I wrote an article regarding a report a couple of years ago that was made public by the Campaign to Improve Assisted Living, that involved Atria Senior Living. In the report, Atria Senior Living, one of America’s largest assisted living facility, with 121 facilities nationwide, as well as the largest in New York, was said to have been cited over 1,000 times for serious resident care problems.
It was alleged, that Atria Senior Living had made numerous errors in areas of extreme importance. Allegations of negligent care due to low staffing was one of the main issues concerning the citations Atria had received.
According to the report, one of the facilities that is located in Texas was cited for having only one caregiver for 152 residents. Atria Virginia Beach was cited for having no staff on duty at its assisted living component twice. Atria Kingwood, located in Texas was reported to have a 26 percent medication error rate.
In other alleged incidents, a resident of Atria passed away after receiving medication that had been intended for someone else. Other reports have shown incidents such as violation of fire codes, failing to call emergency services after a resident slipped and fell, inadequate emergency planning, and problems with residents wandering away.
While preparing the report, the Campaign to Improve Assisted Living spoke with residents, as well as workers of Atria Senior Living. Listed below is some of the complaints from residents and employees of Atria Senior Living.
“Lately my mother has not been dressed well or had make-up applied. When I asked a staff member about it, she told me that they have so many residents to care for that they can only devote about 20 minutes for morning preparations for each resident requiring assistance. We are paying $2000 a month for such limited personal attention. Outrageous.” Atria residents daughter, Chula Vista, California.
“I worked at Atria Kew Gardens from September 2005 to July 2006. I was hired to run the recreation program for the facility’s Alzheimer’s affected residents. Not long after this, I was told that I would have to start supervising this night nursing staff. I do not have any clinical background experience, I did not hire the staff I was supposed to supervise. and this would take my focus away from the successful program i’d developed to take care of the residents.” Kathyrn Kuhn, Queens, New York.
“Seniors in Atria facilities need someone to be there for them,” stated Joan Lee, California Legislative Liaison for the Gray panthers. “That’s what assisted living is supposed to provide, but Atria is letting their residents down.”
“I am deeply concerned by reports coming from residents at the Atria located in my district about rapidly rising costs coupled with disturbing lapses in patient care and service,”said State Assembly member Linda B. Rosenthal (D, WF). “I am looking into these matters, but in the meantime I strongly urge Atria Senior Living to get its house in order and address these issues.”
Not only has Atria Senior Living let the residents down, it has let the families of the residents down as well.
Not long after I wrote the first article on Atria Senior Living and the 1000 citations they received. Janet Hermann, the daughter of Abraham Rothstein, a resident of the Atria Senior Living facility in South Setauket, New York , contacted me regarding the untimely death of her father in March of 2009.
After speaking with Janet regarding her father and Atria Senior Living, Janet agreed on allowing me to interview her about her unpleasant experience with Atria Senior Living. This interview is the recollection of the weeks prior to Mr. Rothstein’s death in March of 2009. This interview is solely the opinion of one person regarding Atria Senior Living and her experience with them.
Should Atria Senior Living take some responsibility for the untimely death of Abraham Rothstein? You be the judge.
What is your name? “Janet Hermann”
What is your association with Atria Senior Living? “My Dad, Mr. Abraham Rothstein lived there for approximately nine months.”
Why is it important for you to get your story out regarding Atria Senior Living? “I want other people to realize that although, their website says “your loved ones are never alone” that’s not true. There is no distinction on their website as to the difference in care. Yes, he was able to care for himself 100% of the time before going to the hospital. Once he (her father) came back from the hospital/re-hab, he obviously needed some assistance and if they were not aware of that the first day he arrived back there, they certainly knew on the day I called them asking for assistance two days after he arrived back at Atria Senior Living.”
