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Channing House story raises huge issues

Original post made by Concerned senior, Old Palo Alto, on Jan 15, 2007

I just finished reading the excellent article in the Weekly describing how Channing House is being sued for forcing a resident to move from her apartment, where she pays to bring in aides to help her, to the assisted living area.

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It seems to me no senior who pays to move into a facility like Channing House should be forced out of their apartment unless they cannot care for themselves nor hire help. If I have the resources to remain in a Channing House apartment and can afford to have nurses or other aides help manage my care, I don't see why the facility should have the right to force me into a less independent and less private area.

Do others have experience with this at any of the senior facilities in the area? This sounds like a legal area of great importance to those of us with parents in these places or soon needing one.

Comments (18)

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Posted by Gary
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 15, 2007 at 12:16 pm

My parents lived in a similar place. There was a written contract that they must move to the assisted living unit, when they could no longer function independently. Both eventually did move. Did this woman, or her guardian, sign such a contract? If so, she must move. If not, then there are some legal issues.

Allowing outside nurses in could be a liability issue.

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Posted by concerted daughter
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 15, 2007 at 1:51 pm

Yes, this article really opened my eyes to the issues that everyone must consider when a senior is contemplating moving into a senior residence. The other thing that blew my mind was this remark in the article:

Herriot purchased her apartment for $180,000 in the early 1990s. If sold today, the apartment would go for $450,000 -- all of which would go to Channing House, Herriot said.

I can't believe that a senior community would get to keep the proceeds of an apartment sale. Who would sign a contract where a huge entrance fee is forfeited when the occupant vacates an apartment? Seems like this woman was not given good advice when she arranged to enter this community.

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Posted by Son
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 15, 2007 at 2:08 pm

I think the concept of paying a large fee up front and not getting any of it back is very standard. I believe the Sequoia's (in Portola Valley) works that way. It's basically a way for the facility to offset the costs of health care for the residents and keep their monthly fees from getting completely out of control. The Classic Hyatt, however, guarantees you your original money back but charges very high monthly fees.

The problem with the Channing House and Sequoia's model, it seems to me, is that there is a huge financial incentive for the institution to move a senior out of their independent living so they can re-sell the unit.

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Posted by concerned daughter
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 15, 2007 at 2:20 pm

Paying a huge fee and not getting it back is not standard. In the past year I've visited 3 rental only places (Palo Alto Commons, Sunrise, and Bridgeport) and none of these require entrance fees. However, assisted living services are extra.

Beyond the conflict of interest that entrance fee model places have, I wonder why anyone would pay for health care and other services they may not need up front by signing over their estate before the fact. Seems like pretty expensive long term care insurance when you don't know if you need it.

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Posted by A Boomer
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 15, 2007 at 2:48 pm

My father, in the last 3 years since my mother died, has gone from Del Webb Sun City "Active Senior Living" to independent living to assisted living to skilled nursing to skilled nursing with hospice.

As the "alpha sibling" in the family, I have been chiefly responsible for managing this entire process for my dad, who has been steadily declining for years, and now is barely competent. Even though his affairs are largely in order, it has been just a nightmare, with his living situations, his health care, his health care insurance, his financial affairs, and his general estate matters taking hours and hours, week after week, of my time and attention. I do not say this to complain, but to point out how complicated these things get, even for someone who does not have a complicated situation.

I do not know about Channing House specifically, but any boomer child dealing with an older parent's affairs should be warned to look over the arrangements carefully, and be sure to understand what mom or dad is getting into. My own experience tells me that once a person reaches a certain stage of inability, there are legal, safety and practical reasons why they have to move into the next stage of care/living, with arrangements appropriate to those circumstances. There often is little choice in the matter, unless planning has taken place well in advance.

