Memory Care

The Dying Light

Millions suffer from Alzheimer’s and other forms of memory loss. Memory care is a fast-growing field, but residents in memory care facilities are fragile and difficult to care for. The risks are formidable.
By: | August 31, 2016 • 10 min read

Consider first these numbers.

There are 5.2 million people in the U.S. suffering from Alzheimer’s, the chief form of dementia that is invariably fatal, usually within eight to 10 years of diagnosis.


With age being the chief risk factor, and the baby boomer generation crossing over the age of 65 by the thousands every day, the number of people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in this country is expected to grow to between 14 million and 16 million by 2050.

Ten to 15 years ago, the sector of health care referred to as memory care was barely known. Now, those that own and manage long-term health care facilities say it is the fastest growing segment in their industry.

“It’s off the charts,” is how Tim Goux, the founder and CEO of CareRise, a New Orleans-based post-acute-care risk management company, described the growth in the construction of memory care wings and stand-alone facilities.

Frank Russo, senior vice president, risk and legal affairs, Silverado Senior Living

Frank Russo, senior vice president, risk and legal affairs, Silverado Senior Living

“The need for quality memory care communities is unprecedented,” said Frank Russo, senior vice president, risk and legal affairs at Silverado Senior Living, an Irvine, Calif.-based company that devotes itself exclusively to the care of patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Lancaster Pollard, a privately held investment banking firm based in Columbus, Ohio, conducts an annual survey of C-suite executives in the long-term health care space.

Steve Kennedy, a senior managing director with the company, said that 61 percent of those executives surveyed feel that memory care will be the fastest growing segment in the senior living space in 2016.

Kennedy said construction investment in the space ran about $4 billion in 2015 and is ticking up at about a 5 percent pace annually.

“There is enormous and continuous demand for stand- alone memory care communities and as a result we are witnessing more construction of new memory care facilities than we have ever seen before,” said Silverado’s Russo.

“It’s a disease and a condition that is expensive and unfortunately, there is no current cure,” said Kennedy. “It’s sad what’s driven the growth of this.

“But on the positive side, having a significant number of facilities that can meet the very specific and unique needs of dementia and Alzheimer’s patients is a blessing that didn’t exist five years ago.”

Bank lending has gotten tighter, but there are enough private and public sector lending sources to build facilities.

The demand, the need, is certainly there. And insurance capacity, while cautious, is ample in long-term health care.

A Formidable List of Risks

This all brings us to the risks, and the risks in memory care are formidable.

To begin with, we are talking about a patient population that is losing and will completely lose one of the most important tools a patient can have: the capacity to cooperate and take an active role in their health care and well-being.

“Let’s say you are on a liquid diet. They have a swallowing issue. But they see a cheese Danish sitting on a plate somewhere and they eat it. That compromises their airway and that can lead to death.” — Barry Weiner, managing director, health care, Aon

“Among many other medical diagnoses there is a very significant progressive morbidity,” said Patricia Hughes, a senior vice president for healthcare with OneBeacon.

“This is such an awful disease that in the final stages people will become bed-bound, needing around-the-clock care. With that immobility comes a number of other issues, pressure ulcers, etc.,” she said.

As in all senior care, the most frequent loss occurrence in memory care is falls. But the most severe risk in memory care is elopement; that patients with no memory and a penchant for wandering will escape a facility and be at the mercy of either the natural elements or predatory humans.

“When a family entrusts you with the care of their memory-impaired loved one, this also includes safety,” Russo said.

“Elopements are a very realistic threat to all memory care communities and an elopement gone wrong can be nearly indefensible from both a licensing and litigation standpoint,” he said.

“If a provider does not put in the time, effort, training and education required to handle this kind of care, insurance costs, negative PR or litigation can quickly and easily put them out of business.”

Ten years ago, according to CareRise’s Goux, assisted living in Texas and Florida was overbuilt and thus heavily marketed. That resulted in patients in need of overall skilled nursing care, including memory care, who were not always being properly screened for assisted living facilities.

