Debbie Vincent used to visit her mother at Milestone Assisted Living nearly every week, talking to the manager about her mother's spiraling dementia.
When she walked up to the door of the Glendale home on Feb. 12, 2011, Vincent was told that something bad had happened to her mother. She just did not know how terrible it would be.
Vincent, 54, could see right away that her mother had a swollen lip and a broken wrist and was covered in a white cream so heavy that at first she thought her mother was dead. Glendale paramedics exposed enough of Lena Vincent's skin to show the bruises on her face.
Three days later, Lena Vincent, 74, died of the blunt-force injury to her head. The medical examiner told Phoenix police, according to records obtained by 12 News and The Arizona Republic, that he found old and new bruises on her chest that indicated "blunt-force trauma" and that it appeared as though the woman was "repeatedly punched in the chest."
Advocates for seniors see an emerging calamity, where the swelling ranks of small care homes in Arizona and the nation, and the regulatory system meant to protect patients, could be overwhelmed.
"The biggest problem is this disconnect between the increasing needs of residents and staffing standards that tend to be relatively low," said Eric Carlson of the National Senior Citizens Law Center, a group that is pushing for federal regulations for assisted-living facilities. Unlike nursing homes, such facilities do not have on-site medical workers.
"The rules need to be rewritten to better match the services with people's care needs," Carlson said.
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Assisted Living Homes Face High Demand, Complex Rules