A few years ago, we talked about some of the more horrific cases of nursing home neglect and abuse around Wisconsin.
Despite tougher federal regulations, the abuse and neglect of elderly patients remains a problem in Wisconsin’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Below, we share some of the most recent stories in nursing home abuse and neglect, including some of the nursing home tragedies we’ve brought cases against.
Serious Deficiencies in Wisconsin Nursing Homes
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has a list of the 364 nursing homes that exist in Wisconsin, and reports on their total number of deficiencies.
“Deficiencies” are regulatory requirements not being met in a given facility, and generally denote some form of neglect or unsafe condition.
A ProPublica Report for Wisconsin nursing homes showed that 98 homes out of 364 have “serious deficiencies,” and many have had cases and fines filed against them.
For example, the worst offender on the list, Maplewood Center in West Allis, had 49 deficiencies from 2015 to 2018.
The most severe deficiencies that garnered a $50,478 fine in 2018 included a resident who complained of shortness of breath. When the on-call physician did not respond and the facility staff failed to call the Medical Director as policy dictated, the resident was sent to the hospital. She had to wait more than four hours total for medical care.
Nursing Home Neglect’s Sad Consequences
In December 2017, our attorneys at Boller & Vaughan were involved with a heartbreaking negligence case.
Alice McGaw, a former resident of Faith Gardens Memory Care in Sun Prairie, died in December 2017 outside of the facility. Hypothermia was likely a factor in her death, authorities said.
McGaw had a diagnosis of dementia when she was admitted to Faith Gardens in October 2017. The Faith Gardens staff were made aware of McGaw’s “wandering behaviors” and promised her family that they would “keep her safe.”
Sometime during the night on December 28 and 29, McGaw walked out of Faith Gardens wearing only her pajamas and socks, without her walker, in sub-freezing temperatures across a parking lot filled with snow. McGaw may have fallen in the parking lot before crawling on her hands and knees, eventually freezing to death.
Her family trusted Faith Gardens to keep McGaw safe, yet McGaw was able to leave the facility due to lax security and inattentive staff.
Six Counts of Felony Neglect And Abuse
In July 2019, an employee of a Sheboygan nursing home was charged with four felonies related to two separate incidents of assault and negligence. David Stephen Boozer, 66, was charged with two counts of intentionally subjecting an at-risk individual to abuse, as well as two counts of aggravated battery to the elderly.
Boozer’s coworker, who worked on a floor for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s, said she saw him use violence to get a patient back to his room, including punching the patient in the chest.
The coworker also claimed that after Boozer returned the patient to his room in a wheelchair, the coworker found the wheelchair tipped over and the patient on the floor. Boozer later struck this same patient in the legs with a wheelchair, and forcibly dragged him out of another patient’s room by the shirt.
The coworker had previously reported Boozer to the nursing home’s administration for negligence, including an incident in which he refused to provide needed medications to dying patients.
Silence Leads to Sexual Abuse in Nursing Home
In May 2018, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) investigated Maplewood of Sauk Prairie in Sauk City after a female resident told the staff that another resident entered her room and groped her.
Resident Galen J. Malisch is a registered sex offender and employee at Maplewood of Sauk Prairie nursing home. Many were aware of his background but failed to prevent him from abusing three residents at the facility.
A Maplewood social worker said she informed Maplewood’s administrator, Paul Fiscus, and the facility’s nursing director, Joni Blau, that Malisch was a registered sex offender, assuming that the administrative officials would take care of the situation.
However, Blau denied knowing about Malisch’s status until after the incident in May occurred. Fiscus didn’t comment on the matter.
Wisconsin DHS uncovered other troubling information as well.
Based on interviews with multiple employees, they found that Fiscus and Blau attempted to intimidate multiple employees “if they said too much” to investigators.
Since then, the facility has been under scrutiny to ensure that the work environment and leadership improves. The investigation against Malisch remains open.
No Privacy For Some Nursing Home Residents
With everything going digital in today’s world, new acts that invade the privacy of nursing home residents are cropping up.
In 2017, nursing home employee Alexis Collum took photos of residents at Luther Manor in Milwaukee and uploaded them to her Snapchat account. She received probation for her actions.
Similarly, employee Moriah Goodlette at Milwaukee Catholic Home admitted to making a video of a resident and posting it on social media. She also received probation.
When reporters reached out to Luther Manor and Milwaukee Catholic Home for comment, a human sources representative at Luther Manor stated that Collum’s name was not in its system. Milwaukee Catholic stated that Goodlette never worked for them.
Protecting Nursing Home Abuse & Wrongdoing in Wisconsin
With stories like these, Wisconsin families may feel like nursing homes are not safe for their aging loved ones. However, there are a number of consumer resources for choosing safe nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and reporting suspected neglect and abuse.
Wisconsin DHS, for example, provides a guide to finding and choosing a nursing home. This resource includes information about nursing home regulations, a county-by-county directory of care providers, and factors to consider when selecting a nursing home or assisted-living center.
Through the Division of Quality Assurance, the Wisconsin DHS also offers information about and details for registering complaints regarding nursing homes and assisted-living care.
This site also addresses complaints regarding facilities that serve those with developmental disabilities, as well as agencies that provide hospice and at-home health care.
Contact Our Law Firm For Help
The Madison personal injury attorneys at Boller & Vaughan have won a number of cases against facilities charged with elder abuse and neglect, including one of the largest assisted living verdicts in Wisconsin history.
If you suspect a loved one is suffering from neglect or abuse in a nursing home or assisted-care center, please call us at 608-268-0268 for your free consultation with one of our experienced lawyers.