Elder care consultants help seniors and their families with the demands
and challenges of growing older. They help them deal with housing, financial
and legal issues.
This industry is relatively new, but many expect it to grow by leaps
and bounds in the near future. That's because in less than a decade, the baby
boomers will start to retire.
An elderly man falls in his home and breaks his hip.
After a lengthy hospital stay and rehab, he is well enough to go home.
But he will need more care, and his wife is not able to give him that type
of care because she is too forgetful.
She won't admit this, and refuses any offers of help. The rest of the family,
meanwhile, is worried and unsure of what will happen next.
Enter Molly Shomer. She is the founder and president of an elder care consulting
After assessing the needs and finances of the couple, she put together
a suitable and affordable plan that allowed the couple to get care at home.
Only a small number of companies and individuals offer this kind of service
now. Information on this industry is limited.
"This industry is too new," says Shomer. "I'm not even sure I can call
it an industry yet."
But it may just be the next big business opportunity. That's because the
number of seniors will explode in the near future.
Advances in medical sciences have raised life expectancy rates to record
highs. More people are living longer, and there is no reason to think this
By 2010, the number of seniors in the U.S. is expected to rise sharply
as the baby boomers start to retire, a report from the Administration of Aging
says. Between 2010 and 2030, the number of people above the age of 65 is expected
to grow by 75 percent to over 69 million.
Between 2030 to 2050, the number of seniors is expected to go up by another
14 percent. More than 79 million Americans will be seniors.
If these numbers and trends hold true, seniors will affect many areas of
public life and the economy.
They will certainly create a growing demand for products and services that
meet the special needs of older people. This includes elder care consulting
services to help seniors and their families sort through the many legal, financial
and legal questions that arise with old age.
Many companies and institutions have already responded to this need. According
a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management, one quarter of surveyed
companies offer elder care benefits. That's important, because many of the
relatives caring for the elderly are also employed.
"Families will need support to fulfill their responsibilities, manage the
complexities of the service system, manage the emotional stress related to
elder care, learn to balance work and elder care responsibilities, understand
the legal issues related to powers of attorney, estate planning, living wills,
etc.," says Nora Spinks. She runs an elder care consulting firm.
That support will come from family members, friends and elder care consultants,
Some consultants help seniors and their families with housing questions.
Others help seniors with their legal questions, or with their finances.
Rob Scrivano recently helped a couple pay for the assisted living arrangements
that they needed but could not afford because of their low income.
"So we figured out a way to rent a house and use that income to help pay
for assisted living that they otherwise couldn't afford to pay for on their
own," he says.
The complicated nature of his work keeps him busy. And that will not change
unless the government changes the rules. He expects the field to boom. "The
need for qualified people is just going to grow and grow and grow," he says.
So what does it take to start your own business in this field?
Mary Moorhead is an elder care consultant. She writes a newspaper column
on elder care. She recommends a master's degree in social work, psychology
or geriatrics. A master's degree will eventually become an industry standard,
"And [you] really need to put in the time to get to know seniors and to
get to know their problems," she says.
Shomer says that anybody who is interested in this field should spend two
to five years working or volunteering in the elder care industry, be it in
a medical setting or a residential setting.
"You need to get your feet wet before you can sell your services as a geriatric
expert," she says. "And you need to know that you truly enjoy working with
Scrivano agrees. "If you are going into elder care, you better understand
the broad range of things that are going to assault you," he says. "And if
you are really going to deal with these people, you need to be prepared [for]
these issues when they come up."
Key issues include diseases like Alzheimer's, dementia and death. "You
better be able [to] be around people who are dying; who are seriously ill;
who don't have their faculties about them," he says.
"You better have an understanding of how the family works because you are
going to be around people who are filled with guilt, with remorse, who are
sad, who are angry because their loved ones are in a nursing home."
You also have to have an understanding of legal issues, he says. "If you
are going [to] do this, you are going to have to do it in conjunction with
a decent attorney," he says.
You must also keep an eye on how the government approaches the larger questions
of health care and social security funding.
Governments may not have enough money to meet the needs of seniors, since
there are so many of them. Once seniors stop working, they will pay far less
At the same time, they will draw money out of the public purse through
their pensions. This will create financial imbalances, and may force governments
to spend less money on items that directly impact seniors such as health care,
housing and old age benefits.
Scrivano says he will go out of business the day the federal government
restricts who can get benefits.
"We are 20 years away from an amazing economic and political crisis over
this issue...of how we are going to pay for this," he says. "That's the unknown
in all of this."
Spinks raises the same point. "The big question is who will pay for the
consulting," says Spinks. "Employers? Family members? Elders? Government?
Service providers? Taxpayers?"
Another uncertainty is the question of whether government should regulate
an industry that may be ripe with fraud and scams.
Shomer says the answer should be no. Lillian Morgenthau is the founder
and president of Canada's Association for the Fifty-Plus (CARP). She disagrees
with Shomer. She says she wants government to take a look at the elder care
"First of all, they should study the industry. And they should make sure
that whoever is in it is a licensed person who can actually be a help, not
a hindrance. They should be very aware of the consumers who are part of this
Not all seniors or their families will be able to afford elder care consulting.
And not all elder care consulting businesses will succeed, even though the
demographics favor this type of business.
Shomer says a lot of people see elder care as a quick way to get rich.
"So there will be a lot of people trying to come into it," she says. "There
will be a lot of people who will fail miserably, and there will be some very
bad products out there. It's like what's happening with the Internet right
now. You are going to have start-ups and failures."
The Elder Care Team
An elder care consulting company
American Association of Retired Persons
Represents Americans over the age of 50