Geriatric Care Managers
Education and Training Requirements
You should take a college preparatory curriculum, and, because many skills are necessary to be an effective geriatric care manager, there are plenty of classes you can take to help prepare you for this work. Classes in health are an obvious choice; geriatric care managers need to have an understanding of the human body and how its functions are affected by the aging process. Psychology courses are helpful, since you will need to understand and deal with a variety of people in a myriad of circumstances. Courses in sociology can introduce you to yet another aspect of the geriatric and health care realm. Sciences, such as biology and chemistry, are also useful. Don't neglect your math studies, since you may need to deal with clients' financial questions as well as keep your own records regarding billing and expenses. You will also benefit from English, speech, and foreign language courses, as it will be imperative that you can convey information effectively to your clients and their families.
There are a number of career paths you can take to enter this field. Geriatric care managers usually have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a field such as nursing, psychology, gerontology, or social work, and many also have master's degrees. While you are in college, therefore, you should consider majoring in one of these subjects, and the courses you take will fulfill the requirements for that major. Those interested in nursing should take classes such as human growth and development, pathophysiology, and pharmacotherapeutics, for example, while the studies of those pursuing a bachelor's degree in social work may include classes on social welfare policies, human behavior and social environments, and a field practicum. In addition, take any courses that focus on the elderly in order to get an understanding of their needs and situations. Some people begin working after college with the goal of becoming as involved with elderly clients as possible to gain experience before moving on to set up their own care management business. In some cases, local geriatric care management services may offer internships, and this may be another way to gain experience.
Those who go on to get master's degrees will take advanced courses in their field of interest. For example, nurses in master's programs focusing on gerontology may take classes such as older adults in primary care, advanced health assessment, and medical legal issues; those in master's programs in social work may take courses such as socio behavioral theory and social work methods; and so forth. Like people with bachelor's degrees, those with master's degrees may begin working at a job in their general field (nursing, psychology, social work, etc.) while trying to get as much exposure to geriatric clientele as they can. This allows them to gain experience and make contacts before they begin their careers as geriatric care managers.
Other Education and Training
The Aging Life Care Association offers in-person classes and workshops and webinars and teleconferences. Past offerings included Care Management 101 and Building a Geriatric Care Management Business. Contact the association for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
The National Academy of Certified Care Managers has been administering a certification program since 1997. Those who meet education and experience requirements and pass a multiple-choice examination receive the designation care manager, certified (CMC). Although having the CMC is not yet commonplace, it may become more popular as this field grows. Other certifications are offered by the Commission for Case Manager Certification (http://www.ccmcertification.org) and the National Association of Social Workers (http://www.socialworkers.org/credentials).
Currently, no licensing exists for geriatric care managers as such. Those who have a background in a field requiring licensing, such as nursing, social work, or psychology, are licensed in that field.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Geriatric care managers (GCMs) typically have several years of experience as a GCM assistant or experience in social work, nursing, or nursing home management.
Geriatric care management is a field that requires a lot of the so-called soft skills; compassion, responsibility, patience, and ethics are some of the more obvious characteristics. Assertiveness is also important, as you will be acting as an advocate for your clients, going to whatever lengths necessary to get your client what he or she needs and deserves. A professional demeanor is important, as you will be dealing with attorneys, trust officers, care providers, and other professionals, as well as the client's concerned family members or friends. Good judgment and assessment skills are a necessity. You should also have extensive knowledge of health care issues and the resources that are available to your clients. You will need to maintain a calm disposition in a crisis. You might find yourself accompanying a client to the emergency room, comforting family members during bad times, or visiting clients in what can be disturbing environments. You should be a people person, able to form long-term relationships with clients and their families, because your role will be one of great importance to them.