Elderly veterans are some of our country’s most vulnerable citizens and often suffer from elder abuse. Like other older populations, veterans with dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder, or Alzheimer’s can be easily taken advantage of or not given adequate care. In addition, veterans homes are notorious for being underfunded which can make necessary and immediate medical care difficult to access. In addition, long term care facilities may not be financially capable of hiring well-trained staff in sufficient numbers.
At times, a combination of the preceding circumstances creates homes which are not safe for its residents. The Grand Rapids Home for Veterans may represent an example of one of these unsafe facilities. The facility is not state licensed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and, in recent months, multiple stories have emerged from the home suggesting that their standard of care may not be up to par.
For example, a video was recently released of a caretaker at the facility, Laurie Botbyl, injuring a man in a wheelchair in the dementia lock down ward. She is currently being charged with fourth degree vulnerable adult abuse, a misdemeanor in the state that could be punished by up to one year in a county jail.
In the video you can see Botbyl struggling to control Maynard Mathers, an 83-year-old resident of the Grand Rapids home with Alzheimer’s. Suddenly, Botbyl “places both of her hands on the chair’s handles, pulled the chair in tight and pushed Mathers’ wheelchair forward out of her control.” The victim’s knees and arm strike a nearby desk as the wheelchair collides with it, and Mathers holds his knees after making contact.
At the time of the event, Botbyl was an employee of a company called JS2, a private firm contracted to provide caretakers to the veterans home. She has been fired and the company’s contract was not renewed after its expiration last year.
While one incident is bad enough, a news channel in Grand Rapids also discovered an ongoing lawsuit that a family filed after their loved one was assaulted and died in 2012 at the veterans home. According to the lawsuit, Andrew Ball, a World War II veteran with dementia, was assaulted by another resident in the middle of the night after Ball tried to climb into bed with him in a confused and disoriented state.
First, the suit alleges, Ball should not have been allowed to wander the halls unsupervised at night, especially when some of the other residents were known to be aggressive. Secondly, when Ball was attacked, the veterans home decided not to take him to the hospital for emergency care, even though he was bruised and bloodied. He was sent by the doctor the next day, however, he died shortly after.
The caretakers defended their decision not to seek immediate medical attention by referring to a Do Not Resuscitate order that the family had signed. The family’s attorney responded, “Well, if he’s DNR, you don’t call the doctor, you don’t call the hospital. I asked them, I said does that mean if they fall and cut themselves, you let them bleed out? And they said ‘well, you wouldn’t do that.”
Unlicensed facilities operate all over the United States and may not be regulated, allowing for unchecked abuse and neglect. If you suspect mistreatment, call the office of trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian today at (800) 529-6162 or contact them online.