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Edmund Finucane is protesting outside of the Central Coast Nursing Center because the new management keeps throwing roadblocks in the way of his visiting residents. He had been a regular visitor ever since responding to a "Come Visit Us" sign when he lived across the street, 28 years ago.

Paul Wellman

Edmund Finucane is protesting outside of the Central Coast Nursing Center because the new management keeps throwing roadblocks in the way of his visiting residents. He had been a regular visitor ever since responding to a "Come Visit Us" sign when he lived across the street, 28 years ago.


Nursing Home Whistleblower’s Unsung Story

Jailed for Trespassing After Reporting Abuse to State


Monday, October 3, 2011
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The following is the story of a local citizen who helped the Santa Barbara nursing home Central Coast Nursing Center lose its license to operate.

He is Edmund Finucane, a 70-year-old man, a good Samaritan who has been visiting this facility at 3880 Via Lucero (near La Cumbre and State) for 28 years. There are such people out there, who volunteer their time to bring comfort to nursing home residents, often put away by their relatives and not visited enough by them.

Bryan Rosen
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman (file)

Bryan Rosen

Edmund Finucane had visited residents for all those years (probably over a thousand times) without having any problems with the management. After the facility’s activities director asked him to, Edmund volunteered to lead some religious services at the facility–during which he played violin! He did this for several years. In addition to this, he assisted with his denomination’s services at the facility. He is well known by many residents now living there.

But just within the last year, his life took a big turn after he found terrible abuse and started reporting it to the state. For the first time, he was told he couldn’t visit the nursing home, that it constituted trespassing. Feeling that the residents had the right to have visitors, on January 26, 2011, Edmund disobeyed those orders, and found himself arrested. He spent time in jail at taxpayer expense. He had never been arrested before.

The District Attorney’s office treated him like a criminal. Instead of persecuting the man who reported the abuse, the D.A.’s office should have joined the California Department of Public Health in going after this facility. How many of our tax dollars did the D.A.’s office use in its effort to portray Edmund as a criminal? And why didn’t they have the wherewithal to treat him better? Didn’t they know the sad history of this location, under different owners – the long history of elder abuse occurring there? If not, why not? Instead of cooperating with the nursing home’s efforts to intimidate him, they should have given him an award.

The prosecuting attorney for the DA’s office said they’d drop the charge if Edmund agreed to accept her condition, that he “behave himself” while visiting the nursing home. The nursing home had its own, additional requirements for visitation. They wanted him to fill out an employment application and get tested for tuberculosis. They also wanted him to get written permission from the next of kin. Never mind that the residents have full constitutional and human rights, including the right to meet with visitors of their choice.

Because Edmund felt that he had done nothing wrong, and that agreeing to the D.A.’s demand was akin to admitting guilt, he insisted on going to trial. He couldn’t afford an attorney, so he represented himself. The charge was soon dropped, without any conditions, on July 29, 2011. The D.A.’s office and nursing home had played a cat-and-mouse game with Edmund for six months, and Edmund realized he could put a stop to it by insisting on his right to a jury trial.

On August 25, 2011, this nursing home was no longer allowed to operate “because of serious violations related to quality of care and actual harm to patients” according to Cheryl Gordon of the California Department of Public Health. Fortunately, the 150 or so residents weren’t turned out into the streets, as Compass Health took over immediately. Was Edmund vindicated by this happening? No. Expecting a different and kinder management, on September 15 he returned to the building only to be told he’d be once again arrested if he visited. The police were again called.

Never mind that an elderly woman, a friend, was anticipating his arrival, and had to witness the confrontation. Edmund was told he’d have to agree to all kinds of conditions to visit residents. He’d have to give his ID and submit to a background check. He couldn’t meet in private with residents. He’d be fingerprinted, etc.

I’ve visited nursing homes before and fortunately never was subjected to any of this. There seems to be a growing trend to discourage visitation, to treat visitors like criminals. These kinds of conditions aren’t a legal requirement, and being confronted with them is enough to make many people not want to visit. Nursing homes can neglect their residents a lot easier if it’s made difficult for outsiders to observe.

Hopefully, this nursing home operator won’t be as abusive as the last one. Darrin Smith, the Chief Operating Officer, says he cares and wants to change things. But can we really be sure this will happen? Change may be difficult in these kinds of facilities; it’s too easy to neglect and mistreat the elderly if no one’s watching. After all, nursing homes can be very challenging workplaces and good employees are often not paid what they are worth. To prevent bad things from happening, and to keep moods bright, a lot more people like Edmund are needed – who will insist on their right to visit.

Bryan Rosen is a longtime resident of Montecito and a member of the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse. (For more information go to stopguardianabuse.org.)