Because of some improper screening, some of those assisted living facilities experienced elopements and in some cases, people lost their lives.

Tim Goux, founder and CEO, CareRise

Tim Goux, founder and CEO, CareRise

“That’s an easy courtroom judgment, and in many cases, quick settlements of a million dollars are the norm,” Goux said.

“There is a hit to reputation, to trust,” said OneBeacon’s Hughes.

“Now the other families are concerned. ‘That could happen to my mother or father.’ ”

The full list of risks in memory care is very long and for family members, it can be emotionally wrenching.

Dementia patients lose inhibitions. Patient-on-patient aggression occurs. Patient-on-caregiver violence happens.

“Residents with dementia and Alzheimer’s can be very challenging to care for if you aren’t well trained and educated on the disease process,” said Russo.

“An Alzheimer’s resident can demonstrate difficult behaviors including physical aggression [to both staff and residents]. Care staff must be able to recognize triggers for these behaviors and understand the appropriate corrective measures, which may include repositioning or redirecting. Due to these types of behaviors, typically not found in a traditional AL [assisted living] or SNF [skilled nursing facility] setting, the risk for workers’ comp claims and elder abuse can be elevated,” he said.


The flip side of that risk is an allegation of neglect or abuse by the caregiver. It takes a special and a specially trained person to care for someone who might hit them or abuse them in some other fashion.

Sexual relationships may develop between memory care residents. Determining whether both parties consented is very difficult to do. Imagine breaking that kind of news to a daughter or son.

Medication issues, and adherence to medical treatment become much more complicated. Remember, any cooperation from the patient is out the door.

“Let’s say you are on a liquid diet. They have a swallowing issue,” said Barry Weiner, a managing director with Aon’s health care practice based in Philadelphia.

“But they see a cheese Danish sitting on a plate somewhere and they eat it,” he said. “That compromises their airway and that can lead to death.

“Every challenge is amplified in memory care,” Weiner said.

Now let’s add another layer of risk. Given all the difficulties in taking care of patients with memory care, there is now and will continue to be a shortage of qualified staff and management to care for this patient population.

“The risk is supplying the HR to meet the demand,” said Goux. “It’s not technology. It’s not bricks and mortar.

“The real issue is the lack of clinical caregiving human resources to meet demand irrespective of whether the building is 30 years old or the Ritz-Carlton.”

Burnout and turnover in geriatric care is severe. Goux estimates that 50 percent of the head nursing talent in general senior care living turns over every year.

“It is a very specialized management and personnel workplace,” said Lancaster Pollard’s Kennedy.

“… We are witnessing more construction of new memory care facilities than we have ever seen before.” — Frank Russo, senior vice president, risk and legal affairs, Silverado Senior Living

“By nature your supply of staff and management is going to be a little less fertile than those forms of care that have been around longer,” he said.

“When I go to association meetings in Wisconsin, the biggest topic is how do we recruit staff and keep staff at a competitive wage?”

“There is a tremendous amount of turnover and burnout in this industry,” said Hughes.

“One of the biggest risks to these facilities is who you hire and background checks,” she said.

“Do they have experience and if not do I provide training for this very specialized type of care?”

Setting Expectations and Other Best Practices

Given the high litigation exposure in this sector, and the emotional pain the family members of memory care patients must invariably be in, clear, documented communication and setting reasonable expectations are key risk mitigation tasks.

“Communication with authorized family members is extremely important,” said Hughes.


Part of that means being clear with family members about the stages of degeneration their relative is going to experience. That includes being frank about such touchy subjects as elderly sexual relationships, aggressive behavior, the near-certainty of falls and the threat of elopement.

“As the experts in memory care, it is our responsibility to educate our families on the disease(s) and the progression of the disease,” Russo said.

