At 101, kicked out of retirement home


Update, Aug. 2. Bernard Liles died on Aug. 1.

Bernard Liles, aged 101 will very likely die this week in bed at Maplewood Park Place, a private, for-profit senior living facility in Bethesda. With little chance for improvement in his condition, his family agreed to take him off life-support systems.

Legally, however, he shouldn’t be at the facility at all after a judge ruled on Monday to uphold the legality of an involuntary discharge notice issued to Liles by Maplewood in April. The notice was issued after Liles, with his savings exhausted and his fixed income unable to cover the close to $6,000 a month cost of care, fell too far behind in payments.

“He outlived his savings,” said Dina Laura, Liles’ granddaughter.

Laura and her mother, Joan Laura, have been contesting the transfer in court, not because they disagree with Maplewood’s right to be paid for their services, but because in the circumstances they think it would be wrong to move him.

“The nurses aren’t even sure he would survive a transfer,” Joan Laura said.

Speaking before the mediation with the judge at Maplewood, she expressed hope that the circumstances would trump the legal issues in this case.

“We probably don’t have a legal leg to stand on. They have a right to their money,” she acknowledged, but added: “Morally, they should settle with us for whatever time he has left.”

The mediation was the culmination of many months of back-and-forth arguments and legal battles over the case stemming from the lack of funding. Fred Levin, Liles’ step-son, and a lawyer had brought the case to Maplewood’s attention last fall when the upcoming shortfall became apparent. He spoke with the director and said that the director asked the board to in this case give some leeway and let Liles pay just what he could afford but the board voted against that.

“They wouldn’t even meet with us,” Levin said. “They wanted every penny or they’d kick him out.”

This reporter’s call to Maplewood’s executive director was not returned.

Liles has been at Maplewood since it first opened in 1995, living there with his wife Doris Levin until she passed away. He served on the co-op board and, according to his family, he and his wife contributed around $1 million to the facility before he started to run out of money.

“He maxed out his long-term insurance,” Dina Laura said. “But it’s his home. He shouldn’t have to leave.”

Modern medicine has done a lot to extend and improve the lives of senior citizens in the U.S. but medical treatment and living costs continue to grow and for retirees, whatever fixed income they may have from Social Security or pension and whatever assistance with medical costs they get from Medicaid and Medicare can’t keep up forever.

Liles, who lost a leg and hip to melanoma in his 30s and a kidney to cancer less than 10 years later, hardly seemed a candidate to see more than a century and yet his kind of story is more and more common. Nearly 15 percent of Americans are over 65 as of 2012, according to the Census Bureau, a number that is growing rapidly as the population ages and medical technology helps keep older people alive.

There are different kinds of elder-care facilities besides private, for-profit ones. The Hebrew Home of Greater Washington, for example, was founded explicitly to take care of older Jews who couldn’t afford to purchase the care they need. According to Marilyn Feldman, the public relations director, a large majority of their residents have exhausted their Medicaid funds, and it’s a combination of philanthropic donations and other funds available to the Home as a nonprofit that allow them to continue to provide care to those who could not afford it otherwise.

In the case of Maplewood, however, the problems arose from the individual circumstances as the family and the facility could not come to an agreement on Liles’ situation. Levin pointed out that with legal fees, they will actually get less money than they would have if they had accepted the family’s earlier offer of what they could actually afford to give.

“They would have been paid in full by now,” he said.

For those in or planning for retirement, thinking about how much money will be necessary is more complex than it once was. Not only do people live longer, but some of the options are fast disappearing like the long-term care policy Liles had. Such policies were once much more common but are less and less affordable for insurance companies simply because of the extended lifespans more people experience.

“A lot of businesses have stopped offering them at this point,” Levin said.

Liles’ specific case will resolve itself soon enough, but his family hopes others will not have to go through what they did and have the experience of losing a loved one marred by the unexpected downside of living long and well.

“We had hoped for better than this at the end,” Joan Laura said.

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  1. My heart goes out to the family. They did all they could. Its not there fault that too often decisions are based upon what one can pay. As we grow older and modern medical technology keeps us alive longer than our bodies wish for thus we become a soul without a place to be in peace. Shame on Mapewood. Lets really be honest if Mapewood did it for one person they were afraid they would set a presidence, G-d forbid. And as far as the Hebrew Home don’t get overly excited. I made them angry because I reported several things that needed reporting (one was life threatening) My punishment: never to be a patient ever again. I say even though the Hebrew Home is a private entity, it should be open to all Jews. Rabbi Moshe Walters of Woodside Synagogue spoke on my behalf, but to no avail. Who supports the Hebrew Home – Us – maybe its time for some changes there too. Edith Brown, Silver Spring, MD. 301-588-0028


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