Senior Placement or Referrals – What’s the Difference?

Posted on August 27, 2013 by ecrBayArea in Assisted Living

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,“ about 70 percent of individuals over age 65 will require at least some type of long-term care services during their lifetime.” Some are calling it the “silver tsunami.”

Though it is quite clear that the elderly would like to live at home for the rest of their lives, many cannot live safely at home. There are numerous reasons including the following:

  • Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia which is becoming too difficult on the family to provide care.
  • Family dynamics including those living long distances from one another.
  • There is no family to take care of the senior.
  • High cost of outside caregivers when assistance is needed regularly.

With over 40,000 licensed assisted living locations in the United States and only 15,000 skilled nursing facilities, the movement is toward long-term living at various types of assisted living locations. These can range from smaller 5-person residential care homes to larger assisted living communities. Today, skilled nursing facilities are placing greater emphasis on short-term stays versus long-term stays. Short-term rehabilitation has become a necessity for skilled nursing facilities, bringing in additional revenue and higher margins.

Because of this shift in long-term care living, companies of all types and sizes are starting up to capture a segment of this growing population. One type of company is known as a senior placement agency. This segment of our industry has the ability of providing tremendous value to families whose loved ones need a different place to live and be cared for. Following are various types of services and details of each:

1. Senior Placement Service – Many have an online presence where information can be learned about the senior, but these services generally have local representation that meet with families directly. These are trained and experienced professionals who assist with various aspects of the placement process. Commissions are paid to these services (similar to the real estate model), so families will not have to pay additional costs. These organizations usually represent most of the locations (care facilities) in the area. Services usually include assessing the needs of the family’s loved one, meeting “face to face” with the family, providing background information on locations including any state reports noting citations or deficiencies, touring with families, being familiar with each location, helping negotiate the best rates and assisting with any medical information from physicians and other resources to help with a smooth transition. The key benefit of this service is having a non-biased professional who assists the family through a process that can be a daunting task filled with stress.

2. Referral Services – As the name describes, a “referral” is when someone is directed to a source for help or information. In the case of senior placement, this can happen in several scenarios, but below are two that are most common:

  • Online companies that ask a few questions on a web form and send information directly to several assisted living facilities to have them contact the family directly. The challenge is that the “referral” is sent to several locations that will contact the family representative by phone, adding additional stress to the situation.
  • WHAT TO DO? If you search online for information, make sure you read the fine print so they are not automatically sending your information to several facilities. Also, some companies have an “advisor,” who is really a “telemarketer” contacting the family by phone but have not visited the locations nor are familiar with any background of the location including citations that may have been issued by the state. Make sure you ask.
  • Hospitals and Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) both provide a list of licensed locations to the family in the area. Though the locations may be licensed, they may also have a myriad of citations issued against them. The families will have to visit and determine on their own if the location is the right fit for their loved one. This also adds to the stress of an already daunting task.


Ask the discharge planner, social worker or other representative if they know of a “full-service” senior placement agency.

Helping to reduce family stress and not add to it during this decision making process is essential as the need continues to rise for advice on assisting living options.

Frank M. Samson, CSA is a Certified Senior Advisor and Founder of Senior Care Authority based in Sonoma. He also hosts “The Aging Boomers” on KSVY 91.3FM or The company provides support to families throughout California in helping them locate the best In-Home Care, Dementia Care, Independent and Assisted Living for their loved ones. He can be reached at 707.939.8744 or e-mailed at The company website is