Severe North Carolina Nursing Home Abuse Haunts Victim’s Niece

For most of his life, the 72-year-old North Carolina man suffering from severe physical and mental disabilities, was lovingly cared for by relatives who feared putting him in an institution.
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Sadly, little did they know how right those fears would later prove.

Our Rutherfordton nursing home abuse lawyers understand the the man’s niece – herself an assisted living facility aide – had to quit her job to care for him full-time. She has now filed a lawsuit against the O’Berry Neuro-Medical Treatment Center, a state hospital facility that assumed his care for a time in 2010.

He might never have been there int the first place, but for the fact that his seizures had worsened. The man was not born with these disabilities, but rather incurred them after suffering from polio and a severe case of pneumonia. He now has the mental capacity of a 4-year-old.

Family members had long cared for him, but as he approached his seventh decade, doctors were struggling to keep his seizures under control. They gently suggested that the family consider a long-term care facility.

It was not long before the niece got the call she had dreaded. The facility notified her that her uncle had been assaulted. A staff member allegedly kicking this man so hard in his groin that it became swollen and black.

The fact that the facility called to notify the family of this action is rare indeed.

The niece later examined her uncle and found bruises all across his backside.

She would later learn was there was a strong possibility the victim had been sexually assaulted, repeatedly, by this same employee. He often wakes up in terror at night, recalling details of these attacks, but none of it has ever been independently verified. The victim says his roommate, who was also intellectually challenged, often suffered the same from this worker.

In an internal investigation, the facility concluded that while the victim had provided a great deal of detail about these incidents, “He appeared to be combining many thoughts together, which made it difficult for the investigative team to draw conclusions of a sexual assault.”

The state operates roughly a dozen facilities to care for its most vulnerable residents, with ailments ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to schizophrenia. Some live there for decades. Others only go there when they become too old for relatives to offer continuing care.

At this particular location and two others nearby, the Charlotte News & Observer reports that the Department of Health and Human Services was able to substantiate 41 cases of neglect or abuse. Given that these three facilities care for a combined daily average of 630 patients, we’re talking about a 6.5 percent rate of abuse. Those are just the numbers the state was able to substantiate. The actual figure is likely much higher.

In many of these cases, staffers are either simply transferred or fired. In rare cases, criminal charges will be filed.

In this situation, the victim was able to identify the staffer who had kicked him. That staffer was later fired for the incident, though he staunchly denied it and was never subject to criminal charges.

At the end of the day, the state attorney’s office appears to have concluded that the victim would not make a reliable witness. Those who target these individuals know this. That’s why they do it.

But that doesn’t mean family members don’t have options. Our North Carolina nursing home abuse lawyers want to make it clear that the threshold for burden of proof is lesser in a civil case than in a criminal one. That’s why this man’s niece stands a good chance of winning in her claim, even when police have declined to pursue charges.

If you or a loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse in North Carolina, contact Grimes Teich Anderson LLP. Call 1.800.533.6845.

Additional Resources:
Abuse of Kinston man haunts the niece who sent him to NC institution, Feb. 16, 2013, By Mandy Lock, Charlotte News & Observer
More Blog Entries:
Feds: Nursing Home Bed Rail Deaths, Injuries of Prime Concern in the Carolinas, Jan. 16, 2013, Rutherfordton Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Blog

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