By Jack Halpern, CEO, My Elder Advocate Because the families we serve compensate us directly, we represent only them. We are never obligated in any way to serve or protect the needs or interests of the hospital, nursing home, insurance companies, private healthcare service providers, government agencies, and so on. But My Elder Advocate is the exception in a world of allegedly free services that continually put elders at risk. Here’s where I’m going with this. A senior falls and breaks a hip or has a stroke. Suddenly there’s a scramble to find a nursing home or other long-term care facility. To meet a growing demand and lured by fast money, so-called “elder care referral services” have sprung up around the country. They claim to help in such situations. Most elder care referral agencies in this multimillion-dollar although unregulated industry offer consumers their services for free. But free isn’t actually what’s happening. Nursing facilities and other adult care homes typically pay the referral service a sizable commission for any placement –– sometimes as much as $4,000.00. Many of these services funnel elders to the facilities they contract with –– without regard to the facility’s quality. In an investigative report last year, the Seattle Times found that placement companies in Washington state had referred seniors to facilities that had documented histories of substandard care, including “residents with dementia locked in rooms to prevent wandering; mentally ill adults drugged into submission to control behavior; and bed-bound seniors abandoned without assistance for up to 16 hours.” According to the Seattle...