We at Texas Senior Living Locators are consultants who use our intimate knowledge of the local Senior Living industry to help families of seniors find the best solution for their families needs. I personally have visited every Assisted Living, Independent Living, and Memory Care in town. I use this knowledge to help families design an efficient search for a senior living community. My services are free because I am paid a commission by whichever community the family chooses. And because I have relationships with the vast majority of communities in town, I don’t try and steer folks only to places that pay me. I am objective in my assessment, trying only to help best meet the prospective senior living resident’s needs.
So why is a senior placement service like mine the right choice for you? Let’s compare my service to the three strategies families often employ in their Senior Living search.
Here a family member will stop by a senior living community they know of, having driven past it for years. The family member stops in to speak with the community relations marketer and tells the story of their elderly loved one’s recent history. But this community may be an Assisted Living facility when someone needs Memory Care. Or maybe this community is too expensive relative to the family’s financial resources. So the marketing person refers the family member to another community or two to see if they can better meet their needs. This may lead to yet more referrals and is an inefficient process. And when this family settles on a community, there’s no guarantee they have properly compared it with other communities that never hit their radar. Therefore, the Drive-By Strategy is both time-consuming and incomplete.
Unfortunately, most Senior Living websites are generically similar, don’t include pricing, and are only designed to get you to call them. Some websites induce you to input your phone number and email address—which, by the way, you should never do. Once you give up your contact information, it is immediately transmitted to over a dozen communities in the area. You are then inundated with phone calls, text messages, and emails, resulting in a chaotic assault on your time and attention. And because most online advisors haven’t visited more than a handful of communities themselves, they are not relying on first-hand information when they give advice. Therefore the Internet Search Strategy is another inefficient strategy.
Discharge Planner Strategy
The third strategy is to rely on a hospital’s discharge planner or a social worker in a Skilled Nursing home for advice. Unfortunately, the code of ethics for social workers says they cannot advise which community to choose. Instead, they may provide resources, so they usually hand the family a list of communities and ask to be notified about which one they’ve chosen.
None of these three strategies intelligently organize the confusing search for an appropriate Senior Living situation that meets the senior’s and the family’s needs.
The Texas Senior Living Locators Process
So let me tell you how I work and why my process is such a better solution.
When I get a phone call from a family, the first order of business is to understand the family situation. I always offer to meet in person, usually at a coffee shop, to discuss things. Usually, when somebody calls, they are ready to talk, and most often, we continue the telephone call, which generally lasts 45 minutes to an hour.
In this discovery stage of the conversation, I try to tease out the most critical items for a successful placement. On the care needs side, that means whether the senior has unusual or complex care needs. This may mean diabetes, which has particular challenges because of Assisted Living regulation. The presence of any cognitive decline may not be of primary concern at the moment. Still, it will undoubtedly be a significant consideration as the senior ages. The goal of the discovery process is to fully understand the aging senior’s care needs to meet current and anticipated needs over the coming months and years.
Beyond care needs, there are other considerations. On the social side, an Independent Living community is preferable to Assisted Living as there is more intellectual stimulation in a Large Assisted Living. Still, sometimes the smaller environment and higher care of a Personal Care home should be considered. Sometimes a beloved pet is the most important social consideration.
Geography is critical because the easier and the more often family can visit, the happier everyone is. We always start searching for a location central to family and commuting routes, working outward from there. Money is frequently the limiting factor in the search, so a thorough discussion of available resources is necessary. It is up to the family to set a budget, but I can help the family think things through. I can also provide information on Veterans Benefits, Long Term Care Insurance, and Medicaid.
The discovery stage of the phone call is complete when we both feel all concerns are agreed to be well understood by both parties.
In the education phase, we discuss where in the Senior Living industry a senior fits and why. Many of the considerations I go over with the client are situation-dependent. There are many nuances that the family doesn’t understand about Senior Living because they may not have had any experience, so we discuss things in detail. Some families think a senior using a walker and requiring help with their medications means they have to go to Assisted Living. Not so. There are plenty of walkers in Independent Living, and there is support available there for seniors needing a little help. Some seniors are perfectly healthy and ambulatory, with no physical needs, but who may be better off going to Memory Care immediately. This can avoid an inevitable crisis at Assisted Living and requiring two moves instead of one. Some families aren’t familiar with Personal Care homes, the small six to ten-bed Assisted Livings that may be the best fit for some seniors. As I said, it’s all very situation-dependent, and every family’s situation is different. While I get to guide the family, it is their decision to make. My goal is to simply give the family enough information to make the most informed decision possible.
Once the conversation’s education phase seems complete, I give my recommendations on the three communities we should target for visitation.
The types of Senior Living options available in the greater Austin area include Assisted Living, Memory Care, Independent Living, Personal Care Homes, and Skilled Nursing.
How do we determine which communities we will visit? First, we eliminate the geographically inappropriate locations. Let’s give a hypothetical example. Say a family lives in Northwest Austin, somewhere between the Arboretum and Lakeline Mall. Then there are fewer essential family members in Central Austin, and the primary caregiver works downtown. In this case, we could eliminate the places south of the river and perhaps Georgetown, Leander, and Round Rock. We would weight our geographic preference in the direction of Central Austin. Next, if the senior had a meaningful level of dementia, we would eliminate all Independent Living communities and Large Assisted Living communities. Next, we would take money into account and filter out some options because of the price. Finally, we would discuss the places I know have had recent poor performance or where there has been a lot of management and staff turmoil. This leaves us with a very limited universe, and we choose a few places to visit.
Now, in some instances where money is more important, we may decide to consider a place further away. If there is a specific medical need that only a few places can accommodate, we would modify the search. Throughout this discussion, I inform you why we are prioritizing certain facilities over others. And I may suggest we include considering a small Personal Care home in the search, as part of the education process.
In the touring phase, I would set up tours for the family and accompany them on in-person tours or video conference tours, depending on who is participating and where we are with infection control measures. During the tours, I want the community to give their best presentation, but I also try to make certain all the right questions are asked. I prefer to do three tours in a row because you learn a lot by comparing places when they are fresh in your mind. But after visiting three locations, your mind is overwhelmed, so that’s the maximum number of visits I recommend in a day.
There are times when a senior and their family may choose to stay in their long-term home. If this is the decision, I am happy to help the family find other resources, such as Home Care Agencies, Home Health, or hospice. After all, this is all a very personal decision, and I want to support the family in whatever choice they make. I will also try to bring up other topics as necessary, such as lawyers to put essential legal documents in place or veteran’s benefits professionals.
Another vital function I have is expectation management. I can be quite candid about what to expect when entering Senior Living. There are certain aspects that everyone needs to be aware of, such as staff turnover, which happens everywhere in the industry, sometimes leading to unpleasant changes. Also, we are dealing with fragile seniors here, so falls will happen. The senior living industry generally does a good job, but they are human, and mistakes happen. I want families to be able to distinguish between the unacceptable and the unforgivable.
I believe a Senior Living Locator service like mine is an invaluable resource for families looking to find the best senior living option for their loved one. As I mentioned, my service is free to the family, and there is no obligation. If you think I can help your family and you live in the Central Texas area surrounding Austin, please give me a call, and let’s begin an intelligent, efficient, and stress-free way to explore your senior living options. I look forward to hearing from you.
CEO of Texas Senior Living Locators