Protecting assets is certainly an important part of the effort that children and their parents must address. Apart from wills, trusts, and powers of attorney, how residential assets are used in light of changing health circumstances is a big part of this. I am in great health and in my early 50's but what I have experienced and observed with my dad has been a huge message for me and my wife. One of our things to do this year is to start making plans for ourselves and our living situation for when "the time comes." From a financial and from a "options" standpoint, people are better off doing these things before they get to the point where they really need them. It is very difficult to get into certain places once health problems start to present themselves--that in part is what has contributed to my dad's situation being such a time consuming responsibility for me.

This is an area that can benefit from a great deal more public information and education. It will help people who find themselves unexpectedly handling a feeble parent's affairs, as I did, and also can help our boomer cohort make the necessary plans to make it easier on ourselves and our loved ones and children as we reach that stage of life.

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Posted by Periwinkle
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 15, 2007 at 10:13 pm

If our generation is smart, we'll start looking for options to expensive senior residential living. I don't have the answers, but there has to be a better way than what we currently see available to most seniors. Channing and Hyatt are very expensive. How many in our generation are going to be able to afford care like that? We'd better figure this out, and get some new ideas working NOW, because by 2020 (maybe earlier) , one-in-three Americans will be senior citizens.

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Posted by Aging Boomer
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 16, 2007 at 12:15 am

My parents have been in Channing House for over 12 years. I can't thank them enough for having made that choice, as all of their physical and material needs have been cared for by an excellent and caring staff. Their social life has also been great-- they made so many wonderful friends who are now a much-appreciated extra support system as my mother nears the end of her life. Their balloon payment on entrance has been worth every single penny-- and, at least when they moved in, it was very standard procedure. There weren't as many places available, and certainly few with the same quality-- Sequoias was really the only other local one that provided such complete service, with all living options available at one site. My parents looked at Sequoias as well as other facilities, and chose Channing House because it had everything AND a good central location. Now there are a lot more places that have sprung up-- but still, most of them do not provide all living options. A friend of mine placed her father in a lovely retirement community, but ended up having to move him-- twice-- when his health condition changed over time. None of it was cheap, anywhere. I agree that there need to be more places within financial reach of more people-- my parents were by no means rich, but having Palo Alto real estate that had increased in value many times over made their entrance in CH possible-- they were lucky. Channing House was unfairly vilified in the Weekly article-- there are circumstances about this case that were not discussed, perhaps appropriately because of privacy. CH has never forced anyone to move, although they certainly have the right to do so when they feel that physical considerations require a different level of care. They have never kicked anyone out when they ran out of money, either. I'd move in there tomorrow if I could-- it's a great place. The Baby Boomer generation is so under-prepared for retirement and health issues that will arise-- the entire country is going to be in big trouble in the next few decades as we enter our 70s and 80s... Think severe bed shortage, staffing shortage (most nurses/aides for these homes come from other places like the Phillipines and Tonga; the US devalues nursing so badly, and the training is so hard to get into, that young men and women don't go into it even if they'd like to...), financial disaster as the health system collapses...

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Posted by Draw the Line
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 16, 2007 at 10:58 am

Agreed with the last poster. MIT business professors were telling their students 30 years ago to make sure they prepared to care for themselves because there was no way the Social Security and Medicare systems were going to be viable without privatizing long before we were 65. Looks like they were right.

They way we are going, it is going to have to become a system that is means tested, which means pretty much everyone who owns a home in this town will receive nothing from at the very least, social security. Or, nobody will recieve enough to have even a subsistence living.

Unless we vote in a huge tax on our kids. Or develop the politcal will to start letting everyone under the age of 50 to put even just a thousand bucks of their social security payments per year away into a private fund.

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Posted by Aging Boomer
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 16, 2007 at 3:05 pm

A couple of other comments:

No one purchases an apartment when they move into Channing House-- they're not buying real estate, they're entering into an agreement w/Channing House that they will always have a place to live in, that they will have medical care until they die-- things like that. They do not buy a condo or other physical space. And yes, as Gary noted, they sign a contract that says they understand that CH has the right to move them to assisted living if necessary.

