Medical or Physical Neglect

Individuals with developmental disabilities have a higher risk of experiencing medical and physical neglect. Neglect occurs when a caregiver(s) fails to meet the critical needs of an individual with disabilities. Chronic neglect has long-term adverse effects on an individual’s physical, emotional and cognitive development and can further compromise the functioning of an individual with developmental disabilities.

The Developmental Disabilities Act defines neglect as:

A negligent act or omission by an individual responsible for providing services in a facility rendering care or treatment which caused, or may have caused, injury to an individual served or which placed an individual at risk of injury, and includes an act or omission such as the failure to carry out an appropriate individual program plan or treatment plan, failure to provide adequate nutrition, clothing or health care or the failure to provide a safe environment.

Neglect can take many forms. It can occur in private homes, as well as group settings, such as group homes or institutions, in schools and workplaces. In many cases, primary caregivers, such as parents, family members, personal care assistants or staff members create and maintain situations where neglect occurs. For example, a caregiver can intentionally limit the individual’s food, medication or access to medical care, thereby placing the person in jeopardy. Common examples of neglect include:

  • Not providing adequate food or drink.
  • Leaving an individual with disabilities unsupervised or placing the person in a potentially dangerous situation.
  • Not providing adequate heat or air conditioning.
  • Withholding personal care or medical care.
  • Not providing a safe environment for the individual.
  • Withholding access to necessary medical equipment, including hearing aids.

Neglect is often thought of as primarily affecting children. However, neglect isn’t limited to children. Senior citizens and adults with disabilities are also victims of neglect. In fact, the Administration on Aging estimates that 2.1 million Americans over the age of 65 are abused, neglected or exploited each year.

From INDYSTAR March 7, 2017

Skin of malnourished Vigo County boy “appeared to stretch over his bones”

Nine year old Cameron had cerebral palsy and was blind. He starved to death, weighing only 14 .8 pounds when he was rushed to the hospital in cardiac arrest on February 21, 2017. An autopsy revealed methamphetamine in his system that could have been due to someone using in his presence. Charges of neglect resulting in serious bodily injury and death have been brought against four family members. Jury trials are schedule for July 2017.

From People Crime March 6, 2017

Boy with Autism Drowned While Lifeguard Was on Computer in Office

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against the Chicago Board of Education by the mother of Rosario Gomez, a 14 year old special education student who attended Kennedy High School. Rosario didn’t know how to swim. He wasn’t paired with a buddy in a swimming pool activity and wasn’t provided with a flotation device. A lifeguard, responsible for supervising the swimmers, was on a computer in a nearby office.

From the US Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs, February 9, 2017

Former Jail Administrator Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights Violation for Depriving Inmate of Medical Care

On October 4, 2016, a federal grand jury returned a one count indictment charging former McClain County (Oklahoma) Jail Administrator Wayne Barnes with a civil rights violation as a result of the death of a detainee. The detainee was diabetic and dependent on insulin. From the time he was jailed until his death three days later, he was without insulin. He was not evaluated or treated by a doctor, or taken to a hospital for evaluation of treatment until after he was found unresponsive and emergency medical services called. Barnes knew of his medical condition and failed to provide necessary medical care.

From The Daily Journal, May 20, 2015

Nurse Neglect Leads to Hand Amputation

Seven former Vineland Developmental Center nurses are charged with criminal neglect over a female resident who required a hand amputation because a broken finger was not properly treated, authorities said on Tuesday.

An indictment issued last month states that the seven failed to “permit any act” to aid the “physical or mental health” of resident Wendy Hart, who is described as a “severely physically and mentally handicapped client.”

“A resident had a fractured finger that was not cared for properly and resulted in a hand amputation,” department spokeswoman Pam Ronan said.

When the bandages were removed, the doctor reported, the split was improperly placed and the hand was “mummified” and “clearly gangrenous.”

From the Disability Scoop, October 28, 2014

Teen with disability found locked in cage

PARIS TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Two adults were arrested Monday in connection to a case involving a 19-year-old man with a disability who was found trapped in a bed cage that was chained shut in a Paris Township home last week.

A total of five individuals, including three adults and two children, have been removed from the home.

Huron County Sheriff Kelly J. Hanson reports that sheriff’s deputies arrested a 65-year-old female and 66-year-old male, both occupants of the home, on felony charges.

“Both are charged with unlawful imprisonment, a 15-year felony charge and vulnerable adult abuse-third degree, a high court two-year misdemeanor,” Hanson stated.

According to a press release, Deputy Steve Bismack responded to the home Oct. 20 to investigate a civil dispute.

