How the Deaths Were Counted

The California Department of Social Services, or DSS, is responsible for licensing and inspecting assisted living homes, known as Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly, or RCFEs.  

The agency does not keep count of deaths that occurred in those homes due to poor care.  Nor does it post electronic versions of its inspection records on its website.

Here is how the reporting team concluded that at least 27 such deaths have occurred since 2008.

  • The team initially turned to copies scanned and posted on line by the consumer group Consumer Advocates for RCFE Reform, later reviewing facilities’ paper records directly at the DSS San Diego office in Mission Valley. 
  • For each death, the team looked at investigation reports and any records of penalties and fines. If the state found the facility at fault, reporters counted that death in the tally of deaths.
  • The reporting team also interviewed relatives of current, injured and deceased residents, as well as home administrators and current and past facility and state employees.
  • The team analyzed electronic records from the San Diego County Department of the Medical Examiner to pinpoint deaths at the homes, looking for deaths that were not noted in DSS files, or did not result in state penalties.
  • The team reviewed state Superior Court records of wrongful death lawsuits filed against assisted living homes, some of which did not appear in DSS files. Those were added to the total, depending on records, interviews and other criteria.

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