Lawrenceburg, IN- A former nurse at an Indiana nursing home has been charged with reckless homicide among after a 77 year-old woman in her died last December.
Kathy Hess who worked at the Woodlawn Care Center is being accused of subjecting Dionne Scalf, a 77 year-old woman, to physical abuse which an autopsy later revealed caused her death. The actual cause of death was a broken vertebra.
Dearborn County prosecutor F. Aaron Negangard, told WCPO Cincinnati, “Very compelling evidence that shows Kathy’s responsible for the death of Ms. Scalf.”
Scalf was almost cremated, but a woman who witnessed Hess abuse Scalf came forward before the cremation took place.
The woman who was visiting her mother, Scalf’s roommate told police that she witnessed Hess yelling at Scalf and was violently trying to move her from the walker to her bed. The witness also said she say Scalf unconscious on the bathroom floor during her visit.
Neganard said the woman was dead fourteen minutes after she arrived at the emergency room.
Hess has been charged with reckless homicide, battery resulting in the death of an endangered adult and neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury. If she is convicted she faces up to 20 years in jail.
The Woodlawn Care Center said in a statement, “The facility is fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation and will continue to remain committed to providing quality care to the residents on a daily basis.”
Hess was fired on December 27th shortly after the incident occurred.
Neganard said Hess has no criminal record but he found out that residents at the Woodlawn Care Center were not very fond of her.
Unfortunately, incidents like this are not isolated events. Abuse and neglect is far too common and it can have grave consequences as this case shows. And the fact that Hess felt comfortable verbally and physically abusing Scalf in front of others could indicate that this was not the first time she manhandled or verbally berated a resident.
Many nursing homes across the country are understaffed, which can pose a serious problem in nursing homes. A study conducted by the National Council on Elderly Abuse found that 50 percent of nursing home staff across the country admitted to neglecting a resident
Chronic understaffing also allows incidents of abuse to go undetected since physical and mental abuse is a crime of opportunity. Nursing home resident may also be reluctant to come forward when they have been abused because they fear they will be ignored or retaliated against.
When a person has been abused or in a long-term care facility, they should report the incidents to the facility. After that they should contact a nursing home abuse attorney to see if they have grounds to file a civil lawsuit to seek compensation for their medical costs and pain and suffering. A Bronx wrongful death suit or a personal injury suit will assure the victim gets the justice they deserve.