The Underbelly of Assisted Living with a Gilroy Elder Law Attorney

First, a disclaimer and a note: I have many clients who are happy in assisted living, and many of the assisted living facilities in our area are fantastic and wonderful and ethical. I am not passing judgement upon any particular facility, but just suggesting that people approach the issue with more knowledge and their eyes open.

Point One – How do you find a good assisted living facility for yourself or your parent? Unfortunately, the need sometimes arises with little warning, and the family hasn’t had the opportunity to look around and check out the different facilities and evaluate them.

Alas, the angels are here to help. Really? . . . My client had to be moved in a rush, and his son was in charge of finding a facility for him. The son advised me that he had been referred to a social worker who was helping him to find the “best” facility for his father at no charge to the family for the social worker’s time and service. Really? I asked who the social worker worked for and I suggested that the son find out how the “social worker” gets compensated.

The son called me the following day in total dismay. He asked the questions I told him to ask, and he found out that the very polite “social worker” was not a social worker at all, but an independent agent who gets paid a commission to place seniors at assisted living facilities. These people essentially act like real estate agents who handle rental properties for a commission, but they are not regulated and they are not licensed by the Department of Real Estate.

How does the family know that the suggested facility is really the right fit for mom or dad, or it’s just the one that pays the agent the highest commission? In most cases, you’ll never know. You need to check out the facilities and develop your own opinion.

Point Two – What is bait and switch? Most of us have an idea of how this works, and many of us have been harmed by this sales tactic before, but has an assisted living facility ever done this? Could such nice facilities, which purport to love elders, really use this tactic to increase their profits? Remember, these facilities are “for profit” ventures.

Clients have told me of placing their parent in an assisted living facility at $4,000 a month after the senior was evaluated by the facility, and then suddenly the charge was bumped to $6,000 and then $8,000 a month because the elder “needed a lot more care than was apparent at the initial evaluation.” Wow…… Really? How could this happen?

You have to ask yourself, is this real? Why didn’t they tell us this in advance? Mom seems the same to us as she was a year ago.

Once an elder is relocated to an assisted living facility, the family is reluctant to move them again. Sometimes the elder had difficulty in adjusting and they don’t want the elder to have to go through that process all over again. The facilities know this too and warn families against moving the elder. The result is that the facility gets more money from the family if the elder isn’t moved.

What Can You Do? – The elder and their family members need to be aware of how things work and be better informed consumers. Follow the money and understand the incentives that people have when they’re giving you advice.