“Seeing their loved ones in this condition can be a very scary time for families. Especially ones who have never experienced this before. We’ve experienced this thousands of times and hopefully we can provide families with the proper knowledge and understanding to better accept the difficult realities associated with it.

“When you don’t have reasonable expectations, that is when you have lawsuits,” he said.

Barry Weiner, managing director, Aon

Barry Weiner, managing director, Aon

“Many of my clients do a very good job of this,” said Aon’s Weiner. “They start having those discussions very early on.”

Having processes in place, documenting them and communicating clearly and professionally with your insurance carrier is also very important.

“A facility can protect themselves by having protocols in place and continually following them,” said Alicia Marsiglia, a vice president and allied health care product head for Hiscox.

“Even if a fall does happen, we can point to all the things they did right to try and prevent that so that negligence is harder to prove,” she said.

Marsiglia said underwriters view more kindly organizations that deliver coverage applications that are clear and very well organized.

“When I see an application that is concisely completed, that there seems to be thought behind the plans and protocols that are in place, I feel like that is always going to be a better risk,” she said.

“It’s just an offshoot of what they are doing in their risk management,” she said.

According to Silverado’s Russo, regular inspections of memory care facilities to examine and prevent the dire threat of elopements, and regular assessments of residents to gauge the progression of this dread disease are two such protocols.

There are hopes that foreign-trained nurses and aides can help ameliorate the staff and management shortage that is so acute in memory care.

But whether foreign-trained staff can come to the rescue or not, CareRise’s Goux said making the best of human resources in this area means taking the time to know what is really important to staff members. Listen to them authentically, he said, and you have a much better chance of keeping them.

“You don’t know what matters to people unless you bring them in and talk to them,” said Goux, whose family has been in the senior care business for generations.

“It needs to be a truly focused group effort within an organization to ensure that the ownership is aware of what matters to those employees,” he said.

That may mean free meals on campus; top-notch health care coverage; or making sure that if one employee group, say the nurses, has a special outing, that the nurses’ aides get their own day out.

Constant mini-focus groups (weekly) with the facility team, ensuring their needs are being met, coupled with rewarding good customer-based performance is a solid way of retaining staff within the marketplace, Goux said.

Russo said stringent testing of prospective hires is one way to avoid litigation, to in fact determine whether an individual is right for a very challenging work environment.

“We take that all the way from the initial hiring process. We even conduct an integrity test for every new associate and if they don’t pass then they don’t work for Silverado,” he said.

“We take a lot of measures to make sure that we have the best people in place that can handle the unique issues and challenges that come with Alzheimer’s and dementia care,” he said.

Those not trained in this area will probably react the wrong way when struck or otherwise abused by a resident. That could well lead to a charge of elder abuse.

“That’s a huge risk to providers when caring for this type of vulnerable and impulsive resident,” Russo said.

With this need and this type of demand, investment money is pouring into this space.

“It’s a disease and a condition that is expensive and there is no cure.” —Steve Kennedy, senior managing director, Lancaster Pollard

But OneBeacon’s Hughes said companies need to decide whether this is the right business for them.


Does a company have the will and the ability to iron out uncertainty and create consistency in its memory care operations?

“By using an enterprise risk management approach you really decide whether this is a business you want to be in,” Hughes said.

Communicating your mission, your values, and why you will succeed is also very important in the conversation with insurance carriers, Russo said.

“I have the CEO and the CFO meet with the underwriters and explain the purpose of our organization. If we can explain what we do, that we’re not just in this business to make a profit, that we actually are in it to change lives and affect the world, that makes them more comfortable.” &

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Employment Practices


Sexual harassment is a growing concern for corporate America. Risk managers can pave the way to top-down culture change.
By: | March 5, 2018 • 12 min read

The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements opened up Pandora’s Box, launching countless public scandals and accusations. The stories that continue to emerge paint an unflattering picture of corporate America and the culture of sexual harassment that has permeated it for decades.


“The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. It’s time to do something about it,” reads the official tagline of Time’s Up, one of the most vocal groups demanding change.

