Sudden Magnolia closing stirred 'panic'

Family of senior living resident caught off guard by announcement, scrambled to relocate

More details have emerged about what led to the temporary closure of Magnolia Dial Senior Living at the start of this month.

In response to The Hinsdalean’s March 7 story on Magnolia suspending operations on March 1, relatives of Magnolia residents reached out to the paper detailing anxious months leading up to the shutdown and expressing frustration with parent Dial Senior Living over a lack of transparency throughout the process.

Lynn Issleib’s 84-year-old mother moved into the facility about five years ago when it was Eve Assisted Living, prior to its acquisition by Nebraska-based Dial in 2021. She was living in the memory care department at the beginning of November when all memory care residents were relocated to empty two-bedroom apartments, Issleib said.

“We were told it would be three weeks,” she remarked.

But memory care had not reopened at the start of January. Then at a meeting later that month, families of all of Magnolia’s several dozen residents received a stunning update.

“We were told, ‘No, we’re shutting down. In the interest of safety the best thing would be to close and do a complete remodel and reopen in 14 months. You need to be out by mid-April,’ ” Issleib related.

Replying via email to questions from The Hinsdalean, Alie Hrabe, Dial’s vice president of sales and marketing, said the abrupt action was precipitated by the discovery of mold in the memory care area.

“The community swiftly contacted a reputable company to conduct a thorough evaluation and identify the presence of mold. Air samples were within guidelines, except for an isolated area in a laundry room accessible only to team members, which was found to have elevated levels,” Hrabe stated. “A decision was made to temporarily suspend operations while the community underwent extensive renovations previously stalled due to the pandemic. This measure was implemented not only to ensure resident safety but also to minimize the necessity for resident relocation due to disruptive construction work.”

At the January meeting with families and residents, she reported, members of Dial Senior Living’s home office team issued a 90-day notice to vacate by April 19. Residents were offered $1,500 to defray moving expenses should they choose to return to Magnolia post-construction, anticipated to take at least 14 months, along with a 15-percent discount on rent.

Rick Graffagna, owner of the Naperville branch of Senior Solutions who helped a couple Magnolia residents with their relocations, said the circumstances were unusual based on his 12 years of professional experience.

“I can’t think of a situation where a building, mid-operation, was forced to shut down and have to start over again,” said Graffagna, adding his clients were able to find new homes.

Issleib said families had to find alternate living arrangements for their loved ones on their own.

“For me it was very difficult because it just added on another layer of where is she going to go,” said the former Hinsdale resident, who was able to find her mom a skilled nursing care in a nearby assisted living facility by mid-February.

Trying to recover her mom’s clothes, which had been mixed with those of the other former memory care residents, also proved challenging.

“It was a nightmare. I could not find most of her clothes. Then I saw another resident with her clothes on,” Issleib recounted.

Told of the issue, a senior staff member seemed less than sympathetic, she said.

“It was just not a good experience at all,” she said.

Issleib said the last couple of years at Magnolia were marked by frequent turnover both in top leadership and regular employees.

“We started noticing that it was more (agency workers) coming versus (full-time) employees of Magnolia,” she said. “They didn’t know my mom. They didn’t know what she needed.” The daughter of a resident who left a voicemail with The Hinsdalean — but not her name — was critical of the staffing situation, calling it “abysmal,” and questioned why the shutdown had to happen in winter.

“This company could have waited until summer and actually supported people’s moves,” she said.

Hrabe attributed much of the staffing churn to the pandemic.

“It’s important to note that the community was acquired during COVID-19, a period marked by significant challenges across various industries, not exclusive to Magnolia,” Hrabe stated. “Additionally, there’s a natural attrition that occurs during an acquisition due to the establishment of new standards and expectations.”

Issleib said better communication could have made a difficult situation easier to navigate.

“I wish that they would have been more forthcoming as to what actually was going on so we would have had more time and wouldn’t have had to panic,” she said.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean