Margarita Zelada’s family tells of frightening elder abuse at Senior Paradise. The small assisted living facility is located in idyllic Del Rey Oaks, quiet town on the California coast in Monterey County. A charming facade hides licensing violations and criminal abuse.
Margarita is rarely allowed visitors or phone calls. When family is able to establish contact, they find Margarita has suffered a dramatic decline in mental and physical function.
On August 2, 2013, Margarita’s niece, retired Air Force Colonel Bonnie Lind, had traveled from her home in Texas to visit Margarita on Saturday and Sunday. Senior Paradise allowed Bonnie and Margarita just one hour together on Saturday.
Then Senior Paradise Administrator Margaret Eldred Camara sent Bonnie the following email denying the visit planned for Sunday.
Date: Sat, 3 Aug 2013 18:13:08 -0700
Subject: postponed Sunday visit
I think we are going to need to postponed the visit on Sunday to another day.
Margarita had a very upsetting day and it is best to postpone the visit.
If you have any questions, please contact Jennifer on her cell 831-594-6550
Thank you so very much for understanding
Senior Paradise did not respond to Bonnie’s requests for another visit.
On October 20, 2013 elder advocates attempted to establish contact with Margarita. The advocates found doors locked in violation of licensing regulations. Senior Paradise would not allow anyone to enter or leave the facility. Administrator Margaret Eldred Camara told advocates that she would call the police if the advocates did not leave.
California licensing regulations state that residents have numerous personal rights, including the right to visitation. According to 22 CCR 87468(a), all residents of long-term care facilities have the following rights.
(6) To leave or depart the facility at any time and to not be locked into any room, building, or on facility premises by day or night. This does not prohibit the establishment of house rules, such as the locking of doors at night, for the protection of residents; nor does it prohibit, with permission of the licensing agency, the barring of windows against intruders.
(11) To have his/her visitors, including ombudspersons and advocacy representatives permitted to visit privately during reasonable hours and without prior notice, provided that the rights of other residents are not infringed upon.
(14) To have reasonable access to telephones, to both make and receive confidential calls. The licensee may require reimbursement for long distance calls. (Emphasis added)
In 2012, Margarita traveled independently to her native Peru to visit family. Videos from March 2013 show a spry and feisty senior who was quick to speak her mind. Just a few months later, Margarita needs assistance to walk, and she appears to have dementia.
On August 2, 2013, Margarita seemed confused, according to Bonnie. Margarita believed that she was “visiting friends” at Senior Oaks. Margarita also believed that her daughter, who lives in Pacific Grove, was actually in Europe. Margarita has not been allowed to see her only child since March 2013.
Bonnie was so disturbed by her aunt’s condition and the denial of visitation that she wrote to ABC7 I-Team in San Francisco. Bonnie told ABC7 that she believes Margarita may be drugged.
Chemical restraint with anti-psychotic drugs is shamefully common. A recent National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) conference discussed Seroquel, Risperdal, and similar drugs used to control residents in assisted living. Common side effects include stupor, confusion, loss of ability to walk, and loss of cognitive function.
Senior Paradise is currently under investigation by California’s Department of Social Services and the Long-Term Care Ombudsman.