Stories of Abuse

Nursing home claims sex abuse of dementia patient “consensual”

The unnamed dementia patient is confined to her bed at Cashmere Convalescent Center.

She cannot speak, and is nearly deaf.

How could she have consented to the predatory sexual advances of another nursing home patient?

Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Report Video KOMO Seattle

KOMO reporter Jon Humbert talked to the abused patient’s family, and reviewed the state investigation of this case

But that’s what the nursing home claimed.

According to the KOMO news investigation, the offending patient—a man who also has dementia—was seen forcing the bed-ridden woman and other patients to touch his genitals on several occasions.

A housekeeper who observed his sexual abuse yelled at the man to stop. She reported what she had seen to the nursing director.

The report says the Director of Nursing Services viewed what was going on as nothing more than consensual activities between dementia patients.

The nursing home noted the witness reports, but did not contact the state until after staff found the man fondling another patient’s breasts and called 9-1-1.

Keeping nursing home patients safe from sexual abuse

Every person who works in a nursing home or long-term care facility is considered a “mandated reporter” in Washington.

When there is reason to suspect that sexual assault has occurred, mandated reporters shall immediately report to the appropriate law enforcement agency and to the department.

 

 

– Wash. Rev. Code § 74.34.035

How many people at this nursing home had seen this man’s behavior, and had “reason to suspect sexual assault”?

The government report says the care facility:

  • Failed to recognize the man’s behavior as sexual abuse
  • Did not act to protect their patients
  • Violated the mandatory reporting rule

For these violations, Cashmere Convalescent Center was fined $6,300.

Washington Nursing Home Abuse Case at Cashmere Convelescent Center - Website

Cashmere’s website claims a “secure, therapeutic environment”.

 

 “We can offer you, or your loved one a secure, therapeutic environment made possible by a caring and well-trained staff.”

There is no patient security without transparency.

If you suspect abuse of a vulnerable adult in Washington, call 1-866-EndHarm (1-866-363-4276).

Nursing home aide punches elderly dementia patient, leading to his death

Frank Mercado, 77, was suffering from dementia and limited vision. He was a patient of the University Nursing Home in New York until his death in December 2014.

Nursing-home-aide-charged-nursing-home-patient's-death

CBS News: Bronx Nursing Home Aide Charged In Death Of 77-Year-Old Patient

A nursing home aide is facing criminal charges for Mercado’s death.

Reportedly, a fight had broken out between the nursing home aide and the elderly patient.

According to the prosecuting attorney, the aide punched the elderly man. After being assaulted, Mr. Mercado fell and was impaled on a piece of metal sticking out from a broken table.

He died from the injury.

The aide, a 41-year-old woman, had worked for University Nursing Home for 14 years. Yet, she apparently never learned to control an elderly dementia patient without the use of physical violence.

University Nursing Home is a small facility, but part of a large consortium of rehabilitation and home health companies called Centers Health Care. In the last four years, the state has found 19 life safety code deficiencies at the care facility. The statewide average was 11 safety code violations.

In one case, an 86-year-old woman’s hand was lacerated on nails sticking out from a wardrobe; in another, an 81-year-old man with dementia complained of shoulder pain and then developed large bruises on his arm that went uninvestigated. – nytimes.com

The nursing home employee has pleaded not guilty to criminal negligent homicide, assault and endangerment charges. No trial date has been set.

Caretaker stole $250,000 from elderly patient

A judge sentenced the caregiver for an elderly Oregon woman to three and a half years in prison.

Ana Hagan is believed to have stolen about $250,000 from the elderly woman in her care. The police found evidence that she had lost $233,000 gambling at a casino.

Last week, she pleaded guilty to criminal mistreatment and theft charges.

Busted by the bank

Financial abuse of the elderly is a big but quiet problem: it’s the most common form of elder abuse, but often goes unreported.

In this case, the elderly woman’s bank, Central Willamette Community Credit Union, prompted a police investigation when they flagged suspicious account activity.

The intrepid credit union employees who contacted the police deserve our thanks.

Bank monitoring is one of the best tools we have to stop the financial exploitation of senior citizens. See Shame, Embarrassment and Privacy Laws Shouldn’t Allow Financial Elder Abuse.

Increasing Acceptance of "Granny Cams"

Most of us have heard of nanny cams. Now, the tiny hidden cameras, used for parents who are suspicious of their nannies, are gaining greater acceptance as a way to stop elder abuse or nursing home abuse.

A video still shows a nursing home aide stuffing latex gloves into Eryetha Mayberry’s mouth

A video still shows a nursing home aide stuffing latex gloves into Eryetha Mayberry’s mouth

According to the NY Times’ Well blog, Doris Racher decided to use a granny cam to catch a petty thief who was stealing from her mother, a 96-year-old dementia nursing home patient.