What facility of Atria Senior Living did your father reside at? “He was in the South Setauket, New York location. “
Was your father ill before being sent to Atria Senior Living?” He was living at Atria for nine months, and was basically living there because we did not want him alone since his wife was in a nursing home a few miles from there, and he visited her everyday. It was safer for him living there with other people around, (or so we thought). “
When your father arrived at Atria Senior Living, was he in good health? “He wasn’t great, but he took his meds and tried to exercise. he was borderline diabetic, about 30 pounds overweight, and had bypass surgery in October of 2008.”
How much per month was your father being charged to live at Atria Senior Living?” Around $3000.00 per month. That included two meals a day, which was always a sore subject, since he always said he did not get enough and the food was not very good.”
What were the responsibilities of the staff at Atria Senior Living pertaining to your father? “They were to give him two meals per day. He was not in the assisted living wing, he was in the independent part of the facility. He didn’t really need assistance with anything when he first arrived there.”
Your father was paying close to $3400.00 in the independent wing of Atria Senior Living. Did that include any care from nurses, other than two meals per day? “No.”
Did your father have a private room, or did he share it with someone else? “He had a private room that also included a kitchenette.”
You have stated that he resided in the independent wing of the facility. Did anyone other than the residents frequent that area? Nurses? Doctors, if any?” There were no doctors or nurses in that part of the building. The part-time person on staff came to get him on Friday for physical therapy, even though he said that he was not well! She stated however, that he was fine.”
During the time your father resided at Atria Senior Living, where were you living?” In California.”
Was the staff of Atria aware that you resided in California?” My sister was the person to contact initially since she lived in New York…I think I was on the contract somewhere as the 2nd contact, but not 100% sure..They never called my sister the day he didn’t feel well, and when they took him by ambulance to the hospital, they left a message on her answering machine at home, and never called her office or me. At that point, they did have my contact info since I was calling all day the previous day and they were aware of the situation. They never called me when he was taken to the hospital, I called the independent contractor who they recommended, and she was the one that told me he was found on the floor.”
If your father was ill, was there someone who was to be contacted immediately? “Yes, my sister in New York.”
Being that he did reside in the independent wing of the facility. Was there anything in the contract that stated he was not allowed to be checked on by the faculty?” I honestly don’t know. We always assumed he’d be cared for, and that’s why we told him to live there, and not in an apartment by himself (first mistake).”
Was there a telephone in your father’s room? Yes, plus he had a cell phone.
Did you speak to your father on a regular basis?” Everyday until he was taken to the hospital. he could not hear me with his hearing aid on the phone in his hospital room, so I did not talk to him once he was there, other than him talking to me through my sister. “
When did you realize that there was a problem with your father?” On March 1st of 2009, I believe. When he was not answering his phone at Atria or his cell phone.”
When you realized there was a problem, you called the front desk for assistance. Did they go and check on your father?” Yes.”
Once the front desk checked on your father. What exactly did they tell you? “They said that his dinner tray, and breakfast tray was sitting there “un-eaten”, and that his room was “hot”….That’s when I asked them to please find someone from “assisted” to go check on him. She clearly said that she couldn’t do that because he was in “independent” although they knew he just returned from the hospital/re-hab two days prior. They finally gave me the name of the “independent contractor” they use to help with some of the people in “independent” to offer assistance to them. I don’t think she was a nurse, but not certain, but for sure she was not professional.When my Dad got on the phone with me (she handed it to him) he asked me for toast and jelly. I thought he sounded confused, but she got back on the phone and said he was kidding. I should’ve known better. He was confused because he needed to take his med’s and most likely had a fever. She said she helped him take his med’s but never confirmed if he had a fever. If she had, I would’ve had them call 911 and take him to Stoneybrook….Instead, they took him to Mather Hospital…(huge mistake) they didn’t know how to treat ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome).they never asked us where we wanted him to go, and the ambulance arrived about 15 minutes later, so they had time to call.”
