At Rippling River, the Carmel Valley apartment complex for low-income seniors and disabled people, the rules are many and the rules are strict. And a family consisting of one very ill mother, a very ill grandmother and their son/grandson who has taken medical leave from his job to care for them both are finding that out the hard way, with a court case in the works that could end in their eviction in the next few months.
Their names are Jesse Lopez, Angie Rivera and Juan Cardenas. Rivera is Lopez’s daughter, and together they have lived at Rippling River since 2016. Lopez is an indigenous woman of the Chumash Nation, and she’s quick to smile and tease, tooling around in a wheelchair she propels with her feet, her long gray braid bobbing as she goes.
Rivera, too, is in a wheelchair, and has been since late June, when she tripped while stepping out the door of the apartment she and her mother share. She broke an arm in two places and wrenched her back so badly she can’t walk without assistance.
That’s where Cardenas, Rivera’s son (and Lopez’s grandson), comes in. He was working as an apprentice butcher in Capitola when he got the call that his mother had fallen and needed to go to the hospital. Her health was already fragile – she needs a liver transplant and she’s an insulin-dependent diabetic. After she was released from the hospital, she developed an infection that put her back in. She was released from a rehab center on Sept. 21 and returned home.
As Rivera’s health woes were playing out, Lopez went to the hospital with chest pains. She was fitted with a pacemaker, but her lung was punctured during the procedure. She also ended up in a rehabilitation center, and upon her release on Sept. 6, the 77-year-old woman needed 24-hour care.
Cardenas says he gave up his apartment in Seaside to sleep on the couch and take care of his grandmother until his mother came home, where he would care for her too. It’s a grueling schedule: up at 4am to give mom her liver medication, up again at 7am to give her insulin and other morning medications and then make breakfast for his mother and grandmother. That’s followed by hygiene care for both women, laundry and cleaning, then lunch, then grocery shopping, then afternoon medications, and repeat. Taking care of ill and elderly family is endless.
Cardenas parked his van in a spot at Rippling River that had previously belonged to his mother, who had given up driving, only to find his vehicle wasn’t allowed on the property. So he began parking on Carmel Valley Road, where his van was stolen. He smoked outside the apartment, only to find that smoking is allowed only in a designated area, and that loitering – nebulously defined in the Rippling River rules – isn’t allowed elsewhere on the property.
And unbeknown to him, his grandmother, who suffers from dementia, had signed a piece of paper sometime in the past year agreeing that she would have no overnight guests, after a relative who had caused problems outstayed his welcome. While Rivera filled out paperwork requesting an accommodation for Cardenas to stay and act as a health aide, apparently no accommodation was given. Rippling River management dropped off a warning notice to the women that breaking the rules could lead to eviction, but with one woman suffering from dementia and the other in the hospital battling an infection, who was there to receive it?
The eviction notice arrived on Oct. 1, and the family went to court on Oct. 3. A decision is pending.
Where do you go when you’re elderly, ill and poor? It’s a question with few answers. An Adult Protective Services worker dropped off paperwork and is trying to find them a place. Meanwhile, Cardenas was six months away from completing his apprenticeship, and he’d like to go back to work.
“We’ve been trying to do what they want us to do,” Rivera says, “but it doesn’t seem like it’s enough for them.”
The John Stewart Company handles operations at Rippling River, but ultimate authority rests with the Monterey County Housing Authority Development Corporation. MCHADC’s executive director, Starla Warren, says the family agreed to abide by the rules and that the case now rests in a judge’s hands.
MARY DUAN writes Local Spin for Monterey County Weekly. Reach her at email@example.com or follow her at twitter.com/maryrduan