The GoFundMe campaign that supports the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund raised more than $16.7 million in less than a month, making it the most successful GoFundMe initiative on record.

Funds will be used to help victims of sexual harassment and assault bring legal action against harassers, as well as provide public relations consultation to manage any media attention such suits might attract.

The problem was never really a secret.

In surveys conducted since 1980 by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, 40 percent of women and 15 percent of men consistently reported being sexually harassed at work.

In a sweeping meta-analysis of 25 years’ worth of research data, published in “Personnel Psychology,” an average of 25 percent of women reported experiencing sexual harassment at work. When respondents were given clear definitions of harassing behavior, that figure shot up to 60 percent.

The current climate is just now pushing awareness to the forefront. It was reported last November that law firms in the nation’s capital are seeing a spike in inquiries about sexual harassment cases.

Laura Coppola, regional head of commercial management liability in North America, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty

In addition, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) website is seeing visits to its harassment web page double.

There’s no question the costs to businesses can be staggering. Twenty-First Century Fox reportedly incurred $50 million in costs tied to the settlement of sexual harassment and discrimination allegations in its Fox News division, as well as a $90 million settlement of shareholder claims arising from sexual harassment scandals.

In June, the company disclosed in a regulatory filing that it had $224 million in costs during the fiscal year related to “management and employee transitions and restructuring” at business units, including the group that houses Fox News.

If time is indeed up, it won’t just impact Hollywood, Silicon Valley or Capitol Hill. It will impact every workplace, in every industry.

“It affects everybody,” said Marie-France Gelot, senior vice president and insurance & claims counsel for Lockton’s Northeast Claims Advisory Group.

“I think anybody in corporate America — at some point — has seen it or been aware of it or been around it.”

“This particular phenomenon is certainly at a much wider scope than we’ve seen in the last decade or so,” said Laura Coppola, regional head of commercial management liability in North America, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty.

“This is going to touch many industries, many segments, and many people.”

Employers are beginning to wonder if their workplace could be next.

“I think if you’d been asking [insureds] a year ago, ‘Are you interested in hearing about sexual harassment prevention?’ I think the answer would have been, ‘No, we’re good, we’ve got it,’ ” said Bob Graham, vice president, HUB International Limited.

“But I think now everyone’s saying ‘Sure, yes, we’d like to hear something.’ ”

Leading the Conversation

As American workplaces come under increasing scrutiny, the time is ripe for a large-scale pivot in the way employers manage risks related to sexual harassment.

The co-chairs of the EEOC’s select task force on the study of harassment in the workplace expressed it aptly in 2016:

“With legal liability long ago established, with reputational harm from harassment well known, with an entire cottage industry of workplace compliance and training adopted and encouraged for 30 years, why does so much harassment persist and take place in so many of our workplaces? And, most important of all, what can be done to prevent it? After 30 years — is there something we’ve been missing?”

Experts in the management liability field unanimously told Risk & Insurance® these issues should be elevated to the board level and the C-suite.

“Just as cyber liability shifted rapidly from an IT discussion to a board level discussion, so too will the harassment and discrimination discussion go beyond HR and be elevated to the highest levels,” said Coppola. It will become a corporate-wide, enterprise-wide conversation.

“It’s going to take some time to get to that board level, but it’s going to have to happen,” said Paul King, national practice leader, management and professional services, USI Insurance Services.

“Risk management and HR cannot go down parallel paths, not understanding one another. Not anymore. There’s too much at stake.” — Paul King, national practice leader, management and professional services, USI Insurance Services

Risk managers, said Kelly Thoerig, U.S. employment practices liability coverage leader, Marsh, are well suited to lead this conversation, which means actively partnering with human resources, the legal department, the general counsel’s office and outside counsel.


“Just like the quarterback depends on the offensive line, on receivers, on the running backs, it’s not a one-man show,” said King. “This can’t be the risk manager operating in a vacuum; they have to be liaising with multiple parts of the organization.”

