‘Chandelier Effects’ and the Personal Side of Nursing Home Advocacy

Last week, we told you about two consumer advocates who are at the heart of the assisted living reform movement in California. Chris Murphy, 67, and Chrisy Selder, 34, began “doing what the state should be doing” by forcing hands when it comes to nursing home abuse and neglect. In other words, they’re doing their own research into the conditions at nursing facilities across the state, they’re keeping specific records about deaths in assisted living facilities and other reports of abuse, and they’re making them available to consumers. Together, the two women formed the nonprofit organization Consumer Advocates for RCFE Reform.

After realizing that many incidents of abuse and neglect go unreported, or worse, unrecognized by the state as events that should incite criminal prosecution, the Murphy and Selder began contacting state prosecutors. They provided examples of the nursing home abuse they uncovered and urged prosecutors to bring charges against some of these facilities.
What led Murphy and Selder to engage in this important work in our state? As with many consumer advocates, their stories are personal ones that began close to home.
The ‘Chandelier Effect’ in Nursing Facilities
Back in the early 2000s, neither of the women admittedly knew much about assisted living or how to evaluate these facilities for their loved ones. Then, in 2003, Murphy began looking at nursing homes for her mother, an 88-year-old woman who suffered from ovarian cancer and early dementia. Murphy went to a facility that had been recommended by a local nursing home, according to UT San Diego.

When Murphy walked into the facility, she “made the mistake that many people do.” What was the mistake? As she explained to the CHCF Center for Health Reporting, “I looked at the chandeliers instead of the care . . . . I didn’t notice the dirt—only the seeming elegance of the place.” Murphy’s mother passed away after moving into the home, and Murphy later reached a legal settlement with the facility.

As a result of her own experience, Murphy knew it was important to warn the public about the so-called “chandelier effect.” According to experts, this is a term that’s often used “to describe how people can be misled by the looks of some facilities, blinding them to potential health and safety flaws.”

Moving into the Long-Term Care Profession

When Murphy decided to become an advocate for assisted living reform in the state, she had no experience or background education in long-term care. According to UT San Diego, she had two years of law school experience and 28 years’ experience working as a contract administrator in the defense industry. However, Murphy didn’t let that stop her. She enrolled in a master’s degree program in gerontology offered at San Diego State University. She soon met Selder in a gerontology policy class that both women had enrolled in.

Selder’s background is a little bit different than Murphy’s, but her interest in elder advocacy also has personal roots. Selder’s grandmother had lived independently until she passed away at 96 years old, and she had been a model for Selder’s own thinking about aging with grace and dignity. Selder ended up working for an RCFE management company, which gave her access to assisted living homes and other nursing facilities.

After seeing inside many of these homes, Selder grew increasingly concerned with the state of long-term care in California. For instance, she described one situation in which she saw “a woman on oxygen, bedridden.” According to Selder, the facility left the woman “lying on the bed naked right after a bath. The windows were all open. She sat there for over an hour.” Selder retrieved a blanket for the woman. Selder is now training to be a paralegal in consumer law and continues to work as a principal investigator for Consumer Advocates for RCFE Reform (CARR).

If you are concerned about an elderly loved one’s care in an assisted living facility or nursing home in our state, the experienced nursing home abuse lawyers at the Walton Law Firm can answer your questions today. Don’t hesitate to contact us.

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