In 2019, police uncovered a horrific case of nursing home abuse in a North Carolina nursing home. Three staff members videotaped a woman with dementia hitting and punching another resident. Nursing home abuse happens across the United States — but many cases go unreported. To keep their loved ones safe, families should regularly check-in and note any signs of abuse.
Staff Encouraged Nursing Home Abuse Through Resident Fight Club
“Punch her in the face,” one staff member said. A 73-year-old nursing home resident was attacking another resident, aged 70. Both residents suffered from dementia and were staying at Danby House in North Carolina to receive round-the-clock medical care.
“Let go, help me, let go,” the victim yelled. The three staff members in the room did not break up the fight and continued to watch. Two of the staff members filmed the fight for later enjoyment.
At one point, the older resident began choking the younger one, turning the victim’s face red. Shortly after, one of the staff members finally called in a supervisor to break up the fight.
Police and investigators described the incident as a nursing home fight club.
All three staff members were fired in June, shortly after the incident took place. From there, the police began an investigation and filed charges against the former employees involved in October 2019.
Ironically, the staff who filmed the fight caught their nursing home abuse on video, since they didn’t step in to help. All three nursing home employees involved in the incident now face assault charges, according to the North Carolina police.
Nursing Home Abuse Exposes Broken System
The fight club was not the only incident of nursing home abuse that occurred at Danby House.
During the investigation, it came to light that Danby House staff members abused or neglected the needs of residents in many other cases.
In another incident, the three staff members saw the aforementioned 70-year-old resident push another to the ground. One of the staff members forcefully shoved the 70-year-old into her room, turned off the lights, and told her to sleep.
The other resident was left on the ground before the staff eventually helped them.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services noted that other Danby House employees also failed to properly care for residents.
Other infractions included:
- Failure to give needed medications to residents
- Failure to review patient medical charts
- Lack of staff medical training
Though Danby House implemented a new training protocol — and underwent leadership changes — the damage had already been done. As of 2019, Danby House can no longer admit new patients.
Nursing Home Abuse Can Happen Anywhere
The entire incident is shocking because Danby House is owned by Affinity Living Group, a company that has existed for over 100 years and is the fourth-largest provider of Alzheimer’s care in the U.S.
Affinity Living Group claims the staff of Danby House is “dedicated to providing a safe, warm, engaging environment for everyone” — but, in the wake of this investigation, this could not be further from the truth.
Dementia Patients at Higher Risk for Abuse
In the fight club case, the victims suffered from dementia. Patients with dementia may have a higher risk for nursing home abuse because they may not be able to speak out.
Such was the case in 2018 when a resident with Alzheimer’s was beaten after just three weeks in a Colorado nursing home. She suffered bruises and broken bones that required hospital care.
Her abuser was a convicted felon who was working at the home and somehow passed a background check to work there.
Though the resident couldn’t recall the incident due to her condition, context clues — such as a broken bone that allegedly stemmed from “getting hit with a coat hanger” — led police to charge the staff member in question. She was later sentenced to 12 years in prison.
All Nursing Home Residents Deserve Respect
Being a caretaker — especially in a nursing home — comes with challenges. But there is never an excuse to abuse or mistreat someone needing physical or mental care.
Sadly, elder abuse can take many forms. Some types of nursing home abuse, such as financial or psychological abuse, are not as obvious.
To protect against nursing home abuse and neglect, families must take precautions when selecting a nursing home. It is also critical for families to regularly check on their loved ones to keep a lookout for any signs of nursing home abuse — and report it.
Common signs of nursing home abuse among residents include:
- Being left unattended for long periods of time
- Changes in mood or behavior
- Exhibiting fear around certain staff members
- Strange transactions from bank accounts
- Unexplained bruises, cuts, or broken bones
In the fight club incident, a family member visited one of the victims and reported the incident to local authorities. Without this single report, the investigation and arrests may never have happened — and others may have suffered.