JUNE 29, 1998 VOLUME 5, NUMBER 52
Adult care homes are usually seen as friendlier, more home-like and more pleasant than nursing homes. Many seniors are well cared for in adult care homes, particularly in the early stages of dementia or chronic illness. Such homes may also be less expensive for residents, with typical costs in Arizona ranging between $1,200 and $2,000 per month. Most nursing homes, by contrast, cost $3,500 (and up) per month.
Selecting an adult care home (or nursing home) is a difficult task for spouses or children placing an ill senior. It is made more difficult when the responsible relative lives in a distant city.
Michelle Bogre lives in Pennsylvania, and so when her Phoenix-area mother Viona Bogre needed to be placed in an adult care home four years ago she had to come to Arizona to visit prospective placements. She found one she liked--the Philadelphia Home in Glendale. Run by Paul McElligott, the home seemed clean and had been kept up well. Michelle moved her mother into the facility.
For the next four years, she heard regularly from McElligott. Of course, she was paying $1,300 per month for her mother's care, but the home's owner frequently wrote her notes about her mother's condition and contacted her when anything needed attention. Michelle also visited her mother at the home twice a year.
What Michelle Bogre didn't learn until too late was that in April McElligott sold the home to a new buyer. Under the new owner, Ted Pulaski, Mrs. Bogre's care and condition both declined rapidly, and she died June 19. One week later, the Arizona Department of Health Services obtained a court order closing the home, based on allegations of neglect of the elderly residents.
When Pulaski purchased the Philadelphia Home, there were eight elderly residents being cared for at the facility. Pulaski claimed that no license was required for him to operate the home because he had purchased only the building and not the business. In fact, he alleged, there was no business to purchase, since all the residents were so sick that they had to leave the home shortly after he took over.
Officials first became concerned about Pulaski's operation of the home after receiving numerous reports of unchanged adult diapers, inadequate hygiene and verbal abuse by Pulaski. During the course of investigation, they claimed that Pulaski consistently provided misinformation and contradicted himself about the problems they observed. Within six weeks of the change of ownership, six of the eight residents had been admitted to local hospitals in critical condition, suffering from dehydration and bedsores. Two of the patients died.
For his part, owner Pulaski claims that he did nothing wrong. In newspaper interviews, he suggested that he had not helped residents to exercise because they were too frail and likely to fall. He also claimed that as residents got sicker they stopped eating and drinking, and he was then forced to send them to the hospital.
Pulaski was no stranger to care of the elderly. For three years prior to buying the Philadelphia Home, he had operated another adult care home in Glendale. That home had been closed prior to the purchase of the Philadelphia Home; during his time there, Pulaski had been accused of falling below care standards on two occasions.
The Department of Health Services' order took effect last Friday, June 26. All of the residents were moved out of the home, and a hearing is scheduled for next Thursday to determine whether the order will become permanent.
Ironically, Arizona's legislature adopted more stringent regulatory provisions for adult care homes in the last session. Reforms of the adult care home system are due to take effect beginning in two months. For residents of the Philadelphia Home, those reforms will be too late.