Paul Lamb

Assisted Living Assignments

Overview: While the faint-hearted or shoppers with weak stomachs need not apply, nursing home, or assisted living assignments can be very profitable and rewarding.

Most of the assignments require an actual tour of the facility so if you have never visited a nursing home, be prepared for some unusual (and sometimes unpleasant) sights, sounds and smells. Keep in mind that residents of the facility may or may not be in control of their senses or bodily functions.

Project variations: There are many variations of this type of shop. Some mystery shopping companies just do telephone shops while others may require a telephone call and a tour, while yet others may require patient or resident interviews for revealed assignments.

These assignments are also known as senior living or assisted living shops, depending on the mystery shopping company. Some of the more extensive shops may require special certification for HIPAA and other privacy laws pertaining to healthcare.

Visiting and reporting requirements: As I mentioned earlier, the majority of these shops will require a tour of the facility. In my experience this takes 20-30 minutes, depending on what types of questions are required to complete the report. Shoppers may be restricted to a certain age range so that they can realistically pose as someone looking for a facility for a parent or themselves.

Most of these shops focus on the cleanliness of the building, inside and out. This includes noting any offensive odors that may be present. The reports generally require plenty of narrative.

Strategies: When performing nursing home assignments always be sure to thoroughly understand the scenario and to memorize the specific information that needs to be obtained such as costs, application fees, or waiting list information. Be prepared to answer questions about your loved one including age, Medicare status, or income information. While this information does not have to be real, it is best to have answers prepared in advance so as not to raise suspicion on an unrevealed shop.

What others have to say: After reviewing posts and comments on these shops on MysteryShopForum.com, there does not seem to be any neutral opinions; shoppers either love them or hate them. The most common complaint is that the shopper is not comfortable being around the sights and sounds that may be witnessed on these assignments. Others did not feel that the shops paid enough for the amount of narrative required in the report.

On the other hand, many shoppers stated that these were the best paying or most enjoyable shops and that they would take all of them that they could get.

Estimated pay: Pay for nursing home shops are as varied as their name. I have seen job postings for as little as $20 and video shops that pay $100. The majority of them pay from $35 to $60.

I live in a rural area, so there are often very generous bonuses attached to these shops. The third mystery shopping assignment that I ever completed (five years ago) was at an assisted living facility 50 miles from my house. The shop paid $47 plus $45 for gas.

I recently completed a shop at the same facility for a different company. This time I received a $40 shop fee with a $30 gas bonus. I probably could have asked for a bigger bonus, but had forgotten what I was paid on the previous visit.

MSCs: Some of the companies that provide opportunities for nursing home visits include Pinnacle Quality Insight, Examine Your Practice, Devon Hill Associates, Measure Consumer Perspectives, and Trendsource/MSI Shopper.

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