ARVADA, Colo. (CBS4) – Arvada police and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment are investigating an alleged neglect case involving a 78-year-old woman at the Almost Like Home assisted living center. The woman’s family claims the facility’s neglect led to the woman being on hospice, where she died late Tuesday night.
The woman, Julia Gutierrez, was a resident at the Almost Like Home facility for two years, due to her dementia. However, her family says other than the dementia, she was in good health prior to the pandemic.
Now Gutierrez’s family claims the facility neglected to properly hydrate her, leading to an untreated urinary tract infection, as well as allegedly failed to properly treat a bedsore, leading to a septic infection.
“I’m just like, how could this happen?” said Gutierrez’s daughter, Sylvia Torralba. “She had no medical issues other than the dementia… she could have lived with the dementia for years.”
Torralba says due to the pandemic, she and her family couldn’t visit her mom for months. Before the pandemic, Torralba says they visited her three times a week.
When they saw her in September, they say Gutierrez had lost nearly 40 pounds since March. But it got worse, when they visited her again on October 1, they noticed Gutierrez had trouble sitting.
“She kept trying to get forward and trying to get out of the chair, and I’m like, ‘momma, don’t try to get out of the chair,’ and… the staff member caregiver, said, ‘she’s not trying to get out of the chair, she has a bedsore,’ and she said, ‘it’s really bad.’ And I said, ‘well did you call the doctor?’ She said, ‘no we’re waiting for Aurelia to get back from vacation,’ and I said, ‘why? Why are you waiting? I’m calling right now.’ And at that very moment, I called,” Torralba explained.
A doctor immediately determined Gutierrez needed to go to the emergency room. Medical records show that at the hospital, doctors diagnosed the urinary tract infection due to severe dehydration, the infected bedsore and sepsis – meaning the infection had spread through her blood stream – and found that a portion of her bowel had died.
“We come to find out that she was fluid resuscitated, because she was so dehydrated,” Torralba said.
The only treatment for the dead bowel was surgery, but Torralba said doctors felt her mom was not a good candidate.
“They said, ‘actually, no surgeon will do it now, they’re not even going to touch her, because it’s too risky,'” Torralba said. “So truly, our only option is to let her go.”
Gutierrez has been on hospice at Torralba’s home ever since, and was unconscious for more than a week before she died late Tuesday night.
Now, CDPHE and Arvada Police are investigating. Torralba said she has already spoken with both agencies.
Friday, the owner of Almost Like Home told CBS4 over the phone that if there were to be a neglect case, he didn’t think his facility would be found guilty, that the bedsore grew “very fast, and it was not there for very long, a matter of a couple days.”
However, CBS4 obtained medical records indicating the facility noticed “a bit of butt soars” on August 26.
Those records also show there were 31 days over the last two months in which Gutierrez was not recorded as being given water in the evenings, and there were five days in the last two months in which Gutierrez was not recorded as being given water in the mornings. Additionally, records show there were two days in which showing Gutierrez may not have been given any food, and two days in which Gutierrez may not have received any water.
“Not one person reported this. As bad as her behind looked, as dehydrated as she was, not one person reported this to anyone,” Torralba said. “We can forgive them, but, aside from that, there still has to be accountability, there still has to be consequences.”
State health records show the facility has been cited three times in 2020, and had neglect claims in the past: one in which a resident was allegedly given too much medication for two days, and another alleging that no medications were given to a resident for 10 days.
Now, Gutierrez’s family hopes others will do their best to protect their loved ones during this time of limited visitation due to the pandemic.
“I hope that if anybody has a loved one in a facility, that they are monitoring it, they are checking up on them, they are holding them accountable, they are asking questions, they are just not taking what they say as it is, because we did that,” Torralba said. “I just want people to know that mom didn’t deserve this. Nobody deserves this.”
CDPHE and APD could not comment any further on the investigation.
The owner of the facility had agreed to an interview with CBS4, but cancelled the next day saying the facility has no statement at this time.