For Jane Price, a successful real-estate agent in McLean, Va., hiring a claims-assistance professional to file medical claims for her elderly mother was the key to keeping her busy life in balance.

Price's 89-year-old mother suffered a stroke last spring, just as Price was helping one of her sons to prepare for his wedding and another to move away from home."I simply couldn't juggle that aspect of my mother's care and my own family obligations," Price says. "I felt I couldn't stay on top of the tremendous paperwork load."

Each time her mother was admitted to the hospital, saw a doctor, hired a therapist or underwent a lab test, claims were sent to Medicare, a supplemental medigap policy and a retiree health benefit plan.

"It wasn't simply a matter of paying bills," Price says. "It was monitoring and checking to make sure the proper amounts were paid."

She decided to turn over the whole nightmare to a professional after seeing an ad in a local retirement magazine.

"As baby boomers like me get older," says Susan Dressler of the Alliance of Claims Assistance Professionals, "we don't necessarily have as much time as we'd like for our parents or ourselves, so we hire people to do things," such as file income-tax returns and sort through medical bills.

Now Price collects her mother's medical bills and insurance statements each week and mails them to Susan Rogan, president of Clarity Claims Etcetera, in Herndon, Va. Rogan, who charges $50 an hour to file claims, makes sure the appropriate amounts have been covered and tells Price exactly how much to pay and to whom.

Useful as the service can be, finding a claims assistant -- most of whom charge $25 to $60 an hour -- can be a challenge. ACAP 877-275-8765, or is only one year old and has fewer than 100 members. The field isn't regulated by the federal government, although 29 states do have some sort of licensing requirement. If your state is one of them, make sure that the claims assistant you're considering is licensed, as well as bonded or insured. And check out references.

You can also deal with a mail-away medical-claims service. For instance, Medical Business Associates (1-800-659-3171), which has been in business since 1986 and is endorsed by the United Seniors Health Cooperative, will file your medical claims, verify that the insurance payment is correct and appeal on your behalf if it isn't. The service costs $15 a month regardless of how many bills you submit. If you have a backlog, the company will handle the bills on a consulting basis for $45 an hour.