Senior Living – How To Make Informed Decisions

Do you have an aging relative who can no longer safely remain in their own home? It’s difficult for the loved one and it’s also difficult for you. How do you pick the right senior living facility where you can feel certain your family member will be happy and well cared for.

Good news for those of us living on Southern California, Orange County has around 1,000 licensed assisted living options. They range from home-like 6 bed facilities to expansive and luxurious communities. They are all licensed by the Department of Social Services. It really comes down to individual needs. What works for a friend or neighbor may not be right for your family member.

Senior Living Referral Agencies

According to Linda Armas, the current President of Southern Cal Association of Senior Referral Agencies and owner of Clear Choice Senior Services Inc, the assistance of a reputable, experienced senior placement agency can make the process easier.

An experienced senior living advisor can guide families through the maze of decisions that need to be made. The agency’s goal is to help families find a place they are happy with, because every move is stressful, and mistakes must be avoided. Referral agents are not regulated in this state, thus quality and extent of services can vary. It is recom­mended that a family ask questions to make sure the agent they are considering has sufficient experi­ence and is knowledgeable about the area and local resources. The agent should have personally visited a home and know the reputation of the places they recommend. Referral agents should have a business license and liability insurance. The agent should ask detailed questions about the prospective resident’s care needs and personality and ascertain the family’s priorities. Sample questions include:

  • Age of resident
  • Present health condition
  • Care requirements
  • Cognitive abilities
  • Religious or spiritual interests
  • Personality, hobbies, interests
  • Preferred geographic location
  • Budget

She goes on to say: It is imperative that the family be completely hon­est ab0ut their loved one’s condition and discuss in advance any concerns or potential challenges. The agent will make every effort to narrow down the choices to those which will best meet the individ­ual’s needs, and should be available to address ques­tions and concerns. The family and the referral ser­vice should work together to make a sound judgment on whether the facility is the right fit for a resident. The family is always responsible for the final deci­sion.

Placement agencies’ services are offered at no cost to families, as they often receive compensation from the facilities after a resident moves in (similar to a rental or employment agent). Be aware when shopping on the internet for senior housing assistance, personal information entered on a website may be released to others or even sold to other companies. When entering information on a website, many people don’t read the fine print on the Privacy Policy. Often it states they reserve the right to disclose, sell or share personal and contact infor­mation with third parties.

Information is available online to help evaluate the compliance record of a senior care facility. Refer to the Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing website ( to view infor­mation. A search can be done by location or name. Once a facility’s file is located, the quantity of past Citations and Complaints can be viewed. Type A ci­tations are the most serious, as they affect the imme­diate health, safety or personal rights of a resident. This information can be very helpful, but should not take the place of making a visit in person and careful observations and discussions with manage­ment and staff.

If you have a family member who needs to moved into an assisted living facility and needs to sell their current home, feel free to contact me. I will be happy to help.

Mary Ann Edwards

Re/Max College Park


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