Some Assisted-Living Residents Don’t Get Promised Care

Mary Madison, RN, RAC-CT, CDP
Clinical Consultant – Briggs Healthcare

On February 14, 2020, the New York Times published a very interesting article with the same title as this blog that spoke to court decisions in California that addressed how large assisted-living chains make staffing decisions.  That was the headline that began with telling the reader that a group of law firms have been suing major chains in that state.

“The plaintiffs’ complaint (against Sunrise Senior Living) filed in 2017 and now before the U.S. District Court for Central California, argues that when staff members conduct such periodic assessments — to determine whether a resident needs help bathing or dressing, for example, or suffers from dementia — the facilities don’t use the results to determine an adequate number of staff members.

Instead, the plaintiffs argue, administrators make staffing decisions financially, based on budgets and return on investment. When assessments show increasing needs, the suit alleges, fees rise but staffing ratios may not change.”

The NYT’s piece continues with:

“The lawyers’ scorecard to date: two settlements reached in 2016, totaling $13 million from Emeritus Corporation (since merged with Brookdale Senior Living) and $6.4 million from Atria Senior Living.

Suits against two other chains, Aegis Living and Oakmont Senior Living, will proceed when and if courts certify them as class actions. The Sunrise case, with a “purported class” of 13,000 current and former residents in California, also awaits certification. (A smaller group received the letters asking for information.)

But in the meantime, the plaintiffs have compelled the chain, with 268 facilities across the country and 52 in California, to turn over a trove of documents showing how it determines staffing levels.”

I’m not going to give away the rest of the information collected and available in this piece.  I encourage you to read and digest its implications for yourself.   I will give away the ending of the piece however – it’s not a spoiler but it gives one pause, to be sure.  “If the court certifies Sunrise residents as a class, a resolution of the case probably lies two years away…And if the plaintiffs win further settlements, lawyers in other states may start taking notes.”