Added King, “Risk management and HR cannot go down parallel paths, not understanding one another. Not anymore. There’s too much at stake.”

Connecting with outside counsel can also be of great benefit to risk managers, said Coppola.

“[They can] provide a very independent objective view of what they see in the overall market and how their knowledge of the individual client’s best practices can be improved and enhanced to ensure that they are protecting employees and the organization.”

Brokers and carriers also may be able to offer insights and services. Unfortunately, that piece is often lost because risk management and HR are siloed.

“The [knowledge of the] services that come with the insurance policy end up with the policy — in a drawer in the risk manager’s office,” said Tom Hams, employment practice liability insurance leader, Aon.

“HR doesn’t know that they exist. Even if they’re just online blogs or something like that, they could be more meaningful to the HR department than they are to risk management.

“So it’s important to make sure that companies are aware they’ve got those tools and — more importantly — to share them internally.”

Expediting Cultural Change

The X factor that underpins every aspect of these efforts is culture, experts agreed.

“It’s not so much ‘does the company have best-in-class policies and procedures in place;’ I think many of them do. I think that a significant change needed is doing a full overhaul of corporate culture, and that’s no small feat,” said Gelot.

Paul King, national practice leader, management and professional services, USI Insurance Services

True culture change can only come from the top level. But that isn’t likely to happen unless everyone at the top understands what the scope of the exposure could be if it’s not addressed appropriately on the front end. And for that, money talks, said Thoerig, who will be presenting on the topic at RIMS 2018 in San Antonio.

“Nothing is more instructive than real tangible claims examples and settlement amounts. Arm yourself with … recent, relevant claims examples specific to the industry and the jurisdictions the company operates in.”

In addition, said King, HR and legal should be regularly feeding claims information to risk managers to share at quarterly meetings of the board and give specific updates around these issues.

Armed with that level of intelligence, top brass can set the goals that will drive all anti-harassment efforts, said experts, putting an emphasis on identifying and correcting behavior that could potentially expose a company to liability.

Better Training and Reporting 

The best anti-harassment programs are multilayered, said Hams, with each facet carefully tailored to suit the employee population, the industry and the organization’s goals. A clearly defined policy is essential, stating that harassment will not be tolerated and neither will retaliation against those who report it.

The policy should be clear that employees are expected to report harassment or unacceptable behavior. Hams said he’s seen companies go so far as to state employees who don’t speak up are in violation of the policy.

“At least it should give them pause to stop and think about what they might have seen before they click the button or sign the document,” he said.

Companies should consider how uncomfortable employees may be about speaking up. An open-door policy is a start.

But there should also be multiple reporting points throughout the organization, said Hams, and an anonymous hotline for those reluctant to bring the matter up with anyone in their chain of command, and a multilingual hotline as well.

An effective training plan will have multiple moving parts and should touch every level of the organization from the executive suite to managers and supervisors to the rank and file. Comprehensive training is especially critical for the managers and supervisors who might receive or investigate complaints.

Many large employers already have training programs that can be considered best-in-class. Small to midsized employers, however, may still be using the cookie-cutter compliance-centric training that has dominated the field for decades.

The goal of this training is to hit all the bases related to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, ticking off a list of acts or speech that would be considered illegal and affirming the company will not tolerate illegal behavior.

Overwhelmingly though, this type of training misses the mark. Studies have shown that this one-size-fits-all training is ineffective, especially when it’s a rote check-the-box exercise. Employees get the message their employer doesn’t take the subject too seriously.

Worse, it can even aggravate tensions, creating more discriminatory behavior from men who avoid working with women just to eliminate the chance of being accused of anything.

One study even found that men were more likely to place blame on the victim of sexual abuse after they’d received that type of anti-harassment training.

Even at best, compliance-centric training will still fail, because it only addresses behaviors that violate the law. But there is a broad array of behavior that — while not quite illegal — shouldn’t be tolerated.