The same day that you talked to the front desk, they gave you the number to the independent? “Yes, after four calls begging them for a number of someone, and I have the record…..I called the independent six times that day to make sure she went there.”
The person you spoke to at the front desk, who was it? A nurse? Receptionist?” I’m pretty sure she was the receptionist at the front desk. When someone walked in I think she told them where to go! She said there was no nurse there, but when Sherry Rhodes did the investigation, they told her that they told me that they could call an “on call” nurse..They never told me that, otherwise, why would I call the independent “Vina”….obviously, a nurse would’ve been perfect.”
You stated that they were completely aware that something was not quite right, being the his food trays were left untouched?” Yes they were.”
You stated that his room was hotter than usual, which more than likely meant that he had a fever. Suspecting this, did the facility nurses do anything? “They never called any nurse or doctor, I literally begged them.”
You stated that the person at the front desk would not assist him since he was on the independent side, and it was Sunday. What did Sunday have to do with anything?” I am assuming their nurses, if any, were on call that day and not in the facility. I really do not know how often or when the nurses are there, or if they even have one on staff.”
Janet, how old was your father?” He was 81 while he was living at Atria Senior Living.”
Being of that age Janet, did the nurses ever express in any way that they were concerned for your father? “No. But I never spoke with any nurse. There was no one available.”
The “independent” person that you hired to check on your father, who exactly was she? “She’s independent and I got her number from the front desk person. I do believe that she was a retired nurse, but I never asked. I was just thankful that they had finally given me someones number, but of course that was the first mistake I made. She was totally oblivious, and when she went back the next morning to check on him, it was not even her, it was her cousin. I was not informed of this until many months later. I still do not understand how or why they would allow this person to assist the residents in the independent wing of the building.”
How many times a day did you request them to check on your father? “Once the person checked on him that evening. I asked her to go back in the morning and twice a day, everyday after that, until he was better. She only went over there twice a day…when I called her in the morning, she had already left and wouldn’t go back until later in the day which was about 5 hours later…she was to check on him twice a day until he got his strength back.”
Are there any records that prove he was checked on? “None, that I know of, but maybe they made something up when they did the investigation to cover themselves..Vina did not go back the next morning like she said, she sent her cousin!!!….When the cousin went in, she said my Dad told her to come back…..I don’t know if they were even telling the truth because they had gone there around 8 am, I believe and that’s when they found him on the floor….I don’t know if the “independent contractor found him on the floor, or the employee of Atria.”
When they found your father on the floor. What was done and who was contacted? “They called 911 and the ambulance came and took him to Mather’s Memorial Hospital.”
Where was your father taken after being found on the floor? “Mather’s Memorial Hospital”
After being transported to the hospital, what events took place? “He was in the emergency room for quite a while and then was admitted. They said when he fell, he aspirated and went to his lung, and for some reason he ended up with double pneumonia, which then went to multi-organ failure, sepsis, etc. At the end, we counted 26 reasons why he died. If they would’ve contacted us, we would’ve told them to take him by ambulance to Stoneybrook……also, if they would’ve confirmed he had a fever the day before, we would’ve had them call 911 at that time. We would not have waited until he fell, and “aspirated: which caused the pneumonia in his lung for a 2nd time within a month of the last pneumonia, which he was hospitalized for as well.”
After your father’s death, what actions were taken by you against Atria, if any? Letters? Visits? I called and wrote letters and emails to Steve Necroto, The CEO John Moore never had the decency to call me or anyone else from our family. I spoke to Susan Harris who is no longer there, and Sherry Rhoades took over the “bogus” investigation.I contacted the Department of Health, but since he was in the “independent” living building, they said their hands were tied unless I could prove the independent contractor also was caring for people in the assisted living building, but I couldn’t prove it, and don’t really know.
Did Steve Necroto ever contact you after the emails, letters or phone calls? When he finally took my call he just said “what do you want”…seriously, (never said he was sorry about my Dad or anything) .I thought I was going to strangle him ..that’s when I decided to write to the CEO, which obviously was a waste of time. He never responded but had Sherry Rhodes contact me after they received the letter from me.