“Upon speaking with parties involved, permission was granted for Deputy Bismack to enter one of the bedrooms where the alleged victim, a 19-year-old mentally challenged male, was in a caged bed with the door on the cage chained shut,” the release states. “Deputy Bismack then contacted DHS (Department of Human Services) emergency center in which DHS personnel were dispatched to the scene. At about 10 p.m. that evening, two adults were removed. The following day court action ordered one more adult removed.”

From the Star Tribune, March 15, 2011

Burnsville parents accused of neglecting handicapped son

The developmentally delayed Burnsville boy was shut away, naked, in his room and fed laxatives, according to court papers filed in the case against his parents.
A Burnsville couple face neglect charges after police found their developmentally delayed son barricaded in a filthy room, according to court papers filed in Dakota County.

Delilah Worcester, 30, and Andrew Worcester, 31, allegedly neglected their son, who court papers say was fed laxative after laxative and often left screaming and banging his head on his bedroom floor until it got too loud for the parents to ignore.

According to court papers, the boy’s body was covered with sores when police found him during a recent search of the garbage-strewn house, where a dozen animals lived with the boy, his three siblings, his mother and his developmentally delayed father.

The documents provide conflicting ages for the boy; some say he’s 7, others 10. He is described as nonverbal and having multiple medical problems.

According to a person who lived with the family for two months but isn’t named in court papers, the boy was rarely clothed, and his bedroom was typically much colder than the rest of the house. That person told authorities the boy was barricaded in his room daily and once for up to three days.

He was allegedly allowed to eat only in his room, with his hands, out of a paper bag. The parents would not clean him after eating, the person reported.

Social workers had long suspected a problem in the home but closed an earlier case last May after the mother failed to meet with them last spring.

From the Pioneer Press, June 9, 2009

Mom suspected neglect by nursing assistant – so she set about trying to prove it

The first time a caregiver neglected her sons, Beth Bauer fired the nurse before gathering proof of maltreatment to send to a licensing board. The nurse found work in another home. Bauer vowed to never again let that happen.

Unfortunately for Bauer and her sons, Alex and Levi, she got a second chance.

The teenage boys have myotubular myopathy, a muscular condition that requires round-the-clock nursing care as well as feeding tubes to eat and ventilators to breathe. When they started losing alarming amounts of weight last fall, their mother thought back to a decade ago, when a previous night nurse stopped their regular tube feedings and started sleeping on the job.

Could it be happening again? Suspecting a nursing assistant who stayed overnight at the family’s home in Owatonna, Minn., Bauer and the boys’ stepfather set up video cameras to monitor the worker’s activities.

“It was really horrible,” she said, “having to wait while we gathered evidence.”

What they caught in one week’s worth of tape was beyond their wildest imagination. Not only was the worker turning off the boys’ tube feeders when they were supposed to be on, Bauer said, she also was skipping their breathing treatments, sleeping, taking long smoking breaks and, in at least one case, having sex with a man just outside the boys’ bedroom.

The contents of this videotape were confirmed by a state health investigation of the nursing assistant’s employer, Divine Healthcare Network, which concluded late last month. The state didn’t fault the St. Paul-based agency — which still provides caregivers to the boys — and instead blamed the worker, who has been barred by the state from working for any agency or licensed care facility.

Bauer confronted the worker — whom she identified as Desirae Ackerman — in October with a tape in hand. Divine Healthcare then fired the worker and notified state health officials of the apparent neglect.

The lag in the state investigation allowed the 27-year-old to find work at a Unity House group home for disabled youth in Owatonna. However, an administrator for the group home said Friday that she no longer works there.

From the Star Tribune, October 12, 2011
Drowning at state-run home leads to review

A disabled man was left alone in a bathtub when supervisor answered phone.

Criminal investigators are reviewing the death of a severely disabled man who drowned when a supervisor at a state-operated group home left him alone in a bathtub while she took a phone call.

The case is being watched closely by Gov. Mark Dayton and has led to an internal review of how the state Department of Human Services (DHS) oversees services for nearly 800 vulnerable residents in state-run homes.

Gerald Edward Hyska, 56, died Aug. 28, shortly after the incident at the New Beginnings home in Braham, Minn., about 60 miles north of Minneapolis. Hyska, who grew up with 12 siblings in northeast Minneapolis, was born with severe brain damage and could not talk, feed himself or walk, according to his sister, Lori Rush. He suffered from cerebral palsy.

He never should have been left alone in a bathtub, she said.

“What a horrible way to die,” Rush said. “Drowning is not a very nice way to go, but I don’t know how long he was under. How long was he left alone? Does that all come out?”

Police are reviewing the actions of Devra Stiles, a supervisor at the home, who was bathing Hyska when she was interrupted by a phone call.

“She basically forgot he was there,” said Braham Police Chief Robert Knowles, who said the exact amount of time Hyska was left alone “is in dispute right now.”