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Getting to Know Senior Living Consultants

Organization can be a big help in finding assisted-living options

Finding a suitable assisted-living home can be a very difficult decision and a huge life transformation. Peggy Renker, a placement representative for Senior Living Consultants in Santa Barbara, answered some questions that can help you realize you don’t have to do it on your own. Reaching out for help can be very rewarding on both ends.

Peggy Renker
Peggy Renker

How long have you been working with Senior Living Consultants?

I have been working with Senior Living Consultants for more than eight years. I had been a caregiver for both of my elderly parents for several years and who both passed away at ages 88 and 92 in 2008. Prior to that I had been a volunteer with Meals on Wheels and from a young age always had an affinity for the elderly.

What’s your favorite part about your job?

I am appreciative of the fact that I have the opportunity to help our vulnerable elders and their loved ones on a daily basis. It is truly an incredibly rewarding experience to help a family through the process of finding placement and then so often see that loved one blossom upon moving into an assisted-living home, which is so often case. It is also gratifying to see the relief of a family member after a successful placement and witnessing them return to their lives and their roles of son or daughter or whatever it may be.

I am also thankful to the numerous licensed assisted-living homes on the Central Coast that we contract with that basically allow our services to be entirely free to families and their loved ones. We provide a tremendous resource to the senior community, and the fact that we can provide this service at no charge to families and the community is a testament to our homes enabling us to do so.

What is the main focus of SLC?

Senior Living Consultants is primarily a housing placement agency and our specialty is helping families/seniors find the most suitable and appropriate housing options based on the seniors medical, financial and social needs. We contract with all licensed assisted-living and Alzheimer’s care homes from Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo. We obtain the state inspection reports on all homes, visit each frequently, and communicate daily regarding their respective openings for long-term, respite, hospice care, etc.

Our office also receives a variety of calls that are not housing related. Families are often looking for resources to contact in the community, whether it be for in-home care, adult day care, Medicare/Medi-Cal questions, etc. So we are often a clearinghouse helping families finding help and solutions for their loved ones.

Do you check in with clients after you help them find homes to see if they’re satisfied?

We pride ourselves on our follow-up with families/seniors after they have been placed. We typically stay in close touch to make sure the placement is going along smoothly and the senior is settling in well and the family is satisfied. In addition, we are not paid from our homes until the resident has resided for at least 30 days so we assure that the placement is a successful one. Our goal if placement is a necessity is to move a senior one time and one time only. A move is already traumatic enough at that age so we encourage due diligence on all levels to make sure the proper home is selected and that the senior can live out his or her final years wherever they move.

What is one of the most difficult things people face while trying to find a home for a loved one/themselves? How does SLC help?

Well, for starters it is an absolutely overwhelming and emotional task for most of our family members and their loved ones to even think about the thought of placement. Most certainly, most of us would prefer to keep our loved ones at home until their last days, but unfortunately this is not a reality for the majority of people. Oftentimes, the cost of 24-hour in-home care is prohibitive or family members are no longer able to care for loved ones at home so placement must eventually happen. It is heartbreaking to see the stress of family members dealing with the devastation of a loved one with dementia and all the various stressors this disease creates. On the upside, we do find that placement often ends up being the best thing that could have been done for the senior and our families. Placement provides great benefits socially and otherwise for many of our seniors as so many of our homes have wonderful activity programs, and the care and oversight are invaluable.

We try to provide support, understanding and guidance for families who are trying to determine how to explore the whole process of placement. Families often have no idea where to even begin the search for assisted living or what to ask for. So we try to hold their hand through this often daunting process for them. We provide personalized tours, help expedite medical paperwork for admission and, in general, try to be a support for them every step of the way.

What are some of the issues that come up most often while trying to help clients find suitable homes?

We frequently are dealing with families that are unable to afford the cost of assisted-living housing in Santa Barbara. This is a tremendous challenge for our families. Many of our families are unfortunately not educated on the fact that Medicare and/or Medi-Cal does not cover the cost of assisted-living housing and that the costs are private pay. We help them determine if they may be eligible for the Veterans Administration Aid & Attendance Benefit, which can help with in-home, assisted-living and skilled nursing costs should the loved one have been a veteran or widow of a veteran. We are fortunate in that we can place a number of our lower-income seniors from Santa Barbara in the Santa Maria area, where the cost of assisted-living care is typically 50 percent or less than placement in Santa Barbara.

Do you have any general tips for how to find a suitable home for a loved one?

We encourage our families and the community at large to be as proactive as possible with the entire process of long-term care elder placement. Placement is not typically a topic that anyone wants to broach in advance but we encourage discussing your loved one’s desires in advance. That way, if a crisis hits, you are aware of their wishes and have discussed as a family and perhaps even also looked at a few assisted-living homes prior to any event.

Click here for more information on Senior Living Consultants, 18 W. Micheltorena St., Suite C, call 805.963.6045 or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Noozhawk intern Bryana Nugent is an SBCC student. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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