Instead of catching the thief, Doris found an aide stuffing latex gloves into her mother’s mouth, while another taunted her, tapping her on the head, laughing.

Despite concerns about privacy, some state attorney generals have used hidden cameras to go after some suspected of nursing home patient abuse and neglect.

In June, Mike DeWine, the Ohio state attorney general, announced that his office, with permission from families, had placed cameras in residents’ rooms in an unspecified number of state facilities. Mr. DeWine has moved to shut down at least one facility, in Zanesville, where, he said, cameras caught actions like an aide’s repeatedly leaving a stroke patient’s food by his incapacitated side.

As for the Mayberry story, there is now a new Oklahoma law that allows cameras in residents’ rooms if consent forms are filed to notify the facility, according to prior coverage by News9. The law gives the family exclusive rights to the recording and allows it to be used in court.

 

WA Attorney General & AARP Tackle ID Theft with "Scam Jam"

We have talked about identity theft before in previous blog posts. The problem continues to grow by the minute.

In Washington State, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and AARP are joining forces to warn and educate the public about sharing information.

Almost 400 seniors attended the September 2013 Scam Jam in Burien

Almost 400 seniors attended the September 2013 Scam Jam in Burien

Last week , there was a  “Scam Jam” at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. Doug Shadel, director of AARP Washington, was among the experts who talked about the trends in identity theft and other scams. Says Shadel:

“We have, for a long time, known that there will never be enough law enforcement people or social service agencies, really, to protect everyone from this crime, which is growing… So, we’re enlisting the support of the citizens themselves, to protect each other.”

The Scam Jam last week was packed house. The one last month at the Criminal Justice Training Center in Burien was well attended with over 400 senior citizens in the audience.  Additional seminars will appear on the calendar soon in Seattle, Spokane, and Kennewick.

At the September Scam Jam, U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkin presented a section on “Skimming and Internet Fraud.”  She warned about “skimming,” which involves stealing bank card numbers and PINs from unsuspecting consumers. Theft can occur when a scammer installs scanners and small cameras on ATM machines. Ms. Durkin urged consumers to take a few simple steps to avoid getting snared including:

  1. Wiggle the card reader: This is often where scammers will install devices to read your card and capture your information.
  2. Look for suspicious holes: Scammers may install small cameras that peer through pinholes in the ATM machine.
  3. Cover the keypad: Cover the keypad when entering your PIN. Also look around and make sure no one is watching over your shoulder or standing above or around you where they can see what your PIN is.
  4. Check your accounts: Check your accounts on a regular basis to make sure no one has made charges on your account or withdrawn your funds.

At the October Scam Jam, Mr. Shadel explained that the first event was the start of a yearlong, statewide effort to create a Fraud Watch Network. People who are interested can call the AARP Fraud Fighter Call Center at 800-646-2283.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson said some elders in Washington are easy prey for scammers. Too often, they readily offer personal information. A caller may claim that the elder’s grandchild is stuck overseas. Other scams include developing a relationship with the elder online. Once trust is established, the scammer then asks the elder to transfer funds.

Mr. Ferguson advises that adult children should raise their elderly parents’ awareness about the multiplying types of online/phone scams.

“That conversation can be done in a way that is sensitive to the situation and explains these scams do take unusual courses of action by using technology. Never send a check, never send credit card information, never wire money until you’ve absolutely made sure it’s a legitimate business, or a legitimate person calling you up.”

An AARP survey found more than 80 percent of people who fell for lottery or investment fraud schemes are age 55 or older.

Shame, Embarrassment and Privacy Laws Shouldn’t Allow Financial Elder Abuse

One of the most common forms of elder abuse is financial abuse.

For example, a family member or someone who has developed trust with an elder systematically takes funds from the vulnerable adult’s accounts. Look at the epic tale of Ms. Huguette Clark, where court documents point to years of an organization’s financial exploitation of a wealthy senior.

Earlier this year, articles emerged about the questions swirling around Ms. Clark’s large gifts to Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan. An article in NY Times explains that Beth Israel “went after her [Ms. Clark] in an all-out fund-raising campaign,” within months after Ms. Clark arrived at the hospital as a patient. Records from court filings reveal that BI’s then chief executive, Dr. Newman, was involved in the coercion of gifts. Dr. Newman even watched the Smurfs with Huguette, while discussing the “joys of making a will.”

Huguette Clark, wealthy copper heiress, stayed for decades at Beth Israel and donated millions of dollars. - Image credit: AP

Huguette Clark, wealthy copper heiress, stayed for decades at Beth Israel and donated millions of dollars. – Image credit: AP

The respected non-profit hospital convinced Huguette to stay there for years, despite the fact that she did not require constant medical monitoring or care. As part of its elaborate efforts to siphon off some of Ms. Clark’s fortune, she was admitted in 1991 and remained there until she died.

