Articles Posted in Board-and-Care

handsOne of the largest nursing homes in Stockton, CA is facing numerous allegations of nursing home abuse and neglect, according to a recent article from Reports from patients and their families allege lack of privacy, physical abuse, and serious neglect at Wagner Heights Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. What else do you need to know about these allegations? Can they help families to understand the importance of researching a nursing home or assisted-living facility before allowing an elderly loved one to become a resident at a facility without the best patient ratings?

Serious Citations at Wagner Heights Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Based on data provided by California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), Wagner “has been issued the greatest number of serious citations going back to 2010 . . . of any skilled nursing home in Stockton.” Over the last six years, it has received six serious citations. Why were those citations issued? According to the article, the following represent some of the most serious fines levied against Wagner Heights:

apartment buildingWhen we read news stories or hear anecdotes about elder abuse and neglect in San Diego, we often thinking about harms that occur in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs). In other words, we consider the risks our elderly loved one face in facilities that are required to be licensed by the state of California. When injuries do occur at these regulated places, we should consider the ways in which the California Department of Public Health might be responsible.

But what happens when an older adult sustains elder abuse injuries at a boarding home—a type of residence that does not have to be licensed or certified by the state? A recent article in the San Jose Mercury News discussed the rising number of boarding homes for seniors in California and the ways in which these residences could be the most dangerous of all.

Initial Financial Benefits of Boarding Homes

At Walton Law Firm, we have handled numerous cases involving decubitus ulcers or bed sores, many of them resulting in the death of the patient. But the cases we handle are civil cases; a prosecution of the nursing home or other caregiver to seek money damages. We have never seen any caregiver prosecuted criminally for such neglect.

090903_jean_rudolph.jpgIn Washington State, however, the owner of an assisted living facility and an employee were charged with crimes for the neglect of Jean Rudolph, who died under their care. When Rudolph died in 2008 at the age of 87, she weighed only 68 pounds. The cause of death was related to infections that were caused by bed sores so severe that they exposed her bones, including a hip sore so severe that her hip bone jutted out of her body.

Her son, who visited her twice a week, never knew of the sores. His mother suffered from end-stage dementia and couldn’t speak or express her needs, and each time the son visited she was always under covers.

A 72-year-old woman suffered burns on her hands and feet while under the care of an Escondido woman and her son at their home-based elder care facility. Mila Labayen, 74, and her son, Steve Perez Lopez, 50, face criminal charges for elder abuse arising from their failure to seek immediate medical attention for the injuries of the resident who suffers from dementia. In addition, Mr. Lopez is charged with draining $45,000 from the bank account of another elderly resident, who suffers from schizophrenia. Mr. Lopez allegedly took the money while out on bail for charges relating to the elder abuse claim. Alert bank employees alerted authorities to the suspicious withdrawal of money.

It is unclear what caused the 72-year-old woman’s burns, but by the time her daughter learned of her injuries and brought her to the hospital, her skin was already sloughing off, and she remained in the hospital’s burn unit for nine days.

The elder care home, Liberty Care Homes III, located on the 1100 block of Via Rancho Parkway, was owned and operated by Ms. Labayan and was licensed to provide residential care for up to six elderly people. The license was first issued in 1993. Liberty Care Homes III is now closed.

A former aide at a home for the disabled has been arrested and charged with molesting two female residents. Curtis Cortez, age 59, is being held on $100,000 bail after his arrest, and is expected to be charged with seven felony counts of lewd and lascivious actions by a caretaker upon a dependent person.

From news accounts, it appears the man has confessed his crimes to police, at least partially. When police confronted Curtis about the allegations, he offered a “Hawaiian defense.” He told authorities that he gave frequent hugs to people because it was part of his Hawaiian culture. He then volunteered that he was having problems with his girlfriend, and that he did touch one of the disabled woman’s breasts and genitals.

From a civil liability standpoint it is an interesting case. Curtis himself would obviously be liable for sexual assault and battery, but probably unable to pay a civil judgment. The question is, would the home be liable? Generally speaking, an employer is not liable for the intentional criminal acts of its employees, unless the acts were engendered by, or arose out, the employee’s duties. This one would be a close call.

A few times a year we hear news stories of Alzheimer’s sufferers wandering away from their homes and becoming lost. Those stories end one of two ways, and unfortunately, too often the ending is not a happy one.

These sad stories have created a cottage industry for nursing home providers. We have all now heard of nursing homes advertising themselves with “special neighborhoods for the memory impaired.” Or providing “safe and secure” housing for the Alzheimer’s patient. But what happens when the victim wanders away from those facilities?

A few years ago, such a thing happened in Escondido. Then a 94-year-old woman walked out of Palomar Heights Care Center in Escondido and into the path of a car, killing her instantly. Caregivers told the media that they didn’t know what happened, but a subsequent lawsuit revealed some serious neglect on the part of the home.

When police came to a San Bernardino board-and-care home looking for 23-year-old Trevor Castro, they found Castro and a whole lot more. Upon arrival they found a bucket of urine outside the door, and inside found outright squalor. The discovery led to the arrest of the home’s owner, 61-year-old Pensri Sophar Dalton, who is currently being held on 16 counts of felony elder abuse.

According to reports, Dalton, who was called “Mama Sophar,” ran a prison-like home – which was unlicensed – for 22 elderly and mentally ill residents in San Bernardino County. The home was surrounded by cinderblock walls with barbed wire atop. Several residents lived in converted chicken coops with no plumbing. A bucket was used for a toilet.

“None of [the chicken coop rooms] were up to code,” said City Atty. James Penman. “They had some with padlocks on the outside and no emergency exits, which concerned us because it could be used to lock people in as well as lock people out. The smell of urine was horrific; it permeated the entire place.”

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