August 29, 2013

Handling of St. Joseph's discharges criticized

The Portland assisted-living facility has shown disrespect and hasn't provided clear details about the future, families say.

By Kelley Bouchard
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – The prospect of being discharged from St. Joseph's Rehabilitation & Residence is emotionally painful for 86-year-old Rita Michaud.

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Albert Michaud, 84, and his wife, Rita Michaud, 86, have been in long-term care after being hit by a car years ago.

Photo courtesy of Audrey Rolfe

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Michaud is one of 34 residents at the St. Joseph's assisted-living unit who were notified last week that they will be discharged to make way for a major renovation. They have until Oct. 1 to find other places to live, which may be tough, given the high demand for assisted-living facilities.

"Every day she wakes up thinking she has to move out today," said Michaud's daughter, Audrey Rolfe of Portland. "The anxiety this is creating for her is excruciating."

Rolfe is one of several family members of St. Joseph's residents who contacted the Portland Press Herald to express disappointment and anger about the way the facility is handling the discharge of their loved ones.

State officials and others are overseeing the process to ensure that residents find safe and appropriate accommodations, especially MaineCare recipients, who face the challenge of finding beds when many facilities are underfunded and have long waiting lists.

Family members say they're most upset about the lack of respect being shown for them and the facility's residents, and the lack of clear information about the discharge process and the future of their loved ones.

"For us now to be treated this way by a facility we trusted to take care of her is devastating for all of us," Rolfe said.

They're also upset that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, which owns St. Joseph's, hasn't intervened or responded publicly to concerns about discharges from the facility at 1133 Washington Ave.

Louis Philippe, whose parents will be discharged from St. Joseph's, said he called the chancery in Portland "to let them know just how un-Catholic-like they are treating elderly residents."

The diocese hasn't responded to repeated requests for comment from the Press Herald.


The situation at St. Joseph's reflects the struggle that long-term care facilities, their residents and their families face across Maine, said Rick Erb, spokesman for the Maine Health Care Association, which represents about 100 nursing homes and 100 assisted-living facilities.

The crisis in long-term care arises, in part, from Maine's median age -- 43.5 years -- which is the highest in the nation. The state's proportion of people 65 and older -- 17 percent -- is second only to Florida's 18.2 percent.

By 2030, more than 25 percent of Mainers will be 65 or older, adding demand on long-term care facilities that already are overburdened.

"I see a whole system that's under stress," Erb said, citing several long-term care facilities that are up for sale, in receivership, eliminating beds or shutting down.

"And it's not as though MaineCare beds were plentiful before St. Joseph's announced its plans," Erb said. He said there's a 92 percent occupancy rate for the 4,232 beds in assisted-living facilities that accept MaineCare, the state's form of Medicaid.

St. Joseph's circumstance also highlights a funding gap that leaves facilities with unreimbursed costs for MaineCare recipients -- 80 percent of assisted-living residents.

MaineCare pays an average of $100 per day -- $3,000 per month -- for eligible residents of assisted-living facilities, Erb said. Those residents also contribute most of their Social Security benefits, about $500 to $1,000 a month.

Meanwhile, assisted-living facilities charge private-pay residents $6,500 or more per month, depending on services and amenities.

St. Joseph's current MaineCare reimbursement rate is $86 per day, Erb said, about $2,580 a month.

Twenty-eight of the 34 residents who are to be discharged are MaineCare recipients, according to the Office of MaineCare Services in the state Department of Health and Human Services.

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