Many senior care providers are starting to screen residents at their communities… are you one of them?

By Susan Saldibar

As the senior living industry grows, issues you might not even think about start to arise. Screening, for example, might not be something you think you need to be concerned about — who would think your 85-year-old grandpa would run a gambling ring out of his room? But it’s becoming a bigger issue. And it’s not just gambling — over the years we’ve heard stories about illegal selling of OxyContin and other prescription drugs, organized theft rings, and resident exploitation by other residents. The good news is that many senior care providers are taking notice and starting to screen residents at their communities.   

To get the backstory on these stepped-up screening policies, I sat down with Heather Gullickson, VP of Enterprise Sales for RealPage Senior Living a Senior Housing Forum Partner and Andy Larson, VP of Resident Screening for RealPage. Both shared some of the reasons that across-the-board screening is critical, now more than ever:

  • Social media is bringing heightened awareness of issues with the posting of senior care “horror stories.”

  • Families of residents are being more safety conscious and seeking assurance that their loved ones are safe.

  • Employees are demanding safety and security in their workplace.

  • The cost of screening a resident actually pales in comparison to that of an incident or a property’s damaged reputation.

Given these factors, it makes sense for senior care providers to put more emphasis on resident screening, not only because it’s affordable, but because it helps operators provide a safer living environment for residents and comfort for families.

“As awareness of criminal activity increases, screening everyone who regularly comes through the door, including residents, is actually seen by many as required risk mitigation,” says Heather. “Especially as they become aware of how often bad things are happening to good people.”

What should operators of senior living communities be doing in screening residents? Here are RealPage’s recommendations:

  • Screen residents and guarantors: That includes those living at the community and paying rent. “You can’t live in a HUD subsidized facility if you are a convicted felon. There’s a reason for that. Why should you be able to live in a senior community?” asks Andy.

  • Screen for everything: Including a criminal check, credit history, previous rental payment history. “A prospective resident may want the very best in accommodations, but they and/or their guarantor may not have the means,” adds Heather. “You don’t want them to get in over their heads.”

  • Determine your community’s risk comfort zone: You should be able to set approval parameters in the system on how you want to treat offenses. For example, you may choose to accept residents who have been convicted of lesser crimes such as drug possession and reject those who have been convicted of more serious crimes like intent to sell. This ensures leasing decisions are applied uniformly, according to your company policies, and not left to the discretion of site staff.

  • Expand your search: In addition to the information provided by the applicant, search for all name variations, aliases and addresses found on the applicant’s credit report against the entire national criminal database.

  • Safety is your best marketing tool: Position your screening capability as an advantage to residents and their families. Screening at senior communities can be a selling point and an important indicator for residents and families. It sends a message that operators are diligent about creating a living environment that’s safe and feels like home-sweet-home.

“The bottom line is that 99% of people are good,” says Andy. “But it only takes one person who isn’t to upset a once-peaceful and secure senior living community.”