Elder care consultants include professionals from the fields of healthcare, social services and law who work to help the elderly remain as independent as possible. Doctors, registered nurses, geriatric nurse practitioners, social workers, elder law attorneys, psychologists, and physical and occupational therapists, all of whom specialize in gerontology or geriatric medicine, are often the members of a consulting team responsible for assessing and monitoring the needs of aging adults. The goal of elder care consultants is to coordinate the appropriate services necessary for an elderly individual to function within the least restrictive environment.
Get advanced education in the field of medicine, health sciences, psychology, social work or law. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a related field is required. Additional education specializing in the area of gerontology is needed. Many elder care consultants have master’s degrees, doctorates, or medical or law degrees. Professionals are required to graduate from accredited education programs.
Obtain a professional license. Physicians, nurses, social workers, attorneys, mental health counselors, and physical and occupational therapists must all pass state board examinations before qualifying to apply for state licensure. Although the State Boards for each of these professions follow legal and ethical standards compliant with federal guidelines, specific requirements for professional licensure vary among states.
Become certified. Different professionals working with the elder population can apply for certification as a Care Manager Certified (CMC), Certified Case Manager (CCM) or Certified Advanced Social Worker in Case Management (C-ASWCM). Minimum qualifications for most professional certifications include a college degree, in addition to a specified number of documented hours working with elderly patients or clients. Contact the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers for more details about certification requirements (see Resources).
Train to evaluate the needs of older individuals. Patient or client assessment includes evaluating the physical, emotional and social needs of the individual. Assessment is the first step in delivering services appropriate for assisting individuals in maintaining the highest possible level of functioning. A geriatric consultant may need to visually examine a person’s living environment in order to determine whether the person has enough physical mobility to perform the daily activities of living. In some cases, it may be necessary to look for signs of dementia or other cognitive impairment. Geriatric consultants may also be called on to decide whether an older person needs additional assistance and support outside of the help provided by family and friends.
Develop a network of professional contacts. Join professional organizations where you can meet others working in the senior care industry, and then build on those relationships. Get to know people at the hospitals, nursing homes, public and governmental agencies, and nonprofit organizations serving the seniors in your community. This network you develop will allow you to call on the expertise of someone else when you need to. Communicate at regular intervals with the professional contacts that you make. Make a habit of jotting down any special skills or interests of the people you meet on the back of their business cards.
The Board of Certification of the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF) certifies attorneys who have practiced law for at least five years. Attorneys must have handled at least 60 cases related to legal issues involving the elderly for a minimum of 16 hours each week during the three years before applying for certification.
A social worker must be a member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) with 3,000 hours of paid social work experience working with the elderly in the two years before being certified in gerontology.
Registered nurses and nurse practitioners are eligible for certification in gerontological nursing by applying to the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Nurses are required to complete 2,000 hours of clinical experience working with older adults in the three years prior to making application.