Comments

Independent Discussion Guidelines

Let this be a warning that nursing home residents need all possible contact with friends and family. Constant vigilenge (and a stout heart) is needed to prevent the abuse of our elderly.

winddancer1562 (anonymous profile)
October 3, 2011 at 7:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Abuse doesn't happen only in Elsewhere, Arkansas. Facilities that underpay CNA's end up with mostly under-motivated caregivers. The angels of mercy among them stand out in sharp contrast.

I worked graveyards at a Santa Barbara convalescent hospital, where I had to bring graham crackers to residents who complained of hunger, every night. Inspecting their daily records showed that they ate 90% to 100% of their dinners every day. Then one day I was called in to work an evening shift, and discovered that residents who were unable to feed themselves were being fed 0% to 15% of their dinners, while nurses stood by with arms crossed, heads up, and eyes open.

Early one night, I discovered that a patient was covered with dried diarrhea from shoulder blades to knees. Outraged at the negligence of a CNA from the previous shift, I complained to the nursing supervisor. She teed off on me, saying "Do YOU want me to write her up? Is that what ***YOU*** want me to do?" I said Yes.

Soon after, I quit and applied for work at the La Cumbre convalescent hospital. After the hiring person called my former workplace, he came back smirking and told me he wasn't interested, based on his phone call.

It happens here, not just in Beverly Hills.

Adonis_Tate (anonymous profile)
October 3, 2011 at 8:25 a.m. (Suggest removal)

You are a true hero, Edmund Finucane, and an inspiration!

What a legacy you are building!

Proudly,
Elaine Renoire
NASGA
www.StopGuardianAbuse.org

ElaineRenoire (anonymous profile)
October 3, 2011 at 1:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Great article. More power to Edmund and Bryan! Edmund semes to be trying to do the right thing. Good for the residents and good for him. I hope an arrangement can be worked out. The DA's office seems to have blundered this one, although I can understand the request for a TB screen since residents often are required toi get a screen and it sounds like Edmund visits more often than most residents' family!

Elders as a group are so vulnerable to abuse and fraud these days, we as children and citizens have to be diligent.

Anyone wishing to help their folks transition into a senior community that offers assisted living and/or skilled nursing care should make sure the community does background checks on their nursing staff ... all the way from CNA's to RN's. Check out the LA Times and Pro Publica for articles about issues related to regulation/certification/monitoring of nurses in CA. Pretty eye opening.

I'd also recommended taking a look at the owner's books if they're available. I personally think companies that are not publically held (i.e. short-term profit driven) but are well captialized are the way to go. Unfortunately, this can be very expensive. Non-profits can be a good option, but still need to look at their finances and record. If you can figure out what the community is legally set up as (e.g. RCFE, CCCR) then you can find out who is responsible for regulating them and where to look for track record info (e.g. CA Dept of Social Services). Due diligence is super important.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
October 4, 2011 at 9:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@jfklbj

Your black and white analysis may not fit. Most assisted living facilities and nursing homes have as part of their enrollment package a statement of client/resident rights that include visitation. If Edmund was there as a visitor and was not violating any visitation rules, then what's the problem?

The author's implications are that Edmund was being kicked out because he was exposing serious and life-threatening wrong-doing by the first company running the nursing home. And although there are no facts presented one way or the other, there is a possibility the same thing may be happening with the second owner. If not, why not allow Edmund to visit his friends like a normal visitor? Sometimes the color of authority is not authority at all.

And by the way, Edmund did the right thing per your example. He reported the elder abuse to the authorities.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
October 5, 2011 at 1:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The nursing home residents have a 1st Amendment Constitutional right to freedom of association. This includes the right of residents to visitation from individuals of their choosing, (aside from those who pose an actual threat to public safety). To yank that right without a hearing would be paramount to incarceration in violation of the 5th amendment right to due process.

To be fair, this article only outlines one side of the story. Would be interesting to hear a rebuttal by the District Attorney's office, the governmental entity at play here.

The private property argument holds no water, where people take up residence in exchange for rent paid. Unless expressly contracted for, a term of social isolation agreed upon by both parties would be required in order to cut off visitation for the residents. It's unlikely that such a contract term exists in the residential agreement. I'm also quite certain that such a contractual term would not pass muster with the Ombudsman.

Edmund is a rare breed indeed, and we need more concerned citizens like him in our ranks. Given the fact that the facility was subsequently closed based on the healthcare violations reported by Edmund, I dare say the DA's office should choose their battles more wisely. Elder abuse is a serious problem in Santa Barbara County, and the DA's office has a direct responsibility to protect the safety of nursing home residents, many of whom are our most vulnerable citizens.

sbgal8 (anonymous profile)
October 5, 2011 at 2:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Whistleblowers must be protected.
Nursing home patients must be protected.
The only real way to protect patients is with cameras in every room!

