Choosing a Care Community – Who Really Pays the “Finder’s Fee”?

Choosing a Care Community – Who Really Pays the “Finder’s Fee”?

From Linda Kerdolff, Managing LTC Ombudsman

You’ve probably seen the ads for the numerous agencies that offer to help you find the right care community for your loved ones.  These companies often promote their services as being free to the senior and their family. But, what does this actually mean, and how is the company influenced by the long-term care communities that solicit for new residents?

Recently someone who called Pro Seniors noted that they paid a $2,500 “convenience” fee to get into a memory care community, and it turns out it was the finder’s fee for a third party “selection assistance” company.

Choosing to move into a long-term care community, like a nursing home or assisted living, can be a stressful decision. Many times, a medical emergency has landed you or your loved one in the emergency room and, at the end of the hospital stay, your discharge orders may be to move into a nursing home. The moment is already emotionally and physically stressful, and most people have not given forethought to entering long-term care. As a result, the nursing home choice is made quickly, based on a location that’s nearby, maybe with some knowledge of a relative who was in the nursing home years ago, or what you find in an online search. In another scenario, you realize your parent, who has dementia, is declining to the point where they may need “memory care” assisted living. You do your best to search online, and you are relieved when you see companies with experts who will help guide you through the selection of long-term care for “free”.

How do you find long-term care? And is it really “free” when a company gives you recommendations?

Third party companies that specialize in helping you choose a long-term care facility can give you good advice, alert you to questions to ask, as well as things to look for on a visit. But remember that these companies may receive a commission by the nursing home or assisted living to recommend their facility. You may be steered in the direction of a home that is under contract with this service, without understanding the full scope of your options.

Some assisted living homes – you must read all documents carefully – say you must pay an upfront “convenience fee” in order to be admitted to the home. This fee is not listed in your admissions contract, but is explained verbally to you as a condition of entering the home. This fee may be, in reality, a “finder’s fee” that is being paid to the third party company that offered to help you find a long-term care home for “free”. These fees can be a couple of thousand dollars or more. Under the stressful circumstance of choosing long-term care, many pay it without realizing what it is for.

Objective help is truly available at no cost from the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, a nationwide advocacy program for people using long-term care. One of our services is called selection assistance, or Home Options. In southwest Ohio the long-term care ombudsman program is housed at Pro Seniors, Inc., and, because we are a nonprofit, our advice is truly free. We do not pay or receive commissions, and have no financial relationship to any long-term care facility. Also, as a nonprofit, we will not make a specific recommendation; but, we will guide you through the process, recommend resources, explain levels of care, and equip you with questions to ask so that you can make an informed choice.  Long-term care ombudsmen advocate for people who live in long-term care settings, working to resolve problems related to the health, safety, welfare, and rights of residents.


You can help improve the lives of people living in nursing homes and other care communities. Learn about Residents’ Rights, strategies for investigation and resolution of problems, and use these skills as a volunteer advocate on Pro Seniors’ ombudsman team!  Learn more.