By 1998, she was paying more than $1,200/day to reside at the hospital. All the while, Huguette “donated” $4 million, not including the millions of dollars that she paid to reside at Beth Israel nor the $1 million bequest to the hospital that appears in her contested will.

While most seniors are not nearly as wealthy as Ms. Clark was, financial abuse is growing as a major issue among this large segment of our population. A Metlife study estimated the loss at more than $2.9 billion in 2010. The General Accounting Office (GAO) reported recently, “As the U.S. population ages, growing numbers of older adults could be at risk of financial exploitation, so its potential impact on society is likely to increase.”

On several levels, we need to find a better way to address this serious problem. Individual family members need not feel ashamed or too embarrassed to report financial abuse of a senior. On a large scale level, eight federal regulatory agencies have issued a joint document that clarifies privacy rights and responsibilities for employees of financial institutions.

This guidance is important because so many companies have expressed concern that the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, aka the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, gives privacy greater priority than fraud prevention. Now, a teller or credit union member may no longer feel that her hands are tied, even when they have strong evidence of fraud perpetrated against an elderly customer. As one of the first people to defend a senior against fraud, a bank/credit union employee may file a report when there are suspicions arising from a huge withdrawal or large, repeated “payments”.

 

Frontline’s/ProPublica’s Life and Death in Assisted Living

Toward the end of July, Frontline in partnership with ProPublica began airing a series, Life & Death in Assisted Living; its full transcript is now available via ebook. With the increasing numbers of seniors who reside in assisted living facilities, an alarming number of stories of neglect and abuse have surfaced. Frontline investigators delved into case studies, offering insights about problems with this loosely regulated multi-billion dollar industry.

Frontline's series "Life & Death in Assisted Facilities" is running on PBS and also available as an ebook.

Frontline’s series “Life & Death in Assisted Living” is running on PBS and a full transcript is also available as an ebook. assisted living facilities, Frontline/ProPublica (PP) investigated this loosely regulated multi-billion dollar industry.

The series began with a focus on the tragic story of Joan Boice, which I blogged about earlier this spring. Frontline compared and contrasted the Seattle based assisted living facility’s marketing pitch with reality.

For example, “specially trained” staffers weren’t really trained to  care for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, a violation of California law. At its best, there was only one nurse to track all of the residents’ health. The turnover of medical professionals was high. In fact, one of them who left wrote Emeritus’ senior executives about the facility’s “ huge shortage of staff” and that the facility was mired in “total dysfunction.”

emerald hills brochure

EMERALD HILLS BROCHURE

Apparently, there were months when a full-time nurse was not even on the facility’s payroll. Residents with incontinence issues were allowed to urinate repeatedly in the same spot in a hallway repeatedly.

But Ms. Boice’s husband and two sons saw only the facility as it was presented, as a respite for their aging mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s. They agreed to pay over $4,625 a month for Joan to receive care as a resident at the Emerald Hills facility and another $2,500/month for her husband.

Less than two weeks after Joan moved in, an ambulance crew found her face-down on the carpet. She had struck her head on the floor with such force that she had bruises on her forehead and cheeks. No one at Emerald Hills, however, knew how Joan had fallen or how long she had been laying on the floor. She had defecated and urinated on herself.

Although Myron, Joan’s husband, was also a resident at the facility, no one informed him about this startling event as Joan was transported to the hospital without any facility employee to accompany her. Joan’s son, Eric, got the call from the hospital later that night.

California law requires assisted living companies to conduct a “pre-admission appraisal” of prospective residents, to ensure they are appropriate candidates for assisted living. However, the assisted living facility never conducted the appraisal of Joan. They failed to consider Joan’s family’s warnings before her move in: They had warned Emerald Hills that Joan shouldn’t sit in a chair without supervision, given her history of losing her balance whenever she would get up. But despite this warning, Joan’s daughter-in-law would visit Joan to find her sitting by herself in a chair without anybody else in the room.

The Frontline investigation exposes the gaps in the law that have allowed assisted living and nursing home facilities like Emeritus’ Emerald Hills to endanger and kill senior citizens like Mrs Boice.

 

Robocall Scam Targets Senior Citizens in WA State and Beyond

Local TV news journalist, Jesse Jones, recently ran a story about a new scam that targets the elderly. According to the Washington State Attorney General’s office, a new robocall scam offers “free” emergency alert devices to senior citizens.

Victims of the scam include Kyle Davis and his brother. They realized that they couldn’t always be available for their parents, so they signed on for this service. What they hadn’t realized that

Kyle Davis and his brothers know they can’t be there to help their parents all the time.  So they signed them up for a type of medical alert pendant in case of emergency.

