The Truth About Senior Living Advisors

An elderly couple meeting a young woman in an office.

Supporting your loved one during their changes in health is the best thing you can do for them. Oftentimes their life circumstances change rapidly, leaving you scrambling. You are taking them to doctor’s appointments, and also dealing with new tasks of caregiving. Perhaps you have decided it is time to look for more quality care for your loved one in a senior housing facility. But you are too busy to find the right place to suit your loved one’s needs. Evaluating different options including independent living, skilled nursing, or an assisted living facility takes a lot of time and effort. A senior living advisor’s placement services can help you and your family with this process. 

Senior living advisors, also called eldercare advisors, are agents who guide seniors and their families through the quest for the best housing option for their needs and budget. These advisors work for an advising company that has built a connection network with the senior housing communities in the area. They should be quite familiar with each facility’s care options, housing, as well as insider knowledge of the senior care market. Senior living advisors work at no cost to the family. They are paid by the senior communities whenever their referrals move in. 

The benefits of enlisting the help of a senior care advisor are that it can save you time and money. This is especially helpful when you are in a hurry. The advisor will narrow the focus to the right level of care and the communities or home care agencies that will best meet your loved one’s needs. A care advisor with experience in your local community should know the senior care options available like the back of their hand. They will know which options are quality, and which aren’t and will steer you in the right direction accordingly. In comparison, if you were to try to gather this information on your own, it would take days of phone calls and meetings. You would also be subjected to numerous sales pitches just to get the information you need, and even then you aren’t sure if you can trust the information 100%. And finally, senior living advisors can advise you and your loved one how to negotiate with your new facility and make sure to sign up for the correct level of care, which could save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

Although senior living advisors can be so helpful, there are also a lot of things to be aware of when choosing the best one to advise you. In this article, we will discuss what senior living advisors do, how exactly they are paid, possible red flags or scams to look out for, and questions you can ask them to get them to better work for you.

What They Do

Listen to Your Specific Needs: A good senior living advisor will make the experience personal and customized for your loved one. First, they will gather all relevant information. They will find out your situation, including your loved one’s background, emotional, and health care needs, and what they want. 

Research: Then they will research their resources and come up with personalized senior living options with your loved one’s care and housing needs considered. Many factors come into play into this process. The advisor thinks about location, cost, current and future care requirements, community-specific information, as well as amenities needed or desired. This search can all be done in a matter of minutes. Not only will an advisor have answers to all the obvious questions, but they will also have access to information that a family often doesn’t think about. This can include information on pricing variables, occupancy rates, number of residents, resident to staff ratios, distance from nearest hospitals, reviews, as well as complaints the facility may have encountered. They will also have information about processes each facility will need for admission, and the next steps you can take. Once all the options have been presented to you and your loved one, you can start to discuss and narrow down your favorite options. 

Tours & Exploring Options: Senior living advisors will help guide you through the next step of exploring your top choices. They will make phone calls to learn more about certain options and schedule tours. They will often come along with you on tours or meetings to better facilitate the process. Tours are necessary, though can be time-consuming, emotionally challenging, and difficult. Having someone to help narrow down the choices will more than likely decrease the number of tours you end up taking. On your own, you may go on 5 tours. With a senior living advisor, they can help narrow it down to 1 or 2. This saves you a massive amount of time.

Follow-Through: Ideally a senior living advisor will guide you through to the end of your senior housing quest. Their job isn’t done until their client has received all the information needed to make a decision, and knowing what steps to take to move forward. A senior living advisor should be there for you until the move has actually been made and are settled in comfortably into their new living arrangement.

How Do Senior Living Advisors Get Paid?

You may be thinking, this all sounds great. And they do all this work without being paid by the client? So how exactly do senior living advisors get paid? The short answer is, they get paid by the senior community after they have guided someone to move in. Families need to understand exactly how these advising companies make money because some may not appreciate their personal information being shared. 

Most senior living referral services make money when someone they have referred successfully moves into the residence. The senior living community compensates the senior living advisor. This is usually equal to the client’s first month of rent. Keep in mind this is how senior living advising companies make money, but there are also some other things to pay attention to behind the scenes.

When you first contact a senior living advising service through a website or by calling them, they gather some information about you. This information will include your name and contact information, your relationship to the person in need, and the city in which you are looking for a residence. After you have provided this information, the service will pass it on to a few care facilities in the area that you specified. Then you will start getting calls from these communities. You may be surprised just how quickly this will happen. This is because the referring company wants to get credit for introducing you to the community. They will in turn get paid when your loved one moves in.  

The senior care services choose to participate in a network represented by senior advisor companies. This also means that the network the advisors have access to is not necessarily comprehensive. Not all community options are part of the network. This means the advisor may be less familiar with them, or even not at all. As a result, these communities probably will not be recommended to you and your loved one. It is helpful to do a bit of research on your own before meeting with your advisor, and bring up any communities that still interest you but have not been presented to you. 

Your senior living advisor should be giving you an unbiased view of the communities because they will be getting paid regardless of which one you choose. You must make them work for you. There is no doubt you may have heard of many of the scams and debacles in the senior care industry. It is easy to find yourself in the middle of a scam if you aren’t careful. For this reason, we want to touch on some red flags to look out for. 

Red Flags to Look Out For 

Rushing the Process: If your senior living advisor is rushing the process, they may not have your best interests at heart. They should be providing personalized service that will go at your pace. If you are just starting the process of gathering information, and the advisor is already trying to get you to go on tours, this may be a bad sign. Make sure the advisor knows your timeline and is comfortable with it. If you are in a dire situation and your loved one needs to be placed quickly, this is a different matter. Always make sure the advisor is going at the pace you are comfortable with. 

