In September, the Little Sisters of the Poor announced their withdrawal from running the Jeanne Jugan Residence on Highland Ave in Somerville. They said they were "actively seeking a mission‐driven sponsor to acquire the Somerville Home and continue to provide high quality compassionate care."
This was very disturbing, following by less than a year the closing of the Somerville Home, a rest home on Highland Ave. In the past year, both adult day health services run by Windsor House in Cambridge have closed, also due to inadequate public rates and increasing costs.
The Little Sisters of the Poor have run a home for elderly poor people in Somerville since 1889, building this residence in 1978. They have offered 27 independent living apartments, 58 rest home beds and 26 skilled nursing facility care and are universally praised for their compassionate and excellent care. This would have been another tremendous loss for older people hoping to age in their communities, and for the continuum of care in the region.
VNA to the rescue
On January 7, the VNA agreed to buy and operate the Residence, keeping all the residents. Sister Maureen Weiss, the Jeanne Jugan administrator, said "We have been so impressed by the quality of care provided to the residents and the dignity and respect afforded to the residents by the staff [of the VNA]. We believe that our residents will continue to receive excellent care after the transfer of the facility and for many years to come."
Adding the Residence means that the VNA will operate most of the services in the continuum of elder care:
- home health
- assisted living
- rest home
- nursing facility
The Bigger Picture
The continuum of care across Massachusetts is very fragile. There is wide recognition of a crisis in the nursing home industry. This article summarizes a recent report, including the closure of 29 nursing facilities in the past two years, (follow the link to download the report from the Center for Health Information and Analysis) Usage is falling, average operating margins are negative, and state spending continues to grow. I serve on the Nursing Facility Task Force to address the issues and will write more when our report is finished January 31, but there's a lot of fascinating information already on the Task Force website.
Adult day health programs are a crucial part of allowing people to age at home. At least 24 have closed since 2012.
SCM Transportation has been providing transportation for seniors and folks with disabilities for almost 30 years. This year low state rates made it hard to continue. We were able to add $200,000 to the supplemental budget as a bridge to restructuring.
Home care agencies have hard time filling positions due to low pay. In the most recent year for which we have data, 12,448 clients had their services suspended due to lack of home care workers. Turnover is extremely high: a third of home care agencies’ direct care workforce turns over every 3 months.
Across the continuum, low state reimbursement rates are jeopardizing the survival of institutions that provide care, and making it almost impossible for direct care workers to survive. On February 4, Rep. Ruth Balser and I have called an informational hearing by the Elder Affairs Committee to learn more about the crisis in the direct care workforce. I'll report on that here too.