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Fraud looms at facility for aging entertainers

Sunrise Assisted Living accused of elder abuse and neglect
Sunrise Assisted Living accused of elder abuse and neglect
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In recent months allegations of elder abuse have continued to taint the reputation of Sunrise Senior Living. The allegations were more recently brought to light by a whistleblower who is currently being represented by the Kinega Law Firm. Sunrise is home to former entertainers, prestigious talent managers and other influential celebrity personas. While the facility isn’t considered lavish, families of aging entertainers pay a hefty price for the ‘Plus’ option that entitles the resident to around-the-clock care.

Despite the high level clientele and expensive packages, the facility is accused of being severely under-staffed while creating an environment that fosters Medicare fraud. Elderly abuse and neglect often lead to injuries that were then billed to Medicare instead of being paid for by the facility itself. According to a complaint filed in the Superior Court of the State of California in Los Angeles County, the claims of abuse and other issues were investigated and substantiated by the State Licensing department.

The Veleski family are just one in a long line of families that have become victims of the money-making elderly care machine. They invested additional money every month to ensure that their aging family member would receive the Plus system standard of care. Despite their investment, their elderly family member suffered multiple injuries and hospital visits that were directly attributed to the understaffing at Sunrise. Those hospital visits and the associated costs were then directly billed to Medicare without Sunrise being held liable.

Another resident, Frieda Sneed, incurred similar injuries due to the understaffing at Sunrise. Sneed is most notably recognized as the former manager of American singer Lena Horne.

The entire investigation brings forth a much bigger issue that prevents California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris from fulfilling her regulation duties. The lack of follow through on these elder abuse claims paints a picture of multiple departments that simply can’t handle the responsibility. While it’s easy to point the finger at several power structures, none seem more appropriate than in the direction of the California Department of Public Health. Assistant Deputy Director Pam Dickfoss is one of several administrators responsible for community care licensing. This office oversees both day care and residential facilities in California. After a substantial amount of abuse cases settled out of court, allegations from a whistleblower and recorded understaffing, it’s hard to imagine how this facility continues to operate under a license that has multiple documented violations.