Jurors in an Oklahoma City nursing home abuse trial involving video footage from an undercover camera have sided with the victim, awarding the family $1.2 million in damages. Shocking images were captured inside the victim’s room at the Quail Creek Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in 2012. The video shows two facility workers physically assaulting an elderly resident. One aide stuffed a latex glove into the 96-year-old resident’s mouth and the other hit her on the head while she sat helplessly in her wheelchair.
Initially, family members of Eryetha Mayberry hid an undercover camera in the bedroom, believing employees were stealing things from their mother. Instead of revealing captured images of theft, the recording showed Caroline Kaseke and Lucy Gakunga assaulting Mayberry. The video shows both workers taunting Eryetha while striking her on the top and back of her head as they jerked her body from the wheelchair. Once the resident was in the bed, one worker shoved her head backwards in an apparent move to make her lie down.
Unable to Remember the Incident
At the time of the assault, Mayberry was suffering from dementia and unable to remember the incident occurring. She has since passed away. Advocates for nursing facility reform indicate that this is certainly not an isolated case. However, Eryetha’s medical condition made her a silent victim who likely would have never complained about the abuse. Many reform advocates believe untold numbers of assaults on nursing home victims go unnoticed and/or unreported every year.
Mistreatment of the elderly is defined as neglect or abuse caused by an intentional or non-intentional action that creates a serious risk of harm or causes harm outright. In many incidences, the senior becomes a victim at the hands of someone in a trusted relationship such as a family member or caregiver.
A Growing Number of Elderly Abused in Skilled Nursing Facilities
Statistics maintained by the National Center of Elder Abuse indicates that the increasing numbers of the aging population has also increased nursing home abuse. The size of mistreatment on the elderly is thought to grow even higher in the years to come as more baby boomers enter their later years.
In many incidences, the signs of abuse or neglect on the elderly are often missed by medical professionals due to a lack of training on effectively detecting physical or mental harm. In situations like the harm caused to Ms. Mayberry, elderly individuals are often unaware or reluctant to report the neglect or abuse because they are either afraid of their abuser or do not want to get them in trouble.
Elderly women and people suffering with dementia tend to be at greatest risk of suffering abuse from others compared to the general population of senior citizens. Statistics indicate that nearly half of all individuals 85 years and older suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or some form of dementia. This number is expected to increase significantly by the year 2025.
Arrest warrants for both aides on abuse complaints were issued in April 2012. Gakunga, 24, was given a two-year prison sentence which she served at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center, located in McLoud. Her codefendant in the case, 29-year-old Caroline Kaseke has never been convicted because she remains at large since her release after her arrest. Authorities believe she has fled the country.
The civil action filed against the Oklahoma City Westlake Nursing Home Limited Partnership Nursing facility by Mayberry’s family members was based on negligence. Filing a lawsuit for compensation against the facility was not the intention of Mayberry’s family members. Instead, they hope to draw attention to the problem in an effort to save others from a similar horrific act in the years ahead.
In 2013, two of Mayberry’s daughters joined nursing home reform advocates in an effort to make changes in state health department inspections and investigations of nursing homes and reported abuse. The undercover video images from the hidden camera that first surfaced in 2012 have assisted in enacting new laws in Oklahoma that help protect residents in nursing facilities. Families now have the legal right to hide cameras inside the room of their loved one in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.