San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Crime Beat

Costa Rica police raid nursing home over abuse allegations

Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) raided a nursing home in downtown Escazú Wednesday following allegations of abuse of the home’s 25 residents, according to a statement from police.

Police entered the Villa Amatista senior care facility at 8:00 a.m. and arrested the facility’s 32-year-old administrator, identified by the surnames Rodríguez Sánchez, for allegedly violating Costa Rica’s laws protecting the elderly. Police handed Rodríguez over to the Prosecutor’s Office.

OIJ reported that there were several complaints against the facility, including inappropriate use of tranquilizers and residents being inappropriately tied down in beds or wheelchairs with improvised restraints. When police raided the home Wednesday, they reported finding one resident tied down to his bed.

The food served to residents was also inadequate for people in their physical condition, according to police.

In a July 2014 Facebook post, a user identified as Marlen Incera decried her mother’s living conditions at the home before she died there.

According to police, residents at the home were paying between ₡500,000 and ₡700,000 monthly —roughly $1,000 and $2,000.

Most of the residents were Costa Rican along with one Chilean, according to OIJ spokesman Marco Monge. The residents were taken to Hospital Blanco Cervantes where doctors examined them to determine their condition.

Contact Zach Dyer at

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Ken Morris

Zach: I think this is a larger issue that deserves exploring.

In Costa Rica, above a certain age (65 I believe) people lose their legal rights and are treated like children. Specfically, it is against the law for hospitals to release elderly patients who require even modest ongoing care unless a younger live-in person signs to assume full legal responsibility, and usually take whatever courses are required to deliver it. Importantly, this isn’t required for a younger person, say 60, who can be released and be responsible for their own care, only for the elderly. It’s very discrimatory.

Lots of the elderly don’t have such a live-in person willing to assume legal responsibility, and when you think of it: Would you sign? Who wants to risk arrest and jail if an older person they are helping out has a problem?

The result is a proliferation of assisted living and nursing homes operated by people with a profit motive. Surely many genuinely care about their residents, and probably most open with that compassionate motive, but it is very easy for them to start cutting corners and focusing on the bottom line. It’s also real easy to slip troublesome residents an extra pill to knock them out. Tied up patients are probably the extreme, but it only stands to reason that lesser abuses are common.

And why would anyone believe that Costa Rica does a better job overseeing these operations than it does with anything else?

I’m pretty sure that this is a widespread problem that is only fixing to get bigger as the elderly population increases.

And the root cause is simple and legal prejudice against the elderly.

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