“Free” elder care referral services have come under increasing scrutiny in the US and many states have enacted or are about to enact legislation.
This is a companion piece to my blog on “Should you really be saying YES (?) to “FREE” advice?“ and provides press and other coverage on issues associated with Elder Care referral services in the United States.
Unscrupulous Elder Care Referral Agencies Target of Bill by Senator Tony Mendoza (California State Senator)
As the population of aging adults who need specialized medical care and support services has grown in the last several years, there has been an explosion of for-profit businesses that offer referral assistance to seniors and their families to find suitable long term care housing options in extended care, skilled nursing home or intermediate care facilities and residential care facilities. While these agencies provide a valuable service, current licensing requirements leave room for abuse. For example, some referral agencies advertise their services as free of charge to the consumer. However, they often contract with care facilities and receive commissions, incentives and bonuses for each senior or family placement. These financial incentives are largely undisclosed to the senior or families being placed, and may lead to a placement that is not helpful and may even be harmful to the patient.
HOUSE BILL REPORT HB 1494 (Washington State Legislature)
This is an area of care that needs to be regulated. Numerous seniors have been exploited, some have died, and thousands of dollars have been spent on care in an unregulated field. The state Long-Term Care Ombudsman has been aware of problems with referral programs
The Questionable Lure Of Free Long-Term Care Placement Services (Guest Opinion) (Kaiser Health News)
They have enticing names that communicate understanding in regard to finding a home for an aging parent — names that use words like “mom,” “help” and “care.” They advertise expertise in the field of elder care, promising the assistance of “senior care specialists” or “personal family consultants.” Best of all, they promise “FREE” advice in selecting appropriate long-term care arrangements, particularly for people whose needs are less than those of nursing home residents.
These companies, which fall under the catch-all category of long-term care referral services, are the cyberspace era’s quick fix solution for the growing number of Americans seeking non-nursing home institutional care for their aging parents, relatives and significant others. Unfortunately, this purported expert assistance in navigating this bewildering world of assisted living is, at best, a hit-or-miss proposition.
Two Online Placement Services for Senior Care Centers Settle FTC Charges (Federal Trade Commission)
Two companies that recommend long-term care facilities for senior citizens have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they misled consumers to think that they had researched the facilities and had detailed knowledge about them.
Due diligence (Washington Post)
“Companies that claim to know which facilities to recommend to consumers need to be able to back up their claims,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection
CFC Sponsors Bill To Protect Seniors From Unethical Long-Term Care Referral Agencies (Consumer Federation of California)
“SB 648 will help give the elderly and their families the information they need to make good decisions in difficult times. They have a right to know whether a placement agency is being paid to promote a particular facility, whether through fees, commissions or other considerations. They have a right to know that a recommendation is based on first-hand observation of a facility. And they have a right to know what qualifies a placement agency to advise them on such a life- changing decision,” said CFC Executive Director Richard Holober. “Our elders ought to be able to count on these agencies to have their clients’ best interests at heart, not their own profits. These vulnerable people need services, not salesmanship.”
You Get What You Pay For- A Free Service? (All About Estates)
Helping a family make the decision to ‘stay or go’ is not to be taken lightly. It is a life changing event and leaving the family home after 50 plus is not an easy decision. The choice setting needs to be one that addresses the senior’s needs both at the current time and in the future, so that the setting is appropriate for the immediate and longer time; ideally where they can ‘age in place’. Seeking professional guidance on such an important decision makes sense; the key word here is professional. Check credentials; geriatric care managers and registered social workers follow a code of ethics and referral fees are against the code
A Helping Hand, Paid on Commission (New York Times)
You could question whether advisers with no required background in geriatrics or senior care are suited to guiding families through such decisions, even when a company provides some training. You could question how useful advisers can be when they work solely by phone and never meet the senior or the family.
And though A Place for Mom expects its advisers to visit the properties they recommend, Mr. Kell said, he acknowledged that it could take them years to accomplish that, particularly in metropolitan areas with scores of facilities. In many cases, therefore, advisers will be referring callers to assisted living or independent living facilities, nursing homes, specialized dementia residences, continuing care communities or home care agencies that they haven’t visited for years, or haven’t seen at all.
State gets tough on referrals for elder care (Seattle Times)
Washington will become the first state to clamp down on the unregulated, explosive growth of elder-care referral businesses that rake in profits, sometimes deceptively, by promising to help families find long-term care for the aged…Dozens of Washington companies offer to guide families through a maze of elder-care options to an adult family home or assisted-living facility that best fits their needs — all for free.
Senior-care placement companies scramble to cash in (Seattle Times)
Placement companies, which rely on commission-only sales people, funnel the aged only to facilities that have agreed to pay thousands of dollars in finders’ fees.
Elder Care Referral Services Attracting Increased Scrutiny (ElderLawAnswers.com)
As important as it is to plan ahead for the need for long-term care, things often don’t happen that way. A senior falls and breaks a hip or has a stroke, and suddenly there is a scramble to find a nursing home or other long-term care facility. To meet a growing demand and lured by fast money, so-called elder care referral services to help in such situations have sprung up around the country, exploding into a multimillion-dollar although unregulated industry.
Most offer consumers their services for free, but there is a hidden price: nursing facilities and other adult care homes typically pay the referral service a sizable commission for any placement. In Washington state, for example, the facilities generally pay the placement agencies the equivalent of one month’s rent, on average about $3,500.
Services eager to show seniors the way to a home (Sun Sentinel)
But elder advocates say seniors and their families need to be aware of what they’re getting when they say yes to free senior placement services. These businesses, springing up around South Florida as entrepreneurs get in on the latest elder-care trend, are unregulated and require no special licensing or training.
They can be opened by anyone with enough cash to put up a website, and the quality varies widely. Some are small local companies run by seasoned professionals who work with seniors face-to-face and take them on facility tours. Others are national online outfits or franchise operations with work-at-home consultants who do business over the telephone and never have set foot in the retirement facilities they’re recommending.
Washington State “ELDER AND VULNERABLE ADULT REFERRAL AGENCY ACT”
“Elder and Vulnerable Adult Referral Agency Act” from the Association of Senior Referral Professionals of Washington.