Suit alleges abuse at Seal Beach nursing home
Former patient says she was forcibly medicated to take control of her money.
Orange County Regiser
By Courtney Perkes
August 26, 2011
A retired preschool teacher has filed an elder abuse lawsuit against a Seal Beach nursing home claiming staff at Country Villa drugged her by force and attempted to take control of her retirement funds.
Marsha "Aleah" Davis, 68, alleges that she was forcibly medicated with psychotropic drugs to "chemically restrain" her, according to a suit filed this week in Los Angeles Superior Court.
During a February visit to Country Villa, state investigators found that Davis had been improperly medicated. The nursing home has submitted a corrective plan. Ralph Montano, a spokesman for the Department of Public Health, said Friday that the nursing home will not be fined or cited.
Julianne Williams, chief operating officer for Los Angeles-based Country Villa Health Services, said administrators were still reviewing the lawsuit and could not comment on the specific details.
"We take these things very seriously," she said. "The care and health and welfare of our residents are our very first priority. Every allegation that is brought to us will be investigated and acted upon appropriately."
According to the suit, Davis, 68, lived in her own home in Westminster until November 2010. The retired preschool teacher worked part-time as a secretary at her church. She had a variety of health ailments, including diabetes. Last fall, she collapsed at her home and was hospitalized for 10 days. She was then transferred to Country Villa, where she remained for three months.
The suit alleges that after medicating Davis to the point of disorientation, Country Villa claimed she suffered from "cognitive impairment" and attempted to collect her Social Security payments.
"You're trusting these people," said Davis' attorney, Matthew Borden of Berkeley. "You're relying on them. They're supposed to be medical people. It's just unconscionable and it's scary."
Borden said Davis had no immediate family members to advocate for her. After a friend intervened, he said the medication stopped and Davis was eventually transferred to a nursing home in Fountain Valley, where she still lives.
The state report does not identify Davis by name, but Borden said she is the patient.
The report describes how state code forbids using psychotherapeutic drugs for "patient discipline or staff convenience." The report says that to treat Davis for anxiety, she was given Haldol, an antipsychotic medication for schizophrenia. The facility's own policy stated in all capital letters that anti-psychotics "SHOULD NOT BE USED" if the patient's only symptom was anxiety.
The report found that nursing staff continued to give her a drug for dementia even after a doctor ordered discontinuation of the medication.
A nurse told investigators that Davis' cognition and behavior were better after the drugs were stopped. In an interview during the visit, Davis said she'd been drugged "to the point that I was unable to be aware of anything."
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
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