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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Operators of a large group home for the disabled in Fort Worth are preparing to evict a paralyzed woman from her home of 11 years after she appeared on CBS 11 News and talked about neglect at the facility.
The charges, made amid a CBS 11 News investigation in March, were ultimately substantiated by the state.
And while the resident and a former nurse at Westchester Plaza said they feel the action is a clear case of retaliation, two state officials said there is little they can do to stop the eviction because of the way Texas laws are written.
“I’ve got no place to go,” a shaken Fatima Jalilian told CBS 11’s Jason Allen in an exclusive interview on Wednesday. “This is 100 percent retaliatory. Everybody saw this coming except me,” said Jalilian, who was paralyzed in a car wreck 19 years ago.
On March 19, CBS 11 reported Jalilian’s fears that the management at Westchester was blocking deliveries that were being sent there for her, including needed medical supplies. The state, which initiated an investigation once CBS 11 began looking into Jalilian’s claims, agreed with her, saying in a final report that Westchester “failed to allow resident Jalilian to receive her mail.”
The report also found that “the facility failed to provide a non-retaliatory environment through which resident Jalilian can voice grievances.”
While finding that the facility violated regulations meant to protect patients, the state did not punish Westchester, saying that it felt breakdowns were being corrected.
Now, Westchester is retaliating again, according to Jalilian, as well as her former nurse at the facility, Tammy Sides.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all that they’ve decided to evict her,” Sides told CBS 11 on Wednesday. “I heard that from the get-go right after she was on Channel 11 News.”
Jeff Bryant, manager of Westchester, denied that Jalilian was being evicted because of her complaints against the facility. Instead, Bryant said, she was being made to leave –– within 30 days –– because her paralysis makes it difficult for the Westchester staff to meet her needs.
“This woman has been here, unfortunately, for an extended period of time in an inappropriate fashion,” he said, after meeting a CBS 11 News crew that was attempting to go up to Jalilian’s room.
“She is totally inappropriate for this setting,” Bryant said, adding: “What we’re doing is completely legal.”
After speaking to CBS 11, Bryant had a staff member posted outside Jalilian’s room, pen and pad in hand, as reporter Jason Allen interviewed the distraught woman.
Afterwards, the staffer was instructed to follow the news crew as it left the building.
Jalilian, who is virtually bed-ridden, received her 30-day eviction notice on Tuesday. It said, in part, that the decision to force her out was made after “consulting” with state health officials, including a state ombudsman and representatives of the Department of Aging and Disability Services, also known as DADS.
The letter also told Jalilian “we regret to inform you” that she had to go “no later than May 31.”
Allison Lowery, lead spokesperson for DADS in Austin, said the agency had some limited conversations with Westchester’s management about Jalilian being evicted.
“But just to be really clear, the fact that we had that conversation … does not mean that the state in any way is onboard with that decision,” Lowery said.
She said Jalilian could easily stay at Westchester, as she desires, if the management agreed to make some changes in their level of care. But the facility’s operators “would have to agree” to make those changes …”we will be having a conversation with them about that.”
“They can accommodate her if they take additional steps to do so,” Lowery said.
Jalilian can also appeal her eviction, but ”there’s not much to it” because Westchester, by law, is allowed to have total control of the appeal proceedings and its findings, said Patty Ducayet, the state’s chief ombudsman for long-term-care patients.
“As an advocate, I think that is a real weakness when it comes to protecting the rights of people who live in assisted living facilities,” Ducayet said.
“This is specifically something that ombudsmen really want to see changed … so that there is some real protection for somebody being threatened with discharge,” she said.
Even if the state finds that Westchester operators had acted in a retaliatory way in forcing Jaililian from her home, there is still nothing the state can do to prevent the eviction, both Lowery and Ducayet said.
“Sometimes the odds are not in the resident’s favor … this assisted living (industry in Texas) is very much a business,” Ducayet conceded.
“It is not regulated by federal laws,” she added, “and it functions differently than, say a nursing home, where we have a lot of federal laws and protections.”
Meanwhile, Jalilian remains in the room she has called home for more than a decade, confined to a bed, where she is beginning to feel defeated – not only by her body, but by the people entrusted in caring for her.
She told CBS 11, almost in a whisper, “I am being bullied.”