Three former employees at a Cherokee County Health and Rehabilitation Center in Cherokee County, Alabama – Sandra Michele Curry, Kacey Minerva Allen, both and Shawna Rogers – have been sentenced after allowing a bedridden elderly patient to be bitten at least 100 times by ants over an 11-hour period back in September 2016. The three pleaded guilty to one count each of attempted elder abuse and were placed on three years of probation after an original two-year prison sentence for each was suspended. They will no longer be allowed to work in a health care environment, and Curry, a licensed practical nurse, was forced to give up her license entirely. Rogers and Allen were both certified nursing assistants working at the home at the time of the insect bite incident.
According to investigators, Rogers, Curry, and Allen were responsible for the 84-year-old female patient’s care on the night of the alleged incident – September 3, 2016 – and into the following morning, the period in which the ants attacked her. “They all charted that they had entered the room numerous times throughout the night. A review of the surveillance video showed none of the three entered the room for approximately 11 hours,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said. “When the resident was checked on it was discovered that she had suffered approximately 100” insect bites on the lower half of her body, including her knees, ankles and thighs. The bites were not discovered until the morning of September 4.
Authorities allege that the staff members’ decision to neglect the patient directly led to her injuries. Marshall applauded Cherokee County Health and Rehabilitation Center officials for their “quick reporting of the incident.” Administrator Cindy Cline said the center’s officials “immediately intervened” as soon as the biting ants were discovered, and Curry, Allen, and Rogers were “immediately relieved of duty.”
“Alabama law recognizes that the care of those who are vulnerable is a serious responsibility, and those who are entrusted with this charge have a legal obligation to properly fulfill their duties,” Marshall said. “These defendants not only failed to provide adequate care, but they were shown to have lied about their negligence that resulted in harm and injury to a nursing home patient.”
Unfortunately, nursing home abuse and neglect are not uncommon with 5,125 submitted to Alabama Adult Protective Services in 2008 and more than half of these substantiated via investigations. 75% of the cases involved neglect. Research also suggests that as many as 1.2 million elderly people (those over 65 years of age) are subjected to mistreatment in the United States with approximately 450,000 new cases opened annually. Reports of dementia patients wandering off the grounds undetected or grossly unclean facilities are most common, with many of these reports leading to fatalities and wrongful death lawsuits.
Capital Health and Rehabilitation Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, for example, was audited by the Department of Health and Human Services earlier this year. The department discovered that two patients had wandered away without the knowledge of caregivers and one patient had maggots crawling all over him. Luckily, the victim in the insect bite case at the Cherokee Center didn’t require medical treatment for her injuries.