Reveal: Investigation Uncovers Neglect Inside California Senior Care Homes
Speaker 1: 00:01 From wage theft to to elderly neglect and investigative report by reveal from the center for investigative reporting has uncovered disturbing and sometimes deadly conditions in some senior care homes across California. Their first report back in may showed many workers being treated like indentured servants, some of whom make as little as $2 an hour working with no days off. But a recent investigation found elderly residents facing neglect so severe, some don't survive. Johnny me is Jennifer Golan and investigative reporter with reveal and Jennifer, welcome to the program. Thank you. It's great to be here. You begin your report with the very disturbing story of a 91 year old woman at a care home in the Los Angeles area. When she was taken to the hospital. What did healthcare workers find? Speaker 2: 00:53 Well, they found bedsores all over her body and these are pressure sores that develop when skin breaks down. When someone is sitting or lying in a certain position. For a long period of time, she had developed pneumonia and the care homes send her to the hospital in an ambulance. And what nurses and doctors discovered was that not only did she have pneumonia, but she had bed sores all over her body. And what we learned is that she had also been bitten by rats. The care home that had been taking care of her was infested with rats and workers had been complaining to the owner about this problem for months. What was the response of the operator of this facility? Well, the care home owner when we went and took our information to him and asked him how this could have happened, that someone who is 91 had died after being bitten by rats in his care home. Speaker 2: 01:54 He blamed the caregivers and went after them and called them gold diggers. Um, and he said that he had done everything he could to address the rap problem in his care home. But what we found is this is just but one case in a sea of care homes that have been cited for neglect of elderly residents and the same care homes are exploiting their caregivers. Oftentimes these caregivers earn just two or $3 an hour to work around the clock for years on end. And we found terrible examples of human trafficking and cases where workers are often harassed by the care home owners if they um, you know, decide to complain to regulators, labor and licensing regulators about the problems in these care homes. Now these care homes are licensed by the state. How can that be if such violations are occurring? Well there are more than 7,000 licensed care homes for seniors, California. Speaker 2: 03:00 In fact, California has the most senior care homes of any state in the nation and there are just so many care homes and it's really a complaint driven system where licensing regulators are responding to complaints from both caregivers and residents' families to go in and inspect these places. They are required to visit them every year, but there are just so many care homes to get to. And why are the caregivers at the senior care facilities so vulnerable to the kinds of exploitation you were talking about? Like wage theft and overwork? Many of these caregivers we found are poor immigrants. They're often Filipino. And they're desperate to keep these jobs because they're providing paychecks for them to then send back and support family members back in the Philippines or they're growing families as they arrive here in the U S sometimes these workers are undocumented and that puts them in a very vulnerable position where they don't feel like they can speak out and complain about the terrible conditions and exploitation that's going on. Speaker 2: 04:14 Um, we spoke with many caregivers who when they took their complaints to the care home owners about being underpaid or overworked, the care home owners either threatened to fire them or threatened to report them to immigration authorities and have them deported. You just said that you reported on a sea of senior care homes that have substandard conditions. How widespread is this problem? In the case of the exploitation itself, we found about 500 cases where the us department of labor has gone in and cited or find these care homes for underpaying their workers, meaning they're violating minimum wage laws. And these care homes are often skirting regulations and paying these workers just pennies on the dollar to work around the clock. And workers say that they are absolutely exhausted. Part of the problem is these care homes are promising families 24 hour care, but they're doing it sometimes with just one caregiver on duty. Speaker 2: 05:23 And there are laws on the books that allow them to use this loophole and basically, you know, get by on a shoestring. Um, but it's workers who are paying the price and in turn the elderly residents because if you have exhausted caregivers, what experts have told us is you're bound to have then situations where the elderly are put in precarious positions and in some times and sometimes their care is shortchanged. And how is the state responding to what you learned about the conditions inside some of the zones at the state level, governor Gavin Newsome's office has told us that they are launching this new effort where they're going to crack down on fraud and neglect in this industry. They're having labor and licensing officials meet frequently to share information and talk about ways that they can actually go out in a field and crack down on this abuse. Speaker 2: 06:21 Um, at the federal level, Congressman Bobby Scott from Virginia has written to the us department of labor asking for a full accounting of how they're dealing with this mess in the industry. And, um, in response to our investigation to thwart some of the abuse that's going on, they have not received the data and information that they had requested. So the last I heard, they were going to send another letter to the U S department of labor. I've been speaking with a reporter, Jennifer, Golan of reveal. You can find her firstname.lastname@example.org and Jennifer, thank you so much. It's a pleasure. Thank you. Speaker 3: 07:05 [inaudible].