For the second time this year, the Communities at Golden Pond has been ordered by the state not to accept new residents after failing an on-site compliance review earlier this month.
On Oct. 3, the Executive Office of Elder Affairs conducted an on-site compliance review at the facility, located at 50 West Main Street, according to an email from EOEA communications and outreach manager Ellie Romano. The assisted living residence “was not in compliance with the Commonwealth’s Certification Procedures and Standards for Assisted Living Residences.”
“Effective October 20, 2023, Golden Pond Assisted Living must cease the enrollment of new residents for a minimum of 30 days,” Romano’s email stated. “Golden Pond Assisted Living may continue to operate but may not accept new residents until the Executive Office of Elder Affairs determines that the residence is in full compliance with the Commonwealth’s Certification Procedures and Standards for Assisted Living Residences.”
On March 23, Golden Pond failed a compliance review, according to a letter dated May 22. This prompted a further investigation on June 19 by employees from the Assisted Living Certification Unit of the EOEA. The facility’s 17-page corrective action plan was accepted by the EOEA, and Golden Pond was recertified on June 28.
In an interview with the Independent on Wednesday, Lisa Jacobs, Golden Pond’s chief operating officer, explained the situation. She noted the challenges that this facility and others across the state faced during and since the pandemic in achieving pre-COVID care levels.
“I want to stress that in the original plan of correction, there was the expectation that the EOEA was going to come back and review the site,” she said. “They found that we were just not quite at the level of documenting and processing paperwork that they expected, so they gave us a time extension.”
Jacobs noted that the population of residents being accepted into assisted living facilities during the pandemic is “sicker and more in need of care” than in past years. She also said that the state regulations for assisted living facilities have not been updated since 1994, so they don’t address pandemic challenges.
“The reality is that we just haven’t caught up with the paperwork yet,” said Jacobs, who has been a nurse for 38 years. “We have been focusing all of our efforts on patient care and providing residents with a good quality of life.”
She noted that because of COVID-19, the state did not conduct inspections for two years.
“They were running about two years behind on their inspections,” Jacobs continued. “So they were actually observing a four-year period.”
Added Jacobs: “The EOEA isn’t a medical model — it’s a social model.”
“This is not about a blame game,” she stressed. “I am a very transparent person, and I will work hand in hand with the state on this situation. We’re going to own what we need to do.”
Golden Pond faced another challenge in September when Jim Noon, a resident who had recently moved in, wandered outside of the facility late at night on Sept. 10. He was rescued a short distance from the property in a bushy area behind nearby Icehouse Pond and found alive on the morning of Sept. 12, but he died at the age of 84 four days later.
Noon loved to walk, Jacobs said, and had a tendency to wander, which she said the family acknowledged.
“Jim Noon’s family was loving and caring,” she said. “Jim’s family partnered with us in his care. They had worked with a private care company that provided psychiatric and therapeutic care. They wanted to offer him a great quality of life that he would not have had on a secure unit.”
She added that “people in assisted living have the right to come and go.”
In a letter to the editor following the incident, Elizabeth Noon, Jim Noon’s wife, complimented Golden Pond on the quality of care her husband received.
An excerpt stated: “Golden Pond should not be closed down. They should be congratulated and honored for taking people like Jim Noon and others who may be having a very difficult end-of-life situation.”
Asked if a lack of staffing was an issue that may have led to the poor review or Noon’s death, Jacobs stressed that the facility is fully staffed and that the problem was “administrative work.”
“I have been working day in and day out to get things done,” she said. “I wouldn’t ask a staff member to do something I wouldn’t do myself. But when little things don’t get done, like reports, it becomes a bigger thing.”