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Attorney General Donovan Settles with Former Manager of Spring Village Over Consumer Protection Violations

January 6, 2020

Contact: Jamie Renner, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-3171

Consumer Guide to Long-Term Care Facilities Launched

Attorney General T.J. Donovan today announced that his office has reached a settlement with Maryland-based Woodbine Senior Living, LLC, for violations of Vermont’s Consumer Protection Act. Woodbine was the manager of a 56-bed residential care home called Spring Village at Essex in Essex Junction, Vermont. The settlement resolves claims that, under Woodbine’s management, Spring Village—a “memory care” home—misrepresented to families of prospective residents that it would be able to care for their loved ones at all stages of dementia and aging. Attorney General Donovan also announced the release of an educational guide for consumers on the key differences between nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and residential care homes, developed in partnership with the Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living (DAIL).

“Older Vermonters and their families making crucial and difficult decisions about long-term care deserve the truth from care facilities as to the levels of care they can and can’t provide,” said Attorney General Donovan. “Residents and their families should be able to rest easy that a promise today won’t be broken tomorrow. This isn’t just a matter of marketing; it’s a matter of public health.”

Woodbine made representations that residents of Spring Village would be able to “age in place,” receive “end of life care,” and therefore never have to move again. These representations were critical to families looking for a facility that could accommodate a progressive illness such as dementia, and looking to avoid later having to move their loved ones, given the traumatic impact moves can have on individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s. However, as a residential care home, Spring Village was significantly restricted by state laws and regulations as to the level of care it was permitted to provide.

Due to these restrictions, multiple residents who moved to Spring Village under the promise of “aging in place” later received notices of discharge when their needs came to exceed the facility’s license. Families who received such notices scrambled to either legally challenge them or find new care options for their loved ones. The Attorney General’s investigation began after a pattern of complaints was identified and referred to the Attorney General’s Elder Protection Initiative by Vermont Legal Aid’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Project.

“I applaud the family members of residents who spoke up about their experiences so that it would not happen to others,” said Vermont Long-Term Care Ombudsman Sean Londergan. “Today’s settlement is a great example of cross-collaboration among agencies.”

Under the terms of the settlement announced today, Woodbine has agreed to:

  • Never again operate a long-term care facility in Vermont;
  • Pay $62,000 to the State of Vermont;
  • Pay $48,000, in total, to 48 consumers (each receiving $1,000) who moved family members to Spring Village during the time period April 2016 to October 2017; and
  • Pay $10,000 to the Vermont Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association for its statewide care and support program initiatives for individuals impacted by Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias.

Grace Gilbert Davis, Executive Director of the Vermont Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, said, “This generous support will help Vermonters at the grassroots level through our free education programs and peer-based support groups around the state for individuals impacted by Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias.”

Long-term care options can be confusing for consumers. The Attorney General’s Elder Protection Initiative has partnered with DAIL to make it easier for Vermonters to understand their options and make decisions by creating a new consumer guide, called “Comparing Nursing Homes, Assisted Living Residences, and Residential Care Homes in Vermont.” The guide lays out the primary distinctions between Vermont nursing homes, assisted living residences, and residential care homes, including:

  • How the facility-type is defined;
  • Restrictions on who is eligible to be a resident;
  • Restrictions on the level of care the facility can provide;
  • Facility staffing requirements;
  • Permissible discharge practices; and
  • When the State may grant a facility a “variance”—or waiver—from governing rules.

“Information about options and what you can expect from each type of available facility is a critical component in making the right decisions about where and how you want to age,” said DAIL Commissioner Monica Hutt. “This guide is a great step in making those choices transparent and easier to understand for all Vermonters.”

A copy of the consumer guide can be found here.

A copy of the settlement can be found here.

Woodbine managed Spring Village from December of 2014 to April of 2018. The facility now operates under new ownership and new management as Maple Ridge Memory Care.