When this kind of activity is allowed to flourish unchecked, the environment becomes increasingly toxic for those on the receiving end. It also tells employees that the company will tolerate harassment as long as it’s not overly egregious. In that case, it’s just a matter of time before the company is faced with a serious claim.

“Nothing is more instructive than real tangible claims examples and settlement amounts. Arm yourself with … recent, relevant claims examples specific to the industry and the jurisdictions the company operates in.” — Kelly Thoerig, U.S. employment practices liability coverage leader, Marsh

In its 2016 report, the EEOC’s harassment task force recommended changing tactics, exploring alternative training models such as respect-based civility training — what some call professionalism training.


The theory is “if you train them to act in a professional manner, these things tend not to happen at all,” said Hams.

The EEOC also suggested bystander intervention training, which is designed to empower employees to intervene when they witness harassing behavior.

Experts agreed whatever training programs or modules a company chooses, it’s important the training material reflect the workforce and be continuous and regularly refreshed.

A certification scheme also should be put in place to ensure the training is hitting the mark. While the law does not yet require companies to prove the effectiveness of their programs, some suggest it’s only a matter of time before the courts catch up to the problem.

What’s more, said Coppola, it’s simply the right thing to do for companies that want to confirm they’ve created a culture where all employees can expect to be treated professionally.

Zero Tolerance

Gelot and others believe a zero-tolerance policy should be a key component of an effective anti-harassment program.

“There are many companies that have Harvey Weinsteins and Matt Lauers and Kevin Spaceys working in their midst and those people are tolerated. Employees know about them — it’s not a secret.”

Bob Graham, vice president, HUB International Limited

Particularly when the harasser is a high-level executive, companies may wrestle with the decision to look the other way or lose a key rainmaker. In a zero-tolerance environment — one that starts at the top — the decision would be clear.

“What we saw with Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose — they were terminated immediately as the accusations came out. That’s zero tolerance. That’s sending a message to all of the employees within the company that this is completely unacceptable, we won’t tolerate it, and [it] clearly sends a message to the public at large.”

Employers should promote a workplace culture where all forms of harassment and discrimination are unacceptable and reportable, said Gelot. That’s the only way to take the fear and the stigma out of reporting.

That said, the EEOC offers a word of caution on zero-tolerance policies applied militantly without regard for common sense. Employers should hash out the specifics of which acts merit immediate termination versus a warning.

Overzealous application of the zero-tolerance doctrine can backfire if an employee fears her coworker’s children will go hungry if she reports his lewd or sexist jokes.

Creating a Dialogue

As with managing any other exposure that touches everyone, robust sharing of ideas and best practices has the power to improve the risk profile of entire industry sectors.

Facebook raised eyebrows in December, making public its sexual harassment policy in full.

“I hope in sharing it we will start a discussion, both to help smaller companies thinking about this for the first time, and to improve our own practices by learning from other companies,” wrote Lori Goler, Facebook’s global VP of people, about the company’s bold move.


That level of disclosure is making some risk professionals uncomfortable. But others acknowledge the wisdom of it.

“Any time you can share best practices that’s probably a great idea, because no one has all the answers … or at least not all the right answers,” said Graham.

“There’s a reason they did that, and I think it’s for all the right, positive reasons. They want to drive the momentum that is going to reduce or even eliminate what we have seen in corporate America over the last 50-plus years. They want to lead by example, they want to be the model and rightly so,” added Coppola.

“I think we are at a perfect time in our economic environment that allows the evolution of equality in our workplace.”

Part of that should involve making the workplace more egalitarian, said Gelot, and figuring out “how to make female employees not feel ostracized by a ‘boys’ club’ atmosphere, and actively championing the ascension of women into senior rolls.”

“We can’t focus on the past,” said Coppola. “But we can work very hard collectively as a community, and within the insurance industry specifically, to move forward.” &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]