DSHS closure leaves clients steamed

When the state swooped in on Wednesday and bundled off every resident of Christie Everton’s three adult care homes, its representatives said they were acting in the best interest of the homes’ elderly clients.

Many of the residents’ family members, however, said the state caused more damage than it prevented when it yanked Everton’s license.

The Residential Care Services division of the state Department of Social and Health Services issued a 37-page report Wednesday that detailed Everton’s alleged violations of state senior care law. The report said Everton’s clients had untreated bed sores, that her staff was undertrained, that the food served was not nutritionally adequate, that the residents were not being treated with dignity and respect, and other offenses.

The report also said these violations were ongoing and Everton had made little to no effort to remedy any of them.

Everton operated three residential-type adult-care homes in the South Kitsap area. By state law, none of the homes can have more than six residents — largely because the homes are set up in private residences with at least one live-in primary care provider. According to state records, there are 258 such facilities in the Kitsap/Pierce County area.

Acting on an anonymous complaint, DSHS representatives inspected Everton’s Sidney Road facility on June 6 and on June 16. According to the official report, inspectors found what appeared to be an appalling list of residents’ health and safety issues, including a resident with 12 separate skin lesions, some of which were infected.

Some residents showed evidence of weight loss and others were apparently left sitting in their own excrement overnight — up to 11 hours at a time.

Based on what they found at the Sidney facility, DSHS representatives inspected Everton’s other facilities — one on Ridge Rim Trail and one on Franway Lane. They allegedly found evidence of health violations there, as well.

In total, DSHS counted five residents out of a total 16 with immediate health problems. The others, said the state report, were at potential risk of harm from “unmet needs.” Therefore, on Wednesday, DSHS decided to cancel Everton’s license, forcing the relocation of all 16 residents.

Many of the residents’ families were outraged at this decision.

“It was horrendous,” said Martha Lounsberry, whose mother is a former resident of Everton’s Ridge Rim facility. “It was hard on all the people that were there.”

Lounsberry’s mother, Altha Abbott, had lived at Ridge Rim for nearly a year. Lounsberry said when the DSHS people came in and started packing up Abbott’s things, her mother — who is 89 years old and legally blind — didn’t know what to do. No one was given any advance notice and residents were given only a cursory explanation of what was going on.

‘They just told her she was moving,” Lounsberry said. “She hadn’t had any dinner, she hadn’t any evening pills. She was just so distraught. That’s the first time I saw my mother cry in 65 years.”

Because Abbott’s nursing care expenses are paid by the state, she was immediately transferred to another home-based facility — Karli Way Duchess Adult Family Home,also located in South Kitsap. Lounsberry said she doesn’t object to the placement and likes Karli Way’s primary caregiver, Millie. However, she resents that neither she nor her mother was given a choice in the matter.

“They decided before we were ever out there,” Lounsberry said. “The residents had no choice. The residents’ families had no choice. It was really scary.”

“It’s not a bad thing she’s at Millie’s,” she continued. “Millie seems to be a real nice and caring person. It’s just the way it was done. These poor older people — when you get to be a certain age, you lose a little more and a little more and pretty soon you don’t have any say about anything.”

Carolyn Meisner, whose mother Sarah Alice Eoff was also a resident at Ridge Rim, is having the opposite problem.

Because Eoff paid for her care herself, DSHS had no authority to move her. So on Wednesday Eoff sat with the care workers, watching TV, until Meisner got home and heard the voice mail message from DSHS informing her of the closure.

Unfortunately, because Meisner works in Tacoma and was out doing errands, it was after 7 p.m. when she found out her mother no longer had a home. At that point, it was too late to find her new housing anywhere.

“I was like — whoa,” Meisner said. “I had to take two days off work on the spur of the moment. A little more notice would have been nice.”

Eoff is currently staying with Meisner, who has hired a private caregiver to take care of her mother while she goes to work. Meisner liked Ridge Rim because it was small and homey and — most importantly — on Meisner’s way home from work. She said she used to stop off every other day or so, have dinner with her mother and maybe watch a little TV with her.

Meisner isn’t sure where Eoff is going to end up, but she knows one thing — it will probably be bigger, more expensive and less convenient than she would like.

“It’s been very difficult,” Meisner said. “Most places are full. This isn’t going to be easy for me and her. She’s very upset. It takes a while for people with dementia/Alzeimer’s to adjust.”

Both Lounsberry and Meisner said they were very happy with the level of care provided at Ridge Rim. They knew the two staffers — Shelly and Tonya — by name and were pleased with the care and compassion they showed for the residents. Both women said that whatever problems DSHS found, they certainly didn’t apply to their parents.

“I didn’t see any risk for my mother,” Meisner said. “The residents were well taken care of. They were happy when I came here. Shelly and Tonya went the extra mile for them.”

Both women were very upset with DSHS for uprooting their mothers so unceremoniously. They said they understood the need to respond quickly to complaints and unhealthy care environments but couldn’t understand what good could come from evicting two women who were obviously in good health.

“They talk about abuse, and then they come and do something like this,” Lounsberry said. “I think it’s ludicrous. There should be a change in the policy.”

DSHS spokeswoman Elaine Odom said the department weighs the potential harm to residents when making its decision. She said DSHS officials realized many of the residents would be significantly traumatized by the move, but concluded the violations were too severe to let go another day.

“In this situation, we found it serious enough that we wanted the residents out now,” Odom said.

Everton was not available to comment, but Shelly Wernicke, Ridge Rim’s resident manager said the DSHS charges were faulty at best. She admitted she couldn’t speak with any authority on the other facilities, but said at her home, no residents lacked for proper care. She also hinted at a possible future lawsuit against DSHS.

“I’ve been dong this work for 14 years and I’ve never, ever had a complaint on my care,” Wernicke said. “At this home here, (the residents) were always taken care of. The documentation is false, and that will come out in court.”

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