New York Nursing Home Owners and Executive Charged with Elder Abuse and Misleading Investigators
Written by Jeff Meyer on November 30, 2015
One of the fastest-growing types of abuse in America is elder abuse, which is not only reading epidemic levels according to some activist organizations, but a problem only likely to continue as those individuals falling into the elderly population demographic are the fastest growing age group in America. In short, elder abuse entails any act that intentionally harms an elderly person or a dependent person that faces comparable disabilities, in a manner that is neglectful, threatening, criminal, sexual, financial, or otherwise.
A spearhead of the national campaign to definitively address and remain accountable for the well-being of the nations’ aging population comes from continued enforcement by investigators at both the state and federal level. Fortunately, due to such work in New York, four individuals have been charged with perpetrating or covering up incidents of elder abuse in the Mohawk Valley Healy Care Center in Ilion, New York.
On November 30, 2015, Gerald and Justin Wood the owners of the Mohawk Valley Health Care Center in Ilion, New York, pleaded guilty to covering up abuse and neglect at their facility. As a result of their pleas, the two will receive probation, and not have to spend time in prison. Other employees, nursing home administrator John Prendergast and director of nursing Nicolle Wagner Stinson, were also charged. The Center falls under the auspices of MVNH Associates, LLC, which is owned by Wood and Wood.
The charges emanate from allegations relating to two incidents at the Mohawk Valley Health Care Center, in which both times the owners of the facility colluded and actively misrepresented the nature of these incidents. The first incident of elder abuse entailed a staff-member distributing a medication error to a patient, and the second incident occurred when one of the residents with dementia made sexual advances toward another resident when no staff was present—federal regulations require that such patients be under constant watch, and as such, investigators this incident entailed a breach of the facility’s duty of care requiring constant supervision.
Over three million Americans, mostly elderly, live in nursing homes and rehabilitation centers, while 900,000 are in assisted living facilities. Over one in five elder abuse incidents are resident to resident, and nearly one in ten incidents involve sexual abuse, as happened at Mohawk.
When authorities began to look into these incidents, owner Gerald Wood is alleged to have eavesdropped on investigators. Further, the owners and listed employees were charged with destroying evidence of these events before and after becoming aware of the investigation. The Woods, their corporation, and employees Wagner and Stinson had been charged with a 45-count indictment. Wagner and Stinson have yet to enter pleas in this case. However, investigators noted that in the incidents of direct abuse, in this case, Elder abuse regularly occurs as the result of under-trained employees not being able to handle those residents or patients under their care.
In one study, 44% of nursing home residents said they had been victims of elder abuse. However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has reported that methods used to detect elder abuse are not universally reliable, and in certain instances, have argued against its own position that significantly more abuse incidents occur than are reported to warn that contemporary figures place elder abuse victimhood potential at one (1) in five (5) or slightly more likely nationally, with certain other variables being much more predicative of the possibility of future elder abuse incidents at a facility; The first variable that is considered is whether a facility has a history of elder abuse or similar questionable events. Per reporting to the USDHHS, early one-third of the nursing homes in the continental United States has seen some form of elder abuse