Long Distance Caregiving and the Role of the Geriatric Care Manager

Long distance caregiver is a new role that is thrust upon children and younger family members these days. After all, families used to live closer together, with children residing and working near their parents, but these days family members are more distant from each other.

According to a report by the Alzheimer’s Association, 7 million Americans provide 80% of the care to ailing family members, there are approximately 3.3 million long-distance caregivers in this country with an average distance of 480 miles from the people they assist, and the number of long distance caregivers will double over the next 15 years. The report also states that 15 million days are missed from work each year because of long distance care giving.

Professional care managers (also known as geriatric-, elder-, or aging- care managers) represent a growing trend to help employed and/or distant family caregivers provide care for loved ones. Such experts assist caregivers, friends or family members provide care, make decisions, and find governmental and private resources. They are professionals who are trained to assess the abilities and needs of the elderly, and to evaluate and recommend care for them. Their backgrounds include fields such as nursing, social work, psychology, and gerontology.

These professionals are becoming extremely popular as the liaison between long-distance family members and their aging loved ones. That’s why it is important to find a geriatric care manager where your loved one lives, since he or she will have knowledge of the resources in the area and can serve as your eyes and ears when it comes to your distant loved one.

The following is a partial list of what a care manager might do:

  • Assess the level and type of care needed and develop a care plan.
  • Put the care plan in place and keep it functioning.
  • Make sure care is in a safe and disability-friendly environment.
  • Resolve family conflicts and other issues.
  • Become an advocate for the care recipient and the caregiver.
  • Implement and manage long distance care.
  • Conduct ongoing assessments to implement changes in care.
  • Oversee and direct care provided at home.
  • Coordinate the efforts of key support systems.
  • Provide personal counseling.
  • Arrange for services by legal and financial advisors.
  • Arrange placement in assisted living facilities or nursing homes.
  • Monitor the care received in a nursing home or in assisted living.
  • Assist with the monitoring of medications.
  • Coordinate medical appointments and medical information.
  • Arrange or provide transportation to medical appointments.
  • Assist families in their decision-making.

Services offered will depend on the educational and professional background of the care manager, but most are qualified to cover items in the list above or can recommend a professional who can. Fees vary. There is often an initial consultation fee that is followed by hourly or flat fees for services. Medical insurance usually does not cover these fees, but long-term care insurance might.

When you take into account the time absent from work and time to find the right care resources for your loved ones, along with the cost of travel expenses to monitor their care, you will probably agree that using a caregiver is money well spent. Add to this the stress of handling your own life circumstances combined with being a caregiver, and you will probably wonder how you could have ever done without the care manager.