Elder Care Consulting The Buzz


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 service.

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, she says.

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, she says.

"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 the elderly."

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."

Links

The Elder Care Team
An elder care consulting company

American Association of Retired Persons
Represents Americans over the age of 50