Benefits of free housing referral services

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Rebekah Sewell

After Rose Kelly’s mom had a stroke, her condition stabilized, but she was permanently affected by the stroke. Her family realized she wouldn’t be able to live alone anymore.

“We’d hoped she would have more mobility. We’d hope she’d be able to go home,” said Kelly.

Kelly and her father moved her mother to the Sanctuary at Holy Cross, an extended care facility in Burtonsville, Md., until they could find her a more permanent residence. There they were put in touch with Bonnie Danker, a senior care advisor for Care Patrol, one of several area companies that helps older adults find the right place to live.

Care Patrol is a franchise, and Danker owns and operates the Greater Maryland location. She uses her knowledge and experience with local housing options to provide her referral services, which are offered at no cost to clients. Care Patrol is paid a referral fee from the communities.

Danker visited Kelly’s mom to determine her condition and the level of care she would need in her new home. Danker worked with Kelly’s father since her mother was unable to tour facilities.

She eventually recommended residential assisted living, and took Kelly’s father to see Avonlea-Ridge Assisted Living, a small, five-bedroom residential facility that “ended up being perfect for my mother,” said Kelly. “For us, the smaller facility offered more personalized treatments, care and customized assistance.”

A memory care option

Last fall, Danker met with client Pat Oliver, who was looking for a home for his mom, 82. Oliver’s mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease two years ago, and couldn’t continue living in her home. The family sought an assisted living community that would offer memory care and help keep her active and engaged.

Oliver’s mom had limited finances and couldn’t qualify for their first choice, Asbury Methodist Village. But the staff at Asbury was familiar with Care Patrol and referred them to Danker.

Danker felt that residential assisted living would be a good fit for the Olivers, too. “We weren’t really sold on the idea,” Oliver said, “but she took us to a couple nice places, and we thought, ‘maybe this could work if we found the right place.’”

Oliver’s search was heavily influenced by his mom’s Alzheimer’s. Though she had experienced memory loss, she was “still relatively communicative and relatively active,” he said. He didn’t want to leave her where she would be simply “sitting around.”

Danker worked with the family for several weeks and took them to see many residential care homes. But none of the places felt like home until they found Brookeville House, located in quiet and rural Brookeville, Md.

“It was an unbelievably nice home,” said Oliver. “A nice big house — bright, open. People seemed nice. People seemed engaged.”

Normally fiercely independent, his mom is slowly adjusting to living in the house. “It’s taking a little time,” Oliver said. “She’s happier than she’s been. There’s people around all the time.”

Oliver especially appreciates the activities planned for residents at Brookeville, including afternoon tea and many social gatherings, which help keep his mom as busy and as sharp as possible.

“I’m no doctor,” Oliver, said, “but from my experience [with Alzheimer’s], if your memory’s going, there’s not much to do but keep them engaged,” he said. “It’s important to keep them active.”

Don’t wait too long

Another local referral company is Always Best Care, which provides both housing referral for those who want to move, and aging in place assistance for those who want to stay in their home.

Company representatives meet with their clients to determine their needs and whether aging at home is appropriate. “We begin by evaluating their physical, intellectual, social, emotional, spiritual and financial needs and preferences,” said founder Robin Henoch.

If the client needs more care, she makes sure they and their loved ones are aware of their options. Like the other companies, Henoch is given a commission by the referred community, not paid by her client.

“Having an independent agent go through the process of finding a community can be helpful in understanding all of their options from ‘who pays for this?’ to ‘what happens if my family member’s health condition deteriorates?’” Henoch explained.

Another benefit of having a third-party agent is that he or she can help convince clients that they need a higher level of care, especially if the client’s family has been unsuccessful in doing so.

She shared a tragic example: a client’s daughter was unable to convince her mom to move from her home to an assisted living facility, so they postponed it indefinitely. Without supervision and assistance, she refused to eat and passed away soon after.

“The best advice that I give my clients is, ‘don’t wait until it’s too late to move your family member to assisted living,’” she said. Meeting with a referral agent could be the catalyst to extending or enhancing a loved one’s life.

Other local options

Home Marketing Services for Seniors, a Virginia-based company owned by Queenie and Douglas Kemmerer, is another organization that provides a referral service for its clients. The couple mainly provide home sale and marketing consulting services for those moving to retirement communities.

They also assist with the entire transition of downsizing, selling the home, and looking for a new home if desired.

Finding a suitable home for their clients can be difficult, since there are many factors to consider. Doug often meets with his clients’ adult children to make decisions.

“Preference for a specific geographic area — often near medical resources — and funds available are the critical starting issues,” he said.

The Kemmerers also suggest a hand-on approach to finding their clients a new home. “We suggest visiting each prospective community to understand the feel and ambience of each,” he said.

Home Marketing’s services cost nothing to their clients. If they consult on the selling of a home, they are paid by the chosen real estate agent, just as housing communities to which clients are referred pay them a commission. 

Custom Senior Living Search LLC is a Virginia-based company that solely focuses on housing referral services. It is owned and managed by David Greenwood, a former financial planner and patient education consultant in the healthcare field.

Like Danker, Greenwood meets with clients and discovers their unique needs and preferences, including location, community size, proximity to loved ones, religious affiliation if relevant, and financial options. He then recommends the most suitable of the 150 local partner communities to which he refers people.

After tours, he meets with his clients to discuss how they felt about the communities. “We tell them to choose a place that meets their needs and budget, yes. But also the place where they feel most at home,” he said. “We also review the pros and cons of each option afterwards.”

A common sentiment from owners and workers in the referral field is the fulfillment they feel seeing their clients happy and adjusting to their new lives.

As Greenwood put it, “Once a client settles in to his or her new community, we like to drop in and see how things are going. It makes me very proud when we see clients who are happy and thriving in their new surroundings.”

For more information

Always Best Care

(301) 637-0233.

Ask Carol

(703) 879-2272

Care Patrol of Greater Washington

(301) 363-4670

Custom Senior Living Search LLC

(240) 462-8027 or (703) 942-6606

Home Marketing Services for

(703) 476-2260

Pack And Move

(703) 354-6359