I was made aware of the Castle Rock Care Center from the VA in April 2014 as I was trying to locate a VA-approved facility in which to place my veteran father for respite time for myself. He has been there four times since then. The first time in May 2014 was very nice - a care package with toothbrush, mouthwash, etc. greeted him, and a private room in the wing where part time residents stay seemed great to me. I was impressed. Second and third times, things started to go downhill. Lost wheelchair (located a week later in their back shed), and an unexplained relegation to the very smelly South Wing where “permanent” residents are allowed to take over rooms for two, and where incoming visitors must fend for their own “half” of the space. His cane was lost, reading materials lost, articles of his clothing strewn about randomly in that South Wing, clothing which I coincidentally happened to notice as I was walking down the hall to pick up my father at the end of a stay, after having written a notice that staff was not to wash his clothes. In May of 2015 I made arrangements through the VA to place him there for ten days. As usual, I packed his bags with his toiletries, underwear for 20 days, ten pairs of socks, ten dry cleaned shirts on hangers and in sleeves, five pairs of pants, and a framed photo of my mother. I was fairly confident, since the arrangements had been made weeks in advance, that there would be no trouble with his admission. After wandering around for about ten minutes the morning of May 16, 2015, I located a person who referred me to a nurse who shunted us into a dismal room in the South Wing, obviously the home of a long term resident, who had commandeered the entire closet and most of the space intended for the second party. I glanced at the unmade, dirty, saggy bed intended for my father, smelled the urine in the room, glanced at the nurse, and started unloading my father’s clothing into the portion of the closet which was supposed to be for my dad. After about ten minutes I became convinced that this situation wasn’t going to work. The nurse, who had been disconcerted over the condition of the unmade bed and dirty bathroom and overcrowded space, agreed, and proceed to try to locate a different room for him. After an hour, he was assigned to a different room where I was told a more “congenial” roommate resided. I reluctantly left on my trip.
Upon return, mid-afternoon on May 25, 2015, I wondered around until I saw my dad in his wheelchair, appearing only semi-conscious, in the odiferous, foul, South Wing common area. Multiple “residents” in that room were wailing constantly during the hour I was there. It took about ten minutes for my dad to recognize me (a first in my whole life). He had a ten day beard (a first in my whole life). He reeked to high heaven, wearing a very wet pair of sweat pants and dirty shirt. My partner and I quickly rolled him toward the entrance; it was my hope to get him home quickly. The staff who saw us wheeling him away affectionately said goodbye to my dad, relating to us that he often paddled in his chair around the facility, looking for me. I thought at the time that that was sad, not then knowing he was probably at those times looking for HELP.
I reconnoitered the halls and fairly rapidly located his overcrowded and confusing shared room, where I noticed, in his closet, nine neatly dry-cleaned shirts in their sleeves. His bag was directly below, with all of his pants, undershirts, socks, diapers (minus ONE), toiletries, and a framed photo of my late mother, just as I had left them, except for the ONE missing diaper, ten days earlier, in another room. At first I was pleased, thinking that this time, the staff had actually anticipated my coming and had packed his things. I got his clean belongings to the car, then waited 40 minutes for the South Wing charge nurse to stop ignoring me and give me his pills and discharge papers so I could just leave the wailing and screaming people there. It was very apparent to me that she was delaying me on purpose. Once in the car, the smell of my father’s unwashed body hit my partner and me like a ton of bricks and I began to wonder about the unworn shirts and the fact that his suitcase appeared to have never been unpacked. He was nearly comatose all the way home.
Upon reaching home, I got my dad into the shower right away. He thanked me for this. I got him into clean, dry clothes, and noticed that there was a puddle of urine under the pad he sits on in his wheelchair. This spill wasn’t recent in origin. The marks on his legs from the socks he had worn for who-knows-how-long took over two days to go away. When it became apparent to me that he had not been changed for days, had not brushed his teeth, combed his hair, or had access to anything in his suitcase, I became very angry and I called the main number at Castle Rock Care Center. I explained who I was and expressed my anger and horror. She (Debbie?) said, “so are you going to file a complaint?” I affirmed, and made contact with the VA. The personnel at the VA who are involved with the placement of veterans at local nursing homes were understandably upset upon hearing about this experience and in the following days related to me that the Castle Rock Care Center had been under a lot of “turnover” during the past few years, with an accelerated amount of “turnover” at the higher management levels. In fact, the admissions person I had worked with during this year left the day after I had picked my dad up, on May 27, 2015. The main director had been there a few years and had made a bit of a positive difference, but he, too, left this year. My contact at the VA assured me that this incident would be related to the VA administration and the complaint would have an impact on future admissions. In her communications with the staff at Castle Rock Care Center, she was told that the staff did not realize that all those clean shirts labeled with my dad’s name and the suitcase with his name on it, and his clean clothes, all labeled with his name, were his, and just assumed he had arrived with no change of clothes, no toothbrush, comb, underwear or socks. No word on where his watch, belt and favorite sweater that had disappeared during this time, never to be seen again. She assured me on several occasions that I would be contacted by the administration of the Castle Rock Care Center with some kind of explanation as to what happened. 60 days have passed and nothing.