It’s hard to see ourselves and our loved ones aging. However, none of us can avoid it and the older we get the more likely we will need some type of care in our lifetime. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, someone turning age 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care assistance in their lives. Ideally, we should all be proactive rather than reactive in long-term care planning. That’s where a geriatric care manager, along with an attorney and financial advisor can help.

Unfortunately, long-term care in the U.S. is a confusing mess of options, mostly very costly. Medicare only provides very limited coverage of long-term care. Generally, you have to pay out of pocket, buy long-term care insurance or qualify for Medicaid if you need home care or a nursing home. Before you get to that level of care, there are a multitude of federal, state and local government programs as well as nonprofits that can provide some types of assistance. However, you have to figure out which ones are appropriate and how to apply for them. Geriatric care managers can help navigate all of this.

The National Institute of Health defines a geriatric care manager (GCM) as a specially trained professional, usually a licensed nurse or social worker who specializes in geriatrics and can help to identify the older adult’s physical and emotional needs and find ways to meet those needs. The GCM works with the individual and family members to determine the client’s wishes, priorities and limitations and develop a plan for what resources may be needed and how to obtain them. They can handle a wide variety of issues and tasks including helping to select home care aides, evaluating alternative living arrangements, coordinating care services and providing assistance to caregivers.

It’s best to talk with a geriatric care manager before you or your loved ones need extensive services. This way you can discuss and investigate the options and be prepared if and when more care is needed. This enables the individual to have the most control over their own care and means that they and their family do not have to make plans in a rush. However, GCMs can assist at any point in time.

Planning early also is beneficial because it allows individuals to make critical legal and financial decisions and draft necessary documents to implement their plans. Talking with a GCM can be very revealing in terms of the different types of services that may be needed, how much care services cost and the difficulty of obtaining financial assistance. Understanding the options means you can have an informed discussion with an attorney and financial advisor to determine what you can afford and whether insurance or Medicaid planning is an option.

Every day, I help clients develop a comprehensive estate plan including a will, trust, power of attorney, health care proxy and any other documents needed to ensure that the client’s wishes are implemented to the extent possible. This involves talking with them about their long-term care plans and advising them about options such as Medicaid planning and long-term care insurance. However, I also recommend that they talk with a geriatric care manager about their situation if they haven’t already, so they can develop a plan that best suits their needs.

I am a strong advocate of proactive planning. Every adult should be thinking of these issues but particularly those over 50. If you need assistance with your estate planning, contact me for a consultation.

To learn more about why you should plan for the future, read:

Create Your Own Playbook for Aging

Homework for Pro-Choice Seniors: What Is Your Caregiving Plan?