When Jon Valley moved his brother, Jeff, into Aspen Ridge Memory Care, he assumed he would be in good hands, he said.
However, Jeff Valley — a former Special Olympian and beloved fixture at several Bend barbershops, known for his happy demeanor — lost 20 pounds and became severely depressed, his family says. He was taken to St. Charles Bend multiple times for incidents including choking, an emergency surgery and a gash that required 17 stitches, Jon Valley said.
Now Jon Valley is suing the Bend facility for $2.6 million on behalf of his brother for alleged neglect and personal injury.
“In this case, Jeff puts his trust in his family who put their trust in the facility,” said Mario Riquelme, the Valleys’ lawyer. “We would like to see this case presented to a jury so that they can see what happened, where those standards of care were not met and ultimately do what is right not only for Jeff but for everyone else at these facilities. We would like to let any other like facilities know that those lapses and those breaches will not be tolerated and will not be acceptable.”
Jeff Valley, 63, was diagnosed with autism as a child and suffered major brain-stem damage in a bike accident in 1981. He participated in the Special Olympics in the mid-’70s, competing in high jump, standing long jump and softball throw.
For 30 years, he was a familiar face in Bend as he rode his bicycle to several barbershops, where he would fold towels.
“I remember Jeff from when I was in school and I would go to the barbershop and see him,” Riquelme says. “The guy is a kick. He’s such a nice person. He’s always happy to see you and ask, ‘how are you doing?’”
Facing physical and mental challenges, Jeff Valley resided at the Fox Hollow residential facility in Bend from 2009 to 2012, but came down with a case of “happy feet,” as Jon Valley calls it, when would walk out of the open-door facility at various hours of the day and night.
He moved to Aspen Ridge Memory Care in July 2012.
On June 26, 2015, Jeff Valley became dizzy and suffered a fall at the facility that resulted in a groin injury, according to the Valleys’ lawsuit. He was transported to St. Charles Bend and returned to Aspen Ridge the same day. He was prescribed pain medication to be administered every six hours as needed, though was only given two doses in a one-week period, despite indications of pain, according to the lawsuit.
On July 1, 2015, Jeff Valley was found on the floor of his room with a wound to his arm that later required 17 stitches. It was unclear how long he had been on the floor, despite staff protocol to perform hourly checks on him, according to the lawsuit.
Shortly after returning to the facility in July, Jeff Valley — who was well-known for being physically active, Jon Valley said — was transported to St. Charles Bend after he was weak and unable to get out of bed, according to the lawsuit. He was later diagnosed with dehydration, protein malnutrition and aspiration pneumonia.
After a nearly monthlong stint at Pilot Butte Rehabilitation for speech, physical and occupational therapy, Jeff Valley returned to Aspen Ridge with instructions for a soft diet with thin liquids and assistance from care staff. In May 2016, he was admitted to St. Charles Bend for moderate malnutrition and pneumonia and had lost 20 pounds over several months, the lawsuit says.
Nearly five months later, Jeff Valley was transported to the emergency room again after vomiting during and after dinner. Doctors discovered a large piece of food — likely meat, despite his soft food and liquid diet, documents say — that had to be surgically removed from his esophagus, according to the lawsuit.
Jon Valley said the worst part was seeing how depressed his brother had become. He said Jeff would be waiting at the door when they visited and would follow them out at the end. He would cry and ask if he could go home with them, instead of having to stay at the facility, Jon Valley said.
After returning to Aspen Ridge, Jon Valley asked staff at the facility about why his brother had become so frail.
“They told me it was the process of him passing,” Jon Valley said. “I couldn’t accept that.”
Jon Valley removed his brother from the care of the facility in November 2016. Jeff Valley now lives at Mt. Bachelor Memory Care in Bend, and his health and happiness could not be any different, Jon Valley said.
“We moved him out and then I waited because I wanted to make sure and give them the benefit of the doubt that maybe this was the (dying process), but then he started getting much healthier and happier and that’s when we knew that something was going on,” Jon Valley said. “Now when we bring him back in (after taking him to lunch) he just goes ‘see ya’ and takes off for his room or to talk to the staff there.”
“Since moving to new facility, his health has taken a turn for the better,” Riquelme said. “He has regained weight and (is) eating well and appears healthy.”
From 2015-16, Aspen Ridge Memory Care was under multiple investigations of abuse or neglect by Adult Protective Services, an agency within the Oregon Department of Human Services. Those investigations and a licensing survey resulted in a four-month ban on new admissions.
Portland-based Frontier Management — which owns both Aspen Ridge and Mt. Bachelor Memory Care in Bend as well as 50 other memory care facilities in 11 states — was allowed to admit new residents in December 2015 after it addressed all of the deficiencies identified in the license inspection.
In a statement emailed to The Bulletin, area manager at both Aspen Ridge Memory Care and Mt. Bachelor Memory Care, Mallory DaCosta, said the investigations “did not show any connection between staffing, and the challenges Mr. Valley faced at Aspen Ridge.”
“All communities face ups and downs with staffing. Aspen Ridge is no exception. Aspen Ridge Memory Care has placed a major emphasis on improving staffing, and has a deep and experienced care staff team with high staff-to-resident ratios,” DaCosta said in the statement. “We are happy that Mr. Valley is doing well at Mt. Bachelor Assisted Living and Memory Care.”
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