The Special Needs Marketplace – Shopping on Facts, Not Emotions
In the world of services for special needs clients and families, during the sales process, it is very common for professionals to expound on their own experience and expertise simply because they have a child or sibling with special needs. Personal stories and testimony can be compelling.
Is that, however, the best criteria to use when engaging services for your loved one with special needs? Especially, when in many cases, those services are expensive, and it is crucial that there is a return on the investment. Just because someone has a special needs child or sibling in their family - does that make them an expert or guarantee that they are trustworthy? Are they using that story to sell a product or promote their services?
National Care Advisors recommends that the selection of professionals to assist with case management, benefits advocacy, education advocacy, financial planning, trustee, legal and many other services must be based on many objective criteria, not just an emotional reaction to a personal story.
Things you should consider:
Validation of education level and credentials.
There are specific credentials and certifications that should be obtained by professionals consulting and providing services.
For example - National Care Advisors often find situations where a family has engaged the services of a self-proclaimed "special needs advocate" who professes to know how to navigate government or public-school benefits because they did it for their own child. The results can end up disappointing.
Advocating to obtain and maximize benefits is a highly individualized process that often includes working directly with physicians for functional ability documentation with specific wording. Special care must also be given to the presentation of financial documents and "natural family" support information. It is important that a professional retained to assist with solving a special needs challenge has a broad knowledge of ALL benefits and services that might be available to a specific client, with a specific diagnosis, with a specific financial situation, in a specific community - not just a singular experience with their own family member.Vetting Outcomes and Timeliness
National Care Advisors is frequently not the "first" to provide services to a client or client's family. The client will express that they had spent considerable funds on other professionals that did not meet their expectations. The first step in interviewing a potential professional to assist with finding solutions and planning for a loved one with special needs is to establish realistic deliverable outcomes and the timeline to deliver.
There should be reasonable timelines established for the completion of work. For many professionals, the pace of completion is driven by their workload, not the needs of their clients. This is unacceptable.
The reality is that trusts, and life care plans can be written in a matter of weeks, not months if the appropriate documentation and information are provided to a qualified professional. Be wary of professionals that will not commit to reasonable timelines for the completion of a task.Transparency of Fees
There is a marketplace full of "Special Needs Services". This includes attorneys, financial planners, trustees, fiduciaries, representative payees, care managers, case managers, life care planners, and Medicare Set Aside administration managers. Fee structure and schedules can be complicated and difficult to compare on an apples-to-apples basis. For example - the quoted cost for legal services to establish a special needs trust can range from $2,500 to $20,000 depending on the legal firm retained and the area of the country.
Clients should be wary of professionals stating that a fee is "paid by someone else" or that services are provided for a flat rate, one-time over a lifetime basis. Often these professionals are being paid a percentage of money under management in a trust or other account and they are not being transparent about their fees. No one works for free - even in the non-profit arena and especially not in the financial management/products profession.The old adage "you get what you pay for" applies even in the special needs marketplace.Boundaries and Objectivity
Vendors of "Special Needs Services" not only need the education and credentials to provide cost-effective professional services, but they also need to be able to remain objective. There are situations in which a professional crosses boundaries - either giving advice that is out of their expertise or inserting themselves into a major decision that does not honor the client/client's value system and autonomy. National Care Advisors has had experiences where there is an assumption by a legal or financial advisor that the mother or daughter has an obligation of hands-on care for the lifetime of a family member with appropriate respite care or regard to the effect on the quality of life of the caregiver. There have been situations in which professionals have made value judgments based on their own bias on requests for funding for quality of life expenditures such as furnishings, vacations and socialization opportunities that are reasonably within the scope of available resources.
The professionally licensed, certified nurse consultants at National Care Advisors have the expertise to assist families and clients to ask the right questions as they choose the professionals that will help them manage their funds and the quality of life of their loved one for the long term. Navigating the marketplace of "Special Needs" service providers should result in the best quality, cost-effective services that are chosen based on fact, not emotion.
Do you need help navigating the Special Needs Marketplace? Contact us today to get connected with one of our nurse consultants who can assist you in making the best choice for you, your client or your loved one.