Report shows elder abuse

Published 10:06 am Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Fifteen residents of the Good Samaritan Society one mile north of Albert Lea were found to have been verbally, sexually and emotionally abused by four former nursing assistants, all teenage girls, earlier this year, according to a Minnesota Department of Health report released Thursday.

“When they would do these things, they would pull the curtain enough, so when they heard a door open, they could stop. They were quite sneaky about what they were doing,” one employee told investigators.

“The ones they were targeting were those that have Alzheimer’s so bad, that they wouldn’t be able to say it or remember.”

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Five girls were originally investigated in the case, but investigators did not find any substantiated findings related to the fifth girl in regard to abuse or neglect.

According to the report, the fifth girl was terminated for unrelated circumstances, and in her exit interview, she divulged allegations of abuse by one of the other girls.

That girl was placed on suspension, and Good Sam began an internal investigation. After administrators looked further, they contacted the Department of Health and the Albert Lea Police Department.

The victimized residents suffer from dementia or related disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Families of the victims generally have been shocked by the allegations, and people familiar with the nursing home have been, too.

The Good Samaritan Society sign greets people coming to the nursing home. The Department of Health report said the facility will keep its license because administrators addressed the allegations of abuse as soon as they found out and soon contacted authorities.

The Good Samaritan Society sign greets people coming to the nursing home. The Department of Health report said the facility will keep its license because administrators addressed the allegations of abuse as soon as they found out and soon contacted authorities.

The report says employees told the investigators the suspected girls would do the acts and laugh when the residents became upset.

“Employee stated that when doing cares on someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s, they do things to get a ‘rise out of them,’” the report states.

The report alleges spitting in mouths, poking breasts and nipples, putting fingers in mouths, touching and tapping genitals, sticking rear ends in faces, rubbing buttocks, rubbing penises, touching perinea, anal insertion, holding residents down, and teasing them.

One employee told investigators that two of the girls had been “bragging about this for the past one to two months.”

The girls, who are not named in the report, no longer work there.

The conclusions come after an in-depth investigation, which included review of residents’ medical records, the facility’s internal investigation, staff schedules and assignments, incident and accident reports for February, March and April of 2008, personnel files, policies and procedures in regard to the Vulnerable Adults Act, and the facility’s abuse prevention plan, according to the report.

It also included observations of interactions between staff and residents, a tour of the units where the affected residents lived, interviews of several staff and residents, and interviews with the alleged perpetrators as videotaped by the Albert Lea Police Department.

The Albert Lea Police Department conducted a separate investigation. Albert Lea Police Chief Dwaine Winkels said the report from his department’s investigation will not be released until Freeborn County Attorney Craig Nelson brings charges.

All Good Sam staff members were interviewed and asked about any concerns. Administrative staff conducted the interviews in the presence of the Albert Lea police officers.

“We knew when we received the complaint that it would be a difficult investigation because of the condition of the victims,” Winkels said. “That made this investigation extremely difficult. We did what we could to collect the evidence we could.”

His department has asked Nelson to file charges.

“We felt the allegations were severe enough, but it is ultimately up to the prosecutor,” he said.

Three days after the allegations of abuse were originally divulged by the fifth girl in her exit interview, Good Sam’s administrative staff “brought in a team of facility nurses to do head-to-toe assessments of all the residents in station one and station four” and all cognitive residents were interviewed to see if they had any concerns about their care, the report stated.

In that employee’s exit interview, she said one of the girls would do the alleged actions “to residents who ‘couldn’t do anything about it.’ Most of these residents couldn’t speak for themselves,” the report stated.

She said she didn’t report the abusive behavior right away because “she was scared,” the report said. “She stated that they were ‘taught to tell right away, but I never really expected myself to be in that situation, to be witnessing it.’ ”

Other employees indicated they had known about the behavior for a while, but didn’t know what to do, the report stated.

Upon review of the personnel files of each of the girls involved, the department found that two of the girls were hired on in the fourth quarter of 2006; one was hired on in April of 2007, and the fourth was hired on in December of 2007.

All completed required orientation and training required for the position of nursing assistant. They did not have any abuse-related disciplinary action in their files, until these incidents.

Mark Dickerson, communications director at Good Sam in Albert Lea, said administration informed family members of residents that it was conducting an internal investigation into allegations of possible resident abuse in May.

“At this point, individuals who were either deemed to be involved in the alleged abusive actions or had knowledge of the incidents and failed to report in a timely manner are no longer employed at the center,” Dickerson said.

The report stated the license for Good Sam in Albert Lea will not be revoked because of the corrective actions made early on by the nursing home administrators.

Mark Anderson, administrator of Good Sam Albert Lea, said Thursday: “I’m very proud of the people I work with. They work very hard to go forward each day.”

Despite the positive news for the nursing home, the report stated that the findings about the girls’ behavior are being submitted for possible inclusion on a state abuse registry. The girls will be notified of their right to challenge the findings.