Sum up the letter you wrote to John Moore. “First of all, he never personally responded to my letter, not by phone, mail, email, or even a condolence card.I wanted him to do a full investigation of all the events, but what I got was a bogus investigation by an HR person ordered by Sherry Rhodes. After I complained to her about that, she said she would go there herself, which she did, but by that time, I felt everyone had their “pat” answer.Mostly, I wanted them to fire “Vina”. the independent contractor. That’s what I was hoping for, but that didn’t happen. I also wanted them to suspend or fire Steve Necrota for his callous behavior toward our family.There were some people that my Dad interacted with everyday from Atria, who came to visit him in the hospital and attended his services. I think her name was Joy. She really liked my Dad.I guess I just wanted some sort of “something”….they even sent me a bill a few weeks later for a few hundred dollars…I never responded, no other bills were sent after that. They just have no compassion at the top.”
The callous behavior you speak of from Steve Necrota, what exactly did he say? When I finally got him on the phone ( I can’t remember if he finally called me back or I called him) but basically he said “what do you want”…I’m pretty sure he called me.He was fully aware that my Dad died, and he never said anything about how sorry he was, obviously he could’ve cared less. That’s what actually prompted me to pursue this.
Almost a year after your ‘death, what would you say to anyone who is thinking about placing someone in a facility such as Atria Senior Living? Please ask a lot of questions, questions, questions, but again, that doesn’t mean the same thing can’t happen again. I read about Atria before my Dad moved there, especially the page with the CEO’s comment …see the following. As you can see he wasn’t protected. If they had re-acted appropriately, He’d still be with us?
(What makes Atria residences feel like communities? It’s the sense that independent men and women get when they come here that they’ve found a second home and family. Older people thrive at Atria, and family and friends feel secure their loved ones are protected and fulfilled.) Excerpt from FAQ, at AtriaSeniorLiving.com.
Janet, what steps do you believe should have been taken regarding your father? I feel that they should’ve reacted immediately. They knew the independent contractor couldn’t make over there for about 5 hours, and in those 5 hours he had to wait could’ve made a difference in the outcome. i don’t even have any proof that when she went there he actually took his med’s or ate something. If I had known if he had a fever, i definitely would’ve had them call 911. I still have a hard time believing that there was absolutely no nurse available to go check on him. of course, later one, they say they offered to call a nurse, but that’s a lie..if it were true, why would they have given me Vina’s phone number (independent contractor). To add to it, I was looking at my phone records and I had spoken with the personnel at Atria the day after he returned there. They knew he wasn’t in the best condition. If they really cared what happened to him, they should’ve told our family he needed to be in “assisted” for a few days/weeks until he was stronger.
A quote taken from the Atria Senior Living website. “Whether we’re executive directors or dishwashers, aides or housekeepers, you’ll find the same unwavering commitment to serve seniors from each and every one of us at Atria. We believe that nothing is more rewarding than making a difference in a life. So when our residents tell us that we’re their second family, we understand – because we feel that way too.
“At Atria Senior Living, we work hard to foster an independent living environment where older people thrive, where loneliness is behind them, and where adult children feel secure that their parents are protected and fulfilled. We offer just the right amount of assistance-tailored to each resident’s individual needs-to let older people live and experience assisted living and independent living communities with confidence.”
Obviously, in my opinion, this only applies when they feel the need for it to.
If you are thinking about, or have already placed your loved one in a facility such as Atria Senior Living, it is recommended that you pay attention to all the details, no matter how big or small they are. Read the fine print, ask as many questions as you feel the need to, even if you have to ask the same question multiple times. Make sure you know all the details before you take such a drastic step for someone you love. It is solely up to us to make sure the people we love are taken care of in the way they should be, not in a way others see fit.