Some residents move to AL temporarily, following surgery or a during a protracted illness; others move there if they become unable to care for themselves. They always still have the option of hiring extra aides/nurses if they so choose, although the 24-hour care at Channing is quite good.

There are three levels of care available, from living in your own studio in the AL wing, to living in a two-bed room (where you can personalize your half of the room w/furniture, decor, etc), to Skilled Nursing which is more like a hospital setting providing for more intensive supervision.

If you haven't been there or had to deal with trying to find a good quality home, you may not understand just how good Channing House is... not perfect of course, but compared to other places out there....

P.S. I have tried to make paragraphs and last time all the formatting got lost. Hopefully it holds this time...

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Posted by A Boomer
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 16, 2007 at 7:52 pm

Aging Boomer's dscription mirrors the experiences I have had moving my father from one level to the next in the last 3 years. Merely having an understanding of that aspect of things was an education for me, and while I have no experience with Channing, their model is common, and provides a great deal of peace of mind for people who want to be sure that they always have a place to live, even as their health conditions change for the worse. Not the best option for everyone, but one that makes a great deal of sense for certain people.

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Posted by k
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 17, 2007 at 9:33 am

I am very interested in the story - what is this about other details - circumstances - that were not discussed in the story? Maybe you cannot describe these in details owing to privacy concerns, but please give some indication of what you are referring to-

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Posted by Daughter of Channing Residents
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 17, 2007 at 10:14 am

As the daughter of Channing House residents, I want to report that they have had a wonderful experience there. They have received very good care, whether well or ill, consistently, and have been provided with many cultural and social opportunities. They went into Channing House with a full understanding of the financial arrangement and have not regretted it. The lawsuit against Channing House arises from a dispute, inevitable in any setting, that will be resolved in the courts. It should not be tried in the newspaper. Please look at the whole picture. One complaint should not detract from the overall reputation of an excellent place for elders and the community.

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Posted by susan st james
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 19, 2007 at 7:03 am

they are in violation of the fair housing rights . which bush has donme much to try to sidestep. find a legal person or if you must file with the fheo wihtou a lawyer. youll get a longer battle and far less help if you go straight to feds. they dont tend to find the same things inthe laws as a real lawyer deos. thnakyou regan thankyou bush. allthe sdseniors voted those we harte civiel rights republicans in and then dont like the results.well here they are. im disbaeld and homless and i live these truths of discirmianination told too many sidinablities wornfg disabilties more.. i live the new amareicas lack of civil rights very the back seat of my car.

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Posted by Ann McClintock
a resident of another community
on Jan 19, 2007 at 8:19 am

John's mother was in CH for many years. Because we didn't live near, we were grateful for all of the staff's help. When she moved into the AL area, and then the nursing care area,I tried to get to Palo Alto about once a month. We were never once worried about her care. (with special thanks to Lucia). That's our experince, a very good one

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Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 19, 2007 at 7:06 pm

This is a huge and complex topic, worthy of much community airing and debate. I have some quite unpleasant personal experience with Channing House (CH) which I will share as briefly as possible in case it is helpful for anyone considering their options. My mother, hoping to save her children from the difficulty she'd had with her own senile father, moved into CH shortly before her 82nd birthday (the age limit for entrance). She paid about $160,000 in 2002 for her studio apartment -- not to own it, but to occupy it while she could live independently. Most of that amount was considered "prepaid medical cost" and was thus potentially tax deductible. She also paid a "monthly care fee" that included all services and meals -- it started at slightly less than $2,000 per month and increased by a small percentage every year or so. None of which is at all unreasonable. The distressing part is that my mother was told -- and believed -- that by signing this continuing care contract, she would be taken care of for the rest of her life, no matter what. And that is not what happened. After an exhausting series of falls and surgeries, during which time she was forced to move out of her studio (despite having 24-hour private care) and eventually into a truly tiny shared room, Mom was showing unmistakable signs of dementia. To make a long story slight short, (and the details are disturbing and include what I can only see as CH's failure to provide adequate facilities for its residents' care) CH gave us 10 days to relocate her -- for her own safety. Not only would they pay nothing toward her off-site care, they even expected her to continue to pay them the monthly fee.
Please consider this a warning to proceed cautiously if you are thinking of moving into CH. In the course of many conversations I had while trying to find out if we had any rights or recourse, I was told by lawyers interested in elder rights issues that the contracts for Continuing Care facilities are written by the facilites' lawyers and "vetted" in Sacramento, all very carefully so that they have a legal platform to do whatever they want. Perhaps once CH has completed their long overdue Health Care Center they will have facilities and trained staff to care for their demented residents, but I don't think you should count on it!

