Every day in San Diego County, adult children are faced with the question of how to find assisted living for an elderly loved one, usually a parent. The population is aging at an advanced rate and this scenario will occur more and more often as the years go on.
The majority of seniors prefer to stay in their own homes as they age. We call this aging in place, and it can be done with the proper planning and financial resources. But in some cases it’s simply not feasible. In home care is expensive, and in many cases requires family members to become caregivers or care managers in the process. This can quickly take a toll on a family’s finances, as well as their physical and emotional well-being.
So what’s a family to do? This is a question I get asked on a weekly basis.
The answer may be to find assisted living in a setting that is right for your loved one. Sounds simple? It’s not as easy as we’d like to think.
In San Diego County we have over 100 large assisted living communities and, at last count, over 700 small board and care homes. There are also dozens of communities specializing in dementia care. How do you know which is best?
There are several ways families find assisted living. One is to talk with friends and co-workers, which is a great place to start. A personal recommendation is always better than not. But depending upon your loved one’s specific situation and care needs, the assisted living facility your friend’s mother or father is doing well in may not be the most appropriate place for your parent.
Does your loved one have any cognitive impairment? Do they need physical assistance getting to the dining room? Is he or she diabetic? The answers to these and dozens more questions will help determine which assisted living community of home may be the most appropriate fit for your loved one.
The method most commonly used to find assisted living is to search online, and this could work. But these searches can also become confusing and frustrating the more we scroll, read and click.
An online search should lead you first to the San Diego County assisted living facilities closest to you, for Google knows where you live. Don’t hesitate to call and visit if their website and your phone conversation with their representative gives you a positive feeling.
Your online search may also lead you to several senior care referral services, also called placement services. You’re likely to find some large, national companies. You may also find some small personal services, but probably not on the first page of Google.
If and when you find the right senior care referral (or placement) service, you will receive the kind of help you’ve been looking for.
Referral services are generally free to the families they help. You may come across some who also charge a consulting fee, which is fine as long as you understand and agree with these terms. Most placement agencies offer their service free of charge because they are compensated by the assisted living communities and homes they refer to. This arrangement is similar to a home seller paying a fee to a real estate agent who offers their service at no charge to the buyer.
But here’s the kicker….. This business arrangement works very well, as long as the service you choose has your best interests at heart, not the best interests of the assisted living facilities they refer you to. It’s important the service you choose does not have any personal or financial bias toward any specific care provider. Human nature and the financial world being what it is, this is not always an easy thing to guarantee.
First, make sure the person or company you are speaking with has specific experience with assisted living in your local area. This is not the time to use an unfamiliar adviser based in a call center in another location. Licensing, regulatory issues, and care level requirements can be complex and must be completely understood.
Second, make sure the person or company you are speaking with represents all the assisted living communities and small board and care homes in your geographic area. Some placement agencies do not have agreements with every facility. What if one of the assisted living facilities or homes best for your loved one is not in their listing?
Third, make sure the person or company you are speaking with checks all assisted living licensing records for any red flags. An assisted living placement agent with personal knowledge of the facilities/homes and their administration is a plus.
Fourth, find out if your personal information will be made public. It can be helpful to give the potential care communities or homes your phone number and email address, but only if you agree.
Fifth, make sure the referral agent you are speaking has visited and evaluated the assisted living communities and homes they are referring you to. It’s also helpful for your placement agent to personally meet and assesses your loved one, but this is not always practical or needed.
Before you begin any detailed conversation with a service, ask the referral agency if they meet the criteria above. If they don’t, or if you are uncomfortable with the way their service is presented, don’t hesitate to move on. In San Diego County there are several qualified, local senior care referral services to choose from who do meet the above criteria and will be happy to help.
(Lise Marquis is owner of Elder Answers and has been a placement professional in San Diego County for 10 years. Prior to venturing out on her own as Elder Answers, Lise worked for A Place for Mom for 6 years.)