Third-party senior living referral services have emerged as increasingly influential players in the sector. Providers may have mixed reactions to the growth of these companies, but it’s undeniable that having information about the interactions between third-part advisors and potential residents and their families provides a window on a crucial component of the referral ecosystem.
The country’s largest referrer is A Place For Mom, where individual advisors each field up to 200 calls per month from families. APFM leaders recently talked to Senior Housing News about the top questions families ask when seeking senior living solutions. The five most commonly asked questions revealed ongoing confusion about the senior housing marketplace and concerns about financing and location.
Here are the top questions families ask senior living advisors:
1. How much does senior living cost?
There are usually two reactions when families hear the cost of senior living: either they are prepared for the cost or surprised by the price, advisors say. Most of the calls APFM receives are from adult children, who may or may not have any background knowledge on senior housing.
Cindy Nelson, a senior living advisor with APFM who fields calls in Seattle, Washington, says cost is the No. 1 concern from adult children, “regardless of budget or level of care.”
What makes this question particularly difficult is the wide variety that exists in the senior living marketplace, from the level of care to the amenities offered. Senior living advisors are filling the gap in what families know about these options and how much they cost.
“The financial questions are the hardest to answer just because of the complexity with which every individual comes to our telephone conversation,” says Nelson. “We have to figure out whether they’re going to qualify based on what they currently have.”
2. What are my financing options?
Conversations about cost quickly turn to finding the best financing solutions, and senior living advisors help families determine what benefits they may qualify for and how they can pay for the right services.
“Families want to know my thoughts on the full range of financial options, including reverse mortgages, long-term care insurance and the Veteran Aid and Attendance benefit,” says Nelson.
In the case of veterans, most who are qualified to receive benefits are unaware of the programs available. A 2013 study among senior veterans found that 69% were not aware of the VA benefits available to them, APFM told Senior Housing News. As a result, senior living advisors are also stepping up to inform families about these benefits and how they fit in with a senior housing plan.
“It’s become a very routine part of our intake process,” says Shelley Speer, Northwest Regional Manager with APFM. “It’s a question we ask every family that calls. But it’s still very common on our calls that the family did not know the program existed.”
For those who are not veterans, advisors will even break down the monthly costs of services in senior living communities so that families understand what they are paying for. Seeing upfront costs and rental prices from operators may not be enough for families to base their housing decisions on.
3. What options are near my location?
Location is secondary to the budget, according to APFM. For a lot of families, being nearby is critical, but not all housing solutions need to be near the homes of adult children.
“Sometimes I get creative with location,” says Nelson. “I just got off the phone with someone who said we didn’t have a lot of memory care options near her home, so I asked where she worked. We were able to find more options along her route to and from work that fit her loved one’s need and were convenient for her.”
4. How do I know if we need independent living, assisted living, memory care or a skilled nursing home?
Not all families know what is available, and the most popular search terms for senior housing are usually nursing homes and assisted living. For those without any background on senior living options, these terms might be somewhat outdated or reflect an inaccurate level of care that a senior might need.
Senior living advisors are stepping up to educate families about all the different options in the market.
“It’s interesting to note that the senior care industry, specifically assisted living and adult family homes, are comfortably over 30 years old, and still people are calling in referring to needing a nursing home for mom and dad,” says Nelson. “And that is pretty old verbiage these days. They are not yet aware of the fact that we have a thriving industry that does quite a bit more than the nursing home setting.”
Nelson adds that sometimes families will call her looking for assisted living for a parent, but after going through an assessment, the senior may actually need secure memory care. Learning the different levels of care often comes as a surprise to some, but advisors are quick to point to these newer options families may not be aware of.
5. How do I know this community is safe?
Safety is, of course, one of the top concerns for families and seniors. Some senior living referral companies will provide their own safety ratings for states and cities and even specific facilities. APFM has their own safety rating system that families can check for themselves, but they only match families with operators they are partnered with.
Senior living advisors find that while safety is a top concern, other factors typically weigh more on the minds of families. Most family members will search for the safest facilities that are in a location that makes the most sense for them, APFM advisors have found.
Written by Amy Baxter