Senior Lifestyles

Explaining differences between patient advocate and geriatric care manager

A few weeks ago, a reader asked, “Can you tell me the differences between a geriatric care manager and a patient advocate? I hear the two terms frequently and wonder if they are the same.” Following is a rundown of the basic differences.

A patient advocate can assist anyone of any age – he or she is not limited to someone who is elderly or over a specific age, as a geriatric case manager would be.

Geriatric care manager

A geriatric care manager does not focus strictly on health care. His or her work is broader, with some emphasis on finances, housing and other aspects of life that change as people age. A geriatric care manager serves as stand-in provider when families cannot be around. The list of tasks include:

• Conducting care-planning assessments to identify needs.

• Putting a care plan together and executing that plan.

• Screening and monitoring hired personal caregivers.

• Acting as a liaison to families.

• Assisting with moving clients to or from different care settings.

• Reviewing financial, legal or medical issues and referring clients to experts.

• Providing crisis intervention.

• Providing client and family education.

• Visiting clients on a regular basis to make sure they are safe, doing well, eating properly and taking needed medications.

• Making necessary medical appointments and assuring the client gets to them.

• Identifying agencies and/or social services and other programs the client can use.

• Monitoring the senior’s finances and paying bills.

People who hire a geriatric care manager include families and adult children of relatives too far away, bank and trust officers, physicians, attorneys, hospitals, social service providers, gerontology professionals and senior housing communities.

Patient advocate

Patient advocates help navigate all areas of the health-care industry, including:

• Helping research and selecting the best health insurance.

• Tracking paperwork and records.

• Reviewing medical bills for accuracy.

• Negotiating medical bills with providers.

• Filing insurance, Social Security and disability claims.

• Disputing and negotiating claim denials.

• Researching diagnosis and all treatment options.

• Assisting in getting a second opinion.

• Preparing and accompanying clients to doctors’ appointments.

• Providing hospital bedside monitoring.

• Reviewing medications.

• Providing end-of-life planning and assisting with the paperwork (for example, living wills and Do Not Resuscitate and advance directives).

• Recommending in-home care, assisted-living facilities or nursing homes.

People hire patient advocates when they want help finding a new doctor, are in the hospital and have no one nearby to check on them, are confused about the medications and concerned about allergic reactions, need help searching and selecting a specialist, need help navigating the clinical trial landscape or need help securing financial resources for treatments.

Carol Marak is an aging advocate, syndicated columnist and editor at Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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