Tonight, PBS Frontline will be running a special about assisted living homes for seniors, focusing on the largest player in that industry, Emeritus corporation.
Assisted living homes are a largely unregulated industry. Many of the allegations against Emeritus are shocking, but typical of greedy corporations. Here’s a small sample of what the report will focus on:
Once upon a time, assisted living facilities were created as a happy medium between simple retirement communities and skilled nursing homes. Elderly residents would live largely independent existences but would, as the name implies, receive largely non-medical assistance for things they could no longer do on their own. But that has all changed, as more Americans lived longer and assisted living operators realized they had a virtually unregulated goldmine on their hands.
Complaints addressed include lack of training of Emeritus employees:
Again, when you see the attractive buildings being operated by the country’s largest assisted living group, you might believe that the professionals in Emeritus’s Memory Care units have a background in dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients or undergo lengthy, thorough training. Not quite.
But this is how an Emeritus Vice President actually describes the entire training process to Frontline:
“For our staff that works in memory care, they’re gonna go through what we call general orientation which everybody in the community would go through, then we have an 8-hour class that’s the ‘Join Their Journey’ class and that’s where we cover everything from disease process to how we serve meals slightly differently to folks who have dementia to how to engage, how to approach, how to communicate… There are some communication barriers at times.”
“Eight hours?! That’s nothing,” says Hawes. “Who’s going to explain, ‘This is what the disease is, this is the impact that it has on people’s physical health and on their behaviors’? You’ve gotta know how to interpret non-verbal cues that something’s going on with this resident because they can’t tell you verbally — in the same way that a 2-year-old can’t tell you, or a 1-year-old. You’ve gotta do a lot of training for memory care units. You can do great care; you gotta know how.”
Speaking as someone who has a bit of experience caring for seniors, I completely agree that 8 hours is a freaking joke. Whoever that would be adequate training should get slapped upside the head.
Like other large companies, Emeritus apparently squeezes its employees for every ounce of productivity.
“We were constantly being told to cut labor costs,” testified a former top executive at Emeritus’s California operation. “There was a lot of frustration around these kind of directions from corporate that said ‘Cut labor by 10%.”
She said she brought her concerns to the Executive VP of Quality Control, but claims that his response was, “We do not use staffing ratios because if we do not have the right amount of staffing in place and a… negative resident incident or issue occurred… we could be sued.”
After that discussion, the former exec said she became persona non grata at Emeritus and was eventually fired because she “didn’t fit.”
“Didn’t fit”….right, because that’s just so much nicer than the truth of “We don’t want any of you moral people around here!”
As you might have guessed, priority numero uno for Emeritus is getting elderly people into those beds to keep the money flowing in…
Melissa, a former sales rep at Emeritus, is one of several ex-employees who say that the company’s main goal is to get paying bodies in beds.
“The biggest thing I ever heard was ‘You need 100%… fill the building,’” she recalls. “It gave me a lot of anxiety because my philosophy wasn’t to move in a warm body just to fill the building. My philosophy was to make sure it was the right fit with the person, the prospective resident moving in… They wanted a hard close after every single person I met with.”
Elder care attorney Lesley Clement claims this allegation is bolstered by documents she uncovered when representing the family of a woman who died following three months of living at an Emeritus facility.
According to Clement, these documents show that Emeritus targeted seriously ill seniors with advanced dementia, specifically because they could be charged a higher rate.
“Everything I look at at the corporate level, all of their records, it’s all about push for more money to increase the cash flow and there’s no talk about caring for the elderly,” says Clement. “When you read their records, you think that this is a real-estate company.”
And perhaps most damning of all, a number of residents have died under unusual circumstances at Emeritus facilities, many only resulting in a slap on the wrist for the company.
Then there are deaths, like that of Chicago Bears Hall of Fame running back George McAfee, who died shortly after wandering out of his room at an Emeritus facility and drinking a bottle of industrial strength detergent. Though Emeritus settled with his family, the state of Georgia only fined the company $601 over the incident.
“Had this been a daycare facility where a child died, the place would have been shut down,” points out one of his daughters.
In an interview with Frontline, Emeritus CEO Cobb chalked this up to human error and called it “the exception to the rule.”
What about the Mississippi woman who was only at an Emeritus facility for 9 days when she packed up a bag, told a staffer she was leaving and then went up to the second floor, pried open a window and jumped out?
Her daughters arrived as their mom was being taken to the hospital where she would eventually die from her injuries. They claim that not a single person from the facility was outside helping their mother and no one spoke to the family about what had happened.
In this case, state regulators did not even cite or fine Emeritus.
There’s much, much more at this link and, as mentioned above, PBS is doing a feature on this company tonight which I HIGHLY recommend watching.
I’ve put in time caring for my elderly grandparents and this stuff makes me sick. It’s why I worry about the soon coming time my grandmother will more than likely have to go into some kind of facility like that. Granny does not have dementia and is pretty mentally sharp for an 86 year old, but I’d hate for her to spend out her last days living in an awful Emeritus like facility.
These companies need to be regulated. The exploitation of our nations senior citizens MUST STOP.