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Barred From a Fine-Dining Restaurant

Should your health determine where you get to eat your meals?

Several elderly people dining at a table.

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The Virginia Department of Health clarified state law, thus lifting Harbor Edge's ban on Frank and Indiana Bilisoly from the retirement community's fine-dining room.

"I knew the policy would eventually fail because it's inherently wrong." — Frank Bilisoly

Frank Bilisoly, 90, and his wife, Indiana, 85, loved dining in the white-tablecloth River Terrace restaurant of the upscale Harbor's Edge retirement community, where they live in Norfolk, Va. When Bilisoly's health required him to switch to skilled nursing care at Harbor's Edge, their restaurant meals together stopped.

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That's because Harbor's Edge declared River Terrace and Harbor Room, its other fine-dining restaurant, off-limits to its 16 nursing care and assisted living residents. (The community also banned those residents from events where food is served, such as picnics.)

After the ban, Bilisoly and his wife of 65 years began ordering takeout from River Terrace. But it wasn't the same. "It was frustrating," says Bilisoly, a retired physician who put down a $500,000-plus deposit and pays $5,500 monthly at Harbor's Edge.

The community began limiting access to dining rooms after nonfatal choking incidents involving three of its nursing care and assisted living residents in early 2011, says Harbor's Edge developer and executive director C.A. "Neil" Volder III. In doing so, Harbor's Edge cited a Virginia law requiring medical training for staffers in dining areas dedicated for use by nursing care and assisted living residents. Staffers at its fine-dining restaurants don't have such training. When the community's officials and residents questioned the state law, the Virginia Department of Health clarified that fine-dining rooms and community events are not regulated. The ban was then lifted in February.

You may also like: Weighing assisted living facility options.

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