Cops investigate elder abuse report at care home

Doors nailed shut, locks and chains barring doors, and windows screwed shut were discovered by authorities called to Winston Manor, a residential-care home for seniors in South San Francisco.

South City police are investigating potential elder abuse at the 20 Elkwood Drive facility, which houses six elderly residents, and the fire department issued $3,500 in citations Thursday for blocking exits, illegal locks and other building and fire code violations.

The California Department of Social Services, contacted by the South San Francisco Fire Department, is investigating Winston Manor “to ensure the health and safety of the clients,” department spokeswoman Shirley Washington said.

Faulty nursing home care has been rampant in San Mateo County, with many senior care facilities receiving violations in the past year for a variety of charges.

Judith Guilfoyle, an ombudsman with the county who advocates patient rights and investigates elder abuse, said she visited the facility Thursday to see a client and noticed the blocked doors.

“It was bad enough that I immediately called the police,” Guilfoyle said.

The police, who had on record a senior walking away from the home in the early morning hours of Feb. 16, contacted the fire department after arriving because of the illegal locks on the doors.

“We found that the windows were locked and screwed shut. The doors were locked and chained,” South City Fire Inspector Tom Carney said. “One of the doors had a two-by-four nailed on the outside of the door with multiple nails.”

“[The owner] didn’t want the residents leaving because some of the caregivers were asleep at night,” Carney said.

Winston Manor owner Estelita Evangelista could not be reached for comment, and representatives at the home did not offer comment.

A contractor was immediately brought to the site Thursday and cleared up most of the violations, except the illegal construction of storage lockers in the garage and a cracked pane of glass, Carney said.

Carney, Guilfoyle andpolice officials all said they did not see any evidence of physical abuse to the residents.

James Bostwick of Bostwick & Associates, a San Francisco law firm specializing in elder abuse cases, cautioned that it was premature to conclude this was an abusive situation.

“If somebody is being chained in a room and there’s a fire and they can’t get out, that’s obviously bad,” he said. “On the other hand, we don’t know if there are other methods of getting in and out of the room, if the chain keeps other people from getting in.”

Guilfoyle said officials are finding more instances of alleged abuse in the county because there is more assisted living opening up and there is not a lot of properly trained staff.

Individuals who wish to report alleged elder abuse should call Guilfoyle at (650) 349-7008.

dsmith@examiner.com  

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