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A case manager is a type of social worker who provides services for individuals or families to help them deal with complex circumstances. These individuals work toward a goal of helping people live the highest quality of life possible. To do so, they work closely with clients to identify their goals and needs. They use available resources, or find the necessary resources, to meet those goals while getting the most value for the client.
Generally speaking, a case manager listens to the client’s story, plans for the future, provides choices, narrows down possibilities to come to a decision, does research, helps with paperwork, monitors changes in the client’s situation, respects privacy and maintains the client’s routine and independence as much as possible. His or her ultimate goal is to point clients to the right service, organization or agency for their particular situation. After this, the person keeps in touch with the client to make sure the services were beneficial. It is the underlying belief of case management that, when a client reaches the highest quality of life, the client, family, healthcare providers, and additional support systems all benefit.
Case managers help clients manage their situations — they do not manage the clients. They can work for both public and non-profit companies, and they typically specialize in one area, such as healthcare (physical or mental), addiction, aging, disease, disability, child welfare, immigration services, or occupational services. Care coordination is a type of case management in which professionals interact work primarily with older adults, for example, in what is called geriatric care. Examples of situations that they deal with include divorce, depression, and drug addiction.
Many of these professionals have a social work or nursing background, and some have had previous healthcare careers. A good case manager understands family dynamics and problem management strategies. He or she must also be a good communicator, organized, and detail-oriented because making a plan for a client includes observing, researching, planning, and advocating to make sure his or her unique needs are met.
Certification to become a case manager differs depending on the specific focus. For example, someone who specializes in social work must have at least a bachelor’s degree, and some places require a social work license. Case management may be covered by the client’s health insurance, and non-profits may provide these services at a discount rate or even at no charge to qualified clients. Geriatric case management is usually handled as a private-pay service.