NASGA (anonymous profile)
October 8, 2011 at 9:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

What a sad mess. I worked for a skilled nursing in SB. All visitors were carefully acknowledged and accounted for. We had to be careful when good intentions could go awry and the occasional well meaning good samaritan would bring doughnuts for the diabetics, or offer unsupervised food and fruit drinks to special diet patients during an activity. Clearly the social director had ok'd this volunteer and he the director would have been responsible for his supervision and continued attendence. It appears the nursing home was delinquent in their behaviour with full knowledge of the abuse and sorely misused this poor volunteer. "No good deed goes unpunished" as the saying goes.

samuel (anonymous profile)
October 8, 2011 at 11:31 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Who was/is the D.A. who persecuted this citizen to protect her corporate sponsors? Perhaps she should be thrown out of office?

Martin2952 (anonymous profile)
October 11, 2011 at 7:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The ignorance of the law shown by SBPD and the DA's office is inexcusable. Rosen sounds like his heart is definitely in the right place, but seems to have limited familiarity with the law.
This facility is required by law to post the residents' bill of rights.
Residents of skilled nursing facilities in California have had a Bill of Rights for around thirty years. It was expanded in 2007. It's easy to find if you search for long term care ombudsman, CA Dept of Aging, or Area Agency on Aging. Long term care facilities operate under Title 22 of the Health and Safety Code.
Many residents have frail bodies and minds as sharp as any of us commenting on this article.The intent of the law is to provide these people with the highest quality of life possible in their home, including their social and emotional life, and including their rights as US citizens.
Edmund has not only been deprived of his legal right to visit his friend at this facility on many occasions, he's also been threatened and arrested as a result of exercising this right. This is a civil rights violation and emotional elder abuse. His friend was deprived of her right to have visitors, and suffered the same violations of law. Isolating the elderly and disabled from visitors, whether friends or family, is emotional abuse and a violation of elder law. The representative of Compass Health violated Edmund's and his friends' civil rights, protected by state and federal law, by telling Edmund he can't visit a resident in private - residents' right to see visitors in private is law. SBPD and the DA's office have endangered residents in this facility by supporting illegal policies that isolate them from friends and family and will make future violations less visible to the public. It's disgusting that both operators have the support of SB city government, SBPD and the DA in violating the civil rights of residents and visitors, and that SB's legal justice community is not only ignorant of the law regarding long-term care facilities, but has apparently made no attempt to remedy that situation as a result of Finucane's experiences. Finucane described this serious violation of law at a city council meeting where not only SB's mayor and city council were present, but city administrator Jim Armstrong and city attorney Steve Wiley, with no response. This is outrageously irresponsible and unacceptable behavior - we have no public safety in SB when the most vulnerable people in our population are subjected to the ignorance of local government officials and neglect of our laws.
Edmund Finucane's treatment by both operators of this facility, as well as SBPD and the DA, are violations of elder law and should be reported as elder abuse to California attorney general Kamila Harris's office, since no one in SB city or county government acknowledge the law.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
October 14, 2011 at 7:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Bravo, Edward Finucame! Back in 2004, I was escorted out by three employees at the Rehabilitation Center of Beverly Hills at the request of the facility's Director because I complained to a nursing supervisor that I am witness elderly abuse and neglect occuring to my dear, and late friend actress Shelley Winters, and also Sid Caesar and others. I was told they were high profile celebrities and I was causing problems. After being expelled from the facility, and contacting every source of elderly abuse I can think of, the L.A. County Dept. of Health finally conducted a covert investigation. Along with my complaints and several others, the agency was able to substantiate 6 of 7 complaints, the one having to be left open. The Rehabilitation Center of Beverly Hills were given a citation. Basically, a slap on the wrist. The abuse and neglect of residents and the non-chalant cavalier attitude of the those employed at the facility is appauling. No human should ever be treated with such disregard and respect...Thank you, Edward Finucame for standing your ground and taking on the fight. It is my hope our efforts can somehow make some sort of change for the better. At times, I have my doubts.
Fred L. Zaidman

zeezee (anonymous profile)
October 29, 2011 at 9:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

EastBeach: Finucane reported the sexual abuse that resulted in the facility's change in management. You're probably thinking of facilities with private payment - this is primarily MediCal, and compensation in the early 80's was inadequate to provide sufficient staff to ensure that residents who needed assistance eating were fed - a long time before Arnie's budget cuts, and Jerry Brown's worse, but better than SBPD,, Dudley, or county sup's.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
November 23, 2012 at 6:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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