AUTHOR: PERILL

HED:Right Care grows, takes new name

By Gary Perilloux

Daily Journal

Tupelo-based Right Care Inc., which grew from three to 33 senior care facilities in the 1990s, has acquired Grace Healthcare Inc. and changed its name.

The combined company now is known as Community Eldercare Services LLC, with 33 nursing homes, four assisted living centers and a seniors apartment building. It will remain based in Tupelo, where Right Care incorporated in 1992.

Grace Healthcare, based in Ooltewah, Tenn., had five nursing homes and one assisted living center prior to the merger. Its former owner, Byron DeFoor, will be a principal and director of Community Eldercare Services, as will John O'Brien, formerly president of Life Care Centers of America Inc., a 240-nursing home company.

Doug Wright Jr., president and CEO of Community Eldercare, said the privately held company reflects a trend away from publicly traded national companies that were ill-prepared for Medicare changes in recent years.

"For the foreseeable future, the days of focusing on driving stock prices and earnings growth by faceless corporations are gone," Wright said. "The communities themselves are going to have to get behind long-term care in terms of understanding and supporting the valuable services that our facilities provide at a relatively low price.

"I expect to see widespread return to privatization in long-term care for the next five to ten years."

Wright said his company slowed its rate of growth in anticipation of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997's tighter Medicare reimbursements. Meanwhile, four of the five largest publicly traded companies in the industry filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy relief in the wake of the act.

Strategy

The acquisition boosts Community Eldercare's nursing beds to 2,918, along with 179 assisted living units and 24 senior apartments in Columbia figures that rank it in the nation's Top 30 largest senior care companies and the largest based in Mississippi.

The combat the stigma of institutionalization the industry commonly faces, Community Eldercare has launched local programs at each of its sites:

- Healthy Aging Community seminars focus on helping mature adults live independently in their own homes as long as possible, with topics on nutritious meals, home security, aerobic exercise and more.

-A companion program informs physicians on trends in elderly behavior, onset diabetes and other health care issues.

-A third program takes seniors to schools, volunteer groups and other forums where they share their life's experiences, community history and contributions.

"Having the community buy into the care and services we provide is really important," said Doug Harper, director of public relations for Community Eldercare. "We would like to do well (financially) by doing good. And we would like each of our nursing homes to be a resource for care and information in the community for people who are getting older."

New name

Officials said the new name reflects the company's commitment to providing a continuum of care for the elderly in communities it serves.

"The new names and our community-focused plan center on putting a friendlier face on long-term care and aging," Wright said. "Our community living centers offer enriching activities, compassionate care, socialization opportunities, gracious dining and, in general, a high quality of life. If a senior reaches the point where he or she requires long-term care, we expect the top choice to be one of our community living centers."

Company sites

Community Eldercare Services, formerly Right Care Inc., has the following Northeast Mississippi facilities:

- West Point Community Living Center.

- The Courtyards Community Living Center, Fulton.

- Longwood Community Living Center, Booneville.

- Tishomingo Community Living Center, Iuka.

Its locations include 34 others in Mississippi (Meridian, Jackson, Magee, Laurel, Columbia, Biloxi, Ocean Springs, Pascagoula), Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana, Virginia, Maryland, Indiana and California.

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