The scam confuses the recipient of the robocalls, asking if the person wants to opt out.  To opt out, the victim is asked to press a specific number. But that number actually is an acceptance of an offer for a roughly $40 medical alert device. Kyle Davis’ mother, Dixie Davis, thought she was opting out per the robocall instructions, but instead found charges on her Amex bill twice for the same device that she later received in the mail.

“This is a company that’s supposed to be helping out seniors and yet they are kind of scamming seniors, it appears,” explained Kyle to Jesse James.

Apparently, this scam is widespread beyond the Northwest.  The first call is a robocall offering a free alert device that a third party marketer is calling, targeting the elderly.

As the AG’s office reminds, “free” isn’t usually truly free.

Now, if you really need a medical alert device, please get a recommendation from your physician and completely disregard any telemarketing offers.

Seattle-Based Emeritus Walloped With $23 Million Verdict

The Sacramento Bee reported that just last week, a Sacramento jury found Emeritus Corp. guilty of wrongful death and elder abuse on Tuesday in relation to its care of a former resident who died shortly after leaving an Emeritus-run senior living community in California.

Emeritus, based in Seattle, Washington is the largest assisted living facility in the U.S.

Emeritus, largest US assisted living facility corp.

Emeritus, largest US provider of assisted living facilities

The Boice family brought a lawsuit against Emeritus for the abuse and death of Joan Boice, 82.  Ms. Boice, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, had passed away three months after moving into a nursing home in 2008. She had resided at Emeritus at Emerald Hills in Auburn, CA.

Within months, she was found with at least four major pressure ulcers, which were believed to have been a significant factor in causing her death. By day 10 of her stay at the Emeritus facility, Joan had fallen down and was never able to get out of her wheelchair after her fall.

Late last year, Emeritus offered a $3.5 million settlement to the son and daughter of Ms. Boice. But Eric Boice wanted others to know his mother’s story of the elder abuse and neglect: so, the Boices went to trial.

The jury on the case voted unanimously against the company on 12 out of 15 questions on the two jury forms, including voting 12-0 that Emeritus employees failed to use reasonable care in providing for Boice’s hygienic, mental health, and safety needs.

The jurors also unanimously voted that this failure resulted in substantial harm to Boice, and that Emeritus’ officers and directors knew “about the unfitness of their employees and [acted] with conscious disregard of the rights and safety of others.”

Finally, the jurors voted 12-0 that Boices proved “that an employee, officer, director, or a managing agent acted with recklessness, malice, oppression, and fraud.”

Counsel for Emeritus vowed to appeal. This story tells us that no matter the size of the facility, if you have a loved one in assisted care, please remain vigilant.

See more:  Life and Death in Assisted Living

Concerned Granddaughter Uses Nanny Cam at Nursing Home

Diana Valetin put a new twist on the idea of a nanny cam, when she decided to plant a hidden camera in the room where her grandmother,  Ana Luisa Medina, 89, stayed at Gold Crest Care Center in New York.

I read about this sad story of elder abuse in the NY Daily News. Diana kept finding strange bruises on her grandmother’s forehead and arms.

 “They were telling me she had gotten the bruising on her hands by banging on the bed railing.”

Each time Diana went to the Care Center’s management with her concerns, the response was that they were aware of her concerns and that they would investigate it.

Ms. Valetin used a hidden camera to learn why her grandmother was getting bruises.

Ms. Valetin used a hidden camera to learn why her grandmother was getting bruises.

Frustrated with inaction despite the constant bruises, Ms. Valetin decided to investigate the issue herself. She hid a small video camera in a potted plant, capturing over 600 hours of video. “The first video that I saw, [the aide] grabbed my grandmother’s arm, twisted it back, lifted her off the bed and slammed her into the bed,” Valentin said.

Sandra Kerr, the 55-year old nurse, was apparently twisting Ana Luisa Medina’s frail arms and slamming her into the bed. Kerr has since been arrested, and she has been charged with endangering the welfare of a physically disabled person.

Attorney General Schneiderman stated, “My office has zero tolerance for nursing home aides who abuse, neglect or harm the people in their care. Medical professionals have a responsibility to properly care for their patients and must be held accountable when they fail to protect our most vulnerable citizens.

At this time, Gold Crest Care Center had not commented on Ms. Valetin’s claim. Unfortunately, this story is the tip of the iceberg regarding the epidemic of elder abuse in this country.

About Kevin

Kevin Coluccio was recently named one of the Top 10 Super Lawyers in Washington State. He has long history of successful elder abuse/neglect cases and has a stellar reputation for getting results for his injury clients in serious car crashes, pedestrian accidents, trucking accidents, maritime claims, and asbestos injury cases.