A 70-year-old woman has sued her assisted living facility, alleging its operators ignored her complaints of bedbugs and told others she was hallucinating or imagining the critters.
Marcia Collen said she first saw the bugs in 2016 at the Tacoma facility, called Life Manor, and that earlier this year someone else saw them, too.
“Rather than taking reasonable, prompt action to eradicate the bed bugs upon notice of the problem, Life Manor chose to try and conceal it by attempting to discredit and silence residents who spoke out," her lawsuit states.
Life Manor — which identifies itself as a ministry of the adjacent Life Center church — disputes that.
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"Our position on the lawsuit is that it’s without merit and that we intend to fully defend the case," said Grant Lingg, an attorney representing Crown Assisted Living Development, which does business as Life Manor. "We think that Ms. Collen was treated fairly."
He said Life Manor called professionals to the facility at 1609 S. Union Ave. each time Collen and other residents complained of bedbugs. Multiple times in the case of Collen those professionals did not find anything, Lingg said. When they did, he said, the problem was addressed.
Collen's complaint, filed May 22 in Pierce County Superior Court, gives this account:
She has lived at Life Manor since November 2015. In 2016, she noticed red welts on her skin and insects in her room that appeared to be bedbugs.
She reported them, but ultimately was told by the executive director to stop complaining. The executive director would get angry, Collen said, if she heard the septuagenarian talking about bedbugs.
Life Manor staff members told Collen's health-care provider and social worker that she was hallucinating about the insects.
On April 16, a family member of another resident saw bedbugs crawling on Collen, and brought her to the executive director.
The next day the facility inspected three rooms, including Collen's, and found the insects.
On April 18, Collen and her son inspected her bed, and found both dead and live bedbugs.
Later that month, the son spoke with a Life Manor worker, who said the facility had a bedbug problem that started in 2016.
The bugs and the reports that Collen was hallucinating have affected her search for a new place to live, the lawsuit suggests.
Life Manor told residents March 30 that it was not going to continue as an assisted living facility, and instead become a home without medical services.
That meant residents who required assisted living must move by July 4.
Collen and her son visited a facility in Federal Way in April, but were told Collen wasn't eligible to live there, because of concerns about the alleged hallucinations.
They also visited another Tacoma facility, and said bedbugs had been found at Life Manor and that Collen was not hallucinating.
Since that meeting, the facility is not accepting former Life Manor residents, and has canceled plans for Life Manor residents to visit, the lawsuit alleges.
Asked about Life Manor's change in licensing, attorney Lingg referred questions to Life Center.
Gary Benton, the pastor of care ministries for Life Center, told The News Tribune: "We have been a private licensed assisted living facility for a long time, and have not been able to make it work financially."
When Life Manor becomes an independent retirement community for seniors, staff members will provide meals and housekeeping, but not medical services, he said.
That means residents on Medicaid who need medical, nursing or care-giving services will have to find new homes — a process the state Department of Social and Health Services helps facilitate.
Benton said he wasn't certain how many residents of Life Manor's 57 apartments will be moving, but that he expected it to be the majority.