Important Considerations When Using Senior Placement Services

For seniors and their families confronted with finding an appropriate place for the senior to live, referral/placement services can be an invaluable resource. These referral/placement services are like personal shoppers, who help their clients sort through all the issues involved in finding the right placement.  They will assess the social and physical needs of the family member and determine what type of facility he or she can afford that will meet as many of those needs as possible. In most circumstances, this type of service is free to the family, as the consultant receives a commission or “finders fee” directly from the facility.   Other companies may charge a flat fee on top of the commission in order to provide additional services, including later follow up to insure the placement is a good fit.

With so many housing options available, including independent living, assisted living, memory care, and residential group homes, the process of finding an appropriate placement can be overwhelming, especially when it is taking place as a family member is being discharged from a hospital or rehabilitation facility or when it has recently become clear that the family member can no longer live alone.  It is under these types of circumstances that senior referral/placement services can be the most helpful.

Senior placement services generally fall into one of two categories: internet based companies and local referral agencies.  Online referral agencies specialize in getting “heads in beds” for referral fees and are primarily driven by sales and marketing.  There generally is not any any direct contact with the agency, and no one is available to tour the facilities with you.  In it’s 2010 investigative series, ‘Seniors for Sale: Exploiting the aged and frail in Washington’s adult family homes,’ the Seattle Times found that these types of internet based companies often don’t screen facilities for past violations, and, as a result, sometimes refer seniors to facilities with documented histories of substandard care, including fatal neglect. In contrast, many local referral/placement services will meet with the client and family member in person, take time to get to know them, and tour prospective facilities together. There is also a much greater likelihood that a consultant working for a local agency has actually visited the facilities he or she is recommending and is familiar with their services and price structure.

Because there is no formal education, training, regulatory or professional ethics standards for companies that provide senior placement services, it is important for the buyer to beware.  Some questions you should consider asking prospective referral/placement companies are as follows:

1)  What is your background in senior care?

2)  Do you refer facilities that don’t give a referral fee?

3)  What experience to you have with assisted living/independent living/residential care facilities?

4)  Do you tour facilities with families?

5)  Will you assess my loved one in person?

6)  Do you follow up after placement?

Those seeking to place loved ones with more complicated physical or behavioral needs should strongly consider hiring a certified geriatric care manager, who has some combination of the following: formal higher education; established and supervised work experience; or professional certification in one or more areas serving the elderly.  A certified geriatric care manager may also be utilized for placement services when sufficient financial resources are available to pay for their services.

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