The state of Vermont has reached a $120,000 settlement with an elderly care facility in Essex Junction over violations of the Vermont Consumer Protection Act.
At a press conference on Monday, Jan. 6, Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan also announced the launch of an educational guide explaining the differences in Vermont between nursing homes, assisted living residences and residential care homes.
Woodbine Senior Living managed a residential care home in Essex Junction, called Spring Village at Essex from December 2014 to April 2018, Donovan said.
The state alleged Woodbine deceived the public about the level of care they could provide at Spring Village, claiming it was a “memory care home for individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Donovan said, “They promised families that they could take care of their loved ones at all stages of these diseases of aging and dementia, and Woodbine promised elderly residents with those afflictions could “age in place and never have to move again.”
Four individuals who were admitted to Spring Village under the promise of aging in place received eviction notices on the basis that their care needs exceeded the facility’s license, he said. Families were given 30 days to appeal the notices of eviction – or move out.
“Woodbine’s conduct was deplorable and it was illegal,” Donovan said.
Under the terms of the settlement Woodbine has agreed that the company will never do business in Vermont ever again and agreed “to pay $120,000 with $62,000 going to the state and $1,000 each to 48 family members who moved their loved ones to Spring Village,” he said. “And $10,000 to the Vermont Chapter of the Alzheimer Association for statewide care.”
Donovan said the settlement money “doesn’t come even close to being enough.”
Representatives of two of the 48 families attended the press conference.
Mia Groff of Jericho talked about how her mother had struggled with dementia for seven years and how difficult it was for her mother to move from one facility to the next.
“Already lost in a world she didn’t understand, consistency of care and surroundings and the maintenance of familiar daily routines of familiar faces was crucial for her,” Groff said.
Her mother passed away in October.
Bruce Bottamini who moved from Montpelier to Essex to be near his wife who suffered from Alzheimer’s.
After visiting about 30 facilities in several different states, Bottamini moved his wife into the Spring Village in September 2016. After she moved in, he learned that some residents were being told they needed to move out.
“We were told as were other families that promises of aging in place and end of life care should never have been made to us. It was an incredibly painful and gut-wrenching experience,” Bottamini said. “No person should have to live with the kinds of uncertainty that Spring Village families faced.”
Bottamini’s wife Phyllis passed away May 5, 2018.
Donovan illustrated how the population of the Green Mountain State is aging: he said 20% of Vermonters are 65 or older, 33% of Vermonters are 55 or older and by the year 2030, 40% of Vermonters will be 55 years old or older.
In addition, 13,000 Vermonters are living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The state has 167 long-term care facilities with over 6,400 licensed beds
“One of the issues that this matter brought to the fore is that it’s incredibly confusing for any member of the public to understand the difference between a nursing home, an assisted living residence and a residential care home. We have each of these kinds of facilities in Vermont and they each have entirely different regulations and restrictions,” said Jamie Renner, Assistant Attorney General and chair of the Elder Protection Initiative.
Donovan emphasized that the former Spring Village facility now has a different owner and is under different management, called April Ridge Memory Care. “We want to be clear up front that the allegations in the settlement here pertain only to the conduct of Woodbine and their management team.”
To help the public wade through the confusion and help them make better informed decisions about elderly family members living situations the Elder Protection Initiative and the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living have created an educational guide, said Renner. The guide called Comparing Nursing Homes, Assisted Living Residences, and Residential Care Homes in Vermont is available at https://ago.vermont.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/consumer-guide.pdf or by calling the Consumer Assistance Program at 800-649-2424.