SLO senior home under fire for health and safety issues

March 14, 2023

Avila Senior Living


A resident of the Avila Senior Living facility in San Luis Obispo lied in their bed, dizzy and tired after a staffer gave them another resident’s medications. Regulators slapped the independent and assisted living facility with a citation for violating health and safety rules, one of 36 citations the facility has received during the past few years.

Many of the citations at the facility, previously known as the Manse on Marsh, are related to food safety and quality, cleanliness and failures to properly staff the facility, issues which appear to be financially motivated. For example, a resident complained that facility staff were skipping assisted showers and baths because of under-staffing, which some residents refer to as a breach of contract.

Regulators with the California Department of Social Services Community Care Licensing Division questioned staff as part of its investigation. Erika Hampe, the facility’s administrator, said they “appeared to have enough caregivers to assist residents with showers,” according to the investigation report.

However, investigators reviewed facility records over a 21-day period and discovered “54 occasions when a resident was scheduled for a shower and did not receive it or the caregiver arrived early or late to assist the resident.”

In addition, investigators determined staffers handing out medications do not all have the proper training, leading staff on at least one occasion to mix up two residents’ prescriptions.

While residents complain the quality of food has fallen over the past three years, regulators have cited the facility for multiple food safety violations. During one inspection, an investigator “toured the kitchen and observed an uncovered 3-gallon container of ice cream in the freezer, a container of strawberries with mold on them, three cucumbers with mold on them, and a torn bag of tortillas going bad in the refrigerator,” according to an investigation report. “This violates food storage requirements as food items were not stored properly and not discarded prior to going rancid.”

On March 3, the only staffer on duty left work before her replacement arrived. The replacement worker never showed up and the residents were left unattended from shortly before 1 a.m. until shortly before 7 a.m.

The facility is also under fire for requiring residents to purchase their prescriptions through Avila Senior Living’s preferred pharmacy. Facilities are not permitted to require residents to support their favored vendors.

Since Pacifica Companies took over the facility, residents have complained about inadequate and poor quality food. During the pandemic, when residents were told they could not leave their rooms, breakfast at times consisted of a roll and a banana, residents told CalCoastNews. Several residents complained they were not getting enough food to eat.

Pacifica Companies, a foreign investment group that began investing in U.S. hospitality, senior living and commercial markets in 1978, purchased the Manse on Marsh property after the prior owner was charged with manslaughter. The investment trust appears primarily focused on profits.

“The diversity of experience will enable Pacifica to seek out opportunities in any market or property type,” according to the company’s website. “Pacifica’s track record is proven through its ability to generate superior returns in all of its asset classes.”

Pacifica senior living properties in California are plagued with complaints and citations. Last spring, regulators shut down one of Pacifica’s nursing homes in Sonoma.

Even so, senior advocates in SLO County do not want the facility closed, because it is very difficult for residents in their 80s and 90s to move.

Karen Jones, the executive director of Long Term Care Ombudsman Services of San Luis Obispo County, said she does not want the facility shut down, she wants it to “thrive.”

“It is very frustrating,” Jones said. “There is no good way to require them to do the right thing. There is the licensing agency and the possibility of criminal or corporate issues.”

Management at Avila Senior Living did not return requests for comment.

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In mid-March Cal Coast News reported on the troubling situation at Avila Senior Living.  Happily, at this time, I am happy to report that the situation for residents and their families is much improved.  While it was distressing that the quality of care for residents was not up to standard for several years, Pacifica Companies has taken the situation very seriously and made good progress in regards to improving the standard of living for residents. Pacifica sent in a number of staff from their corporate office, including: a nurse, building services director, food services manager, community relations director, and most importantly, a very experienced and competent Executive Director, Karen Enciso, LVN.  Ms. Enciso will serve as the Executive Director until the facility is stable and will then, after fully training a new Executive Director, serve as the Regional Manager for the facility.  The Regional Manager who failed to provide appropriate oversight for the facility or respond to family and resident complaints, was terminated from Pacifica Companies. The former Executive Director, Erika Hampe, no longer works for the company. 

Ms. Enciso has excellent managerial experience and high standards. She does not accept less than the best from staff members and is no nonsense about ensuring that staff members are well trained, professional and appropriate.  Avila has hired a wonderfully enthusiastic and skilled Activities Director, a new cook, a new maintenance director, community resident director, several new servers and caregivers. If there aren’t adequate staff available, a registry that provides staffing coverage is utilized.  The facility now feels clean and bright and it is clear that residents are happier and more comfortable.  Residents, and their family members, also appreciate the much improved dining experience.  Meals are more healthy, tasty, nicely presented and served much more quickly and efficiently than in the past. 

