Articles Posted in Violence in Nursing Homes

A 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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Two workers at a Staten Island nursing home lost their licenses as a result of the beating of a developmentally disabled resident. They also pleaded guilty to violating state health laws, and neither will work in health care again. The home itself was reportedly not cited with any violations. The state attorney general’s office reports that an aide allegedly struck a patient on the head several times, and a supervisor then allegedly tried to cover it up. The incident underscores the importance of vigilance among loved ones of nursing home residents.

According to a report in the Staten Island Advance, an EMT reported to a nurse supervisor that he witnessed an nurse aide hitting a patient on the head several times, and saw the patient react defensively. The patient was a developmentally disabled 40 year-old suffering from depression and schizophrenia. The nurse supervisor told the EMT not to report what he saw because, according to authorities, she did not want the aide to get into trouble. The nurse supervisor also reportedly did not examine the patient or file an incident report, although the law requires her to do so.

The state attorney general’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigated the incident and charged the nurse aide with endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person and with willfully violating state health laws. The aide pleaded guilty to the charge of willful violation of health laws, receiving a sentence of a conditional discharge. She had to give up her nurse aide certificate and may not work in health care as a further condition.

The nurse supervisor was charged with falsification of business records and with willfully violating state health laws. She also pleaded guilty to the willful violation charge and got a conditional discharge. She lost her practical nurse license and must refrain from working in health care. News reports indicated she had received two suspensions previously, once in 2004 for failing to report a patient’s fall or treat the patient’s injury, and in 2006 for administering an incorrect dosage of painkiller and attempting to hide the mistake.

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Two recent incidents involving assaults on Maryland nursing home residents have led to indictments for abuse and assault. The incidents occurred in different facilities in nearby towns, but both involve nursing home employees allegedly assaulting vulnerable residents. The cases demonstrate the importance of vigilantly protecting the rights of nursing home residents who may find themselves helpless against the unscrupulous or criminal behavior of a few employees who might take advantage of that helplessness.

In the first case, a caregiver at a nursing home in Lutherville, Maryland is accused of stealing $80 from a blind 94 year-old resident, as reported by the Lutherville-Timonium Patch. According to court documents, the employee entered the resident’s room by pretending to be a different employee who had come to turn on the air-conditioning unit. She asked the resident, who in addition to being blind needs a hearing aid, to borrow money. The man told her no, at which point she allegedly tried to take his wallet from his pocket. She threw him out of his bed and onto the ground when he resisted her. When the man screamed for help, another employee intervened.

The employee denied allegations of theft and assault to police investigators that day. The next day, however, she turned herself in to the police. She has been charged with robbery, theft, and second-degree assault. She has also lost her job at the nursing home. The nursing director told the newspaper that if she is convicted, the Maryland Board of Nursing could take steps to keep her from ever working in a nursing home again. The robbery charge is a felony, assault in the second degree and theft of less than $1,000 are misdemeanors. She faces up to 15 years imprisonment for the robbery charge alone.

The second case involves a nursing home in Timonium, Maryland. A geriatric nursing assistant has been charged with abuse of a vulnerable adult in the second degree, neglect of a vulnerable adult in the second degree, and assault in the second degree. Each charge is a misdemeanor under Maryland law. An investigation by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, part of the Maryland Attorney General’s office, and the Maryland State Police originated from a referral from the Baltimore County Police Department. The alleged assault occurred in October 2010. Fewer details are available on this case, since it has only recently been filed. The employee is alleged to have assaulted an 84 year-old resident of the nursing home. Each of her charges are misdemeanors, and she faces up to 10 years in prison.

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Recently, our Baltimore nursing home abuse blog discussed the financial abuse of elders–a hugely under reported problem affecting around 3.5 million seniors around the country every year.

In recent nursing home abuse lawsuit news, a 68-year-old retired preschool teacher has sued a Seal Beach nursing home for elder abuse, alleging that as a resident, she was chemically restrained with drugs against her will, while the nursing home staff tried to take control of her retirement income.

According to the lawsuit, Marsha Davis lived in her own home until November of 2010, and suffered from many health issues, including diabetes. After collapsing at her home In the fall of 2011, Davis was reportedly hospitalized and then transferred to the Country Villa nursing home, for a three-month stay.

