Aging Life Care Professionals™ also known as geriatric care managers, are guided by a Code of Ethics set forth by the Aging Life Care Association (ALCA). These ethical principles include integrity, loyalty and responsibility, acting in the client’s best interest, respect for the client’s rights and dignity, and treating people in a just and fair way. The Code of Ethics is the foundation for Standards of Practice, which helps care managers to assess and resolve the inevitable dilemmas that can arise when working with seniors and their families.
For example, what if a care manager has a financial interest in a home health agency or an assisted living facility? Is it okay for them to refer a client to that facility? The answer, according to ALCA, is very clear: should they believe the referral is appropriate, they must be upfront and explain any potential conflict of interest or business relationship they have. Moreover, the first duty of a care manager is loyalty to the client and acting in the client’s best interests. There should never be a “kickback” to the care manager from any referral source.
Sometimes ethical dilemmas are much stickier. For instance, a care manager may believe a senior is being financially exploited by an unscrupulous family member. But if the senior is of sound mind and chooses to make poor decisions, fully aware of the consequences, can the care manager intervene? The senior has a right to autonomy and there may be little that the care manager or other family members can do other than closely monitor the situation. In cases of elder abuse or neglect, however, care managers are obligated to make a report to the appropriate state agency, such as Adult Protective Services. It’s important for families to be aware that seniors who are lonely and socially isolated may be especially vulnerable to people who want to take advantage of them.
Other ethical dilemmas that may arise may involve conflicts between the senior’s wishes and safety risks, or conflicts around confidentiality and disclosure. Sometimes there are no easy or clear-cut answers, and the scales are equally balanced between one course of action and another. In these instances, care managers may opt to discuss complex cases with other professionals in the field (while still maintaining client confidentiality) or seek input from an ethics review board in order to make the best recommendation.