Senior living options: when “FREE” is not really free

You’ve probably seen the ads on TV with a famous person promoting “free placement” services for Mom or Dad. Sounds great right? But consumers don’t realize these service are not actually free. The consultant—aka placement service—gets paid a commission by the facilities they contract with. That commission is the equivalent of a full month’s rent. That is a considerable sum, reaching as high as $9,000-$10,000 here in the Northeast.

Consumers might not be aware that these consultants usually are not healthcare professionals and lack clinical skills or education in geriatrics, social work or nursing. Basically they are sales people or brokers. They do not have the expertise to assess a clients’ functioning and care needs. They also would not have the clinical skills to address complex issues of aging, resistance to care, or difficult family dynamics, which often come into play when a move from home to a facility or community is initiated.

But how does this adversely affect clients? Due to their relationship with certain facilities, these brokers are only offering limited choices to a client. Their “best fit” might not be a good fit at all. Those facilities that choose not to do business with these brokers are shut out which often leaves seniors unaware of better options to fit their needs.

Families get the service for “free”, but one must question the ethics and vested interest in this type of business structure.

In contrast, professional geriatric care managers, or Aging Lifecare Professionals (our new title), work with clients and families to not only find the best facility or community to fit their needs. They also process the options they have and understand the costs and address the larger issues on hand as well. Although care managers charge for their time, as professional consultants their only concern is what is in the client’s best interest. Care managers also follow a Code of Ethics, which prohibits any financial gain through referrals.

Ultimately each senior’s situation and needs are unique. Make sure you look at all the options before the next big move.

by Joan Garbow, LCSW, CCM