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California’s AB 2171 for Resident’s Bill of Rights moves through Assembly

On Tuesday, April 29, 2014, the California Assembly Committee on Judiciary will hold a hearing on Assembly Bill 2171. Introduced by Assembly Member Bob Wieckowski, AB 2171 will establish a comprehensive Bill of Rights for residents in assisted living, often called residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs).

The bill passed 5-2 in the Assembly Committee on Aging and Long-term Care. If the bill passes out of the Assembly Committee on Judiciary, it will then go to the full Assembly.

The proposed Bill of Rights includes the right to have visitors, the right to phone calls, the right to mail, as well as the right to not be physically restrained or chemically restrained.

Elder advocates throughout California strongly support AB 2171. Many RCFEs and the California Assisted Living Association (CALA) oppose AB 2171.

Elder advocates urge individuals to contact Committee members with their concerns about abuse and lack of accountability in RCFEs.

Assembly Committee on Judiciary

Bob Wieckowski (Chair)

Donald P. Wagner (Vice Chair)

Luis A. Alejo

Ed Chau

Roger Dickinson

Cristina Garcia

Jeff Gorell

Brian Maienschein


Al Muratsuchi

Mark Stone

Coalition for Elder & Dependent Adult Rights stated their support for AB 2171.

Dear Assembly Members,

In 1935, my mother’s high school essay on the Bill of Rights cautioned of rights taken away from citizens who do not guard those rights zealously.

"Our Bill of Rights tells the government what freedoms it cannot take away from us, in this way guaranteeing them to us. Therefore, 'we the people' have the power to enforce these rights through the representatives we elect to make and enforce our laws.

This so called afterthought of the Constitution is the foundation of American democracy. Around it we have built our way of life. Without it we would be subject to dictatorship.

Don’t say, 'This can’t happen to us,' because it can. Rights on paper alone can die. They will die if we continue to take them for granted and if we forget the struggles and spirit of liberty and justice that produce the Bill of Rights.

Do we want this to happen? No, of course not. Let’s wake up. Let’s respect, honor, and be ready to defend these rights – the rights of all men – 'to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.'"

In 2010 - 2012, my mother’s Constitutional rights were violated. She was imprisoned and forcibly isolated in a residential care facility for the elderly (RCFE). She was physically and chemically restrained; she was routinely given unauthorized medications concealed in food by 'med techs' that lacked a high school education. She was physically abused, as was shown by bruises covering her arms the week after family filed litigation against the RCFE. Caregiver records suggest month after month of sexual abuse by a male RCFE employee.

At present, there is no remedy for elders who suffer abuse in RCFEs. Community Care Licensing (CCL), the Long-Term Care Ombudsman, and law enforcement are unable or unwilling to protect RCFE residents. Civil courts hold that families have no standing to protect loved ones until after the death of the victim.

Coalition for Elder & Dependent Adult Rights (CEDAR) is a collaboration of advocates with firsthand experience of horrific abuse in RCFEs. Each of us watched a loved one victimized for an extended period of time. Each of us found that Community Care Licensing (CCL), the Long-term Care Ombudsman, law enforcement, and civil courts offered no remedies for abuse of our loved ones.

San Bernardino County

My mother was abducted from her home, imprisoned, and forcibly isolated at Wildwood Canyon Villa in Yucaipa for over a year. CCL substantiated that the RCFE violated my mom’s:

· Right to leave the facility,

· Right to have visitors,

· Rights to have phone calls,

· Right to send and receive mail,

· Right to have a bed, rather than a mattress on the floor.

However, CCL did not assess any penalties or require any corrections.

Investigating Deputy Grant Ward ordered me not to call my mom. He threatened that he would arrest me if I tried to visit. He threatened that he would charge me with a crime if I reported his misconduct. Sergeant Paul Morrison wrote, “Linda Kincaid and her associates are considered trespassing if they are located anywhere on the property of the facility. Any further telephone calls may be considered as annoying and threatening.”

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman refused to investigate family’s reports of false imprisonment and isolation. Three years later, Ombudsman Roberta Wertenberg testified that County Counsel instructed her not to investigate our complaints.

