Something is not right. Those words from Miss Clavel, the stern schoolmarm in the Madeline children's storybooks, may describe your aging parent. He or she needs eldercare NOW, and you don't know where to turn.
If you're like many Boomers, finding the right home for your aging parent quickly is akin to strolling into the casino at Monte Carlo with a fistful of Euros, hoping to hit the jackpot.
You don't have to go it alone. Free help is available nationwide through a myriad of senior care referral agencies. These organizations help families find the right level of eldercare that will match their parent's needs: home care, retirement or assisted living, adult family homes or nursing facilities. Once the family signs a contract and their loved one moves in or receives services, the provider pays a referral fee.
To find these organizations, look in the phone book or online for "senior care advisors," "eldercare advisors" or "eldercare referral services." Some are affiliated with a national organization, such as A Place for Mom. Others operate in a designated region, such as CHOICE Advisory Services,concentrating in parts of Oregon and Washington. Still others, like A Change is Afoot, focus locally, serving families in Northwestern Washington.
How do these agencies work? Some eldercare advisors work exclusively by phone. For example, suppose your mom is in a nursing home for rehab, needing to move to assisted living. You inquire by email or by phone. The organization hooks you up with a local advisor, who phones to chat about your mom: Her needs? Interests? And what about your specific wishes?
The advisor chooses as many as a handful of communities which might work. Marketing reps from the selected communities contact you to set up appointments. You tour and choose the winner. (It's a bit like The Batchelor!) The goal of the phone technique is to give you several tailored choices so the process becomes easier.
Other eldercare advisors work face to face. After their initial phone visit with the family, the advisor schedules an in-person visit, bringing together as many family members as possible. Once all needs are out on the table, the eldercare advisor will accompany the family to several selected communities, taking time afterwards to ask, "What did you like best?" "Did you notice this?" "How would you compare the strengths of community A with community B?" He or she will not tell you what to do, but will guide you in making an informed choice.
Does this type of service work? As a marketing director at Evergreen Court Retirement and Assisted Living Community in Bellevue, Washington, I've worked with some great eldercare advisors. One helped a woman who had few assets. Since she was most concerned about affordability, he took her to three budget-priced communities. Afterwards he developed a spreadsheet to help her in making the decision. The woman is moving into our community within two weeks. Best of all, she's happy with her choice.
I definitely prefer the in-person approach. With both methods, you'll find many eldercare advisors who shine, while a few lack follow-through. As a whole, though, these professionals provide a helpful service to families.
Before investing your time with a senior care advisory organization, check out their reputation with the Better Business Bureau.
Do you have an experience with a senior housing and care advisor? Tell us about it.