Perilous Quarters: Deaths, Serious Injuries Highlight Longstanding Concerns Over Staffing Ratios In Assisted-Living communities

by Paul Sisson, San Diego Union-Tribune



Lack of staffing. Poor training. Inappropriate use of anti-psychotic medications.

Regulators and advocates for the elderly said these problems have contributed to a string of sometimes deadly incidents at California’s assisted-living facilities and memory-care centers, which house people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. They believe the sites are often ill-equipped to manage the complex medical needs of their residents — an assertion the industry disputes.

Recent events at Elmcroft of La Mesa illustrate the longstanding concerns. State regulators are threatening to shut down the memory-care center based on inspectors’ findings of significant troubles there.

The most severe incident reported at Elmcroft led to the death of 92-year-old Norma Desick, whose autopsy indicates that, amid lack of oversight, she was involved in a violent altercation with another dementia patient on Feb. 20, 2015. She died 16 days later in what the county medical examiner called a homicide.

The incident occurred just as 10 bills passed by the Legislature in late 2014 began taking effect. These laws specify higher fines, greater liability insurance and more training for the people who work in more than 7,500 assisted-living and memory-care centers across California.

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