For assisted living residents, forced move is ‘terrifying’ | News

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BEVERLY — Jim Lynch is 77 years old and has dementia, diabetes and heart disease. He walks with the aid of a walker, needs help with personal care like showering, and relies on a nurse to administer insulin every day.

Now he has 90 days to find a new home.

Lynch is one of 67 residents of the Motif by Monarch assisted living residence in Beverly who are being forced to move out. The company informed residents this week that they must move out by July 19 so it can do a year-long renovation of the building, with no guarantee that they can return.

The decision to displace frail and elderly people from their homes with such short notice has stunned residents and their families. Patty Lynch, Jim’s daughter, called the prospect of moving her father “terrifying.”

“This is their home,” she said. “It’s a travesty. An utter travesty.”

State Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem, and State Rep. Jerry Parisella, D-Beverly, met Thursday with Elizabeth Chen, the state’s secretary of elder affairs, in response to the situation at the Beverly facility, previously known as Landmark at Ocean View.

Parisella said several local agencies, such as Senior Care, North Shore Community Action Programs and Harborlight Community Partners, are trying to help residents find housing. Officials from the state’s assisted living ombudsman program are scheduled to meet with residents and family members to go over their rights under the law.

“It’s sort of all-hands-on-deck to see how we can help out residents as best we can,” Parisella said. “It’s caught people by surprise. I first heard about it by email from a family member whose 99-year-old grandmother got a notice that they had to leave.”

Parisella said Monarch has agreed to hire some case managers to help residents find housing. The company also said it would pay for moving expenses for moves beyond the 15-mile limit it had originally told residents.

State officials say Monarch has a legal right to tell residents to leave as long as they give 90 days notice. But senior care advocates say the wholesale displacement of an entire building of frail and elderly residents exposes the inadequacies of current regulations regarding assisted living facilities.

Paul Lanzikos, co-founder of the Dignity Alliance Massachusetts coalition, said regulations should be adopted that would require at least 12 months notice of a displacement, full coverage of moving costs, and ongoing emotional and social support for residents until a new location is found. He said residents should be guaranteed the right to return to their facility when the renovations are completed, and that rents will not be exorbitantly increased.

Lanzikos, a former state elder affairs secretary and the former executive director of North Shore Elder Services, said the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs should monitor the entire process and track what happens to each resident until at least six months after the building is reopened.

“There’s a reason these people are living in this type of environment,” Lanzikos said. “They need the support, they need the services, they need the continuity. Sometimes even moving a person from one room to another can be very distressing.”

Parisella said the residents are protected under landlord/tenant laws, so they cannot be evicted without a court order.

Patty Lynch said finding a facility that will accept new residents in only 90 days will be difficult, especially for residents like her father who are members of the PACE program. PACE is administered by MassHealth and Medicare and pays assisted living facilities less than the rate for residents who pay privately.

Lynch said 26 of the 67 residents at Monarch are PACE members, and not all facilities are willing to accept them because of the lower rate.

“It’s like a needle in a haystack,” she said. “We’re talking months and months that it takes for someone to find a place to live.”

Even if residents could return to Monarch after the renovations are complete, the company has said it is undecided if it will accept PACE members.

“They’re probably going to open as a high-end assisted living,” Patty Lynch said. “They don’t make money on PACE because it’s Medicaid dollars.”

Monarch Communities, which is based in Maryland, took over as the operating company of the Beverly facility on Jan. 1. The building, located at 3 Essex St., was purchased by an affiliated company, Welltower, in December for $16 million.

Monarch said it originally planned to make repairs to the building in stages, but ultimately determined the work would be too intrusive and take too long to do it with residents in the building. The building was built in 1837 and originally served as the city’s high school and then junior high school. It has been operating as an assisted living facility since 1996.

Jim Lynch’s family said his health has improved since he moved into the facility a year ago. He’s getting good care, three meals a day, and enjoys the company of the other residents.

“His doctor said the other day that she notices that he’s happier,” said Marty Langlois, Lynch’s wife, who lives in their home just a mile away in Beverly.

As he sat in his chair in his room on the third floor of the facility on Thursday, Jim Lynch said he likes the food and the fact that he gets such good care.

Asked what it would be like to have to move, he said, “Certainly difficult.”

Staff Writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.

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