HARWICH — The assisted living facility Royal at Harwich Village has closed, and its residents have been relocated to other facilities. But advocates for the elderly are criticizing the way the abrupt closure was carried out.
Around April 25, the facility notified residents and their families about plans to close by July 26, the 90-day minimum required by state regulations. The notification was followed several days later by a notice that the rents would be drastically increasing as of June 1. Monthly fees were expected to jump from less than $6,600 to between $7,600 and potentially over $10,000, according to published reports. The planned rate hike was brought to the attention of state regulators, who intervened.
“Following discussions with the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, the owners of The Royal at Harwich rescinded the planned fee increases,” EOEA spokesman Thomas Lyons wrote in an email to The Chronicle. “The significant increases, announced after owners had decided to close, were unprecedented and violated the spirit and intent of state regulations which [require] a 90-day notice to allow residents to plan their move to a new home,” he wrote.
Despite repeated attempts, officials from the Royal Health Group could not be reached for comment. There was no answer at the company’s corporate headquarters in Pembroke or at the Harwich facility, where no one answered the door and there was a pile of undelivered newspapers on the front steps. As of early this week, there was no mention of the closure on the Royal at Harwich Village’s voicemail system, no sign on the door, and no indication of the closure on the company’s website.
Officials from Royal Health Group reportedly worked with the approximately 10 residents who remained to find other housing options.
“We will continue to monitor the closure process, and if residents have additional concerns they can contact the Assisted Living Ombudsman,” Lyons said. That state office can be reached at 617-727-7750, and helps mediate disputes between residents and assisted living facilities.
Harwich Council on Aging Director Emily Mitchell said she was unaware of the planned closure until a reporter from The Chronicle recently asked her about it.
“I think a lot of people were caught off guard,” she said. The company provided the mandatory 90 days’ notification, “but I think it was a very abrupt change,” Mitchell said. “It’s going to be a shock to older adults.”
The news comes less than a year after the closure of one of the area’s nursing homes, the 173-bed Wingate at Brewster, though the company still operates its assisted living facility.
Mitchell said she worries about the loss of assisted living beds, particularly ones in units designed for people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The Royal had operated a memory care unit, but had reportedly converted those units to regular assisted living apartments.
“It is something that concerns me,” she said. “There is always a shortage of available beds, especially beds that provide a higher level of care.” The loss of The Royal at Harwich Village will have a “noticeable impact” locally, Mitchell added.
The Royal also helped fill another need because its monthly fees were slightly lower than some other assisted living facilities in the region, she said.
“The cost is a significant barrier to a number of folks,” Mitchell said. Many seniors sell their homes and use the proceeds to pay for assisted living, “but there are folks who never had a home to sell,” she added.
It remains unclear what will become of the 28-bed property at 328 Bank St., which is owned by Royal Assisted Living. The building and the 1.9-acre property has an assessed value of $1,846,800.