Finding residential care for your loved one can be stressful. It is the rare family that plans in advance for a time when Mom or Dad can no longer live at home. After all, almost all of us would prefer to age in our homes than live in assisted living. Fortunate are the ones who can stay at home as they age. Sometimes, that is not the safest or wisest decision since it could be difficult and truly unhealthy for family members trying to be the caregivers.
Typically, families don’t know where to start their search and often they begin where we in the 21st Century usually do – on the internet. And, now we have that big powerful machine called Google and we can find just about anything we want with customer reviews to boot!
I would like to challenge that approach. Not that it is unwise to do research but it’s important to know that all placement services are not created equal. They fall into several categories, some of which are:
Online referral companies – typically you are asked to fill out an online form for whom and what you are looking for, a general location, your contact information (uh-oh), maybe your budget. The next thing you know, you are inundated with phone calls from either aggressive sales people from the call center, or perhaps honest calls from assisted living facilities who have received your information without your knowledge or from a call center who knows little or nothing about the care facilities in your area. Maybe you just wanted to get a lay of the land. Maybe you had an inkling of a future need. Or maybe you are completely stressed out because your situation is dire and this seems like your only choice. It isn’t. Though laws are changing in various states, be aware that these companies can sell your information without your knowledge.
Local referral agents – these are often people whose business model is to talk with you on the phone, gather some of the same information described in #1 above, and give you some suggestions of places to visit to see if they appeal to you and fit your needs. If the first three or four suggestions don’t work – don’t worry! They will give you three more to look at tomorrow. So you drive around, not knowing what questions to ask, without a good grasp of the criteria you should be thinking about and still, no one has met with you or your loved one face-to-face to really understand the needs of your family.
Full-service, placement agencies/placement advisors – sometimes these can follow a similar model to #2 but what you really want to seek out is that company or person who does an extensive intake over the phone, sets up a time to meet with you in person, and after assessing your situation comes up with 2 or 3 places to visit. Here is where the rubber meets the road – at this next step. Your advisor should then set up some times that work for you and accompany you on the tours of the locations she/he has chosen. This way, your advisor understands what you like, what you don’t like. You want an advisor who has done their homework, knows of any violations cited on the assisted living location, has visited the location prior to bringing you there and can properly explain to you why it might or might not be a good fit.
Families who are faced with challenging decisions for an aging loved one need some handholding, support, and TLC. Most of the above placement or referral agencies have agreements in place with the various assisted living locations so you will not have to pay a service fee - these locations pay the company a a commission, saving you a lot of money and time.
If what you are looking for is a Google session to start your search, by all means do so. Just make sure you understand, if you are going to fill out an online form (and some of these are completely legitimate to start the process) that you know where that information is going (read the fine print) and what will happen as a result of you giving out your information.
If you are currently in the situation of exploring care for someone (or yourself), re-read the three choices outlined above. How do you want to be treated? How much time do you have to waste on phone calls that are either from places out of your price range, or not in your preferred location. How helpful would a professionally trained advisor be to assist you in your search?
As mentioned above, laws are changing to protect consumers. Look for a future article in our newsletter addressing this with updates!