Staffing was so inadequate at a California senior center that a rat crawled into an Alzheimer's patient's mouth and died there before staff noticed, a lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday on behalf of 90-year-old Sigmund Bock, alleges that administrators at the Paragon Gardens Assisted Living and Memory Care Community overbooked their facility to receive corporate bonuses, but cut back on staff to increase profits. It seeks unspecified punitive damages.

Bock's attorney, Stephen Garcia, said Paragon records show a staff person noticed Bock "playing with a rat in his room and eating candy ... with the rat" on the morning of March 18. A short time later, Garcia said, paramedics called to the scene noted "possible ingestion of rat poison" in their report and an emergency room file says that Bock was "found in room in care facility with dead rat in mouth."

Melody Chatelle, a spokeswoman for Sunwest Management Inc., the company that operates Paragon, said the allegations were false.

Chatelle said instead that Bock was found holding a glue trap that had been placed in his room by a pest control company to catch a single field mouse. She said the dead field mouse was inside the trap when Bock picked it up.

"We take care of our residents, and find this negative publicity to be a disheartening affront to our professional caregivers and most especially to our residents and their loved ones," she said.

Garcia said two traps were placed in Bock's room and both were laced with poison, not glue.

"I know I'd want to put my dad there — but only if I hated him," Garcia said of Paragon Gardens.

Bock is now being treated in the psychiatric care unit at another facility, Garcia said.