Used Cars

When choosing an assisted living, it can be compared to buying a used car. The marketing team is drilled on being able to sell their product, even though that product is a room in a facility. There are so many bells and whistles to choose from;floor plan decisions, level of care rates, medication administration fees, incontinence product fees, activity fees,entrance fees, move in fees, pharmacy packaging fees, and on and on the list goes. Assisted living facilities have become an “a la cart” business, selling one feature at a time to the consumer.

Obviously the reason a person is sitting in front of the marketing director is because they need care provided for themselves or for a loved one. It would be a perfect world if the marketer would get straight to the point and say ” to live here, it will cost you X amount per month”. But rather, they will give you a simple number, something that sounds too good to be true,and begin building your “package” from the base rate.
Base rate? Isn’t that what you see on the cars in a dealership? Base price? So with that car purchase, leather seats, which are optional, cost extra. If you want the car with air conditioning, that too is extra. Over in the assisted livings, how can any feature be “additional”or optional, when it really isn’t an option; it is a NEED. Needs and options are not the same thing.
I understand the concept of fair pricing, but I also believe in fair sales pitches. I think when you walk onto a car dealership, the lowest price should already be the one posted on the window of the car. Remember when the Saturn dealerships posted their “No haggle, no hassle” signs in their dealerships? The price you saw was the price you paid, PERIOD. 
Why can’t assisted living facilities offer the same? Why do we have to sell incontinence products separate from the “package”? Why do we have to see special pharmacy bubble packs? Why do we have to sell all these things to the consumer when all they really want is for their loved one to be cared for?
How much clearer would it be for someone to walk into the marketing office and be told, “it costs 4000 dollars a month to live here, period.” I will tell you why. It’s the same reason we as consumers will buy a roll of paper towels for 6.99, but we will not pay 7 dollars. That one penny difference is a mental thing. The same is true with assisted living costs and marketing pitch. If you come into my office and ask the cost, I will tell you exactly what it cost, period. Now you go down the street to another facility, you will find their cost is 2250 dollars CHEAPER. Cheaper until you sit there long enough to hear the keys on their calculator produce a melody similar of a concert pianist. Once they are done adding it all up, the cost surpassed my price by at least 1300 dollars.  The “walk on the lot and kick a few tires price” is not the price you will pay when you drive that car off the lot. The same is very true in assisted livings.
So what can you do? First, check out the entire assisted living market in the area. Ask what costs what. Ask about “hidden fees”. Ask about entrance fees, community fees, and every other fee you hear mentioned. Find out how those fees apply to your loved one. Ask what things are not included in the price. Lastly, don’t be afraid to try to get a lower price than what you are quoted. Just because the marketing director is pressed to sell beds and rooms, remember they NEED to sell beds. Tell them what you can afford, and see what happens. You may see some of those essential fees become non-essential. It’s certainly worth a try anyway.
It’s truly sad that caring for our elderly has become as competitive as selling used cars. Revenue driven or not, we are in the business of caring for people and meeting their needs. That’s what is supposed to be about. 


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