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How to Explain Patient Advocate vs. 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?”

Here are the basic differences:

A Patient Advocate can assist anyone of any age – not limited to someone who is elderly, or at least over a ‘certain age,’ as a geriatric case manager would be.

A Geriatric Care Manager does not focus strictly on healthcare. Their work is broader with some emphasis on finances, housing, and other aspects of life that change as we age.

A Geriatric Care Manager serves as stand-in provider when families cannot be around.

The list of tasks include:

  • Conduct care-planning assessments to identify needs.
  • Put a care plan together; executing that plan.
  • Screen and monitor hired personal caregivers.
  • Act as a liaison to families.
  • Assist with moving clients to or from different care settings.
  • Review financial, legal, or medical issues and referring clients to experts.
  • Provide crisis intervention.–Provide client and family education.
  • Visit clients on a regular, routine basis to make sure they are safe, doing well, eating properly, and taking needed medications.
  • Make necessary medical appointments and assure client gets to them.
  • Identify agencies and/or social services and other programs that the client can use.
  • Monitor the elder’s finances and paying bills.

Patient advocates help navigate all areas of the healthcare industry including,

  • Help you research and select the best health insurance.
  • Track paperwork and records.
  • Review medical bills for accuracy.
  • Negotiate medical bills with your providers.
  • File insurance, social security, and disability claims.
  • Dispute and negotiate claim denials.
  • Research diagnosis and all treatment options.
  • Assist you in getting a second opinion.
  • Prepare and accompany you to doctor’s appointments.
  • Provide hospital bedside monitoring.
  • Review your medications.
  • Provide End of Life planning, and assist with the paperwork (i.e. living wills, POST, DNRs, Advance Directives, etc.)
  • Make recommendations for in-home care, assisted living facilities, or nursing homes.

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

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Individuals hire patient advocates when they want help finding a new doctor, in the hospital and have no one nearby to check on them, 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.

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