Articles Posted in Violence in Nursing Homes

Earlier last month, a Birmingham, Alabama man pleaded guilty to the assault of a elderly person and was sentenced to serve 18 months in jail. According to one local news source, the man’s sentence was actually for 10 years in prison, but the judge suspended all but 18 months of the prison term. However, the man will also be on supervised probation for four years after his release.

wheelchair-822347-mThe charges stemmed from allegations that, back in 2012, the man and several other nursing home employees beat the paraplegic resident on the face and head. There was also evidence that the offenders removed the patient’s call button so he could not call for help. The others involved were acquitted of all criminal charges.

Separate and aside from the criminal charges, the patient’s mother filed a civil lawsuit for damages in 2014, naming all parties involved as well as the nursing home facility where the alleged abuse occurred. The lawsuit explains that prior to entering the facility, the patient suffered a major head injury that resulted in several brain surgeries, and, as a result, the patient was “both physically and mentally incapacitated.”

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A 26-year-old Ellicott City assisted-living caretaker has been charged with abusing a 93-year-old Alzheimer’s patient who was under her care. According to a prominent Baltimore newspaper, the woman was arrested for abuse of a vulnerable adult and second-degree assault. Evidently, the victim’s family had certain suspicions regarding the care that their family member was receiving and  set up a hidden camera in his room to verify their concerns.

The video footage shows the caretaker hitting the man several times by striking him across his arms and torso. The disturbing footage also shows the caretaker pushing him several times. This abuse resulted in several bruises. After viewing the footage, the family immediately contacted Howard County police. The officers arrested the woman at her home, and she is currently released on bail.

hospital-1031747-mCommon Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

In the above case, it was fortunate that the man had family members who were concerned about his well-being and were able to notice the signs of abuse. Unfortunately, in many of these cases the victim is so ill and frail that they are often unable to notify anyone of the abuse they are suffering. This can result in serious injuries and even in the death of a patient. There are some signs that families can look for that may indicate that their loved one is being abused.

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Earlier this week, a report from a local Maine source chronicled the sexual abuse that an elderly man suffered at a local nursing home. According to the report, the man’s family lived nearby, but, because of his declining health, could not provide him with the day-to-day assistance that he needed. They decided to place him in a nursing home in their neighborhood.

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The elderly man, who was partially deaf and completely blind, was also losing control of his reality due to an aggressive case of dementia. He was therefore completely dependent upon the staff of the nursing home. When his family would come visit him, he would try to explain that there was a male nurse that would “take sexual favors from him.” But the family believed that this was the man’s illness speaking, rather than reality.

However, a few months later, another nursing home employee caught a man sexually abusing the elderly man. It is believed that the offender chose this man in particular because he was exceedingly vulnerable and had little to no way to effectively report the abuse.

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Last week, a nursing home resident in West Chester, Pennsylvania reported that she had been raped by a nursing home employee. According to a report by a local news agency, the woman reported that she had been raped on the Saturday morning following the Friday night attack. The incident, which occurred at Heritage Spring, is currently under investigation by both the police as well as by the nursing home’s management.

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The nursing home has said that it intends to cooperate fully with police, and has even gone so far to remove all male employees from the schedule until the matter is resolved. The nursing home has also resubmitted all of the background checks for its employees, noting that they all came back clean.

The victim was immediately taken to the emergency room, where she was questioned about the attack and underwent a physical examination to confirm the event. She is doing as well as can be expected, given the circumstances.

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Last month in the Bronx, New York City, a male nurse was arrested for raping a 64-year-old female patient. According to a story by Gothamist.com, an employee at the nursing home spotted the nurse of top of a disabled 64-year-old patient around 1:20 a.m. The victim of the rape has dementia and is unable to speak. Her children told reporters:

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It’s just heartbreaking, it’s horrible that this is happening to my mother… She was at the nursing home because my brother and I thought it was a safe haven for her, a safe place for her…

The victim’s family was contacted around 4 o’clock that morning, too their mother to a nearby hospital to have a rape examination kit completed. However, because the victim was unable to speak, hospital workers had a difficult time completing the kit, which must be completed within 72 hours in order to be of any evidentiary value.

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DowntownEugene-1-.JPGThe guardian of an Oregon woman, now deceased, who was the victim of sexual assault in a nursing home has filed suit against the nursing home and its incarcerated former employee. The lawsuit claims elder abuse based on the sexual assault, a civil claim allowed under Oregon law, and seeks $1.5 million in damages.

The victim, whose name has not been disclosed by the news media, was a resident of Valley West Health Care Center in Eugene, Oregon. She had suffered several strokes and was unable to speak. She had resided at Valley West for about one year when, on December 22, 2010, an employee reportedly walked into the 56 year-old woman’s room and saw another employee, 61 year-old Robert Price, touching the woman’s genital area. The employee reported the matter to Valley West management, who reportedly contacted police.

Prosecutors charged Price with first-degree sexual abuse and first-degree attempted sexual abuse, both felonies. They contended that the victim was unable to consent due to mental defect, mental incapacitation, and physical helplessness. Price pleaded not guilty to sexual abuse, but later entered a guilty plea on the attempted sexual abuse charge, which carries a lesser mandatory prison sentence. State law defines “attempted” sexual abuse as an act that involves a “substantial step towards completing” actual sexual abuse. Price was sentenced to forty-five months in prison on February 4, 2011, and he remains incarcerated to this day.

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Juneau_County_Courthouse.jpgA certified nursing assistant at a Wisconsin nursing home faces criminal charges for the alleged abuse of a patient over a six-month period. At least two other employees reported seeing her physically assaulting the nursing home resident on multiple occasions. The felony charges could result in a substantial prison sentence.

