Legal Blog

The Crucial Role of Geriatric Care Managers in Elder Law and Advocacy

Nurse consoling her elderly patient by holding her hands

As seniors age, families often face complex and daunting challenges related to their care. Aging loved ones may require a spectrum of services, from medical care to assistance with daily activities to navigating the challenges of the healthcare systems and insurance. Geriatric Care Managers (GCMs) can play a pivotal role, offering expertise in coordinating and managing the care needs of older adults. This article examines the legal implications surrounding the role of GCMs and highlights their invaluable contributions to the well-being of seniors and their families.

Understanding the Role of Geriatric Care Managers:

GCMs are professionals with backgrounds in nursing, social work, gerontology, and other related fields. They specialize in assessing, planning, coordinating, and monitoring services to meet the unique needs of older adults and their families. GCMs conduct comprehensive assessments of seniors’ physical, emotional, and social needs. They also assist families in developing care plans tailored to individual circumstances and coordinate with healthcare providers and legal professionals like me. The goal, of course, in creating plans of care with the family, health care providers, and elder law attorneys is to ensure continuity of care as the senior ages.

Legal Considerations:

There are several legal considerations involved with GCMs, particularly concerning the rights and autonomy of older adults. It is essential to recognize that GCMs operate within a framework of ethical guidelines and legal obligations, including:

Informed Consent: GCMs prioritize the autonomy and preferences of the older adult. GCMs must obtain “informed consent” from the senior, who has the capacity to provide it, before implementing any care plan or making decisions on behalf of the senior. Informed consent involves ensuring the senior understands the options, risks, and benefits of proposed interventions and care plans. In cases where the senior lacks the capacity to participate, the designated health care agent and power of attorney may provide this “consent” on the senior’s behalf.

Confidentiality: Like lawyers, GCMs adhere to strict confidentiality standards to protect the privacy of their clients. They must obtain consent before sharing sensitive information with other parties, including healthcare providers, family members, or legal professionals unless mandated by law or in cases of imminent harm to the senior. Often, GCMs engage seniors and discuss this issue first, as the care plans implemented by GCMs are often collaborative with family members and loved ones. So, consent is often needed to communicate the plans.

Advance Directives and Decision Making: GCMs collaborate with seniors and their families to engage an attorney who can draft “advance directives,” such as living wills, healthcare proxies, and durable powers of attorney. These legal instruments empower older adults to articulate their preferences for medical treatment and designate trusted individuals to make healthcare decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated. Advanced directives can be customized for seniors to articulate their individual wishes properly, and a GCM can help communicate these preferences.

Guardianship: In cases where older adults are unable to make decisions due to cognitive impairment or other reasons and have not established advanced directives before incapacity, GCMs may work alongside legal professionals to initiate a guardianship proceeding. Guardianship proceedings allow a judge to appoint a guardian, who may be a friend or family member or, in some cases, a lawyer or non-profit, as a guardian of the senior to make financial or healthcare decisions on their behalf. However, there is much controversy over the guardianship process in many states, such as California and New York. Regardless of jurisdiction, a guardianship proceeding is a last resort and should be avoided if possible.

GCMs can play a critical role in navigating the complexities of elder care and offer invaluable support to seniors and their families. As trusted advocates and coordinators, GCMs uphold ethical standards and legal principles while promoting seniors’ autonomy, dignity, and quality of life. By understanding the legal considerations surrounding their role, GCMs can foster collaborative relationships that prioritize the best interests of older adults in all aspects of long-term care and decision-making.


Candace Dellacona’s law practice is concentrated in trusts and estates, elder law, probate and estate administration, disability planning and advocacy, including public benefits law. Ms. Dellacona advises individuals and families in all of their estate planning needs including advanced directives, Wills, Trusts, and asset protection. Ms. Dellacona also assists clients with the public benefits and Medicaid processes as well as long-term care planning.