101-year-old Mabel Barnfield, who has dementia, no longer has a home at the Brookdale Fountaingrove nursing home in Sonoma County, California.
According to the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, the assisted living facility initiated eviction proceedings against Barnfield after she became unable to pay the $7,000/month cost to live there. Initially, Barnfield paid for the expense of staying in the nursing home with the money she made from selling her modest home in Santa Rosa for approximately $450,000 in 2013. However, the money dried up, and the nursing home wouldn’t accept Medi-Cal — the state-based health insurance plan for low-income Californians that Barnfield uses.
Barnfield’s friends reportedly called 12 other assisted living facilities in the area, but none would accept Medi-Cal for payment. She’s now staying in Novato, California, after attorneys representing both Barnfield and the nursing home helped her locate a bed at another facility. According to the Press-Democrat, only two out of 21 skilled nursing facilities in Sonoma County are Medicare and Medi-Cal certified.
Just as California’s population explosion has created an affordable housing crisis in which demand vastly outweighs supply, there is also a growing shortage of nursing home space in the Golden State as Californians continue to age. Just in Sonoma County, those aged 60 and up make up about 26% of the total population, despite making up just 20% of the population less than 10 years ago.
“In Sonoma County alone, there are just 1,400 beds to serve a half million people and an exploding elderly population,” Deborah Pacyna, a spokeswoman for the California Association of Health Facilities, told the Press-Democrat.
The high cost of staying in an assisted living facility has caused at least one retiree to take an unorthodox approach. As Grit Post reported in February, 64-year-old Terry Robison decided to spend his final years at a Holiday Inn, instead of a nursing home. After taking advantage of the hotel’s senior discount and additional discounts for booking by the month instead of by the day, Robison learned he could have a place to live for as little as $60/day.
“It takes months to get into decent nursing homes. Holiday Inn will take your reservation today,” Robison wrote in a viral Facebook post. “And you’re not stuck in one place forever — you can move from Inn to Inn, or even from city to city.”
Brookdale Fountaingrove spokeswoman Heather Hunter told the Press-Democrat that Barnfield was “a beloved resident” and that staff “went above and beyond” to find her another nursing home to stay in after she was evicted.
“Our staff has cared for her and wanted the best outcome for her,” Hunter said. “Since this community is not Medi-Cal certified it cannot accept Medi-Cal as a form of payment. Therefore, continuing with Brookdale was not an option for Ms. Barnfield.”
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.