If you’re one of the estimated 40 million Americans caring for an elderly or disabled relative, you know that caregiving can be both a rewarding and draining job, physically, emotionally, and financially. It isn’t easy when parent/child roles are reversed. Maybe you’ve had to make difficult decisions about long term care when a parent has dementia, or you’re trying to find good home care services, so an aging relative can live safely at home. Often caregivers are faced with a bewildering array of aging services and don’t know where to start.

It was in response to the needs of adult children and their aging relatives that the profession of geriatric care management emerged in the 1980’s. Geriatric care managers have backgrounds in nursing, social work, geriatrics, psychology, or other human services field. Taking a holistic approach, they go beyond traditional case management that focuses solely on a senior’s medical care.

Geriatric care managers, also known as Aging Life Care Professionals, address the individual’s social, emotional, physical, financial, and environmental needs. They develop care plans, coordinate care with the person’s doctors, find and oversee services, and help families navigate the maze of community resources and state and federal entitlement programs. Knowledgeable about senior services, housing, benefits and more, geriatric care managers are the expert guides that families can turn to with their caregiving questions and concerns.

The first professional association for geriatric care managers was founded in 1985. Called the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM), the organization established guidelines for the profession and offered educational opportunities, clinical information, and a wealth of resources for geriatric care managers.

The field has continued to evolve, and NAPGCM is now called the Aging Life Care Association. Geriatric care managers have continued in their role as guides and advocates for family caregivers. And while most of the Aging Life Care Professionals work with seniors, many also assist younger adults with physical disabilities, brain injury, mental health issues, chronic illnesses and developmental disabilities.