Navigating Geriatric Care
The questions are never-ending. The concerns are enormous. The need for information is awesome.

Several people e-mailed with a basic question: How do I find out how much care my loved one needs? And will I get an independent evaluation?

A professional geriatric care manager will give that evaluation, says Mary Ann Goodman, a member of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers.

The cost of a private assessment could range from $85 to $130 an hour, depending on the rate charged by the care management consultant.

Q. That sounds as if it could get pricey.

A. It shouldn't. Typically, if I do a verbal, not a written, report, I spend about an hour or an hour and a half reviewing the chart, talking to the family. I would need to know medical and personal background, whether or not a caregiver is available. And I would interview the individual.

Q. Do people who need care admit they need help?

A. Some do. Some say, as one woman did recently, that "I make my own meals." When I asked her to tell me what kind of meal, she said "tuna."

And when I asked her to show me, she pulled out a can of cat food.

Q. You do an assessment, sometimes more?

A. The benefit of having a care manager is figuring out what is needed and bringing together all the resources. Then looking at the finances and figuring out what we can negotiate in the marketplace.

Some people just need adult day care. Others need facilities, and some of these places are doing deals right now. I can be there for all the interviewing or I can give them a checklist so they are empowered to ask questions. And I can refer them to home-care companies who provide caregivers. Individuals are cheaper, but they will require supervising and may not be bonded or insured.

The advantage an independent care manager brings is the freedom to recommend several companies or care plans. It becomes a matter of your choice.

Q. Do geriatric care managers work with families who live outside the area?

A. Of course. Often I visit someone once or twice a month and report to the caregiver who lives in another location.

Sometimes there are issues. Concerns about Mom getting the care she should be receiving in an assisted-living home, for example. An independent care manager can check that out for the family so they know the money they spend for care is well spent.

You would be surprised what happens when a professional gets involved as an advocate.

Q. What's the biggest challenge for families?

A. It's always the cost. Caregiving evolves in stages and there is a menu of options. That's where getting an expert can help.

Q. I just did a search on the caremanager.org site and all the professionals listed under my ZIP code are affiliated with some home-care business. Is this common?

A. Yes, but there are independents also. Keep searching. And being affiliated with a home-care firm does not mean you are going to be getting a biased or nonprofessional assessment. That won't happen.

Q. How do people reach you?

A. At maryanngoodman@sbcglobal.net or 949-307-0637.