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A bottom-feeding, for-profit business

If you saw me rifling through the massive stack of papers on the slick, walnut table in the conference room at Daylight Senior Living and Memory Care, you might think I was signing a mortgage for a condo at the facility. Nope. I was simply signing a rental agreement to place my husband in memory care.

Usual and customary

One of the documents I signed was an acknowledgment of how rental and care fees have increased over the years. A percentage increase in fees was attached to each year in the table presented. Though not a guarantee, I could expect rates to increase by 7% each year that Robert lived at Daylight.

These increases were far above the rate of inflation and justified entirely by the nature of the business. As a for-profit business, elder care facilities charge what the market will bear.

Does this pencil?

Before moving Robert to Daylight, I made a budget for the next eight years assuming that Robert’s care costs would increase 7% each year. It was on this foundation that I built my plan to provide for his care for the rest of his life, guessing, of course, on how long that might be. Though tight, I could make this work. 

Flash forward seven months. By every measure, Robert was well cared for at Daylight. The aides were kind, thoughtful, individuals. Many had worked with Daylight for five years or more. These lovely people knew Robert’s likes and dislikes. They sought me out to provide updates on how he was doing and they took his comfort seriously.

Then yikes!

At the start of the new year, I received a letter detailing Daylight’s annual rate increase. The increase was a whopping 8%. An ugly bait-and-switch ploy had been executed on all the families with a loved one in residence at Daylight.

I’d become inured to bad news at this point; there was no value in deliberating the unfairness of it all. Such was my new reality. Though a pinch of anxiety bloomed in my gut, I slipped into planning mode, pulled out my trusty spreadsheets, and rejiggered my inputs to arrive at a new set of projections. This was still doable, though a bit more painful.

It’s only 1%

Let me provide a bit of context for this “small” 1% overage that brought the annual increase to 8% from the expected 7%. Over the eight years, I had budgeted for Robert’s care at Daylight, an additional 8% increase each year would result in additional costs of $42,000. 

I lost my trust in Daylight. I didn’t want to move Robert, but I certainly didn’t believe Daylight and I would ever be negotiating on a level playing field. I’d been duped.

As it turns out, I had yet to learn the full extent of greed in this business. 

But wait! There’s more!

In April 2022, just four months after the annual rate increase, “responsible parties” were presented with yet another rate increase of 1.5% over and above the January increase. This brought the total rate increase to 9.5% for the year. 

An increase of 9.5% each year would cost us more than $108,000 over eight years. If I invested this amount with typical market returns, this added expense would be enough to pay for college for our grandson!

The justification for the April increase was that “food costs had gone up” with COVID-19. I smelled a rat. A dirty, disgusting, decaying rat. I began looking for another placement for Robert. 

What I learned incensed me. 

A good elder care placement service

But let me share a little backstory before I dive in. Before placing Robert at Daylight, I met with an elder care placement service provider whose mission was to place individuals in care settings that meet their needs and the needs of their families. 

Vivienne de Cœur, owner of Heart Placements, had been working with families for over 20 years. She felt it was her duty to monitor the state database of licensed care facilities to ferret out any untoward behaviors or developments that might impact a family’s decision.

For example, an unscrupulous operator, cited by the state for numerous violations, might simply apply for a new care license under a different company name, and no one would be the wiser. Vivienne kept track of who the players were at newly licensed care homes. Were they the bad actors of a suddenly defunct care home? Or had they been in business with great reviews for decades?

We want more of your money

What Vivienne uncovered was shocking to me. Another company had applied for a care license at Robert’s address. This meant that Daylight was moving on. I signed up for alerts from the state on this pending licensure. Yes, Daylight was moving on, but I didn’t yet know why. 

I made an appointment with Levi, the Executive Director of Daylight, the second ED to take the helm since Robert had moved in months before. I asked him to confirm that Daylight was to be replaced and asked if the business was being sold. Levi advised me that, on the contrary, the building had been sold. 

