February 14th, 2022

Senior living referral agencies can be extremely helpful to case managers and social services. They can do a lot of leg work to find families the care they need and save discharge planners a lot of time and energy. A good placement service can be a great resource for other healthcare workers as well. That being said, THEY ARE NOT ALL CREATED EQUAL.

When working with a family in need of a senior living community or memory care, you may have a stack of referral agencies to choose from. To determine the best services to suggest to families, there are 5 key questions to ask the agency/service. The answers to these questions will allow you to pick the right service to suggest to families and take out the guess work on who to use.

#1.... WHAT PERCENT OF COMMUNITIES ARE YOU CONTRACTED WITH IN THIS TOWN? If the answer is not close to 100%, they are not a good resource for your patients. A referral agency only gets paid if they place someone in a community (Unless they charge the family for services, which is frowned upon). If the agency only works with 5 out of 10 communities, they will only tell the families about the communities they have contracts with, whether it's the best fit or not.

#2.... DO YOU MEET WITH AND TOUR WITH EVERY FAMILY? This should be a resounding YES! Agencies that do everything over the phone or internet can not get a full grasp of the family's needs. Spending time with a family and/or a senior gives the family time to work through issues. It gives them a sense of security and trust when a bond is created. It also allows the adviser to have a greater understanding of the family dynamics and all the needs of the client.

#3....WHAT IS YOUR REFERRAL FEE TO THE COMMUNITIES? Every penny spent on a referral is money taken away from providing the actual care. Though fees vary, we find that the larger, national on-line based companies are charging OVER 90% of the 1st month room rate. Most local family owned referral fees are around 50%. That is a large difference in money that can be used towards care for the senior.

#4.... DO YOU SEND ONLY QUALIFIED LEADS TO COMMUNITIES OR DO YOU SEND A LEAD TO EVERY COMMUNITY ON YOUR LIST IN THE FAMILIES DESIRED LOCATION? While this may seem out of the realm of something a care provider or social services should be concerned with, it is actually very important. The end goal for all of us is for a senior to get the best care possible. When a placement agency mass emails every community with one potential person, it does 2 things. First, it hinders the family in finding the best solution to their needs. The families are inundated with calls from every community that was emailed, whether they can afford the community or not. Whether the community has the level of care they need or not. It leaves families right where they started. Confused and overwhelmed. The second problem with "mass" sending of leads is for the admissions coordinators of the community. It takes extensive time to wade through referrals. When a referral or lead is not "qualified", it takes time away from the families that are, resulting in delay of care.

#5.... WILL YOU LET THEM WORK WITH A DIFFERENT REFERRAL AGENCY IF THEY DO NOT FEEL THAT YOU ARE A FIT? Most agencies will say YES to this question. You have to dig a little deeper. The real question is will they call a community and rescind the referral for a family, so that a new agency is allowed to be paid by the community. I have heard so many stories about families that felt like they were not getting the help they needed and deserved from a national referral agency but when they reached out to a local placement adviser, the new agency could not get paid from a community. Referral contracts state that the original referring agency gets paid. Many smaller local agencies will rescind the referral if the family wants to work with someone else. The larger ones WILL NOT. This leaves families on their own or the smaller companies doing work for free while the original company that sent out an email to a community, and little more, gets the money.

A good rule of thumb is to suggest a referral agency that is local, family owned and does not charge the families. They are usually operated by experienced advisers with extensive medical backgrounds. They are actively involved with seniors in the community and have a true passion to serve our aging population.