Published November 01, 2013
A California janitor is being heralded for feeding, bathing, and comforting more than a dozen elderly and mentally ill residents left to fend for themselves amid suspicions of elder abuse in a shut down senior care home in northern California.
Miguel Alvarez, 33, started the $8-an-hour janitor job at Valley Springs Manor in Castro Valley on October 7. A stay-at-home dad, Alvarez had never worked in a senior care home before but hoped to make a few extra bucks to buy Christmas gifts for his children.
But just three weeks later, Alvarez and cook Maurice Rowland were left by themselves after the entire workforce at the senior center – including management – walked out of the facility after the state suspended its operating license on Oct. 24.
For two days, Alvarez found himself changing diapers, bathing, feeding and comforting as many as 19 abandoned seniors, according to comments he gave to the San Francisco Chronicle and other local media on Thursday.
"I felt bad for them so I helped them," Alvarez told the San Jose Mercury News. "I felt ... who's just going to leave these people? Just leave them for damn near dead?"
With tears in his eyes, Alvarez recounted hellish sleepless nights as confused and weary seniors screamed for food and medicine. Some, he said, had become “zombie –like” after going days without medication, while others tried to escape.
Police are still searching for resident Edmund Bascom, 65, who managed to walk out of the facility last week. He was last seen a nearby train station.
"I just know from having a son how to clean up people, changing their diapers," Alvarez told the Mercury News.
Alvarez's girlfriend of eight years, Cindy Orovco, 35, told Fox News Latino she saw the horrible conditions of the home firsthand Saturday morning.
"I saw a big old rat in the kitchen...the patients there had flies all over them. They smelled really bad - the whole facility smelled really bad."
Alvarez and Rowland ran the facility alone until Saturday afternoon, when both men called 911 several times after residents started to look sick. Alvarez said it was difficult to give out medication, and some never received any. Both Alvarez and Rowland took turns napping in the TV room.
“I'd never want to see my parents or grandparents go through anything like that," he said, according to the Chronicle. "I liked these people. I wanted to treat them well."
Alvarez, who said he wishes he could have done more, never received a paycheck since he started working at the senior center.
"He was just trying to make extra money," Orovco said. "I'm hoping someone can help us with some legal advice."
Firefighters and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department evacuated and rescued the residents on Saturday.
The Sheriff’s office is continuing to investigate elder abuse charges at Valley Springs Manor. Local authorities were scheduled to meet with the FBI and California Department of Justice.