When you place a loved one in a nursing home there are certain things you expect to happen – supervision, love and daily care. There are also certain things you hope will never happen – abuse, neglect or bedsores. But for families with loved ones at one North Carolina nursing home, recent reports about what happens inside the facility are unimaginable.
Startling News from a North Carolina Nursing Home
Danby House is a nursing home offering specialized care for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. On October 15, 2019, BuzzFeedNews announced the arrests of three nursing home staff members that allegedly were operating a “fight club style operation.” The participants in the alleged fight club? Patients with dementia.
In June 2019, the Winston-Salem Police Department began investigating after elder abuse allegations were filed. Police learned that employees were encouraging residents to fight with each other. If the situation is not disheartening enough, police report that some fights were video recorded with employees egging residents on. The contents of the videos is nothing short of disturbing.
One video shows an elderly woman falling onto a bed with another resident hitting her. During the video the woman can be heard yelling, “let go, help me, help me, let go.” At least one employee can be heard in the video saying “punch her in the face,” and “stop screaming, (expletive).” In the video, you can also hear someone ask if the fight is being recorded, and if someone can send her the video.
At one point in the recordings, one of the elderly women was choked by another resident. One of the employees can be heard saying that the woman was turning red, but no one intervened. At least one employee is alleged to have also shoved a resident.
The three nursing home workers arrested are between the ages of 20 and 32 years old. Police say that they have all three been charged with assault on an individual with disability. They are out on bond and are expected to appear in court in November.
Shallow Defense Against Assault Charges
After their arrest, at least one of the nursing home employees made a statement. In that statement, she claims that the reason the fight was recorded was because that particular patient (the one being pushed and choked) was a “pain in the butt.” Hardly a legitimate reason to violate the standards of care and all sense of moral decency.
Patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia require a specialized level of care and supervision. Staff members who cannot meet that task should not be assigned to care for these nursing home residents. With that in mind, the Danby House itself could also be held liable for this horrific situation if they did not properly screen, train and monitor employees.
Danby House representatives have not responded to requests for comment. They did tell one news source, however, that all three staff members have been fired. The nursing home is also apparently implementing a better process for vetting applicants before hiring them.
Is Assault Common in Nursing Homes?
It is hard to imagine that assault is in any way common in nursing homes. After all, nursing homes house vulnerable residents who need help with basic activities of living. They are certainly (most often) not a threat to others.
Unfortunately, assault in nursing homes does happen. Some estimates suggest that one in every ten elderly individuals will experience some form of abuse each year, including assault. Instances of assault include far more than what most people think – hitting or punching. Assault can also include:
- Unnecessary confinement
- Use of restraints
- Use of chemical restraints
- Unnecessary force
- Sexual assault
For patients with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, defending themselves is often impossible. Furthermore, these patients may not be able to call for help or report the incident to authorities after the fact. This is one reason why this group of nursing home residents is so vulnerable. They are easily taken advantage of.
Risk Factors for Nursing Home Abuse
Assault is just one type of nursing home abuse that occurs in facilities across the United States. Sadly, nursing home residents experience numerous types of abuse and neglect. As noted before, certain populations are more vulnerable to abuse or neglect than others. According to the National Council on Elder Abuse (NCEA), the primary risk factors for abuse are:
- Facilities without an abuse prevention policy
- Inadequate staff training and supervision
- A stressful work environment for employees
- A high resident-to-staff ratio
- High turnover rate among nursing home employees
- A history of abuse or neglect at the facility
- Previous poor inspection ratings
- Outdated facilities
- Poor maintenance
- Infrequent resident visits by family members
- Level of functional dependence
- The overall health of the resident
- Presence of cognitive impairment
Any of these factors increase the risk of nursing home abuse or neglect. Ultimately, facility owners and administrators have a duty to make sure that the facility is adequate to care for residents. Furthermore, they are responsible for appropriate hiring and training policies, as well as oversight of employees.
How to Prevent Nursing Home Abuse
If someone you love lives in a nursing home, consider these factors. One of the best ways to prevent abuse or neglect is to be present as an advocate for your loved one. At Nursing Home Abuse Center, we recommend that family members do the following:
- Visit as much as possible, and visit during different times of the day and week.
- When visiting, pay attention to how residents appear. Are they clean, happy, and engaged?
- Are the building and grounds clean and well cared for?
- What is the staff-to-resident ratio?
- Do staff members seem engaged in their work, or are they sitting around?
- Are there nurses on staff at all times?
- What sort of rating does the facility have from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)?
If at any time you feel like the facility or staff is not properly caring for your loved one, you should consider your options. While we all want what is best for our elderly loved ones, when they are in a nursing home we can’t be there all the time. That leaves a certain amount of time where abuse or neglect could occur despite our best efforts.
If you suspect any abuse, neglect or unethical behavior at a nursing home, you can contact Nursing Home Abuse Center to find out what your options are. You and your loved ones don’t have to settle for less than satisfactory care.