Aging Life Care Professionals are specialized caseworkers who focus on holistic geriatric care management. Like a social worker, an Aging Life Care Professional can be an excellent resource for both family caregivers and isolated older adults, providing help and advocacy across a variety of disciplines. And like a social worker, Aging Life Care Professionals must be educated, experienced and certified to work with older adults in such a capacity.
Many people, however, may not know what Aging Life Care Professionals do or the services that would be available to them through an Aging Life Care Professional. Right at Home spoke with Brenda Shorkend, an independent Aging Life Care Professional with over 25 years of experience, and got answers to five most frequently asked questions for Aging Life Care Professionals.
1. What Does an Aging Life Care Professional Do?
An Aging Life Care Professional is a certified professional caseworker who specializes in geriatric care and advocacy for older adults. Aging Life Care Professionals are knowledgeable in eight areas: Health and Disability, Financial, Housing, Families, Local Resources, Advocacy, Legal, and Crisis Intervention.
“It’s not uncommon for experts in the senior world to receive some sort of referral fee or commission for making recommendations,” says Brenda. “But that causes people to be funneled into certain situations because of special interests rather than what’s best for them. That’s never the case with an Aging Life Care Professional, who will advocate for you and make sure you receive the best care you need.”
2. What Is the Difference Between an Aging Life Care Professional and a Caregiver?
An Aging Life Care Professional acts more as a guide and an advocate than a hands-on caregiver would. Aging Life Care Professionals help clients reach their maximum potential and improve overall quality of life by focusing on safety, security, cognitive issues and social support.
“There are major benefits to hiring an Aging Life Care Professional in addition to a home care agency,” says Brenda. “It really can take a village to care for an older person, and enlisting reputable people to be on your care team keeps everyone in check and yields the best results for the client.”
3. How Does an Independent Aging Life Care Professional Differ From an Aging Life Care Professional at a Hospital?
Brenda has worked as a contracted professional through a hospital system, but she now runs her own business as an independent Aging Life Care Professional, so she has intimate knowledge of the differences between finding someone through a hospital and hiring someone from the outside.
“A hospital must follow strict guidelines and regulations, which isn’t always the ideal situation for a client,” says Brenda. “An independent contractor isn’t bound by the same issues and pressures of a hospital, and can advocate for what they truly think is best for a client rather than think about guidelines.”
Most often, this has to do with spending extra days in a hospital before being discharged to ensure that everything is in order for the client once they go home, but issues can vary.
“Regardless of whom your Aging Life Care Professional works for, we all serve the same purpose — to improve communication between physicians and patients, to provide continuity in transitions, and to improve family dynamics.”
4. Why Should I Hire an Aging Life Care Professional?
An Aging Life Care Professional has access to a variety of knowledge and resources that most people do not. Aging Life Care Professionals can provide a holistic psychosocial assessment of their client’s needs and make recommendations for care and safety based on their findings.
“When I start working with a new client, I’ll visit the house and perform a full safety assessment of the home,” says Brenda. “I also stay to talk at length with the client to determine any cognitive issues and figure out whether or not they need social support. I then put together a customized plan for their care moving forward.”
5. What Should I Look For Before Hiring an Aging Life Care Professional?
“Different care managers specialize in different areas,” says Brenda. “We have a range of backgrounds and experiences. Some of us are registered nurses, others are social workers and gerontologists. I have a background in rehabilitation psychology. We all have strengths and weaknesses, so it’s important to find the right match for you and your family.”
In addition to finding an Aging Life Care Professional whose skillset matches your needs or the needs of your loved one, check that they have proper credentials. A legitimate Aging Life Care Professional will be an accredited member of the Aging Life Care Association (ALCA). According to their website, ALCA members “must meet stringent education, experience, and certification requirements of the organization,” and must follow a strict Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. You can use the search tool on their website to find a qualified Aging Life Care Professional in your area.
“It’s important to consider what makes a good match when it comes to an Aging Life Care Professional,” says Brenda. “They not only need to have the skillset you’re looking for, but also the right personality to engage with you and your family. If it doesn’t feel right, trust that instinct.”
Hilary Young is a writer dedicated to helping older Americans live healthier, more fulfilling lives. She currently blogs for HuffPost50, Fifty Is The New Fifty and Medical Guardian. You can find her on Twitter as @hyoungcreative.