Here’s the nasty truth about large-scale elder and memory care facilities. The purpose-built buildings in which the Daylights of the world provide care, are owned by Real Estate Investment Trusts, or REITs. The sole raison d’etre for the REIT is to make money off the activities in its leased building.

Pants on fire

The April rate increase for residents of Daylight had nothing to do with the cost of food. REITs, in dialog with the care companies they have hired, determine what rate increases must be to meet their earnings targets. Daylight management had neglected to consult the REIT about the proposed rate increases for the year. The REIT that owned the Daylight building required a heftier rate increase than usual to make the building more attractive to a buyer. 

So why had a new entity applied for a care license at the same building site? The new building owner, a new REIT, preferred to work with a different care company than Daylight. Daylight was losing its contract at the location. 

With a little more sleuthing I was able to learn more about the applicant for the Daylight space, and it wasn’t good. The new company’s rates were higher still than what Daylight charged. Customer reviews were spotty. 

Get out while you can!

In the end, I managed to get Robert out of the Daylight location within a few weeks of Woodlark Senior Living taking over the facility. As a parting gift, Woodlark attempted to bill me at rates I’d never contracted for, and at service levels I’d never agreed to. I wrote them a check for services rendered at our old rate and dared them to fight me for more. I waited six weeks for them to cash my check. No doubt Woodlark’s attorneys turned the situation over and looked at it from every angle before they decided they weren’t going to win this battle. 

How to wreck a home

Woodlark is a horrible employer. They “let” the kind, loving caregivers at Daylight stay on, but reset all their accrued vacation to zero. Woodlark was almost immediately cited for violations by the Department of Social Services of the State of California. So many aides had quit, that Woodlark wasn’t attending to residents’ hygiene anymore. Some residents had gone two weeks without a shower. No one who is genuinely concerned about the elderly in their care would let this happen. Woodlark didn’t care. 

Memory care (in this country) is a for-profit business* that endlessly takes and takes and takes from captive families who are navigating one of the most heart-wrenching times of their lives: Moving their loved ones out of their homes to be cared for by others. 

Elder care bankrupts families. I’ve said it before and I repeat it here. I find it reprehensible, an ugly stain on all of us, that in one of the richest countries in the world, we do not care for the most vulnerable among us.

. . . . .

*Search the Internet for “best performing REITs” to get a sense of the outsize profits of healthcare/senior care REITs.

5 thoughts on “A bottom-feeding, for-profit business”

  1. Hi Sharon
    Highway robbery these facilities are doing. So sad that our country doesn’t provide care for our elders. How painful this was for you and your family.
    So many of us will be facing this problem sooner or later.
    Pray you’re doing well. Love, Linda

    1. Thank you, Linda. Highway robbery indeed! That’s a good way to put it. We are doing okay. I just want this message to get out there so that others understand the horrendous way we treat our elders. There is no morally sound justification for this money grubbing. There are some basics in life that should *NOT* be left to the “free market.”

  2. This takes my breath away, Sharon, and brings tears to my eyes. Just reading it feels so defeating and absolutely scary, disgusting, and the a perfect example of the epitome of greed!
    My subconscious thought is that you can write a best seller (of course, I AM serious) from all of this.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Jane. This story was on the docket for many months, but I found it difficult to put to paper because it makes me so very angry. My family is fortunate. We have the resources to weather this calamity, but the vast majority of families do not. A dementia diagnosis, any diagnosis requiring long term care for a loved one, is devastating, full stop. I started writing to help others on this journey. Along the way, I’ve found catharsis in the writing, which surprised me. And surprisingly, the stories have really resonated with and helped our children through this tragedy. Perhaps one day I’ll put it all together in a form that will bring help to more people. Thank you for your kinds words of encouragement!

  3. Oh crap. Given the only reason I recognize the term “REIT” is from reading end-of-the-year tax statements and IRS instructions, and the only people I know who have much to do with those are my investment advisors, and my husband seems to be very early on a similar path, I’m forwarding this segment to them as an FYI. So’s they can contemplate the importance of helping us and others avoid supporting such blood-suckers with our bits of savings.

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