CASTRO VALLEY (CBS SF) – This weekend’s discovery of 14 patients left behind at an assisted living facility in Castro Valley has many people wondering how well other residential facilities treat their patients. As Julie Watts explains, it’s not always easy to find out.

An advocate for nursing home reform says California is not providing nearly enough oversight of assisted living facilities in the state.

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Pat McGinnis of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform says, while the state inspects nursing homes every year, it only sends inspectors to assisted living facilities, or residential care facilities, every five years. And McGinnis says the state doesn’t publish the results of those every-five-year inspections on-line.

“You don’t know if there’s a history of non-compliance. You don’t know what the complaints are. You know nothing,” McGinnis told ConsumerWatch.

McGinnis says individuals who want to learn more about an assisted living facility’s history of violations would need to visit one of eleven Community Care Licensing Offices statewide and ask to see the record. Here in the Bay Area, those offices are in San Jose, San Bruno and Oakland.

California’s Department of Social Services did not respond to calls from ConsumerWatch.

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So how can you judge a facility? Jim Johnson, the Executive Director of Development at Agesong Communities, a respected assisted living facility says, a personal visit and a thorough inspection are critical.

“It’s important not just to talk to the marketing staff, but to really tour and see how people are doing,” he advised.

McGinnis’ group publishes a guide for those trying to choose a nursing home or assisted living facility. It contains checklists of what to look out for.

“We always tell people, you’re not purchasing a car, you’re looking for a place for your mother — this is assuming you love your mother,” McGinnis nursing home locator.

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