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Life and Death in Assisted Living

In a major investigation with ProPublica, a new FRONTLINE documentary examined the operations of the nation’s largest assisted living company, raising questions about the drive for profits and fatal lapses in care. The documentary is accompanied by a series of reports published on ProPublica. The documentary, “Life and Death in Assisted Living,” traces the rise of the assisted living sector and Emeritus in particular, which has grown into the country’s largest assisted living provider. Emeritus now operates over 500 facilities in 45 states. Pat McGinnis, CANHR’s Executive Director, was interviewed regarding some of the problems in assisted living.

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The reporters, A.C. Thompson, Jonathan Jones and Carl Byker reviewed extensive Emeritus records, including more than 100 lawsuits filed against the company, and collected thousands of pages of state inspection records for the company’s facilities in California, Texas, Ohio, Iowa, Mississippi and Georgia over the last five years. They looked at every Securities and Exchange Commission filing since 1995, 911 call records and internal company documents such as emails and budgets. They spoke with facility directors and other Emeritus employees, workers at other assisted living companies, academics, ombudsman and regulators. They also attended the trial in the case of Joan Boice, who died while residing at an Emeritus facility in California. The company faces a $22.9 million judgment in that case – an amount that the jurors arrived at by adding together the 2011 compensation for Emeritus’s chairman and CEO.

Emeritus went into immediate defensive mode, calling on assisted living executives to form a “united front,” and asking Emeritus employees to post positive remarks about the company on Frontline and ProPublica’s Facebook and website accounts and noting that the Frontline piece focused on “..a few unfortunate and tragic resident incidents that happened several years ago.” The documentary, however, reveals a different story. The documentary was shown in the Bay Area in August and was broadcast nationally on PBS on September 25, 2013. To view the documentary and read the reports, visit PBS’s website: