You’ve probably seen advertisements for senior care referral services promising to find the best retirement community care for you or a loved one at “no cost to you.” Some of these services even utilize paid celebrity spokespersons to pitch their senior living placement services. However, these services do have a high cost in the form of missed opportunities. It is important for you to understand how these retirement community referral services such as A Place for Mom, Caring.com and SeniorAdvisor work.
Some retirement communities pay to play
Many retirement community referral services tout their services as free to the consumer, implying the assistance they provide is done as part of a not-for-profit model. This couldn’t be further from the case. These retirement community referral services require senior living providers to pay high fees for inclusion on the service’s list of preferred communities. Many consumers assume, incorrectly, that a service’s preferred communities are evaluated or rated based on the quality of care provided. Unfortunately, the only reason a senior living facility earns this “preferred” status is simply that the retirement community has opted to pay a fee. A high fee. If a “free” service recommends a particular retirement community to you, be sure to do your own research to confirm it truly is the right fit for you or your loved one.
Retirement community advisors paid by commission
Many retirement community referral services employ “advisors” who assist consumers by calling a toll-free phone number seeking help and advice in finding senior care. According to one referral service’s website, “The advisor will conduct an assessment to gather information on you or your loved one’s lifestyle, care needs and budget.” The website omits an important piece of information: Advisors are often paid commissions when a caller moves into a recommended retirement community. This encourages advisors to recommend more expensive locations as the cost paid by participating retirement communities is typically one month’s rent, which may be equivalent to several thousand dollars.
It is important to know the qualifications of the person advising you in such an important life decision. Ask the advisor about his/her professional qualifications to truly understand you or your loved one’s needs and why he/she recommends a particular retirement community. If the advisor cannot list specific qualifications, you are most likely interacting with a subcontractor whose top concern may not be in your best interest. In fact, these individuals may do more harm than good since the senior living facility suggested might not always be based on your or your loved one’s needs, rather driven by the prospective commission fee to be earned. Find out for yourself and ask the advisor how he/she is paid and ask for the individual’s qualifications to make recommendations.
Quality care in each featured retirement community is not guaranteed
While the retirement community referral service advisor may seem to care deeply about your personal situation, it is critical to know that this person is doing his/her job. Once the advisor makes retirement community recommendations, arranges tours and assists you in making your final decision, this is where the relationship ends. Most times a free service will not monitor the care received by you or your loved one at the senior living facility. You can take things a step further by asking your advisor if the retirement community referral service carries liability insurance. If he/she asks you to sign a document stating that the retirement community referral service is not liable for the quality of care received at the recommended location, DO NOT use the service.
Honesty is more than not lying
While conducting research for this article, we called a retirement community referral service for a first-hand experience. When inquiring specifically about a Country Meadows Retirement Communities location, the advisor said, “You don’t want to go there. They are too expensive.” In truth, the three retirement communities the advisor recommended cost more or were the same monthly cost as Country Meadows. What the advisor did not share is that the price quoted for other retirement community locations was just the monthly base rate and that extra services could be provided, but at additional costs. With that in mind, Country Meadows and its all-inclusive monthly rates are a lower cost, higher quality retirement community choice.