Assisted Living Referral Services: What They Do, How They Make Money & How Best to Use One

 

What is an Assisted Living Referral Service?

Assisted Living Referral Services or Assisted Living Placement Agencies (as they were called prior to the Internet age) are organizations that help families identify which assisted living residence is best for their loved one. Choosing a residence is a surprisingly difficult process, especially for persons unfamiliar with assisted living and who are currently caring for an elderly person. They are also helpful for persons who live far from their loved ones that require care. Referral services provide significant assistance in narrowing down the choices and they provide their services to families free of charge.

Many Names, One Idea. 
There are many names used to describe Assisted Living Referral Services such as: Senior Housing Advisors, Assisted Living Locators and Placement Management Services. 

 

Services They Provide

When matching an individual to an assisted living community, there are many factors to be considered, such as location, cost, current and future care requirements, and amenities. Referral services can provide all of this, as well as more community-specific information in minutes. Were an individual to attempt to gather this information from each of the many assisted living communities in their preferred geographic area, it would take them days of phone calls and meetings. It would also subject them to countless sales pitches in which it would still be difficult to obtain the information they require.

In addition to the obvious information a family would want, referral services also have access to information about which a family might not necessarily think to inquire. Information, such as pricing variables, occupancy rates, number of residents, resident to staff ratios, proximity to hospitals, family reviews, and resident complaints. Furthermore, referral services can save families money by helping them to understand how to negotiate with the assisted living residence and making sure they sign-up for the correct level of care.

Prior to deciding on a community, most families will take a tour of the residence. Tours are necessary, but vastly time-consuming, difficult, and emotionally challenging. Working with a referral service might decrease the number of tours that are needed from 5 to 6 to just 1 or 2. In addition, they provide scheduling assistance in arranging tours.

 

Pros and Cons

Pros and Cons of Assisted Living Referral Services
Pros Cons

-Free service
-Have comprehensive list of residences
-Can save families money
-Access to information that families do not have
-Reduces the number of tours a family takes
-Provide free tools to help you with your search

-Assisted living communities will call you (read more)
-Limited information on adult foster care homes (for 1-4 residents)
-Limited information about options to pay for care

 

How They Make Money

Since Assisted Living Referral Services provide a valuable, free service, families should understand how these organizations make money, as some persons may not be comfortable with how their personal information is shared.

The vast majority of assisted living referral services make money when someone they introduce to an assisted living residence moves into that residence. The assisted living residence compensates the assisted living referral service. Typically, the referral service receives the equivalent of one month’s rent in compensation. This is how referral services make money, but what happens behind the scenes to track move-ins is also of interest to families.

When an individual first makes contact with an assisted living referral service, either by phone or by interacting with their website, certain information about that person is gathered. Typically, their name and contact information, the relationship to the person in need of care, and the city or town in which they are looking for a residence is asked. Immediately following the interaction with the referral service, that service will provide the information to several assisted living communities in the desired geographic area. Soon thereafter, these assisted living communities will begin calling. This whole process happens very rapidly because the referral service wants to get credit for introducing the individual to the assisted living community. This is so that they will get paid by the community should a loved one eventually move in.

An assisted living referral service is going to get paid regardless of which assisted living residence your loved one eventually moves. Therefore, they are good (or should be good) at providing unbiased information about the residences. They are also going to get paid whether or not you feel as though they provided a valuable service. Therefore, you should not hesitate to make them work for you.

 

How Best to Use One

 Assisted living referral services are well compensated to be your advocate. Make them work for you! 

While assisted living referral services help you figure out which is the best assisted living community for your loved one, it is helpful to give some thought about assisted living residences prior to contacting them. At a minimum, you should know the location in which you are seeking a residence. Be that a specific city or town, or (for example) something less than a 30-minute drive from your home. You should also know the approximate type of care your loved one requires, specifically do they require assistance because of Alzheimer’s / dementia or simply assistance with the activities of daily living. Finally, you should also know if you are seeking the most affordable assisted living in the area, a mid-range or high-end residence. View assisted living costs by geographic area.

Once you contact the referral service, ask them specifically what other factors should be taken into consideration when choosing an assisted living residence. Keep a list of the factors and request that the referral service research those factors for all the potential communities in your area.

Be aware that after your conversation, assisted living communities will start calling you. If you find this bothersome, simply take the call and tell the caller that you are working with a Placement Agency and you’d prefer to not yet talk with the assisted living residence directly. Ask them to please not call you again, and tell them you will call them when you are ready.

When you’ve narrowed the decision down to several options, ask your Referral Service Advisor about negotiating with the communities. They should be able to discuss “occupancy rates” and know which fees are negotiable and which are not. Use the Service to pit one residence against another to determine if a discount is available.

A good assisted living referral service will be informative and unbiased about the residences. If they do not know an answer to a question you have, they should volunteer to find that information out. They should not put that responsibility on you. They should also be responsive. Expect answers to your questions (which they cannot answer immediately) within a day or two. If they don’t respond within that time frame, expect them to follow up and say when they will be able to respond. Finally, if you do not like the service you are receiving, do not hesitate to find another service. You are under no obligation to continue working with anyone just because you initially started working with that agency.

 

Services & Websites

There are many websites, perhaps even hundreds that appear to provide assisted living placement services. However, at a national level, there are only a handful of companies behind all of these websites. The parent companies are called "A Place for Mom", Seniorly and Caring.com. From the family’s perspective, there is not a lot of difference between how these companies work. They all provide families with a “Senior Living Advisor” and the individual who is your specific “Senior Living Advisor” makes a much larger difference than who the company is behind them. If you are not receiving the level of attention you require from your Senior Living Advisor, simply go to one of the other companies. There are also local Placement Agencies, but with the growth of the Internet and as the national companies have grown, these local agencies have largely been absorbed or have gone out of business.

Get started with A Place for Mom.

Get started with Caring.com.

Get started with Seniorly.