*Editor’s Note: This article has been changed from a previous version, which stated that Handelson had been let go. It has been changed to state that her exit was “mutually agreed upon,” to reflect a statement provided by Benchmark on Tuesday, Dec. 13.
Benchmark Senior Living President and COO Stephanie Handelson is no longer employed at the company. Her departure was a mutually agreed upon decision, Benchmark told Senior Housing News in a statement on Dec. 13.
Handelson’s vision for the future of Benchmark had diverged from that of its founder and CEO, Tom Grape.
“Stephanie and I have come to the mutual agreement to part ways,” Grape said in the emailed statement to SHN. “One of the strengths of my relationship with Stephanie is that we approached our business through very different lenses, which served Benchmark well over the years, as we pushed each other to challenge the status quo. But the industry is at a critical inflection point, with increasing supply outpacing demand, and a changing demographic. Stephanie and I have differing philosophies on the future of the industry and the strategies to address it, and it is more important now than ever that we have a unifying voice. I have nothing but gratitude towards Stephanie and wish her the very best.”
Benchmark did not specify who will fill her role moving forward.
Handelson joined Benchmark in 2009. The Waltham, Massachusetts-based company is the 21st-largest senior living provider in the nation, with 53 communities and a resident capacity of 5,200, according to 2016 rankings from provider association Argentum.
An industry veteran even before coming to Benchmark, Handelson began her senior living career as an executive director in New York and eventually joined Sunrise Senior Living, in 1999. She worked her way up to Senior Vice President of East Coast Operations for Sunrise and served in that post for two years prior to joining Benchmark.
Handelson was committed to driving resident care at Benchmark, Grape told SHN. It’s a priority she emphasized when she detailed Benchmark’s efforts to formally partner with home health agencies and physician practices at all its communities, to reduce hospitalizations and be a stronger player in a more integrated health care system.
“The way we pick our providers is unbelievably picky. It’s like getting married,” she said in June at the Link Post Acute Care Continuum Conference in Chicago. “We’ve had people we’ve dated, and we ditched them because the way they provide the service is so critical to the health and wellness of our residents.”
Having four brothers and no sisters helped her develop a confident leadership style, Handelson told Senior Housing News in a 2013 interview. She also emphasized the importance of empathy in the senior housing business.
“I never forget to view this business through the lens of the families trying to make very difficult decisions about the care of their loved ones,” she said.
Written by Tim Mullaney