 2000 and 2011 the number of seniors grew 18 percent, ultimately totaling 41.4 million, according to the Administration on Aging. And the trend is expected to continue at least through 2030. At that point, reports the AoA, seniors will make up about 20 percent of the U.S. population.
That demographic shift also heralds a sea change in the workforce: more and more people will be needed in senior care professions, while on the home front, more and more of us will be confronting the question of senior care head-on. When the time comes to make that decision, some families will opt for residential communities such as assisted living, but many prefer to keep their loved ones at home. However, family caregiving comes with its own unique set of stresses and challenges. Hiring a professional trained in senior care management is therefore an increasingly appealing option for many families.
What is Geriatric Care Management?
A geriatric care manager, or senior care manager, is a specialist trained to help families through the process of caring for older relatives. According to the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, the goal of care management is to decrease family stress and increase quality of life in a holistic way. Geriatric care managers provide help in a variety of ways, including:
- Coaching and advising family caregivers
- Helping families evaluate residential housing or home care options
- Assisting with management of doctors’ appointments and medications
- Providing support with legal and financial matters
- Assessing the safety and well-being of the client and family
Senior care management is a rapidly growing profession, not least because having a trained specialist on hand can help families solve difficult issues such as how to pay for senior care. An article in the New York Times suggests geriatric care management as a good option for transitions: when mom or dad’s health is starting to shift, and you want to know what choices are available to you and how to pay for them. Care managers can also relieve the stress placed on family caregivers, particularly if long-distance caregiving is a factor, and mediate in cases of interpersonal communication issues.
From Caregiver to Care Manager: Senior Care Management Degrees
Geriatric care managers can provide services that go beyond what a family caregiver is able to achieve. Though many informal caregivers can and do provide effective care management, the fact is, navigating the waters of senior care becomes more complicated every day, and the emotional health of the family can suffer as a result. An elder care expert may be the answer if the situation is becoming too complex to handle individually.
Naturally, as the older population grows, more and more of us will be facing this question, hence the need for trained experts to meet this demand. Many colleges are already beginning to recognize the growing need for trained specialists in geriatric care management.
Usually, an ideal candidate for a geriatric care management degree or certificate is someone who already has training in a field related to long-term care: psychology, nursing, gerontology, or case management, for instance. This allows them to pursue more focused training in senior care, such as the new Senior Care Management degree at Cambridge College (a concentration for the Master of Management), or the graduate-level Certificate in Geriatric Care Management from University of Florida.
Education is critical, but so is certification from a professional organization like the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers—if you are researching geriatric care managers to help your family through the senior care process, make sure they have the right credentials. If you’re thinking of making that career step yourself, you can find more information at the NAPGCM website.
Have you ever used the services of a professional geriatric care manager? Are you thinking of becoming a senior care manager yourself? Let us know in the comments.