Angenette Stewart was described by people who knew her as a happy, “sweet little old lady.” Her small house in Auburn, Massachusetts was “like living in a botanical garden,” said her son Anthony Bostic. The entire property was decorated with beautiful flower and vegetable gardens that Stewart maintained by herself, keeping her outside and active in her old age. The little woman planted flowers, herbs, spices, peppers, cherry tomatoes, zucchinis and cabbage, among other plants in her beloved gardens.
It was only when her children began to realize that her flowers were dying, and her vegetables were rotting, that they thought her mental health might be wilting right along with her plants. Deciding that she could not live alone, Stewart’s children paid relatives to move in with her to keep an eye on her, but the woman was suffering from dementia. Her condition made it very difficult for relatives to care for her. She suffered from sporadic angry outbursts and bouts of insomnia. The once “sweet little old lady” had turned into a “little storm” said her son, Bostic.
Her family put Stewart in an elderly day care center in Auburn, MA. But she would often wander outside the confines of the facility and into town. Despite being her hometown for years, she could not recognize Auburn. She would get lost and forget her surroundings.
Bostic and his siblings then moved their mother to Lodge at Eddy Pond in early August, 2004. Lodge, later renamed Emeritus, was a well-known nursing home in the area. Bostic said that he and his siblings liked the Lodge because they “reassured us that [the residents] were monitored inside the room . . . there was a section [of the building] where she could wander but couldn’t get out.” The siblings had no idea that their mother’s wandering tendencies were far from their biggest problem.
On February 22, 2005, an employee at Emeritus called the Elder Abuse hotline at the state Executive Office of Elder Affairs with a horrific story of abuse at the nursing home. The worker explained that another resident at the assisted living facility had sexually assaulted Stewart on numerous occasions in the home’s memory care wing for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s. The worker also claimed that other staff members and her supervisors knew of the harassment and nursing home abuse, but failed to take any action to prevent it.
Adult Protective Services and the state’s Assisted Living Ombudsman program launched an investigation into the sexual assault accusations. What they discovered was more than disturbing. Not only did the home’s director, Lori Toombs, know of the harassment, but she had also decided not to report it to the police. She failed to take any action to stop the abuse, and never told Stewart’s family what had occurred, saying “there was no reason for them to know.”
Toombs largely brushed off the incidents as insignificant and unimportant. Investigators said the home was unhelpful and uncooperative with regards to the investigation. One investigator from Adult Protective Services claimed that she “got different answers every time I asked a question.” The home’s regional director of operations, Mary Hagarty, insisted that staffers had acted in accordance with company policy by documenting the incidents and keeping a closer eye on Stewart. The investigators adamantly disagreed. They concluded in May 2005 that Stewart had been abused at the facility and that the nursing home had acted negligently by not acting at all.
Following the May, 2005 findings, Stewart’s family moved her to a relative’s home in Queens, New York. She died later that same month. That March, her family filed a lawsuit against Emeritus, naming Toombs and Hagarty as defendants, among others. The nursing home settled the lawsuit with the family. The terms of the settlement are confidential.
If a loved one has been neglected or mistreated by a nursing home employee, please contact our expert Boston, MA nursing home abuse lawyers, Boston personal injury lawyers or Boston, MA wrongful death lawyers right now at 617-787-3700 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a free, confidential consultation to discuss the monetary damages you may receive from your nursing home abuse claim.
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