Two certified nursing assistants at Crest View Nursing Home in New Lisbon, Wisconsin reported witnessing the abuse of an 86 year-old resident by another certified nursing assistant, Ginger Newlin. One of the witnesses reported seeing Newlin, among other acts of assault, verbally abuse the elderly woman and spit in her face. The other witness reported incidents of abuse that occurred at least once a week, beginning in October or November 2011. In addition to physical abuse, she reported hearing Newlin threaten the woman, such as threats to break the woman’s fingers.

Prosecutors charged Newlin with at least two felony counts in June 2012. She faces a charge of abuse of a patient, a broadly-defined offense that could include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, unconsented treatment, or unreasonable restraint. “Patient” expressly includes nursing home residents and other elder or vulnerable adults. Penalties vary depending on whether the alleged abuse was intentional, reckless, or negligent, and on the degree of harm or risk of harm that resulted from the alleged abuse. The most severe offenses, described as intentional or reckless abuse resulting in death, are treated as Class C felonies. This can result in up to forty years in prison and fines of up to $100,000. Reckless or negligent abuse that is likely to, but does not, cause “great bodily harm” is a Class I felony, punishable by a maximum of three-and-a-half years’ imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.

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208959_8922.jpgPolice in New Milford, New Jersey put a local nursing home on “lockdown” after the facility received a letter containing threats and references to the recent shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. As a precautionary measure for the safety of the nursing home’s residents, police kept residents in their rooms while searching for potential safety threats. No threats were found, and no suspects have been identified. All the residents are safe, and both police and nursing home staff say that they had access to care throughout the crisis.

A letter arrived at the Woodcrest Health Care Center the morning of Wednesday, July 25, 2012. This was less than a week after the shooting incident in Colorado, in which a masked gunman wearing full body armor shot dozens of people during a midnight screening of the new Batman movie. The gunman killed twelve people, injured more than sixty, and terrified the whole nation. The letter received by Woodcrest reportedly included handwritten references to the Aurora shootings and other threats, as well as pasted newspaper headlines. The letter made threats referencing explosives, knives, and guns. Nursing home staffers contacted the police, who arrived at about 11:40 a.m. Although the letter was apparently signed, police have not said by whom.

Police “locked down” the facility, instructing residents to remain in their rooms. They kept the residents there for about two hours. Bomb squad investigators, assisted by canine units, swept the facility and found no trace of explosives. The police chief reportedly requested the assistance of the county prosecutor’s Counter-Terrorism Unit, although it is not clear if they arrived on the scene before the scene was cleared at around 2:00 p.m.

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1272854_11483153.jpgA federal lawsuit brought by the parents of several students against a Kansas military school alleges multiple acts of abuse and neglect. Although fellow students committed many of the alleged acts of abuse, the lawsuit claims that adult staff members often knew about the abuse, and that some were even present for some incidents. Faculty, staff, and administrators did not intervene, according to the complaint, thus breaching their duty to protect their students. The claims are similar to claims brought for alleged nursing home abuse and neglect, since both involve a duty to care for vulnerable individuals, and liability for failure to protect people under their care from harm. This could include failures to protect nursing home residents from abuse by staff members or other residents.

A group of parents first filed suit on March 5, 2012 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas. Their children were students at St. John’s Military School, a residential boarding school in Salina. The school teaches grades 6 through 12 and houses all of its students on its premises.

The plaintiffs allege that the school puts incoming students through a series of physical training and other initiation procedures, and that it places significant disciplinary authority in its senior students. This gives the older students powers over the younger students more properly exercised by adults, the complaint says. The school allegedly knows of abuses that occur within this system, including many that result in physical injury to students, but does nothing to address it.

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759889_14807630_02142012.jpgA former staffer at a Timonium, Maryland nursing home pleaded guilty late last month to abuse of a vulnerable adult in the second degree. This Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog previously reported on the case of Shirleen Diane Sheppard when prosecutors first indicted her last year. Sheppard worked as a geriatric nursing assistant at Stella Maris. According to the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, Sheppard was attending an 82 year-old female resident on October 17, 2010. She became angry and slapped the patient’s face. She also reportedly refused to put ointment on the patient’s rash and kept the assistance call button away from the patient.

Another staffer witnessed the incident, cared for the patient, and then reported the matter to the nursing home’s administration. Sheppard admitted to the assault, and the nursing home fired her. The patient reportedly did not suffer any lasting injury.

Sheppard was indicted in the Circuit Court of Baltimore County on four counts: one count of second-degree abuse of a vulnerable adult, two counts of second-degree neglect of a vulnerable adult, and one count of second-degree assault. All of these charges are misdemeanors under Maryland law. Second-degree assault carries a potential penalty of ten years imprisonment and a fine of up to $2,500. The abuse and neglect of a vulnerable adult charges each carry potential prison terms of five years and fines of $5,000. Maryland’s criminal laws define “abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult” as the deliberate infliction of pain or injury, “cruel or inhumane treatment,” sexual abuse, and failure to provide “necessary assistance and resources” like food and shelter. The second-degree abuse or neglect statute applies to a caregiver, parent, household or family member, or other person with “permanent or temporary care or responsibility for the supervision” of an adult deemed “vulnerable.” “Vulnerable” is defined as “lack[ing] the physical or mental capacity to provide for [one’s own] daily needs.”
Sheppard formally entered a guilty plea to one count of second-degree abuse of a vulnerable adult at a hearing on January 18, 2012. The judge accepted her plea and imposed a three-year suspended prison sentence. She will be on probation for three years and must complete 150 hours of community service within the next year. The judge also barred her from working as a geriatric nursing assistant during her probation term.

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