One of my favorite children’s storybook authors, Richard Scarry, wrote an immensely popular book in 1968 called, “What do people do all day?” In it, darling animals build houses, fly planes, keep house and grow food.
For years until very recently I was a senior care referral agent. “What do you do all day?” people would ask. My answer: “I help families find the right choice in in-home care, assisted living or adult family homes.”
At Silver Age Housing and Care Referrals, where I worked, it definitely was a team. Each team member had an area or areas of expertise: occupational therapy, caregiving, ombudsman experience and finance. We shared knowledge, benefitting our clients.
There are approximately 70 senior care referral agencies in Washington State. Like the characters in Scarry’s book, they keep busy helping families.
Ever day, all day, senior care referral agents do the following:
SUPPORT–This is the social work part of the job. When a family member calls us, the first thing we often ask is, “What’s going on with your loved one?” Then the story–and they are nearly all different–comes tumbling out. Mom had a stroke, is in rehab, and needs a more permanent home. Dad has been caring for Mom and his health is now failing. Mom lives in Illinois, and daughter has been using all her frequent flyer miles and cash to fly back and forth.
Bottom line, placing a loved one is one of the hardest things a family can do. It’s hard because it’s our mother, or father, or other loved one for whom we’re making the decision, not simply a client. And it’s hard because this might be their last home on earth. Very often professional help can make the job easier.
Another thing that helps: the referral agencies’ services are generally free to families. The communities pay a commission to the agency on move-in.
TEACH–A senior care referral agent can be a vital source of information. The agent often knows which communities accept Medicaid, which specialize in heavy care and which are located in the family’s desired locations. The agent thinks of questions the family wll want to ask, and the family will think of others. They are experts on their loved one; we are very knowledgeable about assisted living communities and adult family homes. We inspect them before touring with a family and we check to see which places have enforcement letters from the state and may not be worth touring.
INSPECT BUILDINGS AND EVALUATE PROGRAMS People often ask me, “Are you a Realtor?” There certainly are some similarities. Like a Realtor, we keep abreast of what’s available. Depending on the client’s desires, we will search for communities with full kitchens, two bedrooms, or patios. Finally the community has to be a good financial fit for the client. So in many ways we are like Realtors. But there are differences. Care needs–both physical and cognitive– are a huge concern for many people. Memory care is another potential issue. For still others, an active social program is a must-have. For most families, the key issue, besides availability of care, is the vital interaction of residents with staff. Many people compare searching for an assisted living or adult family home to looking for a college, private day school or kindergarten. The comparison isn’t water tight, but you get the idea. The building is important, but it’s not everything. Caring, knowledgeable staff are what matter most.
Need some help with obtaining housing and/or care for a loved one? Contact Silver Age Housing and Care Referrals.
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