“Dozens of Questionable Deaths”

Kenny Malone at NPR had a great article on the suspicious deaths at care homes in Florida.  “In Florida, state regulators are failing to protect residents of assisted living facilities, according to an investigation by The Miami Herald and NPR member station WLRN.”   Their analysis of records discovered dozens of questionable deaths in assisted living facilities.

Florida is a case study for how the country protects some of its most vulnerable citizens.

Aurora Navas drowned outside a Miami assisted living facility on Jan. 27, 2008, despite its security measures. In her early 80s, doctors diagnosed Aurora with Alzheimer’s disease. Not long afterwards, she moved to Isabel Adult Care III, a six-bed assisted living facility in Southern Miami-Dade County. Isabel Adult Care III with a lake closeby.

“They had like a little chain-link fence that separated the lake from the property there,” her son Alfredo says. “I did see a surveillance camera. You could see the alarm on the door. And there’s always a person there. So it — everything seemed fine.”

The police report states on Jan. 27, 2008 at 3:45 a.m., Aurora Navas got out of bed.  She walked past an unconnected surveillance camera. She wandered out a door with an improperly set alarm. She shuffled through an unlocked back gate. Two on-duty caretakers failed to stop her. Police  determined that Aurora Navas drowned in around 18 inches of water.

A year-long investigation by The Miami Herald and WLRN has turned up at least 70 questionable deaths in Florida assisted living facilities. Herald investigative reporter Mike Sallah reads a list of deaths culled from thousands of state documents:

“Angel Joglar, 71; killed when left in a bathtub of scalding water.”

“Gladys Horta, 74 years old; strapped so tightly the restraints ripped into her skin, causing a blood clot that killed her.”

“Walter Cox, 75 years old; Alzheimer’s patient. Wandered out of a facility for the fourth time; his body was found torn apart by an alligator.”

“And in almost all 70 cases, there were few or no consequences for caretakers. Florida, once a national leader in policing assisted living facilities, has fallen behind in enforcement, our investigation shows.”

“Our investigation found that the agency is also taking longer to follow up on complaints: In 2009, AHCA took an average of 10 extra days to complete investigations into complaints compared to five years earlier.  And when facilities are found to have deficiencies, the agency rarely punishes them to the full extent of the law.”