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Benchmark Parts Ways With President

Benchmark Senior Living President and COO Stephanie Handelson has been let go from the company, effective Mon., Dec. 12.

Handelson’s vision for the future of Benchmark had diverged from that of its founder and CEO, Tom Grape.

“One of the strengths of my relationship with Stephanie is that we saw the world in different ways, which served us very well,” Grape told Senior Housing News. “Looking to the future, I thought it was even more important that there be a unified direction for the company, and I chose mine. I am very grateful for all that Stephanie brought to Benchmark and wish her only the best.”

Benchmark did not specify who will fill her role moving forward. Handelson had not returned a phone call from SHN as of press time.

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 career as a licensed home health aide 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.