SEATTLE — At 85-years-old, Char Pruitt figured Foundation House Assisted Living would likely be the last place she'd live when she moved to the north Seattle community eight months ago.
Then came the unthinkable.
"I couldn't believe it," Char said. "It was like being kicked in the stomach."
A few weeks ago, Char was notified by management that "due to the COVID-19 pandemic" the "extremely difficult decision" was made to close the community.
Char said the news made her physically ill.
"I get stomach aches. I don't sleep. I just think about it," she said.
Foundation House opened 24 years ago. According to its website, the nonprofit "was initially created as a residential Seattle retirement community for former educators, school teachers and administrators."
An estimated 50 people live there now. Some residents are more than 100 years old.
On Monday, Foundation House sent a statement regarding the closure:
"Since 1997, Foundation House at Northgate (“FHN”) has provided a safe, secure, and reliable community for its assisted living and independent living residents. FHN, a non-profit company, faced significant financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic including increased costs associated with implementing COVID-related procedures, while the census, operating budget, and cash flow dramatically decreased. As a result, after 24 years, FHN will close its doors effective September 30, 2021 for assisted living facilities, and October 31, 2021 for independent living facilities.
The health and well-being of FHN’s residents are its first priority, and FHN will work with residents and their families to ensure a smooth and safe transition to their alternative living arrangements. FHN will continue to provide its residents with exceptional service and care through the closure dates."
It is at least the second long-term care facility in Washington to close during the pandemic, including the Prestige Care Nursing Home in Burlington.
Health care experts expect 20 such communities to close over the next year, or so.
Char's son Rich Pruitt worries about what happens next.
"I think the big concern is, in six months is it going to happen to the new place? Will she have to move again. If so, where to?" he said.
State Long-term Care Ombudsman Patricia Hunter said the unexpected costs of PPE, combined with people taking their loved ones out of the facilities during the pandemic, and a massive worker shortage have all contributed to the crisis. She advises - if you are forced to move - look for red flags at the new home.
"I would look for quality concerns, negative surveys, and audit reports. I'd go on the DSHS web site. I'd also talk to the local ombudsman to see what they know about the facility, and whether it may be facing closure," Hunter said.
One important thing to remember is you can't be kicked out of a facility if you don't have a suitable place to go. The facility has to work with you to find a place that suits your needs.
As for Char, the clock is ticking. She's starting the hunt for a new place to live, hoping the unthinkable doesn't happen twice.
"I'm just getting settled and everything goes to pieces," she said.