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Posted by Aging Boomer
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 29, 2007 at 1:19 am

Wow, Elizabeth, your story is chilling and sad-- and I'm not disputing your version of events, but I'm confused, as I've seen many many residents at CH who developed dementia of all kinds who were not asked to move. I know of one who developed a very violent aspect of Alzheimer's, who was moved into a facility that was equipped to handle such problems-- but then he was moved back to CH some months later when the aggression abated.

You probably can't or don't want to share all the details in your mother's case, and I'm not trying to defend CH's actions in a case I know nothing about-- it's an institution, after all, and as such subject to the same pitfalls of any bureaucratic operation, so can make egregious mistakes-- but my mother has had dementia for several years and hasn't been asked to move. So I'm just puzzled.

Your story is another bracing reminder of the need for more options and different levels of care for all of us-- and of the bewildering and sometimes abrasive journey when trying to ensure quality care for our parents (and, ultimately, ourselves...). I really feel sympathy for what you had to deal with-- it's not the CH I've experienced, but that doesn't make it untrue or impossible...

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Posted by Sarah Rahmim
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2007 at 9:03 am

I read with some dismay about Ms. Herriot's situation for living arrangements at Channing House. It caused me to think about the advantages and disadvantages of different living arrangements for the elderly.

Independent living in a large facility has lots of social advantages. Often there are many organized activities that a resident can enjoy. Certainly this stimulation is very important for elders who are still mentally capable to enjoy the activities. This encourages brain-cell stimulation and a "young" attitude.

Unfortunately, these kinds of places are not set up to provide the extra care on an individual basis that an increasingly dependent senior might need.

When additional assistance is needed, a person has several choices, such as in-home care, moving to another location within the facility or moving to another facility. For seniors who need more assistance with their activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, laundry and cooking, but want to keep their environment familiar and comfortable, one possibility is in-home care, which can be very expensive or burdensome on family members who try to help.

Another solution is a move to a private, six-bed residential assisted-living facility. There the person is sharing a house with five other residents and can often have a private room with their own furniture and things nearby. Care is provided by two or three consistent caregivers. Stimulation is provided by activities and "family-like" interactions with the caregivers and other residents, especially around the dining table for meals.

These residences are licensed by the state and often have the ability to continue care for the person even if hospice services are needed and only if long-term medical care is needed, such as the inability to take medications or wound care, would the resident need to move to another facility.

If Ms. Herriot doesn't win her case against Channing House, might I suggest the family contact one of the many agencies in the valley that can help them in their search for a suitable arrangement. Just be forewarned that some facilities are run by folks interested in charging more for less rather than focus on helping the senior have a great quality of life and be their best. Careful investigation of the facility is necessary.

Sarah Rahamim, R.N.

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Posted by Pat Carew
a resident of another community
on Feb 17, 2008 at 12:16 pm

Hi. If a person has some cancer in his cerebellum, and it is radiated, will certain functions be affected severely, or only minimally (since nerves are bundled up and are kind of parallel to other nerve bundles...obviously, I don't know much about this. Any help, pls?


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