More Tragic Nursing Home Stories

Every so often, we hear stories of nursing home abuse and neglect so disturbing that we have to write about it. Not every nursing home tolerates these kinds of behaviors by employees, but many do, which is why it is so important to carefully research a facility before allowing a loved one to move in.

So, with no further ado, here are the stories making our August 2011 Hall-of-Shame list:

Dehumanizing Experience

When patient advocate Deb Holtz moved into a Minnesota nursing home for a week of post-surgery rehab, she only lasted about a day. Holtz, who is the state’s Ombudsman for Long-Term Care, suffered complications after shoulder replacement surgery, and had no use of her right arm or hand. To help her recover, she chose a nursing home generally known to be “one of the best in the state.” The experience left her with a greater understanding of exactly how vulnerable anyone can feel when dependent on others for physical care.

The story of her short visit was reported on Upon entering Langton Place nursing home, Holtz sat “alone in my room for five hours, with no admission meeting, no greeting, just nothing.” Then, just before bedtime, a nurse entered the room and politely told Holtz she needed to undergo a skin check, a procedure intended to protect immobile residents from potentially deadly bed sores.

Holtz told the nurse she was mobile and not at risk. But the nurse insisted, and inspected her feet and other exposed areas. Then, the nurse asked Holtz to pull down her sweat pants. Holtz refused to cooperate. She told the nurse to write on her chart that the patient declined treatment, a move she knew she was legally entitled to make. But the experience made her wonder how those who don’t know their rights, or who are in a state of illness or confusion, might handle such an embarrassing, humiliating situation.

“If it was that uncomfortable for me and that scary for me, I just kept thinking of the older people that come in and don’t know that they have choices or are already confused and sad or probably depressed they are going there,” Holtz said.

The next morning, Holtz was abruptly awakened when an aide turned on the room’s bright lights. Holtz was told to stand up so she could be weighed.

“I thought again about the lack of remembering that this is a person,” Holtz said. “I’m not just a check mark on your to-do list. Just even saying good morning, that would have been nice.”

Fortunately, Holtz’s experience wasn’t a horror story like some we hear, but it was a wake-up call to a woman who already understood that the issues of dignity and patient rights need to be put higher on the list of priorities for nursing homes…even among those with reputations for being “the best.”

Nursing Home Death

A nursing home resident who was confined to a wheelchair mysteriously broke her left thigh bone… and worse, she was not treated until days later when she suffered cardio-respiratory distress. The resident died in the hospital emergency room.

California fined the Creekside Care Center in Stockton $100,000 after an investigation found that the death was due to “inadequate care.”

According to the Los Angeles Times:

In response, the nursing home filed a required plan of correction with the department. In the plan, officials promised to retrain staff to better monitor and follow up on changes in residents’ condition. They also promised to audit all changes in residents’ condition daily.

Roughing Up a Resident

It’s another win for the concept of in-room video cameras.

The family of a 69-year-old female resident of Dumont Masonic Home in New Rochelle, NY, believing that the resident was being abused, installed video cameras in her room. The cameras caught Merline Bynoe, 40, in the act of roughing up the resident by slapping her several times, and she was charged with endangering an incompetent person.

According to an article on (a newspaper for the Lower Hudson Valley):

“Our investigation led us to believe that she was mishandled,” [New Rochelle Detective Capt. Joseph] Schaller said. “Nothing led us to believe there were any other victims.”

This story has a happier ending than many others, for a few reasons: 1) The abuse was relatively minor compared with other horror stories; 2) the abuser was caught and charged; and 3) the police and nursing home reacted appropriately to the video camera information. This is not always true. Some states have taken steps to outlaw in-room video cameras, and nursing homes can evict a resident for using cameras to prove abuse.

More Abuse Caught on Video

Two workers at the Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Center at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, OH, were arraigned on charges of assault… caught on video. According to an article on

When the alleged victim, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, complained of the abuse to her son, he set up a hidden camera in an air purifier in her hospital room. The video showed acts of abuse from using brutality while transferring the patient from her bed to spraying her in the face with body spray, [spokesman Ryan] Miday said.

“The video of the treatment this woman received is shocking,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in the statement.

The workers are 45-year-old Virgen Caraballo, and 26-year-old Maria Karban, both of Cleveland. Caraballo faces 13 counts of patient abuse, while Karban faces only one count. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison.


While these stories are disturbing, they are not unique or rare. Nursing home abuse takes many forms, from insults on one’s dignity, to broken bones and death. Our elderly loved ones deserve so much better treatment than this. And it shouldn’t be so difficult to find a caring, compassionate, healthy facility.

If you believe your loved one has been abused or neglected in a long-term care facility, you may have legal options. Feel free to explore the information on our website at, or call us at 919-781-1107. Someone is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year. At HensonFuerst, we know life doesn’t wait…if you have questions, we have answers.

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