Choosing an assisted living community can be daunting, and not surprisingly, an industry has arisen to help people accomplish it. Always Best Care Senior Services is one of the options available in Santa Barbara. A franchise owned by entrepreneur Patrick MacMichael, Always Best also has offices up and down Southern California, as well as in Colorado and Ohio. The company offers personalized referrals for assisted living placements for seniors, and the clients and their families pay nothing for the service.
The senior care facilities pay Always Best once a placement is confirmed. MacMichael and his staff stressed the lack of bias that goes into the Always Best referrals. They claimed that no facilities receive any special treatment: Seniors are placed with the home that best suits their needs and not the needs of Always Best, which receives a flat fee from the facility for every confirmed placement. Every facility pays the same fee, thereby negating a potential for bias.
MacMichael has a personal investment in senior care because his own grandmother suffered a stroke at 86, and he was unable to care for her himself because she lived in New Jersey and he did not have the option of shopping around for the best facility. Frustrated by the experience and after 10 years in sales, he made a career switch and opened the Santa Barbara branch of Always Best in November 2007.
Always Best claims to be the only company that offers “dual-care,” which is both in-home services and the assisted living placement. “As far as I know,” said MacMichael, “we’re the only one that combines the two into one company.” MacMichael went around the Santa Barbara and Ventura area, investigating all licensed assisted living facilities-over 240 in both counties, he said. Such facilities had the option to decline an alliance with Always Best, but there is no fee to the facilities unless a senior is placed there, so there is no reason to refuse the service unless the retirement community already has enough business without the extra help from Always Best. He said that only ten to 15 of the facilities declined.
The assisted living facilities were all catalogued as to specific criteria (price, location, social scene, etc.) with which they match the seniors. The most expensive facility, according to MacMichael, isn’t always the most appropriate for each person.
Staff screening for the in-home care is taken very seriously, he said, with multiple interviews required before hiring. Once hired, employees are assigned according to their skill level, with some providing more general aid, such as housekeeping and transportation, and others caring for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. He emphasized that Always Best employees are insured, covered by workers’ compensation, and have passed a criminal background check.
MacMichael also offers a side service for aged veterans, independent of Always Best. He opened an office in Santa Barbara to provide educational resources for veterans, who are referred to various non-profits (frequently government-sponsored) that specialize in various areas of aiding veterans, such as fighting for more money from Uncle Sam.