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Nursing Home Abuse Caught on Tape

A Bronx, New York woman suspected her grandmother was being abused at her nursing home, and placed a hidden camera in her room at Gold Crest Care Center. The camera recorded more than 600 hours of footage, much of which shocked the woman, ultimately leading to a nursing home abuse lawsuit.

Diana Valentin often visited her 89-year-old grandmother at Gold Crest in the Pelham Garden section of the Bronx, and soon began seeing unexplained bruising and other markings on her body. Valentin immediately filed a complaint with the nursing home, to no avail. Her grandmother suffers from Alzheimer’s disease among other ailments, and nursing aids told Valentin that she received the bruises from banging her hands on the bed railing.

Frustrated by this response, Valentin took the matter into her own hands, and placed a hidden camera in her grandmother’s room in the plastic base of a plant. She let the video record for a little less than a month before reviewing the footage. In the first tape, Valentin saw the nursing aid, 55-year-old Sandra Kerr, grab her grandmother’s arm, twist it backward, lift her up and then slam her back into the bed.

The next day after seeing the tape, Valentin requested her grandmother be moved to a hospital because she was not safe at Gold Crest. She has since been transferred to a nursing home in New Rochelle, NY. Valentin is pressing criminal and civil charges against Kerr, who was fired, arrested, and charged with endangering the welfare of a physically disabled senior.

Valentin says that her grandmother basically raised her as a child, and it is now her turn to take care of her in her old age, when she is most vulnerable. ABC News was unable to contact Kerr and administrators at Gold Crest, although three additional workers have been fired from the facility.

It is not uncommon for relatives to place cameras in their loved ones room when they suspect abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, more often than not, their suspicions are confirmed. In one such case, a man in Cleveland recorded two nursing assistants abusing his 78-year-old mother. He placed the hidden camera in an air purifier, and ultimately brought felony charges against the abusers.

The incident occurred at MetroHealth Medical Center, which fired the women along with two other employees. One of the nursing assistants was sentenced to ten years in prison for the abuse after pleading guilty to seven counts of felony patient abuse. The second woman pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and faces six months in prison.

Too often, the families of nursing home residents are given an inaccurate impression of what life is really like at the facilities when they visit. Nursing homes are entrusted with an enormous responsibility of taking care of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens in extreme privacy, beyond public observation. Some choose to place cameras in loved ones rooms out in the open, so nursing home staff are aware of its presence. This tactic is used more as a deterrent, to protect elders from improper treatment. It can enable residents to live without fear of abuse.

Some advocates are pushing for video cameras to be placed in all nursing homes. In December 2012, Oklahoma lawmakers considered proposals of this type, which would mandate surveillance cameras in nursing home private rooms and common areas. This legislation was sparked by troubling hidden camera footage from an Oklahoma City nursing home. The camera was placed by three daughters of a resident who suffered from dementia, and could not clearly recount what was happening to her.

Senior abuse and neglect lawyers at Pintas & Mullins understand that the key to improving nursing home care is by working to heighten transparency and break the silence and hidden nature of resident mistreatment.