Patient Advocate vs Geriatric Care Manager

Patient Advocate vs Geriatric Care Manager

A few weeks ago, a reader asked, “Can you tell me the differences between a geriatric care manager and a patient advocate? I hear the two terms frequently and wonder if they are the same?” Here are the basic differences:

A Patient Advocate can assist anyone of any age – not limited to someone who is elderly, or at least over a ‘certain age,’ as a geriatric case manager would be.

A Geriatric Care Manager does not focus strictly on healthcare. Their work is broader with some emphasis on finances, housing, and other aspects of life that change as we age.

A Geriatric Care Manager serves as stand-in provider when families cannot be around.

The list of tasks include:

  • Conduct care-planning assessments to identify needs.
  • Put a care plan together; executing that plan.
  • Screen and monitor hired personal caregivers.
  • Act as a liaison to families.
  • Assist with moving clients to or from different care settings.
  • Review financial, legal, or medical issues and referring clients to experts.
  • Provide crisis intervention.–Provide client and family education.
  • Visit clients on a regular, routine basis to make sure they are safe, doing well, eating properly, and taking needed medications.
  • Make necessary medical appointments and assure client gets to them.
  • Identify agencies and/or social services and other programs that the client can use.
  • Monitor the elder’s finances and paying bills.

Patient advocates help navigate all areas of the healthcare industry including,

  • Help you research and select the best health insurance.
  • Track paperwork and records.
  • Review medical bills for accuracy.
  • Negotiate medical bills with your providers.
  • File insurance, social security, and disability claims.
  • Dispute and negotiate claim denials.
  • Research diagnosis and all treatment options.
  • Assist you in getting a second opinion.
  • Prepare and accompany you to doctor’s appointments.
  • Provide hospital bedside monitoring.
  • Review your medications.
  • Provide End of Life planning, and assist with the paperwork (i.e. living wills, POST, DNRs, Advance Directives, etc.)
  • Make recommendations for in-home care, assisted living facilities, or nursing homes.


The individuals who hire a geriatric care manager include families and adult children of relatives too far away, banks and trust officers, physicians, attorneys, hospitals, social service providers, gerontology professionals, and senior housing communities.

Individuals hire patient advocates when they want help finding a new doctor, in the hospital and have no one nearby to check on them, confused about the medications and concerned about allergic reactions, need help searching and selecting a specialist, need help navigating the clinical trial landscape, or need help securing financial resources for treatments.

Carol Marak, aging advocate, syndicated columnist, and editor at She earned the Fundamentals of Gerontology Certificate from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.

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