Davis alleges that while residing at the home, she was medicated with psychotropic drugs for chemical restraint against her will—allegations that were reportedly found to be true by state investigators in February. The lawsuit claims that after she was medicated to the point of being entirely disorientated, the nursing home stated that she was suffering from “cognitive impairment” and tried to collect her Social Security payments.

Although Davis has no immediate family members to act as an advocate on her behalf, a friend of hers reportedly intervened, and the medication was stopped. Davis was later transferred to another home where she remains today.

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In recent nursing home abuse news that our Baltimore, Maryland attorneys have been following, two former nursing aides in a Northern California nursing home were sentenced to a twenty day county jail sentence for allegedly organizing a prank for other workers by rubbing eight dementia nursing home patients with ointment to make them slippery to care for.

According to the Ukiah Daily Journal, Jennifer Louise Burton and Monica Rose Smith were found guilty of masterminding the nursing home abuse incident at Valley View Skilled Nursing facility in 2009, receiving a twenty day county jail sentence and two years probation for misdemeanor charges of elder abuse. Douglas Parker, Deputy District Attorney claimed that the elder abuse convictions and the fact that their nursing assistant licenses have been revoked by the state will ensure that the producers of this prank will on longer have the opportunity to work in a position of trust at a skilled nursing facility in the future.

The nursing home abuse incident reportedly occurred in November of 2009, and was investigated by then-Attorney General Jerry Brown, after he received an alert about the abuse by another nursing home operator. The company reportedly instantly fired six employees—Burton and Smith, along with three other defendants, all five of which have had their nursing home licenses revoked. Jared Buckley, the third nursing home defendant was also charged with a misdemeanor for elder abuse, and two other nursing assistants were found guilty of failing to report the elder abuse. The sixth nursing assistant had the charges against her dismissed.

The dementia patients were reportedly not physically injured or harmed in the prank, but they were unable to object to their mistreatment or stop it because of their mental and medical conditions and limitations.

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According to a recent Baltimore County nursing home lawyer blog entry, our attorneys discussed recent cases of nursing home abuse and negligence, where hidden cameras or “Granny Cams” were used in nursing homes by families who suspected that their loved ones were being treated with abuse or negligence, and didn’t trust the nursing home staff responsible for their healthcare and safety—filing lawsuits after the abuse was revealed on-camera.

In another recent nursing home abuse lawsuit, the children of an 87-year-old resident of a New Jersey nursing home have sued the home for wrongful death, after the children caught the their mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, being physically abused by a nurse on a hidden camera placed in her room—which they claim led to her death.

The resident’s children reportedly suspected that their mother was being abused by her nurse, and installed a hidden camera to protect her health and safety. The camera footage reportedly showed the nursing home aide removing the victim’s oxygen mask and negligently, recklessly, and intentionally hitting and abusing her while she was supposed to be providing proper healthcare.

The victim’s family claim that this kind of abuse made their mother suffer, and violated her rights as a citizen and as a nursing home resident—as all nursing home residents under law are entitled to receive quality care and attention in an environment that improves and maintains the quality of their mental and physical health.

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In a recent Maryland nursing home lawyer blog, our attorneys discussed the prevalence of nursing home abuse in facilities across the country, and how families are fighting back by installing hidden cameras to ensure the safe and proper treatment of their loved ones.

In a recent nursing home abuse incident, the son of a 78-year-old resident installed a hidden camera in April of this year, after he feared that his mother was being mistreated at MetroHealth Medical Center’s nursing home care facilities in Ohio.

According to WKYC- Channel 3 News, Steve Piskor felt that his mother, who suffers from advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease, was being abused by the staff. Piskor contacted administrators to discuss marks on her face, and the fact that when he approached her, she would raise her hands to protect her face in a fearful manner. He also reported incidents of negligence, after he found the heat off and the window open in his mother’s room in the middle of winter.

After MetroHealth reportedly ignored his complaints of abuse, Piskor installed the camera to prove that his mother was experiencing nursing home abuse and mistreatment. Although the camera was hidden inside a fan, Piskor put up a sign warning workers that a camera had been installed in the room.

Piskor said that it took only a few days to capture abuse—showing a nursing aide striking his mother’s face, violently shoving her into bed and the wheelchair, and pushing her face into the wall. Other footage reportedly showed another nurse’s aide hitting his mother, while another nursing home employee turned a blind eye to the abuse. Piskor kept the hidden camera rolling for two months to ensure that MetroHealth wouldn’t dismiss the nursing home abuse.

