A senior living company has agreed to pay $120,000 and never operate in Vermont again as part of a settlement with the Green Mountain State’s attorney general.
Spring Village at Essex, a 56-bed memory care community in Essex Junction, VT, operated by Woodbine Senior Living, was accused of violating Vermont’s Consumer Protection Act by misrepresenting to families of prospective residents, via its brochure, website and conversations, that it would be able to care for their loved ones at all stages of dementia and aging.
“This isn’t just a matter of marketing. It’s a matter of public health,” Attorney General T.J. Donovan said Monday when announcing the settlement.
A Woodbine representative did not respond to a request for comment.
According to the settlement document, Woodbine’s marketing materials described Spring Village at Essex as “an assisted living community specializing in caring for people with Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and Memory Loss” and “for those who need a higher level of care.” Spring Village at Essex also offered “aging in place, including end of life care,” the marketing materials reportedly stated.
“Assisted living residence” is a type of facility licensed by the state, but Spring Village at Essex was licensed as a different type of facility known as a residential care home, according to the settlement document. Assisted living residences “are facilities explicitly intended to provide for aging in place,” whereas residential care homes “provide care to persons unable to live wholly independently but not in need of the level of care and services provided in a nursing home,” the document states.
Due to the community’s license restrictions, several residents who moved to Spring Village of Essex because of the promise of aging in place later received discharge notices when their needs exceeded the facility’s license, the attorney general said. His office began investigating after several complaints were referred by Vermont Legal Aid’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Project.
Under the terms of the settlement, Woodbine will pay $62,000 to the state of Vermont, pay a total of $48,000 to 48 consumers ($1,000 to each) who moved family members to Spring Village of Essex between April 2016 and October 2017, pay $10,000 to the Vermont Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association for its statewide care and support program initiatives for people affected by dementia, and agree to never own or operate a long-term care facility in Vermont again.
Woodbine managed Spring Village at Essex from December 2014 to April 2018, according to the attorney general’s office. The community now has a different owner, management and name.
Also announced Monday along with the settlement is a new consumer guide created by the Attorney General’s Elder Protection Initiative and the state Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living to explain the main differences between residential care homes, assisted living residences and nursing homes in the state.