The only long-term care facility in the municipality of Princeton abruptly closed its doors on Friday, leaving distressed families scrambling to find new nursing homes for their loved ones on the same day.
Starting at about 8:30 a.m. on Friday, some families who had loved ones living at the Princeton Care Center started to receive calls informing them that the facility was closing that same day and their parents would need to be relocated by the end of the day. Some families said they didn’t receive calls from the facility itself, but instead learned when their loved ones living in the facility called to tell them the news. People had to take the day off or cancel holiday travel plans to rush over to the facility and figure out where their loved ones could go.
“I received a message that Princeton Care Center is going out of business today. They are calling families and telling them they have a couple of hours to decide where they would like their loved one to reside,” a Princeton resident told Planet Princeton. “If you don’t have an option, you must consent to sending your family member to (their facility in) Morristown. How is this possible in the U.S.?”
Planet Princeton visited Princeton Care Center just after 1 p.m. on Friday. Representatives from the New Jersey Department of Health were on the scene, as were staff members from the New Jersey Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman.
The facility, located at 728 Bunn Drive, has been family-owned since 1985 and offered rehabilitation services, hospice, subacute care, long-term care, and a cardiac recovery program. The nursing home also had a dedicated wing for South Asian residents. According to the latest federal data available, as of Aug. 1, Princeton Care Center is owned by Gail Bogner. The facility accepted Medicare and Medicaid patients.
Planet Princeton made several attempts to interview the management at the facility on Friday afternoon. The reporter, who was not allowed inside, asked half a dozen times to speak with the owner or someone in management. Several representatives from the company were on site. The marketing director for the company asked the reporter to produce media credentials. After producing them, the marketing director went inside, spoke to company representatives, and came back out, yelling at the reporter to leave the property.
Employees at the facility told the reporter they had not been paid this week. They said they were supposed to be paid two days earlier and were owed two weeks of pay. Employees said there was a deal to sell the long-term care facility to another company but it fell through.
Families said they were given five places their loved ones could be sent to that are owned or operated by Allaire Health Services, including Morristown Post Acute Rehabilitation & Nursing Center.
At 3 p.m. on Friday, the administrator for Princeton Care Center, Ezra Bogner, sent an email to residents’ families and staff saying the facility was closed because of money problems. “Due to unfortunate financial hardship, effective immediately, we are initiating a plan to relocate our residents to other facilities with the resources to meet their immediate needs,” reads the email from Bogner.
According to public records, the property at 728 Bunn Drive is owned by Princeton LLC. The address listed for the owner is a Needham, Mass. address that is also the address of a property services company and a long-term care company called Wingate. Sources told Planet Princeton the landlord has been trying to work things out with the nursing home regarding the back rent. But then the financial problems became so dire the company couldn’t make payroll.
Suitcases and garbage bags
There was lots of activity at the facility Friday afternoon and evening. Family members were trying to figure out the best options for their loved ones that would also keep them close to the Princeton area. State investigators were interviewing people and handing out business cards. A representative from a long-term care facility in Plainsboro was trying to get people to sign up for her facility.
According to a few families interviewed by Planet Princeton, some residents were allegedly given breakfast and then spent the day in soiled garments until they were moved. They said police officers were called to the building in the afternoon because of a dispute on the second floor. A 100-year-old allegedly was put on a bus that was taking some of the residents to their new nursing homes.
Families were packing up their parents’ rooms and schlepping suitcases, other items, and garbage bags stuffed with clothing to their vehicles in the afternoon and evening.
Some of the residents have lived at the 119-bed facility for several years. One Princeton resident said her mother has lived at the Princeton Care Center for four years. About 72 people were living at the center as of Friday morning, a state official confirmed.
“This is my home. What will I do without all my friends? Where will I go?” asked one woman who was sitting in a wheelchair outside the facility Friday afternoon. Others tried to comfort her, saying hopefully other residents would be moved to the same place where she was going. Staff members tried to console the woman and promised to visit her.
One woman reported that her mother was moved to her new nursing home at about 10 p.m. Her mother had a single room at Princeton Care Center but was sharing a room with another Princeton Care Center resident at the new facility nearby Friday night.
Long-Term Care Ombudsman Laurie Facciarossa Brewer told Planet Princeton the state was just as surprised as families were about the abrupt closing. The state was notified Friday morning that the facility was closing. Three staff members from her office were then sent to Princeton Care Center Friday to help families and residents. Staff from her office will be following up with all of the residents after their moves to make sure things are going smoothly at the new homes.
Facciarossa Brewer noted that when the Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center in Andover was shut down, moving all the residents to new facilities was coordinated over several months. She said what happened at the Princeton Care Center was the worst possible outcome when it comes to moving residents. “This type of move is very traumatic for residents and families and should be avoided at all costs,” she said.
Email editor @ planetprinceton.com if you want to share your loved one’s story or more information about the closing of the Princeton Care Center.