St. Anthony: How a lawyer built a business helping the elderly visit the places they’ve dreamed about

St. Anthony: How a lawyer built a business helping the elderly visit the places they’ve dreamed about


A couple of years ago, Carol Giuliani was helping an elderly fellow from Iowa dress for a wedding at a resort on a lake in central Minnesota.

Giuliani, no longer a stranger with the man after a long drive, learned about his experience in the Korean War.

“I remember at one point, while he was getting dressed, that he looked at me and said, ‘You’re a lawyer and you’re here helping me get into my Depends,’ ” Giuliani recalled with a chuckle. “I told him, ‘That’s OK, everybody needs some help sometime.’ ”

Guiliani, 62, is a one-time securities lawyer who became a Volunteers of America (VOA)-trained legal guardian and now owns Senior Travel Companion Services, a business that combines her experience caring for older folks with a passion for travel.

“I raised three sons,” Guiliani said. “I can do anything.”

The trips have ranged from an 87-year-old’s first tour of the United Kingdom to helping a dementia-plagued senior from Bangladesh visit his daughter in Florida to escorting elderly who need assistance to enjoy the wedding of a grandchild.

“I feel that I’ve always been pretty good with seniors,” Giuliani said. “I understand them.”

At 15, Giuliani would visit with elderly, including Holocaust survivors, when she worked at a St. Louis Park nursing home during high school. She’s an empathetic listener.

“Now I help veterans of the Vietnam War,” Guiliani said. “People say I have the right personality.”

Guiliani was in her 20s and studying law when her father was incapacitated by a stroke at age 56. She learned the legalities and practicalities of overseeing his care, which lasted for 25 years.

After leaving securities law, she formalized her work by training to become a court-appointed guardian and conservator. They make medical and financial decisions for people who are unable to make their own decisions due to age, illness or injury.

“I did that for 27 years,” Giuliani said. “I was one of the few guardians who was a lawyer. I took it up because of my dad. The VOA trained me and referred folks to me and I worked pro bono for those who lacked money.

“I also would be asked to step in and take over when there was a dysfunctional family. But I mostly worked for folks who didn’t have a family. I also was raising my family. At most I would have six or seven clients. It can be tough. I could be in bed at 1 a.m. and get a call from a doctor about an operation for a client.”

Giuliani phased out of that work but she didn’t want to retire completely. Her kids were out of college and her husband was still working at his boutique law firm. She wanted to travel more. She assisted an elderly acquaintance with a trip and enjoyed it.

Some colleagues started referring clients. And families who couldn’t agree whether an elderly relative should travel or on who should help discovered her.

“I plan my trips like a military operation,” Giuliani said. “Including the oxygen tanks, the hotels and the Ubers. I do my best to always get them from door to door and back safely.”

Guiliani charges an upfront fee of $100 and a daily fee of around $400 to $500. Some added costs come in depending on transportation or the mental and physical health of the traveler.

Giuliani is a frequent flyer and her ability to find discounts and seat upgrades with airlines and rental car companies means she often can work out discounted packages for clients. She said she prefers to stay with friends and relatives in several cities rather than a hotel, which can also save money for the client.

Dr. Tony Stifter, a retired Minnesota family doctor who lives in suburban St. Paul, hired Giuliani to travel with him on his inaugural trip to the United Kingdom in 2018. He was 87 and needed a walker as he recovered from a broken leg.

“We had a great time,” Stifter said. “We flew to Edinburgh and wound up in London. We went everywhere and we didn’t stop for much of anything.

“That’s the first time I’ve had a guide, as such. With her help, she studied our plan of where we wanted to go, got the transportation, the tickets for the train and tours. She was worth the money. She has quite a niche.”

Giuliani joked that she should charge more for extremely demanding families and once upped the ante for the wife of a man with Parkinson’s disease, for a second assisted trip, “because her dog bit me.”

“I present people an estimate on what everything will cost for that trip,” Giuliani said. “And if they don’t agree or can’t afford it, we chat and I try to work with them. And I will give you a better rate to go to Mexico in January than July.”

Neal St. Anthony has been a Star Tribune business columnist and reporter since 1984. He can be contacted at nstanthony@startribune.com.

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