Helping seniors find their next home

Rachel Cohen and her husband, David, own and manage Exceptional Senior Placement, a Bay Area business that helps families find the right living situations for their loved ones. Since we didn’t realize that businesses like this exist—and at no charge to the resident!—we asked Rachel to walk us through what she does.

A family business: Leadership and interns of Exceptional Senior Placement

Describe what you do–why do people come to a placement service?

The thought of moving yourself or a loved one of out the home is a big decision—not only where you’re going to live, but where you’re going to find appropriate care. People don’t know who to trust or where to start. So we stay on top of what’s available, what current pricing is and who we trust. We don’t just do things like check licensing—although of course we do that—but we also visit in person and get to know what the resident population is like. We know the things that you can’t just research online.

We’re also just trying to make the process less daunting in any way possible. We narrow down the options for our clients to just those that are feasible, so they’re not spending time falling in love with a place that’s too expensive for them, or doesn’t provide the level of care that they need.

What should your clients think about when they consider moving to a new home?

They should think carefully about their care needs, especially if they need specific help. Insulin shots, for example, require someone with a certain license to administer. They should also think about what budget they’re comfortable with, and what their ideal location is. But it’s also important to think about what makes you happy day-to-day, because that’s what’s going to help us find a spot for them that’s going to be really satisfying. What do they want socially? What activities do they enjoy? Do they want access to a lot of outdoor space? Would they feel more comfortable surrounded by people who speak their native language? It’s easy to get wrapped up in the other things, but it’s important to think about what you LIKE to do—bridge or sports or Mass—and find a community that is going to be able to provide that for you.

What kinds of homes do you consider for your clients?

There are four main categories:

  • Independent living
  • Assisted living
  • Memory care, for anything dementia-related, or people who are a “wander risk”
  • Board and care, which is less well-known but is basically a private home, commonly licensed for six residents. It’s a great and lower-cost option for someone who needs a lot of personal attention, and there are some wonderful ones if you know where to look. Oftentimes I visit these and all the residents are out for the day at some activity or another. I always make sure to talk with family members of the residents to round out the picture of the resident experience before I recommend it to my clients.

 What do your services cost? How do you get paid?

We are very happy that our model allows us to offer our services with no charge to our clients, completely free. We want to help families in any way we can, not add an additional cost or concern for them.

We are compensated by referral fees from most homes and communities, which is industry standard pretty much across the board. Since we use our knowledge to narrow down the options for our clients, communities and homes are eager to work with us sine we bring clients in for tours that are likely a good match to begin with. It’s a better, more constructive use of everyone’s time. Communities also appreciate the added support our experience and “hand-holding” provides to both them and the client families each step of the way, ensuring a smoother process for all involved.

What else should your clients know?

The majority of the time, we’re interacting with the adult child of the person who needs a new living situation, or their spouse. These family members tend to feel so guilty—they’re holding on to the idea that they’re “putting someone into a nursing home,” which is so antiquated. We are actually finding their loved one a new home that they can be happy in with quality care, improving everyone’s quality of life: both the senior and the rest of the support network. The right fit is going to make everyone happier, allowing loved ones to enjoy time together rather than most of their time going the role of caregiver or care manager.