Saturday, December 18, 2010

Eldercare Placement Companies: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Panic. Stress. Our parent breaks a hip, suffers a stroke or other malady and can no longer live at home. We search online and find senior-care placement companies making alluring promises. They'll move heaven and hell to help us find the right fit--assisted living, adult family homes or home care. For free.

Not so fast. Last week, the Seattle Times published Michael Behrens'report, "Senior care placement companies scramble to cash in," the most recent in a series "Seniors for Sale." Behrens contends that while some companies do an excellent job in linking seniors with needed care, others have referred families to facilities with documented histories of substandard care.

Analyzing records of the Department of Social and Health Services over the past three years, the Times staff found 143 cases of seniors victimized after companies placed them in a care setting. Mentally ill adults were drugged into submission to control their behavior. Mentally ill adults were locked in rooms to prevent wandering. Bedbound seniors were left without assistance up to 16 hours.

The key problems:

1. Washington and many other states have no licensing, education or training requirements to open a placement agency. (This is a fairly new industry nationwide.)

2. Some companies don't screen for past violations. So a senior can end up in an abusive setting.

3. The largest company, A Place for Mom, sited in the Times report, works exclusively online and by phone. There is no face to face connection between the senior care adviser and the client.

As a marketing and admissions professional for 16 years in various care settings, I've worked with some great eldercare advisors, and a few who have driven me crazy. I've also worked with angry families who completed an online profile "just for the future," only to receive unwanted phone calls and emails from 7 to 8 different care organizations which had received the profile from the broker company, with the strong suggestion that this family wanted immediate placement.

Have you had experience with senior placement companies? My next step will give you questions to ask placement companies before you place the future of your loved one in their hands.

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