The growing population of people over 50 has led to a large number of senior services and service providers, among which is the gerontology consultant. Although there is a plethora of resources available, many are located in metropolitan areas while rural areas have minimal coverage. In cities where the services are abundant, there may be an overlap of services or services for specific populations like low income seniors. Those factors make the job of the gerontology consultant vital to the elderly and their families.
What is a Gerontology Consultant?
These are professionals trained in the basic issues of aging who have a knowledge of general resources such as government entitlements, a current knowledge of local resources and how to access them and relationships with other professionals like lawyers and financial advisors. According to Love to Know Lifestyle, gerontology consultants, also called geriatric care managers and geriatric consultants, work to assess needs and to find solutions using available resources. For instance, an elderly person who is not eating well might benefit from a congregate meal problem or "Meals on Wheels." An elderly client who has guardianship or financial issues may need the assistance of an attorney who specializes in working with the elderly. In that instance, the care manager might call upon his knowledge of legal resources to recommend such an attorney. The resources may include the family, as when dementia is involved. Consultants not only may work to find adult day care or in-home care services but also help locate financial help and family support organizations. These professionals may work for hospitals, hospices, area agencies on aging or nursing homes, but they may also function as private practice consultants who align themselves with such organizations and are utilized by them on an "as-needed" basis.
How Do You Become a Gerontology Consultant?
First, you need to earn a degree. While people who have worked with the elderly for many years may get jobs as consultants, the majority of positions require degreed applicants. A bachelor's or advanced degree is preferred. The degree programs will teach you about normal aging and the issues that might develop. This is important if you are to assess the health of your clients. Upon earning your degree you should look for internship opportunities with senior care facilities or organizations to deepen your study of gerontology. You may intern in a clinical role or you may prefer an administrative position. Experts recommend that you get at least four years of this type of supervised work experience before going on your own. During this period, familiarize yourself with senior resources and entitlement requirements. You should apply to professional organizations such as The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers to allow you to network and get professional support. At some point, you need to get certification and apply to your state for licensure. Once you have positioned yourself well with knowledge and skills, you should look for alliances with senior-serving organizations or seek employment in such an organization.
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The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that these care managers make from just over $31,000 to more than $81,000 a year, depending on education and position. If you like and respect the elderly and enjoy problem solving, a career as a gerontology consultant may be for you.