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According to a shocking Miami Herald expose that our Hartford County, Maryland nursing home abuse attorneys have been following, nursing homes throughout Florida are being accused of horrific cases of elder abuse and neglect. The series of articles in the Herald highlight an alleged breakdown in the state’s nursing home enforcement system—leaving thousands of residents in conditions that are both dangerous and decrepit.

The Herald spent a year examining assisted living facilities and found that as the number of homes have increased to accommodate the state’s major elderly population increase, Florida has failed to protect the very people it was meant to safeguard. Although the number of new nursing homes has totaled 550 in the last five years, the state has reportedly dropped necessary home inspections by 33%, allowing homes with the worst abuse and neglect offenses to remain open.

Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration oversees 2,850 facilities, and has allegedly neglected to monitor nursing home operators for abuse or neglect, investigate nursing home reports citing dangerous practices, and shut down the homes with the worst offenders—many of which lack necessary staffing, disregard nursing home regulations and deprive their residents of the most basic needs, like food, water and safety.

The investigation found that nearly once every month, residents die from nursing home abuse and neglect. In one incident, a 75-year-old dementia resident, who was at high risk for nursing home wandering, walked away from the Pinellas County nursing home, and reportedly had his body torn apart by alligators. In another home, a 71-year-old resident with a mental illness was burned so severely from being left in a bathtub that was carelessly filled with scalding hot water, that he died from a result of the burns.

Many nursing homes, according to the article, are also regularly caught using restraints that are against the law, including ropes and powerful tranquilizers. In one assisted living home a 74-year-old woman was bound for over six hours, with restraints allegedly wrapped so painfully tight that the device her tore into her flesh, causing her death.

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According to recent nursing home abuse news that our Frederick County, Maryland nursing home attorneys have been following, a New York nursing home aide will reportedly spend up to seven years in prison, after being charged the with sexual abuse of a nursing home resident.

The resident, a 61-year old stroke victim, reportedly entered the home after becoming partially paralyzed and unable to speak—due to the stroke. The home considered the resident ‘completely dependent’ and assigned a male nurse to tend to her in the midnight shift.

The nurse, Jose Ramos, was reportedly in the resident’s room when another nurse noticed that the call light came on three different times. The nurse entered the room, and discovered Ramos sexually abusing the resident.

Although the nursing home abuse victim was not able to speak, she testified at the trial by pointing to letters that an interpreter read, in order to spell the words that she could not articulate.

Ramos was sentenced to seven years in state prison for sex abuse, endangering the welfare of a vulnerable elderly person and endangering the welfare of a physically disabled person. According to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Sex Crimes and Elder Abuse Units are committed to seeking justice for victims of elder abuse and sexual violence—especially when nursing home trust is violated with vulnerable elders.

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In a recent Baltimore, Maryland nursing home lawyer blog, our attorneys discussed a shocking case of nursing home abuse, that was only discovered after a family installed a hidden camera after witnessing their terrified mother speak of abuse. What they found was harrowing evidence that their mother, a dementia patient, was being physically and emotionally abused by the nursing facility staff, and even made to stand topless during the assault and harassment.

In related news, the nursing home abuse victim, 78-year-old Lois McCallister is now living with her daughter Mary French and her husband. French has recently come forward, speaking for the first time about the abuse case, and how devastating it was to see her beloved mother be abused and beaten.

Last month, as our Prince George’s County nursing home attorneys reported, three nursing home employees from the home, Quadrangle in Haverford, were arrested, on charges ranging from assault, to negligence and misconduct. Mark Ordan, the Chief Operating Officer of Sunrise Senior Living, Inc., who operates Quadrangle, claims that this nursing home abuse was an isolated incident, and that he has been cooperative with the authorities.

French claims that if Ordan would have been cooperative, the home would have reported the early abuse complaints to the Department of Public Welfare in Pennsylvania. But instead, Sunrise ignored McCallister’s initial complaints of abuse, citing her Alzheimer’s disease as the issue. French plans to file a nursing home abuse lawsuit to change how Sunrise treats future nursing home abuse complaints. French hopes that when the next family reports abuse, Sunrise won’t blame it on dementia.

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