Brookdale staffing not based on resident needs, lawsuit maintains

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Brookdale Senior Living misleads prospective residents and their families by indicating that it uses its resident assessment system to tailor care to residents' needs and to staff its communities accordingly, maintains a new lawsuit against the company filed on behalf of a resident.

In reality, the lawsuit contends, “as a matter of corporate policy and standard operating procedure, Brookdale staffs its assisted living facilities based on labor budgets and profit goals determined at the corporate level, and also prohibits its facilities from making staffing decisions themselves to meet the assessed needs of their resident populations.”

The plaintiff's attorneys in the case against the country's largest senior living community operator are seeking to have the lawsuit deemed a class action on behalf of all residents of Brookdale communities in Florida, which they said could exceed 5,000 people. The suit seeks more than $5 million.

Brookdale Senior Public Relations Specialist Heather Hunter told McKnight's Senior Living that the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Plaintiff Gloria Runton moved to Brookdale Bayshore in Tampa, FL, in May 2015, according to the legal complaint. At one point, she left for rehabilitation but returned in June 2016, at which time her guardian “specifically refused to agree to the arbitration provisions in the contract,” the document states.

In addition to paying a $2,000 “community fee” before admission, Runton paid monthly rent and additional monthly fees, based on her personal care needs as determined by Brookdale's resident assessment system, that have increased from approximately $1,077.51 to $2,830 since her arrival, her attorneys said.

“Although Brookdale assessed increased care needs and charged more to purportedly meet these needs, her care and the staff assigned to her have not increased accordingly,” the lawsuit states. “Indeed, Ms. Runton's guardians, friends and others observed that Brookdale staff failed to spend the additional time that corresponds to her increased care needs, despite paying higher monthly fees under Brookdale' promises that these higher fees will result in additional care time.”

The lawsuit notes that by accepting the type of resident who formerly would have gone to a nursing home, Brookdale can charge additional fees on top of its base rate to provide additional needed services. Runton, however, would not have agreed to move to the community and pay its fees for personal care, or she would have negotiated lower fees, had she known that the personal care plans were not used to set staffing levels, her attorneys said.

The lawsuit seeks to require Brookdale to disclose to prospective and current residents, their family members and/or responsible parties that it does not use its resident assessment system and personal service plans to set and provide staffing at its communities.

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