Emeritus will respond vigorously to 'sensationalized' Frontline documentary, company leaders say

Emeritus Senior Living is focused on increasing communications to address concerns raised by a critical Frontline documentary that aired last week, according to Granger Cobb, the company’s chief executive officer, president and director. 

“We were disappointed by the report, which focused on very tragic, but rare and isolated incidents, that occurred several years ago at our communities,” Cobb said during an earnings call last Thursday.

The Frontline investigation, done in association with ProPublica, focused on the case of Joan Boice, who died three months after leaving an Emeritus facility. Emeritus now faces a $23 million verdict in a lawsuit that alleged poor care caused Boice to develop pressure ulcers, which contributed to her death.* The Frontline report presented Boice’s case as a high-profile example of systemic issues in assisted living — and in Emeritus communities specifically — that compromise resident safety.

The Frontline/ProPublica reporters did not present a balanced picture of Emeritus, resisting the company’s offers to connect them with satisfied residents and family members, Cobb said.

Emeritus did provide extensive information to the reporters, but “they used almost none of it,” Vice President of Product Development and Communications Karen Lucas told McKnight’s.

After being contacted in June 2012, Emeritus worked with the Frontline reporters in a “cooperative and supportive way,” Lucas added. She said the report was “sensationalized and lopsided” in tone and singled out Emeritus due to its status as the largest assisted living provider in the country.

The company is “using this opportunity to redouble our communication efforts,” and is prepared to address any questions or concerns, Cobb said on the earnings call.

As part of this effort, the provider has launched a website, www.EmeritusFacts.com.

The company appeared to stumble in its early response to the documentary, after an internal email was forwarded to ProPublica. The July 31 email from Lucas asked staff members to post positive comments about Emeritus on ProPublica and Frontline websites. The email was forwarded by a disgruntled employee and was not mistakenly sent to ProPublica by Emeritus, as some reports initially indicated, Lucas told McKnight’s.

*Editor’s Note: This article originally stated Boice died while residing at an Emeritus facility. The article has been updated to reflect that she was no longer a resident at the time of her death.