The St. Paul Star-Tribune had a tragic story about abuse in local nursing homes, and new measures used to protect residents. After state investigations at two homes last year, three former aides were charged with 10 or 11 counts of physically and sexually abusing residents with dementia. Ashton Larson and Brianna Broitzman were accused of abusing seven residents at Good Samaritan Albert Lea. Maria J. Bjerke was charged with abusing six residents at Luther Haven in Montevideo.
The episode started when the doctor of a resident in Cerenity’s 30-bed dementia unit reported Oct. 13 that she had trichomonas, a sexually transmitted disease. Cerenity’s investigation swung into high gear 16 days later, when a different resident with dementia said she had been attacked.
The home notified regulators and began to investigate. The medical director and nurses from other homes started to examine every woman on the unit, and by nightfall six were sent to a hospital for sexual assault exams. Doctors there found that three showed "lacerations and physical findings consistent with recent sexual assault."
The home reported the allegations to the state and to police, and launched a two-prong plan to investigate the case and protect residents from a potential sexual predator.
The Cerenity Bethesda nursing home stationed guards at its doors to register and escort visitors, sent eight male employees home with pay and called in national experts to examine all male and female residents in the 117-bed facility. It also retrained staff on how to spot sexual abuse and for more than a month used a "buddy system” to ensure that no resident was alone with an employee or visitor. The Department of Health cited Cerenity Bethesda twice during its investigation for inadequate measures. The "immediate jeopardy” citations faulted the home for failing to adequately protect residents and failing to take immediate corrective action.
There has been growing public awareness in the past year that Minnesota nursing home residents with dementia are particularly vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse.