Confused About Starting a Geriatric Care Management Practice? Here’s What You Need to Know!


Part of my mission is to provide knowledge and insight in to the private practice world of helping older adults and their families. I specialize in the practice of geriatric care management and I talk to health care professionals weekly interested in starting a private practice business.

The conversation generally goes like this…

I’m a physical therapist and I see a need for someone to help families facilitate decisions and understand their options”


I get calls all the time from families seeking my advice and I’m wondering how I can get paid for this type of work.”

As helpers, it’s our nature to want to jump in and help. As human beings, we need to get paid for what we know and what we do. I’m here to tell you that it is possible to help aging families independent of a BIG corporation, agency or county job but you have to go in to it with your eyes wide open.

The world of geriatrics and elder care scopes across many disciplines: social work, nursing, gerontology, physical therapy, occupational therapy and general health care. All of these disciplines have the foundation that a geriatric care management practice can be built on.

The ultimate question you need to answer is what type of lifestyle do you want and what do you want your work role to be. The biggest challenge is understanding the different roles involved with different titles and approaches.

The role of a geriatric care manager is hard to define and impossible to understand unless you’ve been doing it for awhile. Even then, you’ll find variations in geriatric care management practices depending on your location.

Over the next couple of days I want to share with you some of the questions I ask of my Business of Helping clients and provide you with ways to gain clarity around the topic of geriatric care management as a private practice.

I want you to gain clarity about the role of a geriatric care manager (aging life care professional) as well as explore your own personal strengths, motivations and values to help you gain clarity about how you want to work day in and day out.


First off, you’ll notice I use the title geriatric care manager (GCM) and aging life care professional interchangeably. This is because for years we’ve used the title of GCM but last year the national association of geriatric care managers changed their name to aging life care professionals.

I wont go in the details (mainly because I don’t know them) but just know that geriatric care managers and aging life care professionals are one in the same.

A basic description of a geriatric care manager goes something like this…

A geriatric care manager is educated in various fields of human services: social work, nursing, psychology, gerontology, physical and occupational therapy. Along with this a GCM has many years of experience in the field of geriatrics. A geriatric care manager provides holistic, multi-dimensional assessments, creates care plans, coordinates and monitors services.

The geriatric care manager assumes several roles and has a very broad scope in their client’s life:

  • needs assessment based on clinical tools
  • development of a sustainable care plan in written form
  • crisis management and intervention
  • health care navigation (doctor appointments, pharmacy visits, scheduling and coordinating appointments)
  • surrogate family member (I have been known to do my client’s laundry)
  • family mediator
  • buffer between adult children and elderly parents
  • client and family advocate (you’ll have to stand up to professionals on a regular basis, including physicians)
  • application assistance for Medicaid and insurance
  • caregiver coaching
  • caregiver supervision, training and scheduling
  • dementia care consultations
  • 24 hour on-call service (there are ways to manage this but the expectation is that you’ll be very available to your clients and families)
  • medication and health management
  • power of attorney and guardian

The advantage of structuring your private practice as a geriatric care manager is that you have the ability to capture multiple billable hours in a week, with fewer clients. The disadvantage is that it’s a tremendous amount of responsibility. You never know when your clients are going to need you.

I’ve sat bedside with a client for several hours in the emergency room over night, come home for a nap and was called back out  two hours later. This DOES NOT happen on a regular basis, for me, but it does happen. It’s important for you to know that!

I’d also like you to consider you don’t have to take on all of these roles but you do have to be able to assess, create a care plan, coordinate and monitor care. If you’re not going to take on all of these roles you have to be very clear up front with your clients.


Two questions I’m asked frequently are

  1. Do I need a certification or license?
  2. What type of background and education do I need?

A short answer to question number one is NO there is currently (2016) no law that requires you to be certified to become a geriatric care manager.

The general consensus is that this may be changing, especially if the federal government creates a billing code for geriatric care management. If (when) this happens, the federal government may create a certification requirement or work with registered nurses or mastered degree social workers only. This is already happening in large physician practices.

HOWEVER, if you have no desire to hassle with Medicare billing, you will always be able to bill privately. Some psychologist bill Medicare and some only accept private pay. My guess is that geriatric care management practices will align the same way.

Is it a good idea to obtain a certification? Yes! Is it mandatory? No! What’s important is that you clearly define for your clients your scope as it relates to your discipline.

For example, as a non-nurse geriatric care manager, I am limited when it comes to medication management, vital signs and other bedside tasks. I cannot set up pill boxes and I cannot dispense medication. I have an R.N. that I call in if I’m ever in that situation.

{{More information about the certification process below}}

Question number two: What type of background and education do I need? I ask my clients two questions to answer this question!

What is your educational background? Generally speaking, disciplines that are licensed or registered as nurses, social workers, physical therapist, occupational therapists and health care workers that hold a degree in gerontology or human development have the perfect educational foundation for geriatric care management.

What is your professional background? Geriatrics is a speciality and sadly this isn’t recognized enough in the educational world. I want a GCM to have some hands on experience in working with older adults. I especially like experience in skilled nursing rehabilitation, discharge planning, home health care, physical and occupational therapy, hospice or palliative care and county social workers/case managers.

Any type of professional background that has trained you for assessing and care planning is critical to your success as a geriatric care manager. I also like it when a geriatric care manager has broad experience across the continuum of geriatrics or elder care.

If you hold a bachelors degree in business, finance, sociology, psychology, human development but don’t have significant clinical experience you may want to consider obtaining a graduate certificate in geriatric care management through a program such as the one at the University of Florida.

I completed the University of Florida program even though I had significant training as a geriatric care manager and strong clinical skills. My degree is in Human Development with an emphasis in gerontology and I’ve trained specifically as a geriatric care manger (thank you Los Angeles county).

Human development is a perfect fit for geriatric care management, with it’s emphasis on forward movement and development (concepts that drive care management), BUT it’s not easily recognized by the consumer. Therefore, I completed the graduate certificate at the University of Florida.


A certification demonstrates you have specialized in the area of geriatric care management. Again, there is no law that requires you to be certified as a geriatric care manager. The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Mangers, which is now the Aging Life Care Professionals Association, recognizes certain memberships and offers different levels of membership related to different certifications.

[[SOAP BOX RANT: I find it very disappointing that a discipline formed out of the confusion and chaos of geriatric care is now so confusing that you have to hire a consultant to sort it out. Maybe it’s just me but the process is way more complicated than it has to be. OFF MY SOAP BOX ]]

This can be very confusing so I’m going to do my best in laying it out an a reasonable way. First, a little background information on the national trade association associated with the field of geriatric care management.

Aging Life Care Professionals Association formerly known as National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers.

This group is not a licensing or certification body nor do they offer liability insurance. They basically provide education through conferences, regional meetings and webinars. Their educational topics include clinical, business and legal issues in geriatric care. They also provide general public relations outreach for the discipline of geriatric care management.

Historically, this group was instrumental in defining the parameters of geriatric care management, the assessment and care planning process of a geriatric care management and promoting the discipline.

Once I completed the certificate program at the University of Florida I couldn’t justify the cost of joining the national association because I couldn’t get insurance through them. Nor did I feel the need for support as I get a lot of that locally.

As I explain the various certification programs, you’ll see the ones that are recognized by the national association as it relates to different levels of membership. For more information about the national association and the certifications they recognize, click here.

Geriatric Care Management Certification Programs

Programs recognized by the Aging Life Care Association are below. It’s important to note that all of these certification programs promote the association as a way to obtain supervisory hours. There are multiple categories that you may qualify for so you’ll have to do your due diligence and research your best option.

These certifications ARE NOT required to be a member of the Aging Life Care Association. It simply means you can join as an Advanced Level Member. You’ll have to decide for yourself if the Advanced Level Membership is important for you.

University Graduate Certificates in Geriatric Care Management

A certification in geriatric care management are popping up all over the place at major universities. If you google geriatric care management certification education you’ll find various programs.

I completed the University of Florida’s Geriatric Care Management program. I chose this program for several reasons.

  • It’s a very reputable university at the “epicenter” of geriatrics.
  • A degree in Human Development isn’t easily recognized by the consumer. Unlike a degree in nursing or social work, a degree in human development doesn’t invoke a picture of what I can do as a geriatric care manager.
  • The cost of a graduate certificate was significantly less than a masters degree.
  • On-line learning is a must for busy professionals.

Once you complete the certificate program through the University of Florida, you can submit an application via the International Commission on Health Care Certification for a credential as a Certified Geriatric Care Manager (C.G.C.M).

Bottom line….

Do your research before you start jumping through hoops to become certified as a geriatric care manager. If you have the background and eduction that’s the right fit, you may not need a certification. If you feel a need for certification but don’t fit the criteria, more education and supervision may be needed.

A lot goes in to the decision to branch out on your own as a geriatric care manager. This is the first of a series of articles I’ve written to help guide you along the way.

Join us in our Facebook group The Business of Helping  to carry on this conversation OR check out my Business of Helping Consultations for additional one-on-one help!

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LuAnn Smith is a geriatric care manager, blogger, public speaker and consultant. She provides an array of services designed to assist aging families and the organizations that care for them. She provides services and information to empower both individuals and businesses to be the best they can be for the older adults in their care.

Please note: I love to hear from my readers; your comments, advice and tips could help someone else struggling to care for an elderly parent. I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Thank you for understanding!

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