Thursday, October 18, 2007

Residents Removed From Foster Home Amidst Elder Abuse Allegations

By Kendall S. Cable and Steve Card Of the News-Times

Newport.-Oregon Three residents were recently removed from the premises of Betty's Quality Home Care amidst allegations of elder abuse, said Mary Gear, Office of Licensing and Quality Care administrator, Seniors and People with Disabilities Division of the Oregon Department of Health and Human Services.

Gear said one of three residents was removed by family from the foster home Oct. 10. At that point, Adult Protective Services, an investigative arm of the Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments Senior and Disability Services, became involved.

The Lincoln City Police Department responded to the facility per the request of an Adult Protective Services investigator. Detective Mike Leake said a return visit and interview by the agency that same day prompted an emergency suspension of the facility's license at 5:30 p.m. due to alleged physical abuse. Two remaining elders were removed from the establishment by 8 p.m.

Scott Bond, Senior and Disability Services director, said although he has no personal knowledge of the events, residents would be removed quickly in cases where "there is the potential of immediate harm."

The business, which is owned by Betty Schaak, is operated from her home at 2547 NE Holmes Road, Lincoln City. Both DHS and the police department are conducting investigations into the matter, which could possibly lead to the revocation of the facility's license and criminal charges.

"Right now, I am doing an investigation to determine if there are going to be criminal charges filed," Leake said. "Any outcome of my investigation will be sent to the Lincoln County District Attorney's Office. They make the call whether they want to prosecute."

Gear explained DHS is drafting a report that is expected to be concluded by the beginning of next week. Then, DHS's Office of Licensing and Quality Care is to determine whether or not to proceed with a licensure revocation hearing that would allow Schaak to refute the allegations. Those allegations include the alleged physical abuse of all three residents who lived in the foster home, Gear said. She added if the hearing takes place, the process could go quickly or take a couple of months, depending on how the owner responds. She said Schaak had no prior licensure revocations due to abuse under her name and that she believed a residential manager also worked at the facility. Schaak refused to comment on the matter.

"This is a home where there is alleged abuse," Gear said. "We determined that there was potential for the residents to be at risk, so we helped the residents find alternative care in different settings."

Bond said the public should be watchful for signs of elder abuse and neglect. These can range from a change in usual routines and behaviors to new people visiting them.

"It's a very important issue for the public to be aware of and to know that abuse happens," Bond said. "It is not something we like to think about a lot. We don't like to think people are abused or neglected or financially taken advantage of."

Bond also explained there are physical, sexual and emotional abuse, as well as neglect and exploitation.

Gear said there were 4,300 elder abuse investigations conducted by DHS in 2006. These were conducted in foster homes, assisted living, residential care and nursing facilities. Of these, one-third was substantiated.

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