If you're thinking about employing a senior-care referral agency, you'll need some education. For starters, read "Senior Care Placement Companies Scramble to Cash In," Michael Behrens' report published in The Seattle Times, Dec. 11.
The principle behind this rapidly growing industry is simple. Private agencies "match" seniors who need care with facilities that have openings. The receiving community pays a fee. The family pays nothing.
Behrens' article points out huge problems. Over the last three years 143 individuals in Washington were victimized after companies placed them in facilities that had documented serious violations.
How do you find a credible senior-care referral agency? (Yes, they're out there.) Ask these questions:
1. What are your credentials?
Many senior-care referral agencies are run by nurses, social workers, former assisted living administrators. Find out how long they've been operating and what experience they have working in long-term care.
2. Where do you receive most of your clients?
Some work exlusively on the Internet. Others find their clients from referral sources through networking, through referrals from satisfied customers, plus advertising and the Internet.
3. Do you check facilities often to make sure they have no violations with the state?
Behrens' article notes that one on-line agency, A Place for Mom, placed seniors in facilities with past records of substandard care.
4. How well do you know the facilities that contract with you?
Reputable agencies will have a profile on each contracted facility. They visit them periodically and look for potential problems.
5. How much time will you spend with me?
Internet-based agencies tend to do their business online and by phone. Other agencies will conduct a face-to-face interview with you, schedule tours and accompany you, to help you make your decision.
Do you have experiences with senior-care referral agencies? Tell us about it.