At a nursing home for L.A.’s wealthy, coronavirus diagnoses stir anger and questions
In a get-what-you-pay-for world, the families of Silverado Beverly Place expect a lot.
The posh nursing home near the Fairfax district styles itself a geriatric luxury resort with 125 dementia patients offered gourmet meals, yacht trips, art shows, live entertainment and, as described by one pleased customer, the regular aroma of baking cookies.
The price tag can run north of $15,000 a month.
So it was with outrage and a sense of being cheated that some well-heeled Westside families greeted the news of an apparent outbreak of COVID-19 at the Silverado.
A man admitted to the facility last week tested positive shortly after his arrival and since then, a second resident and an employee have also come down with the virus.
Relatives have lashed out at management as incompetent and greedy for allowing a new resident — one apparently carrying the virus — to move in when the Silverado, like nursing homes across the state, was strictly limiting visitors to prevent infection.
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“This was about money.... If they were thinking about our parents, none of this would have happened,” said the adult daughter of one resident. She and other relatives spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying they feared ramifications for their loved ones’ care.
In a statement, a spokesman for the facility’s parent company noted that the new resident had no symptoms at the time he entered the building and defended the company and administrators.
“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our residents and the associates who care for them each day, and we’re proud of our team’s dedication and professionalism during this pandemic,” said Jeff Frum, spokesman for Irvine-based Silverado, a privately held firm that runs 19 upscale memory care homes and 11 hospices across the nation.
Dozens of concerned and, in some cases, irate family members have confronted Chief Executive Loren Shook and a facility administrator in Zoom conference calls in recent days, according to four participants.
They described sometimes raucous discussions in which adult children of residents, a high-powered set that included entertainment industry players, business executives and at least one doctor, demanded answers.
At one point, they said, Shook told the crowd that by this point in the pandemic, the virus was so widespread in society that one might pick it up in Costco.
The Silverado is not Costco, someone shot back, according to attendees.
“It was just a blood bath,” said one woman whose mother lives at the Silverado. “One man said, ‘I am the CEO of a publicly traded company and you are tone-deaf. You should be embarrassed. You did this for greed.’ People were all over [Shook.]”
Frum, the company spokesman, said that although most families were supportive and understanding, “there are a couple of family members that have high emotions over this and we respect that.”
Nursing homes, with their high concentration of the elderly and chronically ill, have been ground zero for the coronavirus. One of the deadly pathogen’s first footholds in the United States was at the Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland, Wash., where two-thirds of the residents and 47 workers fell ill, and 37 people died.
Since then, outbreaks have been reported at homes in Long Island, Delaware, Missouri and Oklahoma. Officials in New Jersey announced Wednesday that all 94 residents of a Woodbridge nursing home were being evacuated after more than a quarter tested positive.
In Los Angeles, public health authorities are monitoring outbreaks at several assisted-living facilities including Kensington Redondo Beach, Belmont Village senior living in Hollywood and Alameda Care Center in Burbank.
The Silverado cited fear of COVID-19 on March 12 when it asked families to stop visiting the three-story building on North Hayworth Street. In the following days, the facility also canceled events and barred the private paid companions many families hire for additional help.
But seven days after it started limiting access, on the evening of March 19, the Silverado allowed an elderly man to move into a unit for people suffering from mild dementia.
Asked why the patient was admitted, Frum said he could not disclose details for confidentiality reasons, but noted that some dementia patients may display behaviors that “are tough to handle in the home setting,” particularly when many families are confined to their residences all day.
Within 24 hours, the man became ill enough that an administrator called 911 and he was taken by ambulance to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The next day, he tested positive for the virus.
On Thursday, Shook informed relatives by email that another resident and an employee who worked on two floors of the building were both positive.
Both residents have since been released from the hospital; the first is recuperating at another location and the second is in isolation at the Silverado. The worker is isolated at home, according to emails sent to residents’ relatives.
Frum, the company spokesman, said that the first man stricken was in isolation when he fell ill, but relatives said the nurse who runs the Beverly Place location told them in a conference call that the man had contact with other residents and staff during his brief stay.
Frum suggested the two others who came down with the virus did not necessarily get it from the new resident. He noted that Silverado employees come and go from the facility, interacting with their own family members and, often, taking public transportation.
Asked whether the three cases were related, he said, “We don’t know. There’s no way to tell.”
Silverado placed a 14-day moratorium on admitting new residents earlier this week.
The question of who should, and should not, be admitted to a nursing home is becoming a matter of heated debate between among industry leaders, many of whom are desperate to keep the deadly virus out of their nursing homes, and regulators trying to make sure there are places for people in need.
The latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, issued in mid-March, is for nursing homes to accept anyone they would “normally admit to their facility.”
At about the same time, the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs, which runs 134 nursing homes, announced it would “suspend new admissions” owing to COVID-19 concerns.
The thorniest issue has been what to do with nursing home residents discharged from hospitals. Some homes are refusing to take residents back unless they have a test proving they are virus-free, and regulators in New York have ordered homes to accept residents returning from the hospital even if they are infected.
For the Silverado families, there is waiting and worry. No other residents are currently exhibiting symptoms and the facility has secured an agreement with a private lab to test residents “where appropriate.”
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