Geriatric Care - What is a Geriatric Care Manager?

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Geriatric Care - What is a Geriatric Care Manager?




Guest:  Mary Peters – Founder, Care For Life

Host:  Sally Hughes Smith – Artist, Author; The Circle – A Walk with Dementia


Sally Hughes Smith:  Welcome to Age to Age.  I’m Sally Smith.  Let’s talk.  Today, we are very fortunate to have Mary Peters with us.  She has many degrees and is President of Care For Life, as well as a professional geriatric care manager.  Mary, I love reading these titles, like geriatric care manager.  And, I know, in this day and age, we all need to know what this means, and I’m not familiar with what that is, exactly.  I understand that it’s a professional degree.  I’d like to know more about.  Where do you get one, and what is it?


Mary Peters:  Well, thank you for asking, because more people need to know.  A geriatric care manager is a health professional such as a nurse, social worker, or occupational therapist who has extensive training in helping the elderly and their families solve problems.


Sally Hughes Smith:  How long would this training take?  Is it a one-year program, or a certain number of hours over a period of time?


Mary Peters:  Well, we kind of get this experience along the way.  For example, I was a clinician, as an occupational therapist, for many years.  Then, I became a lobbyist, which was sort of an administrative-type degree.  And then, I went into teaching, and I taught social services, health policy, and how Medicare and Medicaid came about.  So, I picked up, and studied, these issues all along the way.  Nurses and social workers, working in nursing homes and doing all kinds of work with the elderly, get this together and take a test in order to be a geriatric care manager.  You have to apply to take the test.  You must apply to the National Academy of Certified Care Managers (NACCM). 


Before you take that test, you must demonstrate that you’ve had at least four years of providing care management, of monitoring older people; of assessing older people, and working with families.  You can have a BS degree or you can have a Masters degree, but you must have that experience, and it must be documented by a former boss or coworker.


Sally Hughes Smith:  How long has this been an option for people to get this degree?  How new of a degree is it?


Mary Peters:  The care manager, when they first got together, there were seven people back in the 70s.  They got together because they were tired of working in county hospitals, hospitals, and public jobs, and they saw some things happening.  First of all, they saw this huge demographic wave coming.  They saw that families were mobile, and elderly people were retiring far away from the family.  They were getting older and needed help.  Finally, our healthcare system had become so fragmented and difficult, these elderly people and their families needed someone to navigate them through the healthcare system. 


Sally Hughes Smith:  So, the degree encompasses sort of an umbrella.  In other words, it doesn’t just deal with the physical concerns of an elderly person.  It doesn’t just deal with emotional, or nutritional, concerns.  You need training in all aspects to navigate someone through this process.


Mary Peters:  That’s right.  And, these seven people developed what we now have as a national association, which is the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers; which is different from the one that administers the test.  The one that I’m talking about is very broad.  It’s like the American Medical Association, or the American Occupational Therapy Association.  You have conferences every year.  You have journals.  You have all kinds of educational material to help you continue to develop along the way.  Now, in the United States, we have 17,000 geriatric care managers.


Sally Hughes Smith:  Wow. 


Mary Peters:  And, you know why?  It’s because the need is there.


Sally Hughes Smith:  The need is so hugely there.  I see you say certified, in reference to geriatric care managers.  I know my husband, being a physician, has to take recertification at certain points, and I’m assuming this would be true, also, for those 17,000.


Mary Peters:  That’s right.  Every three years, we must submit a certain number of CEUs (Continuing Education Unit) to maintain our certification.


Sally Hughes Smith:  Does this have any connection with Medicare or Medicaid?  If a geriatric care manager is in charge of someone, do you have any particular connection with either of those organizations?


Mary Peters:  Medicare does not pay for geriatric care management services, and they should.  Because, what we do is keep people out of the hospital.  We keep people out of nursing homes.  And how much money does that save?  Billions!  In South Carolina, Medicaid is paid for by geriatric care managers.  Long-term care insurance has begun to pay for geriatric care management.  In fact, we were the first one in the state that long-term care recognized.  And now all of the long-term care companies recognize us and allow their services to be paid by geriatric care managers.


Sally Hughes Smith:  Mary, thank you so much for being with us today.


Mary Peters:  Certainly.  Thank you.


Sally Hughes Smith:  I look forward to hearing more about what you have to say.


Mary Peters:  Thank you.  Thank you for having me.


Sally Hughes Smith:  Thank you to all our listeners for joining us.  We welcome your suggestions.  Please give us your comments on our Web site.  This is Sally Smith, Age to Age, saying good bye and wishing you courage and joy on your own journey.  We are all connected.


If you enjoy listening to Sally Smith, you can buy her book; The Circle.  It’s the story of how she personally responded to her mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease.  It’s a wonderful gift of hope for anyone with a parent with dementia.  Just click on Sally Smith’s name under the health professionals tab on the podcast homepage.  All profits from sale of The Circle support research at the Center on Aging.  Thanks.


If you have any questions about the services or programs offered at the Medical University of South Carolina, or if you’d like to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians, please call MUSC Health Connection at:  (843) 792-1414.

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