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.
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."
As the population ages, elder care consultants will be needed 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.
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.
"The big question is who will pay for the consulting," says Spinks. "Employers?
Family members? Elders? Government? Service providers? Taxpayers?"
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....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