Senior housing providers are notoriously shy when it comes to sharing pricing information online. It’s likely, however, that assisted living organizations would do well to focus more on cost transparency, as paying for assisted living is a sore topic among many senior care buyers discussing their experiences online.
Specifically, 44% of negative online conversations about assisted living involve finances, according to a new report from Louisville, Kentucky-based think tank and consultancy Conversation Research Institute (CRI). To gain a better understanding of a senior care buyer’s “journey,” CRI analyzed conversations about senior living that occurred online between Nov. 1, 2015 and Oct. 31, 2016.
CRI’s analysis included news sites, comments sections, social networks, blogs, microblogs, professional and consumer review sites, forums and message boards, question and answer forums, and more. Approximately 1,200 posts were analyzed for the final report.
Among other findings, the report revealed that cost is a deep concern for buyers looking into assisted living communities—more so, at least, than for buyers looking into independent living communities and skilled nursing facilities. Finances comprise 44% of the negative conversations about assisted living, but only 13% of the negative conversations about skilled nursing and none of the negative conversations about independent living.
About 68% of the negative, finance-related conversations about assisted living center around the care setting’s sheer cost, while 18% of the negative conversations are about the burden of cost, or who is actually going to have to pay for a loved one’s stay in assisted living.
Senior living sales and marketing teams can certainly work to assuage these concerns, according to CRI founder and partner Jason Falls.
“When cost is a factor in the conversation, and it’s a hesitation point for consumers, the No. 1 thing that you should do is to communicate the value that you’re getting for that price,” Falls told Senior Housing News.
Misconceptions and misnomers
Additionally, despite a push to better educate consumers on senior housing options, the report reveals that the public remains pretty confused as to how various care settings differ.
It’s still extremely common, for instance, for senior care buyers to use the word “home” as a catch-all for different types of senior living communities. The majority of senior care buyers refer to placing their loved one “in a home,” as opposed to distinguishing between independent living, assisted living, rehabilitation, skilled nursing, long-term care or hospice, the report revealed.
This is somewhat surprising, as the senior care industry began diversifying and shifting away from the concept of an all-encompassing “nursing home” in the mid-1980s, Falls noted.
“It seems like after 30 years the marketplace would be a lot more aware of what the options are,” Falls said.
Senior care buyers are also discussing their “journey” online at certain common times, the report revealed.
Specifically, senior living buyers tend to discuss their experiences online at several different intervals, including when they realize their loved one may require care; when they start looking into senior care for their loved one; when they actually move their loved one into a senior housing community; when they first interact with the community post-move; and when their loved one has to move to a different level of care.
The period of time when a consumer is actually shopping for senior care accounts for more than 33% of the online conversations people have about senior care, the report reveals.
The 55-page report, which was released on Feb. 2, also touches on topics such as senior care conversations held on Facebook, the emotional burden of looking into senior care for a loved one, and the legal questions consumers have about senior living.
Written by Mary Kate Nelson