Trying to Sell You on a Specific Company: If your senior living advisor seems honed in on one senior care provider that you aren’t interested in, this could be a bad sign. He or she should remain unbiased and neutral, only advocating for what is best for your loved one. The advisor should not be acting like a salesperson. If it seems this way, it could be that they would be receiving some added benefit they are not telling you about. 

Does Not Have Senior Care Experience: A senior care referral agency is not required to have employees who have senior care experience. But a good agency will run background checks, drug tests, and everyone working is CCA and HIPAA certified. 

Has a Low Number of Communities on Their Referral List: This could mean the advisor has some personal problems with the care providers or has some financial gain from the few on the list. 

Aren’t Familiar with the Communities: Although it is not possible to know every detail about every community, your advisor should have a pretty good grasp on what each facility has to offer. It is a plus if they inspect the properties on a semi-regular basis to keep familiar with the goings-on in each community. If your advisor hasn’t been to the community in over 2 months, this could be a bad sign. Keep in mind that new senior housing does pop up quickly and may fly under their radar, but if your advisor is unfamiliar with an established community, they may be quite green.

Try to Profit on the Elderly: If your advisor is trying to move your loved one into housing they cannot afford in the long term, this is a bad sign. Your senior living advisor should be concerned that you and your family can handle the payments long-term. They should be assessing everything, including their income, chronic health issues, and any potential future problems to help choose the right place for your loved one. 

Another thing to look out for is if the advisor is trying to cater more towards your interests than your loved ones’. In the past, some advisors have tried to reserve funds so the family member can receive a bigger inheritance. The senior living advisor should be working for your loved one, not for you. They should be making sure your loved one is getting all the funds they are entitled, including Veteran’s Benefits. 

And if you are finding that living in a community may not be the best option for your loved one, the senior living advisor should be advocating a way that they can stay at home. They will help to assess a way that they can stay at home, and for how long. They will be able to refer in-home caregivers to suit your loved one’s needs. 

Making Your Senior Living Advisor Work For You

Now that we know some things to look for, let’s talk about how to make your senior living advisor work for you. As previously mentioned, you might want to first do a little research on your own first. Having this information together will help them more efficiently narrow down your choices. At the least, you should know the location where your loved one would like to live, whether it is a specific city or town. It should ideally be less than a 30-minute drive from where you live. 

It is also helpful to know what sort of care your loved one may need. There are many types of senior living communities: nursing homes, life plan communities, assisted living, skilled nursing, the list goes on. Narrow it down by learning about the different types of facilities, then determining what level of care your loved one needs. Is your loved one in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia? A memory care facility might be what you are looking for. Or are they mostly healthy, but need some help with their activities of daily living (ADLs)? Then an assisted living facility might be the best. Or are they still quite active and want to be around other active adults their age? Then perhaps a retirement community will meet their needs. Also start thinking about price ranges you and your loved one can afford. 

Once you get in contact with a senior living advisor, give them this basic information. They will ask you more questions that will help you narrow down your choices. Make sure to ask them for all the specific communities that meet your criteria. Keep in mind at this point, communities will start calling you. If this is a bother to you, just tell the caller that you would prefer to work with the senior living advisor first before talking with any senior community representative directly. Politely tell them to not call you again, and that you will possibly call them if you decide they are a viable option for you and your loved one. 

While you, your loved one, and your advisor narrow down your list of options, ask your advisor how to best negotiate with the senior living communities. Your advisor can discuss occupancy rates and can tell you which fees are negotiable or not. You can even use the advisor to gain leverage over one residence or another by creating a discount war between them. 

If your senior living advisor doesn’t know an answer to a question that you ask, they should attempt to find it out for you. Do not allow them to expect you to find out for yourself. They should be able to answer your question within a day or two, ideally. If they do not have the answer at that time, they should at least tell you when they will be able to answer it for you.

If you aren’t happy with the service you are getting from your senior living advisor, do not be afraid to switch to another service. There are plenty of good ones out there who will respect your time and accommodate your needs. You are actually under no obligation to continue working with the service even though you initially started the process with them. 

To get the most out of your senior living advisor, we’ve included a list of questions you can ask them:

  • How do you help a senior find a community that is right for their needs?
  • How do you help determine what type of care my loved one needs?
  • How much experience and training do you have as an advisor in the senior care industry?
  • How many other families are you working with right now?
  • How many families have you helped in the past?
  • How long does the process of finding a community usually take?
  • Will you be setting up appointments and tours for us?
  • Do you have pricing information?
  • How many communities do you recommend we visit?
  • Will you give us some tips on what to look for and questions to ask on our tours?
  • Do you know of any financial resources that might help us pay for care?
  • Are we required to sign a contract with you?
  • Do you charge for advice and guidance?
  • Do you have contact information for realtors and moving companies that are senior-friendly?

Find a Local, Established Agency to Best Suit Your Needs

Finding a long-term care facility for your loved one can be a tough process. And while utilizing a senior living advisor can help guide you and make the process a bit quicker and smoother, you have to keep in mind they might have their interests. Take for example the reputation the website A Place for Mom has gotten. Research the agency before you start handing out your name and phone number. We here at CareAsOne recommend you find an established local senior living advising agency with a strong reputation. In this way, you will be most satisfied with your final decision. We wish you and your loved one all the best in this process. 

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