PORTLAND -- With health care costs in the U.S. soaring, more and more Americans are looking south of the border for nursing home care. The grandson of a couple that moved to a Mexican nursing home, says it's been a disastrous experience.
Jason Blei, from Northeast Portland, desperately wants to find his grandfather who moved to a nursing home in Chapala, Mexico about two years ago.
That move south came as a shock to Jason, who had just visited his grandparents on the family's waterfront property near Seattle.
Blei smiles every time he watches a video he took of his last visit to his grandparents' place near Seattle. At the time Dick and Mary Cook were living in a brand new home overlooking Puget Sound, built right next to the family's original home where their daughter Jennifer Fish was living at the time and teaching yoga on the beautiful grounds.
They were just really happy, the family was able to spend time with them and it just seemed like things were going great, said Blei
A few months later the Cooks gave their daughter Jennifer power of attorney over their estate and a decision was made to send Dick and Mary to a nursing home in Chapala, Mexico.
I got a call at the last moment that said, 'You guys need to say goodbye to your grandparents because they are being sent out of the country forever,' said Blei.
He didn't feel his grandparents were in any condition to make a life changing decision like that, so when other family members told him to butt out, he contacted adult protective services in Washington state.
They said my grandfather had dementia, but my grandmother did not and she can give permission for them to go down there, said Blei
A family legal battle ensued, but eventually the state of Washington and a special prosecutor in King County determined there was not enough evidence to build a financial exploitation case. Jason tried to keep in contact with his grandparents by phone, but it was difficult because few people at the facility spoke English.
His aunt's attorney sent him doctors statements from Mexico that said both Richard and Mary Cook were totally coherent, happy and know where they are. I thought let's go down and see what's happening and maybe I can get some piece of mind, said Blei.
Jason didn't get much peace of mind on that trip. He and his wife found his grandmother Mary Cook in a hallway at Casa de Ancianos, confused with tears streaming down her face. He documented the two-day visit on videotape. When Blei asked his Grandmother where she was, she answered. Oregon?
She was really uncomfortable and they said she had stomach problems, she was very weak and had lost so much weight, said Blei.
The Blei's spend two days with their grandparents. While his grandfather appeared to be doing O.K. physically, Jason was very concerned about his grandmother. She's sad, she's sick and her health is just going downhill in a hurry, she needs to get out of there, said Blei.
He said much of the facility smelled of urine and while he was talking to his grandmother on video tape, a worker at the home appeared to strike another resident. Blei says many items in his grandparent's room did not belong to them. They went to management to complain about the conditions.
The owner of the place told us it's a place for people who can't afford much, for the indigent, so we're doing the best we can, said Blei.
In October of 2010, Mexican newspaper articles revealed that Casa de Ancianos was shut down following a human rights commission report that confirmed negligence, including lax hygiene and inadequate nutrition and medical care for patients.
Sadly, Jason's grandmother Mary died a few months before the nursing home was closed. Now he can't locate his grandfather and claims relatives won't tell him where he is.
He's likely somewhere in Mexico. One of my concerns about him being down there is he could just get into a car and leave and he's got no relatives down there, said Blei.
Most of those relatives, including Jennifer Fish who had power of attorney, have not returned calls from Newschannel 8. However, Jason's Uncle did have something to say.
Despite what Jason says, Dick and Mary were happy in Mexico and it was good for their arthritis, said Bill Cook from Twin Falls, Idaho.
He said he'd check and find out exactly where his Dad was now staying. The next day an accountant from Twin Falls sent Jason a letter that read, Mary's remains were cremated and are in the state of Washington, there is no site to visit. Dick Cook is still in the same area of Mexico he was before though in a different care setting.
I just want to know: Where's Grandpa?, said Blei.
Video: 'Where's Grandpa?' Part 2