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What is an aging life care manager — and should you hire one?

Whether you’re an older adult or a concerned family caregiver, the decisions you need to make surrounding aging safely, comfortably and healthily can be overwhelming. What are the best housing options available? How can you create a health care proxy? Can you use life insurance to pay for long-term care?

An aging life care manager — sometimes referred to as a geriatric care manager — can be a great go-to resource to help answer these questions, and generally improve the life of both you and your loved ones.

What is an aging life care manager?

An aging life care manager is a trained professional who specializes in the field of geriatrics, or older adults and aging. According to the National Institute on Aging, they are often a licensed social worker or nurse who can act as a kind of “professional relative” to help you and your family identify needs and solutions to make life easier. Their professional organization is known as the Aging Life Care Association (ALCA), a non-profit group of over 2,000 members that focuses on providing help for older adults or others facing long-term health problems.

“Aging life care managers, also known as geriatric care managers, are professionals who help families and their older loved ones navigate health care decisions, such as deciding whether to age in place or relocate to a residential facility; coordinating medical care; and being the ‘eyes and ears’ for a families at a distance,” explains Nancy Avitabile, the president of ACLA.

Aging life care managers may have a background in one or more of a range of areas, including social work, psychology, nursing or gerontology. Although aging life care managers aren’t required to be licensed, it’s a good idea to look for someone with certification from either the National Association of Social Workers, the National Academy of Certified Care Managers or the Commission for Case Managers.

What does an aging life care manager do?

According to the ALCA, aging life care management provides a holistic, client-centered approach to caring for older adults or others facing ongoing health challenges. They have several duties, but one of their primary responsibilities is advocacy for older adults.

The National Institute on Aging lists some of the many tasks that an aging life care manager might assist with:

  • Discuss difficult topics and complex issues
  • Make home visits and suggest needed services
  • Address emotional concerns
  • Make short- and long-term plans
  • Evaluate in-home care needs
  • Select care personnel
  • Coordinate medical services
  • Evaluate other living arrangements
  • Provide caregiver stress relief

If you’re a caregiver for someone with a physical or developmental disability, cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s or a brain injury, mental health problems, or another serious or chronic illness, it could be worth contacting an aging life care manager. They can be especially helpful if you are a long-distance caregiver. An aging life care manager who lives in the same area as your loved one can help you coordinate care, give you regular updates on their condition and even attend doctor’s appointments with them.

How much will it cost?

Aging life care managers are available to hire for a single consultation or for as much help as desired, usually at an hourly rate. Unfortunately, Medicare and Medicaid do not cover geriatric care management services, and most private health insurances don’t either. Some long-term care insurance policies may cover a portion of the cost; check with your insurance provider.

The cost of aging life care management varies widely. While some firms in areas such as New York might charge upwards of $750 for a 90-minute assessment visit with hourly charges in the $150–$200 range, in other areas rates may be more affordable, ranging anywhere from $50 to $200 per hour.

Where can you find an aging life care manager?

To find aging life care management options near you, search via the ACLA website or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Eldercare Locator, or connect with local support groups to get recommendations for providers in your area.

When you connect with an aging life care manager, consider asking:

  • How long have you been working as a aging life care manager?
  • What are your credentials? (Check to see if they are a member of the ACLA and/or that their relevant license is up to date.)
  • What services do you provide?
  • Who else works with you as part of your agency or business? (This might include other care managers, nurses, etc.)
  • What are your fees and payment structure? Can I get pricing in writing before we start to work together?
  • How do you communicate with clients?
  • Are you available for emergencies? How can I get in touch with you in an emergency?
  • Can you give a few references of families who you've worked with recently?

Read next: In-home care: What are your options?

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