Bakersfield, CA has many resources available to help the community. I was fortunate to come across Tim Kounter, Director of Placement Services with Bakersfield Senior Placement. His dedication to helping seniors and their families is nothing short of inspiring! I’ve asked him about his services in the interview below.
Tell us about Bakersfield Senior Placement.
In 2009, Bakersfield Senior Placement officially came into being as a division of Interim Healthcare. Our purpose from day one, has been to help individuals and families find the right independent or licensed assisted living options for themselves and/or their loved ones. Our service was free back then, and has remained a free service to those seeking up to the moment information and personal guidance through the maze of local options. If we are successful at helping folks find exactly what they are hoping to find, then that specific community or care home will pay us a portion of the first month’s rent as a referral fee. We are proud to have agreements with over 100 local options available here in Kern County!
How did you start this service? Why are you so passionate about what you do?
In 2008, I went around and began visiting local retirement, independent and locally licensed assisted living facilities and care homes, knocking on their doors and introducing myself. I wasn’t necessarily trying to start a new business, but rather become familiar with viable options for our home care clients to move into if/when living at home was no longer the best option for them. My objective was to get to know them and, if/when we had clients that were a good match for them, I would literally bring that potential resident to them, and see if indeed it was a good fit for both parties.
In many ways, what I do is often compared to that of selling real estate. And while there are similarities to be sure, there’s actually a HUGE difference, and that difference is what makes me so passionate about what I do. Not to downplay the complexity of what real estate professionals must learn and deal with (I obtained a real estate license over 15 years ago, and am well aware of their expertise), but selling an in inanimate object to a buyer as a one-and-done transaction is much different than what I do.
The transaction I’m assisting with is to help individuals navigate an ongoing relationship that will often last until their passing, or the passing of their loved one. That means that in many cases, it can ultimately be the costliest rental agreement they will ever make, and can even exceed the cost of their mortgages. Yet that’s not all. I’m not merely taking into account a budget, but equally if not more importantly trying to take and present a picture of the unique physical, cognitive, social, financial, emotional, and spiritual differences of my clients, and introduce them to environments that are able to meet those needs, both now and in many cases, for the remainder of their years.
It is not understatement to say that these decisions are often the most important decisions made for that individual in their lifetime. And yet, most individuals needlessly attempt to navigate this industry alone, making these critical decisions from limited amount of information they are given by professionals who, as nice as they all are, have a primary goal of highlighting the very best picture of their community as possible. It’s nice to have an advocate that will not only set up those in-person visits, but also attend each one, and then have an ongoing dialogue throughout the entire process, including assisting with the required paperwork. That’s what I do.
Why should someone consider using a placement service?
I understand the intent of that question, so will answer accordingly. The idea is, that you as a “client” of that service are likely in a situation where you or a loved one either wants or needs to consider retirement living for its many benefits, or assisted living, for the benefits and necessity. You may be extremely gifted and knowledgeable about your own field of profession, but this is a different world. I’ll use this example: I have a college education, have worked in the business world for 30+ years, and obtained my real estate license (long since expired). But I know enough to know that I would never try to sell my house by myself. I know enough about real estate transactions, that I need a real estate professional to lead me through such a process, as there is way too much at stake.
The only thing better than having a real estate professional help me, is if I didn’t have to pay them to do so, and yet received the full benefit of their expertise. That is the situation with a placement service.
So just as you would be very particular about selecting the appropriate real estate professional, it makes sense to do the same when selecting a placement agent. I strongly encourage your readers to ask around until they get multiple strong references from people who they know and trust. Ask for the local (Bakersfield) experience. Since there is no license (yet) required for such, I would submit you also look for these qualifications: 1) Longevity in the local Bakersfield community; 2) RCFE* Administrator certification and for how long; 3) Certified Senior Advisor certification (and for how long).
For me, this has been my sole and full-time occupation for over 13 years locally. I also obtained and have sustained continuous renewal of my RCFE certification since September of 2013, and obtained and sustained continuous renewal as a Certified Senior Advisor since November of 2013.
What are important things for us to remember about caring for aging family members?
I’m so glad you asked this question! Here’s what you need to know. Caring for an aging family member cost time, money, or most often, both, and you need to plan accordingly.
The studies continue to show that most seniors prefer to live in their homes rather than moving into retirement communities or assisted living. However, this is actually still a baby industry when you think of the history of humanity. Rosewood Retirement Community is the oldest licensed facility in town, and they were no were to be seen when I was born. So for that reason, most of those needing assisted living in particular have little to no exposure to that world. The reality is, that in-home care costs have shot through the roof over the last 5 years, as California legislature has forced a minimum wage increase of a whopping 50%! When I started at Interim HealthCare in September 2008, our caregiver rate was about $20/hour. Today, due almost entirely to the increasing minimum wage, the going rate for licensed, bonded and insured caregivers through an agency is roughly $34/hour. This has been extremely harmful to those seeking to hire caregivers to supplement their own needs or the needs of their loved ones. It’s simple math. Do your own calculation. To make it easy, multiply $34/hr by a few hours a day, then by a few days each week and then by 4.3 weeks per month. Pick your own numbers. You get to over $1000 a month with as few as 1 hour per day!”
The alternative? Coordinate care with family, friends, relatives, neighbors, church assistance, and if qualified, In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) through the department of Kern County Aging and Adult Services. If the loved one is a qualified veteran or the spouse of a qualified veteran, there are often excellent benefits to be had through them as well. Give us a call, and we’ll help you investigate that.
The reality is, making no plan is a plan to fail. You’ve read this blog, so do yourself a favor and do something with the information. A smart move would be to make an appointment with Debbie (sooner is always better than later) and look into the options she can suggest for you, which I imagine will be some type of combination of investment vehicle and/or Long-Term Care insurance.
When is the appropriate time to start having the discussion about senior placement? How do you recommend beginning that conversation?
I recommend discussions start NOW, as now is either a time of crisis, in which you have little to no choice to have the discussion, or it’s not a time of crisis, which means you’re being proactive. Not to do it now is procrastination, and it’s the only way to know you haven’t waited until an unexpected/urgent need arises.
Being proactive allows you to be more lighthearted. If your attempt goes somewhere, then great! If, on the other hand, things should start to get tense quickly, you can always back off with a smile, knowing you’ve already made progress by tearing the band-aid off the wound. Be prepared to quickly end your attempt with a gracious “well, I’m glad we started this conversation. We’ll talk more later, as it’s too important to ignore”. I’m not naïve. I know for some, they will always feel offended that you bring up the subject. But the point is, get what information you can, and continue to build on that.
Let me add one really important item here. Make sure you have Power of Attorney in place, whether it’s for you, or for your loved ones. I can’t tell you how many times those are needed, and NOT in place, greatly limiting, if not stopping altogether, the ability of loved ones to assist those in need.
As founder and director Tim has personally visited each and every Independent and licensed Assisted Living Facility multiple times, since 2010. This gives BSP (and therefore YOU!) a unique perspective on what each has to offer. In addition, Tim has developed a custom web portal allowing immediate access to the key features and details of each licensed facility in Kern County. This tool enables us to reduce the estimated 60-80 hours you would spend in researching and visiting communities to just a few hours.
This is provided for informational purposes only. Tim Kounter and Bakersfield Senior Placement is not an affiliate of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Lincoln Financial Advisors is not responsible for and does not guarantee the accuracy of the information contained therein. Lincoln Financial Advisors and its representatives do not offer tax or legal advice. Individuals should consult their own tax or legal professionals regarding their specific circumstances before making financial decisions.