Washington Becomes First State To Regulate Elder Care Placement Referrals

Julie Northcutt, 12/19/2011

Eldercare placement referral companies have begun to populate the internet, and it turns out some are good and some are not so good.  Now the state of Washington has stepped in to help regulate the industry and define quality controls and systems that should be in place in order to protect seniors.  More and more states may be passing laws to regulate eldercare referral agencies as the industry matures.

What will now be required?  The new law provides these requirements for elder care referral placement agencies in Washington state, beginning in 2012: 

  • Full disclosure of fees paid by senior living facilities
  • Care assessments by qualified senior care professionals
  • Disclosure of last date the professional toured a senior living community
  • Confirm senior living facility is not in current violation of Washington licensing requirements
  • Accurately maintain records of senior client’s information with name of facility chosen

It was discovered that some eldercare placement companies were referring seniors to senior housing facilities that had violations in the state of Washington.  In addition, some of the referral agency “advisors” really had no experience in senior care.  They were simply referring to any senior living community that was willing to pay them a fee for the referral.  Finding the appropriate senior housing can be a challenge, as costs, activities offered, caregiving services and medical care offerings are all part of the equation.  Eldercare advocates in Washington state wanted to be sure that seniors were receiving referrals from ethical and qualified elder care referral agencies. This law was introduced and quickly passed this year.

The legislation, HB 1494, was passed and signed into law by Washington Governor Chris Gregoire on May 16, 2011.  You may review the bill, called “Elder and Vulnerable Adult Placement Referrals” law.

 When does the law go into effect?  January 1, 2012

The elder care placement referral law acknowledges that the complexity of finding senior housing sometimes requires assistance by professionals. Some of the specifics required are:

  • Referral agency must disclose fees they are paid by senior living communities and have senior sign disclosure form with all information to verify they understand how the service will work
  • Referral agency must maintain records with senior client’s name, locations referred to, amount of fee paid
  • Records must be maintained for 6 years
  • Frequency which referral agency regularly tours the senior living community must be provided (with dates)
  • Standard Care Plan Intake Form with medical history, sleeping habits and assistance needs must be made to first qualify a senior for referral to a senior living community
  • Referral agency employees must pass background checks

 And the most significant new requirement, in order to better protect seniors: 

  •  Make Sure Senior Housing Provider Has No Licensing Violations by Checking State Database

“Prior to making a referral of a supportive housing provider, the agency shall conduct a search, and inform the client that a search was conducted, of the department of social and health service’s website to see if the provider is in enforcement status for violation of its licensing regulations,” states the new law.

Much of the information seems to be common sense and what should be common business practices, but now it will be easier to close down eldercare referral agencies in the state of Washington if they are not maintaining the basic quality standards and integrity.

One of the eldercare referral agencies criticized by an investigative report by The Seattle Times, A Place for Mom, previously only made referrals over the telephone and hired some advisors who had no experience in senior care.  Beginning next year, A Place for Mom’s advisors in Washington state will be required to disclose the last time they visited a facility and to make a proper care assessment of the senior.  Also, according to the new law, advisors cannot call themselves “geriatric care managers” unless they have the required training and certification designation (National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers provides certification).

It should be noted A Place for Mom received $9.5 million in Venture Capital funding from Battery Ventures in February, 2006.   Venture Capital investors expect aggressive growth to secure a return-on-investment, usually with a timeline of 3 to 7 years.  Concerned quality standards were falling to the wayside, as the Seattle Times reported, local senior care advocates took action for this law regulating referral agencies in Washington state to be introduced (A Place for Mom is headquartered in Seattle, Washington).  A Place for Mom also settled a federal class action lawsuit by 222 employees in April, 2010, and was absorbed by Warburg Pincus in June, 2010.

Separately, the law mandates the department of licensing in Washington to convene a work group of stakeholders to consider the feasibility of establishing licensure for elder and vulnerable adult referral agencies and to provide recommendations to the legislature by December 1, 2011.

Caregiverlist Elder Care Placement Company Checklist:

Finding the right senior living community requires extensive knowledge of the senior’s care needs, personal preferences, financial capabilities and social interests.  If you don’t live in Washington state, which now has guidelines for eldercare referrals, you still want to be sure you are working with a quality elder care referral agency. A good referral agency will follow these guidelines and be beneficial for both the senior living community and the senior, making sure the move will be a success for everyone involved.

Follow this checklist questionnaire to qualify a senior living referral company.

  1. Does the company's advisors have senior care experience?  (How many years?)
  2. Where did the advisor gain the senior care experience and do they have any professional certifications?     (Licensed Social Worker, Registered Nurse, Certified Senior Advisor?)
  3. Will a full list of all senior living communities in the area be provided, not just ones paying a fee?     
  4. Will they create a Care Plan for the senior outlining all medical needs and social activities desired?
  5. Will they take the senior on tours of all communities they are considering?  Is there an extra fee for this?
  6. What is the amount of the referral fee they are paid?
  7. Do they have testimonials from previous clients and may you speak to 3 previous clients?
  8. Are they aware of any senior living facilities in the area that are under construction and not yet open?
  9. Does the senior living community provide nursing home care?  If not, where are the nearest nursing homes?  (Check the nursing home ratings).
  10. If the senior living community does have a nursing home, if you should need additional caregiving services and run out of your personal finances to pay, would they allow you to stay as a resident, accepting Medicaid payments for your nursing care?


Beware:  Websites making referrals to senior care companies who do not have senior care industry knowledge. Handyman companies do not have expertise nor certifications and training in senior care, neither do babysitters and nanny agencies.  This is why licenses are required for senior living facilities and training required for senior home care agency caregivers along with active supervision by senior care managers.  Since the senior living communities are paying the referral fees to these placement agencies, find one which provides trained and experienced senior care professionals who will take the senior on tours of the communities.    

Caregiverlist LIKES:

Senior Living Experts in Chicago, Illinois

All the senior advisors working for Senior Living Experts have worked in a Chicago area senior living community and are properly trained as Registered Nurses, Licensed Social Workers and Senior Care Advisors.  Senior Living Experts’ does the appropriate senior care plan and then escorts the senior personally on tours of all communities they are considering.  They also provide the lists of all senior living communities and Supportive Living for low-income seniors, including these companies who do not pay them a referral fee.  They will introduce the senior to other residents at the communities and pass on the “whispers” about the culture.  They are actively involved in senior care charities and events in Chicagoland, making them true experts on senior care offerings and quality standards.

Senior Living Advisors in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

This company, Senior Living Advisors, Ltd., also has years of experience in senior care and hires qualified advisors to take the senior on tours of the senior living communities in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area.  Owner Mary Beth St. Clair has an M.B.A. and 15 years of experience in the medical field, assisting seniors for the last decade. They are involved in the local community and work with senior home care agencies and assisted living communities to find the right senior care solution for families.



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