How to Choose an Assisted Living Facility: Why Placement Referral Businesses Don’t Work

Over the years we have worked with thousands of families on choosing an assisted living facility. We’ve also written many articles about how to choose an assisted living facility, how to make a good move, and the emotional and practical issues involved

In the last several years, more and larger placement referral businesses have popped up as another solution to this need. We have found families don’t always understand how they work and some of the potential downsides. So, today we will explain this further and present how to choose an assisted living facility that will be the best new home for you.

How Placement Referral Businesses Work

A placement referral business will present itself as “free”. And, this is true from the perspective of the client and family, in that there is no fee to you. However, of course, the business must get paid. They receive marketing fees from the Assisted Living Facilities. Such services typically have a network of “participating communities”. Thus, not every assisted living facility in a given area participates with them. And, therefore, their agents will be recommending from among their particular network of the facilities who pay them.

Specifically, when you look at their terms of service, most lay out the fact that they are not giving professional advice and do not recommend any community. While you may be comfortable with this option and wish to do your own due diligence, many families are not and don’t always truly understand this.

A placement referral business will typically have an advisor who asks you some basic questions, primarily about needs and budget. They then provide a list of possible communities from their provider list. Some agencies may also help you with tours or other aspects of the process to find an assisted living community.

What’s Missing: Considerations on How to Choose an Assisted Living Facility and Make a Smooth Transition

From our experience, there is so much more to the process of finding the right assisted living community and making the move. This includes:

  • Assessing the person’s needs beyond simple budget and care needs: What type and size of community fits their personality and background? What social activities and amenities are most important? Do they have friends at some local communities? Does the community work with their doctor or provide transportation where they need to go? Will they be close enough to continue attending their church or other activities? Which of these things or others are actually priorities (or what ways can they be addressed otherwise)?
  • Having professional knowledge and experience with local communities: you want someone who has worked with clients living in these communities, dealt with the staff, helped as people’s needs changed and who can help you think of considerations in advance. The very thing most families need is professional advice. You can find information on facilities online and narrow them down yourself. But, the difference comes in getting a professional to assess your loved one and recommend places that will be a good fit. And, that insider knowledge from someone who is not marketing the facility can be invaluable.
  • Moreover, this is going to be your loved one’s new home. A care manager can get a sense of the person and what facility “feel” might be right for them. There is no one size fits all. One client may be impressed by and enjoy a more luxurious setting, while that may make another uncomfortable.
  • You might need help talking to Mom or Dad about the idea and navigating family disagreements. This is a big move and can be quite stressful. Most families need some help with the conversations and emotions.

Making the move:

  • What about all the little decisions and practical needs? What’s the most appropriate time for the move? Do you have a house and belongings to sell? What will you take with you? How will you deal with finances? What about the contracts and things like “level of care” and charges at the ALF? Do you know what paperwork you’ll need to complete? How should you organize the actual move day?
  • This is not just choosing a community, it is making a major life transition. Therefore, getting a name of a place (or places) is only a small piece of the puzzle. What happens after you move? In our experience, only about 60% of success is how to choose an assisted living facility. The other 40% is making sure it is a good experience by planning the transition well and knowing how to manage things at the ALF.

How to Choose an Assisted Living Facility: A More Comprehensive, Personalized Approach

When a care manager helps you with choosing an assisted living facility, you get so much more than just a list of facilities from within a network. You get help with:

  • A comprehensive assessment of your needs, budget, preferences and tailored recommendations. This can also include other options besides assisted living facilities or temporary options for help until you make the move. Care managers don’t have any limitations on resources they can recommend. They can help with anything from home modifications and home care to all types of communities. They can also help with accessing financial help and a myriad of support services.
  • Conversations about options, working through the emotions of such a big change, mediating family discussions.
  • Thinking of various considerations, helping set up tours, knowing what to ask. And, then discussing your feedback and helping talk through your decision-making process.
  • Navigating the paperwork: contracts, forms, understanding costs, level of care, and what’s included.
  • Accessing financial assistance/benefit programs and assisting with long-term care insurance claims.
  • Planning and coordinating any and all aspects of the move. Referring to reliable service providers for estate sales, relocation assistance, home sales, legal issues, etc. Getting off to the right start is so important. And, we can advise on how to handle the move-in day and tips for the transition period.
  • Setting things up for the best results at the new community. Understanding who is who, how to establish good relationships and what to expect at the assisted living. We can also provide oversight, care coordination, and private caregiver support. You can have a care manager available for coaching and crisis intervention. This gives you the peace of mind of having a personal advocate just a phone call or message away.

Thinking about assisted living? Concerned about a loved one's safety at home?

Chat with a professional care manager about your concerns, needs, and questions. You can also call us anytime at 727-447-5845.