I expect to see continued improvements over time, but wanted to let readers know that they no longer need to fear that residents of Avila Senior Living are getting inadequate care.

This is what happens when those “providing senior care” are nothing more than real estate investors focused only on profits and bottom line. This is in fact typical of what’s happening throughout the “industry” as real estate investors buy up, or develop, facilities. So the proposed “assisted living” at Broad/Tank Farm is run by people who list their profession as “real estate development” not senior care. Seniors are just the pawns in all of this. They get ripped off and get bad care, investors get rich. And official advocates cover for them, saying things like they want the bad operations to thrive. But, heck, the investors have it made; all they have to do is say “senior care” and people line up at city council meetings to say how much their projects are needed. We are such foolish uninformed people.

These are some of the same common issues we’ve all heard about all throughout the years. Haven’t we? Why are we still seeing it happen? Will we only demand stricter regulations and ways to check up on these places once we are the next ones heading to a home? Can you imagine, starving your Grandmother to save a buck? This company’s CEO deserves jail time. No excuse for Elder abuse! Not showering can cause skin infections.

There should be federal regulations on profit margins for these facilities, so you get what you pay for!

There should be easy ways for staff to report abuse, of both other staff and Company policy….like giving only a banana and a roll for breakfast to a population of probably 70% diabetics? Scary stuff really! I am not one for over regulations, or improper government control, seriously, the government usually screws it up. But this is a typical place of abuse. Our disregard for the elderly is unacceptable.

Ah, the private market making billions off neglecting our elders and heros. This is so common, it’s sad. No one is lobbying for our elders. I bet it’s at least 15 grand a month to live there. Retirement and inheretence is lost in a few years of a lifetime I’ve work. Danish in atascadero charges upwards of 20k a month per patient, pays staff that are short staffed 15.50 an hour to take care of our heros..CEOs are making a killing off killing our elders. Hospitals are the same. This is Private medicine failing the masses while a few get rich.

Unfortunately, conditions in many of the smaller, assisted living facilities in the county are just as bad or worse but do not get the scrutiny that the larger facilities face. It is absolutely shameful how we treat so many of our elderly in the United States. And it’s really foolish because most of us will be there one of these days. Get a clue folks. This is beyond politics and more important to discuss and take care of. It should be something we all agree on.

The state checks facilities, with most in this county having few issues. What has happen at the old Manse on Marsh is shocking and needs to be addressed. Trying to say this is not a big deal is sad. Seniors in our community need our support.

I’ve been in these facilities. The current levels of oversight are not adequate. I have literally saved lives by pointing out problems— including mishandling of medication and undiagnosed potentially fatal allergic reactions— that I have encountered despite official oversight.

Reads like a cookie cutter script by which the industry routinely follows. It starts with the visiting care givers that rip off the unsupervised seniors and then due to the logistical absence of immediate family, the care facilities certainly size up what ability one has to fund the institution which is staffed with, none English speaking, Philippino’s that get low pay plus all they can thieve, once slandered as Oakie wages. Yes, not politically correct but if you see something you must say something and forget the bite your tongue curtesy, elder abuse is a constant threat and a full time job for the advocates who manage their elder’s access to care and well being. The prayer, “if I die before I wake, I pray the lord my sole to take” is the best blessing that the end of this life has to offer. The redistribution of wealth is big business if not the biggest dirty little secret our culture fosters. Ya, our fault.

When my Very Sweet, Incredibly Loving, Mother in Law, ended up in a care facility because of a broken hip. We all visited everyday! Instead of allowing the family to be there for Mom, making sure she had the help she needed, we were all told, “You can only have one person visit per day!” Limiting our ability to keep an eye on her and staff, knowing the staff was already overloaded. Knowing she would be suffering more. And sure enough that was exactly what happened. It was unbearable knowing there was someone making this decision for her, negating the benefits of how the family could help ease her suffering.

I work for a motel in San Simeon (which will remain nameless) that is currently up for sale. Currently the property is owned by the same family that built it from the ground up in the 1960’s. The motel has been on the market for awhile because the family is being particular on who they sell to in hopes of keeping their legacy of exceptional service and both customer and employee loyalty intact. My manager told me months ago that the owners do not want to sell to “someone like Pacifica Companies.” I had never heard of them before, and now it all makes sense.