In a blog last week I asked the question, “Are Sexual Predators Rampant in Missouri Nursing Homes?” Then in our just published Terry Law Firm newsletter, I wrote an article about two growing problems in Missouri nursing homes: sepsis and sexual assault. Sadly, according to a report by Fox2News, it appears that sex offenders are finding their way into Missouri nursing homes and that they present a clear and present danger to vulnerable nursing home residents.
An 88-year-old dementia resident at Big River Nursing & Rehabilitation Center was reportedly sexually assaulted by a resident who staff members knew was on a federal sex offender list. While the news story did not go into details on what happened or why it happened, I believe Myron Powell, one of the people interviewed in the story Fox2News story summed it up perfectly: “It’s supervision…that’s what you pay them to do. I believe it was poor supervision, especially when they were aware of the situation when they admitted the person [the sex offender]”. A spokeswoman for the Big River Nursing & Rehabilitation Center stated that they knew the alleged perpetrator was on a sex offender list when they admitted him, that they told staff about him, told staff to keep an eye on him and that the facility acted appropriately. According to Fox 2 News the nursing home spokeswoman went on to say “But it is difficult to watch someone every minute, around the clock.” The resident who is alleged to have perpetrated the sexual assault was arrested and put in jail with a $50,000 cash bond. He had been admitted into the facility to receive treatment for an injured foot.
Permitting A Sex Offender to Wander Unsupervised Around Vulnerable Elderly Adults is Unacceptable
According to the Big River facility it is difficult to watch someone every minute, around the clock. Frankly that is a very poor excuse. The highest responsibility of a nursing home is to meet the needs of each resident and to provide a safe environment for each resident. The minute Big River Nursing & Rehabilitation Center decided to accept a resident that they knew was on a sex offender list, they obligated themselves to do everything they had to do to keep the other residents in the facility safe. If that means assigning a staff member to follow the known sexual offender resident around the facility, then that is what should be required. A facility simply cannot keep other residents safe when they permit a known sex offender to wander around unsupervised when there are defenseless residents easily accessible. To tell the media that they believe they complied with all state and federal laws when they failed to meet the needs of the victim and failed to keep the victim safe is, in our opinion, disingenuous at best.
Sexual Assault is not the Only Problem at Big River Nursing & Rehabilitation Center
In August 2018 the State of Missouri had multiple investigators descend upon the Big River Nursing & Rehabilitation Center for its annual survey. You can see the survey for yourself here. Investigators found multiple instances of deficient care and cited the facility for those deficiencies. During this investigation the state found that Big River Nursing & Rehabilitation Center:
- FAILED to implement complete care plan with specific interventions to meet individual needs
- FAILED to provide assistance with meals in a timely manner
- FAILED to prepare and serve food under sanitary conditions
- FAILED to maintain an effective pest control policy
A care plan is a document that is supposed to be prepared for each resident that designates the best plan of care for that resident. After a thorough assessment of each resident staff members are to consider the results of the assessment and determine how they can best meet the needs of the resident. In the August survey, investigators discovered that for several residents there were multiple instances where there was no plan at all for key issues like safety, memory loss, pain, anxiety, falls, contractures and skin care. If a nursing home has no plan on how to prevent a resident from falling, for example, how do employees know how to meet the needs of that resident? It’s just not possible.
Investigators also found that facility residents who require assistance with eating had to wait to be fed. That wait varied between 15 minutes and 1 hour and 5 minutes. In no case did facility employees offer to reheat the resident’s food that had been sitting on the table in front of them. State investigators actually witnessed one resident having to eat with his hands since there were no utensils on his table. Surveyors also noted that there were multiple flies in the dining room, on dining tables, on resident milk cartons, and on resident food. The Administrator admitted that they sometimes have problems with flies because they leave the door propped open for smokers and flies get in.
Finally, multiple residents complained that it often took a long time for staff members to respond to resident call lights. Investigators witnessed a staff member walking to the doorway of a resident’s room that had an activated call light, turning around and walking away without asking the resident what was needed or assessing the resident in any way. Two staff members finally responded to the resident after the call light had been activated for 38 minutes. Residents interviewed stated that it was humiliating to stay soiled so long while they wait for someone to answer the call light. One resident even stated that because there is only one staff member available to answer call lights during meal times, his roommate will help him get a bed pan. Another resident told investigators that he has had to wait a long time for call lights to be answered that he doesn’t even both using it after 9:00 p.m.
Did Admitted Staffing Problems at Big River Nursing & Rehabilitation Center Create Opportunity for a Known Sex Offender?
Both the Administrator and Director of Nursing admitted to state investigators in August 2018 that Big River Nursing & Rehabilitation Center had experienced staffing problems “in the past” but, they say, the facility is good on staffing now. As a St. Louis nursing home sexual abuse lawyer, my experience has been that most abuse and neglect that occurs in nursing homes is a direct result of insufficient staffing. If there aren’t enough staff members to fully complete care plans or answer call lights in a timely manner how can there be enough staff members to supervise a resident to presents a clear and present danger to other residents?
Our Message to the Family Members of Those Sexually Assaulted at Nursing Homes
I am so sorry your loved one has experienced such a traumatic and terrible event. It should have never happened. In the nursing home sexual assault cases I have handled, I have seen both victims and families devastated. Sometimes family members feel guilty about what happened to their loved one and, while that is understandable, you must understand that this was not your fault. In every case I have handled, family members believed promises made by the nursing home and trusted that they would provide a safe environment for their loved ones. What happened to your loved one was not your fault.
We Can Help
If you have a loved one who has suffered sexual abuse at a nursing home and want to talk with a St. Louis nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer feel free to call the Terry Law Firm at 314-878-9797. We have experience in handling cases like this and would appreciate the opportunity to talk with you.