Great question, here is my reply:
The two key words are service and free- I don’t believe that they go together very often. You have heard the expression, ‘ you get what you pay for’ and this is the same in the elder care world.
There is an American franchise chain that has come to Canada advertising themselves as a free service which will “find & compare senior housing options, see senior housing communities in our area all in one place; compare costs, amenities and services; get free, customized search results from our proprietary directory. ”
The New York Times wrote an article title “A Helping Hand, Paid on Commission” which summarizes some of the pitfalls of why it is not a free service but one that is paid solely by the places that families are referred to. The Times article continues: “clients…..will be referred only to facilities that have signed contracts and agreed to pay a proportion of the first month’s rent when a resident moves in”. A few years ago the Seattle Times reported that in Washington this company was paid approximately $3,500 by the residence for a placement. Some states have been so concerned about ‘proliferating referral companies’ that a coalition introduced legislation to require better disclosure of fees and commissions and have placement companies brought under the state’s consumer protection act.
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’.
You get what you pay for. If you pay nothing, don’t be surprized if you get nothing in return. Referral fees contravene the code of ethics of professional geriatric care managers and registered social workers. We may need some protection in Canada as well.