By Dennis M. Sandoval, CELA

The role of care manager developed over the past decade, originating in the field of eldercare to handle situations in which there were no nearby relatives to assist aging individuals.

Responsibilities can vary greatly. A care manager may be needed to ensure that someone with a mental illness continues to take medications and visit doctors.

On the other hand, if an individual has Down syndrome or a brain trauma, a care manager may be far more involved in daily activities, providing transportation to support groups or to appointments with social service organizations. In the case of a child, the care manager may attend IEP meetings.

If the person has a severe physical disability, the care manager may supervise a team of professionals providing around -the-clock services.

Often the care manager will be part of the “advisory committee” for a Special Needs Trust (SNT). Knowledgeable about the day-to-day activities of the beneficiary, the care manager is in an excellent position to advise the trustee concerning the best use of funds. The role is increasingly seen as neutralizing the impersonal nature of a corporate trustee, who may be more appropriately limited to managing investments and signing checks.

It’s advisable for family members to hire a care manager before parents pass away, so that they can share details concerning their loved one’s preferences and needs. No one can replace Mom and Dad, but the more that the care manager can learn from them, the better. Introducing such a professional to the family’s inner circle as soon as possible will ease an inevitably painful transition.

For assistance locating a qualified care manager, visit the Family Caregiver Alliance at or the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers at . Be sure to check the credentials for care managers you are considering and be certain that they’re certified.