During the period of isolation, Wertenberg left a phone message, “What calls your mother is able to place are being overseen by a deputy out of the Yucaipa station.” Wertenberg wrote, “The Ombudsman Program does not have authority to authorize or enforce visitation.” Colleen Krygier, Director of the county Department of Aging and Adult Services added, “At this time, your on-going concerns regarding your mother’s care would be better addressed through the pending case in the San Bernardino County Court.” When family brought the situation to State Ombudsman Joe Rodrigues, he referred us back to Ms. Krygier.

Family followed Ms. Krygier’s instructions and attempted to secure my mom’s rights through San Bernardino County Court. My mom was imprisoned and abused for more than two years, family incurred $400K in legal fees, and the court held over twenty-five hearings. Then Judge Michael Welch ruled that family did not have standing to sue for elder abuse until after my mom died. Judge Welch told family, “It’s not time yet.”

Family provided CCL with evidence obtained through extensive civil discovery. We filed ten well documented complaints of neglect, mental abuse, physical restraint, chemical restraint, denial of medical care, administration of medication without physician’s orders, administration of medication by unlicensed staff, and possible sexual abuse. More than a year later, CCL has not yet investigated eight of our ten documented complaints.

Numerous times during our ordeal Deputy District Attorney Tristan Svare told family, “There is nothing out of the ordinary.” Svare was correct. CEDAR sees similar cases throughout California.

Santa Clara County

Gisela Riordan was imprisoned and forcibly isolated at Villa Fontana in San Jose for over two years. The RCFE violated Gisela’s:

· Right to leave the facility,

· Right to have visitors,

· Rights to have phone calls,

· Right to send and receive mail.

CCL and the Long-term Care Ombudsman determined there was no violation of Gisela’s rights. Will Lightbourne, Director of California’s Department of Social Services wrote, “The above restrictions are well within the law and cannot be viewed as a violation of Ms. Riordan’s personal rights.”

San Jose Police Department has no protocol for investigating mental abuse. Response from Sergeant Richard Benetiz underscored the deficiencies in the Department’s Duty Manual. “Based on all the information I have gathered at this point, it does not appear to me that this situation is a criminal neglect matter that would require the involvement of the police department.” Police Chief Chris Moore added, “After reviewing the facts as stated in your complaint, it has been determined that the actions taken were consistent with Department policy.” To date, San Jose Police Department has not updated their Duty Manual to include procedures for false imprisonment, isolation, or mental abuse of elders. The Department treats those crimes as civil matters.

County Counsel advised the Board of Supervisors that false imprisonment and isolation of elders is lawful. Deputy District Attorney Cherie Bourlard wrote, “This is a civil issue. You would have to petition the probate court through civil avenues.”

Gisela remained imprisoned and isolated until ABC7 in San Francisco brought the story public ( Gisela’s situation is much improved due to the efforts of ABC7. However, DSS Director Lightbourne still holds the position that two years of false imprisonment and isolation did not violate Gisela’s rights.

San Joaquin County

Maria Jordanou was imprisoned and forcibly isolated at Sunny Place of Stockton for the last month of her life. The RCFE denied Maria’s:

· Right to leave the facility,

· Right to have visitors,

· Rights to have phone calls,

· Right to send and receive mail.

CCL determined the RCFE violated Maria’s right to visitation and was responsible for her wrongful death. CCL assessed the maximum civil penalty of $150 for the wrongful death. There was no penalty for false imprisonment and isolation. CCL did not refer the crimes for criminal prosecution.

This writer interviewed the director of the RCFE that was responsible for Maria’s death. The director stated that she did not appeal the $150 penalty because, “It was trivial.

Monterey County

Margarita Zelada is imprisoned and forcibly isolated at Senior Paradise in Del Rey Oaks. She has been held against her will since March 2013. The RCFE violates Margarita’s:

· Right to leave the facility,

· Right to have visitors,

· Rights to have phone calls,

· Right to send and receive mail.

Advocates filed complaints with CCL and the Long-Term Care Ombudsman in October 2013. We are unaware of any investigation or activity for the benefit of the victim.


Horrific abuse has occurred and continues to occur in RCFEs. CCL, the Long-term Care Ombudsman, and law enforcement are unwilling or unable to respond effectively.

AB2171 will educate RCFEs, Community Care Licensing, Long-term Care Ombudsmen, and law enforcement on residents’ rights. With rights enforced by the responsible agencies, abuse and associated litigation will decrease.

Please support AB 2171.

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