A Story of Indifference and Neglect
It Took Two Years at CherryPointe to Kill My Father: This is a Cautionary Tale
In 2016 my father, a vital and active man, was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, a condition resulting from deposits of an abnormal protein in the brain. These Lewy bodies affect brain chemicals, leading to detrimental changes in movement, thinking, behavior and mood. There is no cure, and it is the most common cause of dementia. My siblings and I knew it was only a matter of time before he wouldn’t be able to live on his own. In May of 2018 that time came, and we had to find a memory care facility. He always valued his independence, and did not want to move in with any of his children, or leave his home. But for his safety, a memory care facility seemed the best option.
With the help of Next Step Solutions we found what looked like a great place - beautiful exteriors and interiors
Cherrywood Pointe in Plymouth had just opened, and we were impressed with what looked and sounded like top level care, professional, compassionate, and always there for my dad – we signed paperwork with Carol Shields and Shelly Howard and my dad moved in. In a matter of months we noticed that the staff changed over so many times we couldn’t ever find a familiar face – and if we couldn’t find a familiar face, then neither could my father, for whom stability and consistency were vital.
One of the selling points of Cherrywood was their onsite partnership with Fairview Health care providers. But the Bluestone Vista Portal we used to check medical notes was wide open – we could read notes on all patients, not just my father. My father’s neurologist told us to make sure his regimen for his condition continued; on numerous occasions we found his medication had not been given at all, or a Fairview nurse practitioner had changed his medication, wrecking havoc on his wellbeing. When we repeatedly asked about this, we were told someone was “ in training, or new”.
When we severed ties with the Fairview nurse practitioner we found his medical notes had been deleted from the portal.
My father loved going to activities and working out in the gym; by the summer of 2019 he had become very weak, and though we asked for time for him with PT, we were told staff no longer had time to take him for walks or to the gym because they had new patients; we chose this facility in part because exercise and one-on-one attention were highlighted on our initial tour.
My family is scattered and I traveled a lot for work; I am a Forensic Death Investigator. Sometimes I would fly home late and drive to the memory care unit to see my father – when I was there late at night I could find not one staff member in his building. His phone was his life line; as his disease progressed so did his anxiety, and talking with family would calm him.
We asked staff to help him punch in the numbers on his phone – they said they were too were busy.
When we called, it would take him two or three times before he could answer the phone. I asked why we couldn’t video chat with him, and was told that the staff just did not have time to do that sort of thing. Over the two years my father was there, it wasn’t just the level of care that slipped away; we also observed the quality and portions of food declined significantly. By mid-2019 patients could no longer choose what they wanted to eat, and if they did not eat what was given them, too bad.
After my father’s death we found the bags we left for him, filled with treats, had been stuffed into his closet – he never saw them.
We paid for laundry and cleaning and new sheets each week – but these things did not happen and we took over these tasks, – until March 18, 2020, when Covid shut us out.
On that day I arrived to shower my dad and give him clean laundry; in the middle of the shower Angela Hoosline, the head RN, came in to tell me I had to leave or she would call the police. She said the facility would let me pick up my father’s laundry and bring clean clothes, but I could no longer come into the building. I told her we were paying $900 a month for laundry, and from now on the facility would do it. I also told her my father needed help showing, brushing his teeth, dressing, eating and assistance at meal time. She told me that would all be taken care of, and I had to leave.
After seven weeks in lock down it was obvious no one was caring for my father. From the cell phone conversations we had, we knew he wasn’t showered or kept clean, and that he wanted to get out of there. He was confined to his room, no activities or functions. I repeatedly told staff my father needed care for his toenails and fingernails; I reminded a nurse that we had clipped his nails for him, but now they had to do it. Because of this neglect, he needed to see a podiatrist for a now badly infected ingrown toe nail – dad said they came, rubbed lotion on his feet and left.
By May 23rd we could see, looking in the window at my father, that we has a shadow of himself.
He was in a soiled T-shirt turned inside out, he was wearing a heavy winter coat though it was 80 outside.
His jeans were hanging off of his body, even while wearing gray pull –ups. He had no shoes or belt on, his glasses were filthy and looked mangled. His fingernails were so long they were curling over his skin, He was trying to hang onto a dresser so that he could stand up. He was stuttering and struggling for words. His bed was unmade and dirty laundry was on the floor.
During our last phone call on May 29th, he said he just wanted to get out of there. He said he missed meals because no one woke him up. After that I could no longer get him on the phone. We talked to a nurse who said dad was very weak, had had a bad fall. Linda the float nurse said it might be a good idea to send dad somewhere for medical care; when I mentioned hospice care Linda said that might not be a bad idea. But I was told by management that unless I was a doctor I could not get into the building to see my father. Linda said my father’s clothes were heavily soiled; she also said he had had two negative tests for Covid, though no one had told the family. We worked fast to get Hospice in to see him. By 6pm on June 2 the paperwork was done. Hospice arrived the evening of June 3 - the first thing they told us was that when they tried to find his medical records, they were unsuccessful, and that when the they asked the memory care aid for background information on my father, the aid said it was her first night and she didn’t know dad.
They found my father’s meals piled up in boxes in his room; they found apple juice to hydrate him and facilitated his first video chat with us.
On June 6th we were called by Paula the on-call Hospice nurse with news that an aide at Cherrywood reported finding dad on the floor in his bathroom, and that he had bruises and abrasions from the fall. On June 7th we asked to have dad wheeled to the window so that we could see and talk with him – his phone cord was now missing so he could not take a call. What we saw horrified us. He was in a wheelchair with no leg rests – his long legs dragged on the floor. He was very pale, very weak, disoriented and murmuring words. We were there three hours – during that time no aide ever came to check on him. He said he needed to use the bathroom; I used my cell to call Cherrywood to get a nurse to him asap. Twenty-five minutes later two aids arrived- they said they would assist him and that he would have his dinner soon. It was almost 6pm when we left.
At 1pm on June 8th we were called by the Hospice aide. They found my father face down in bed, in soiled clothes. They were able to give him a shower, put him in clean clothes and have him video chat with my sister; she said he was sucking down fluids and said he was “really hungry:”
She was shocked at how much he had deteriorated.
Again there were untouched Styrofoam boxes of food on the floor of his room. Monica the Hospice nurse ordered more medical supplies, a medical bed and a wheel chair to be delivered.
On June 10th I got a call from Angela Hoosline, head RN at Cherrywood, who wanted to know if I was aware that St. Croix Hospice was caring for my dad – she really had no idea how my father was doing or what was happening. I told her I was the one who called Hospice. She said that because my father was rapidly declining, she would allow one person from the family in to see him.
When I got to the memory unit I saw residents wandering the floors and 6 to 8 aides standing around on their cell phones.
In dad’s room the medical bed was standing there, not pugged in, no bedding provided, a Hoyer lift and medical supplies dumped on the floor. It appeared Cherrywood assumed my father could do all of this on his own and then hop into bed. It was 86 degrees in the room; my father was lying face down on his bed, a heavy down comforter over him, his face sunk down into the pillow. He was shaking and covered in sweat. I pulled the comforter and sheets off of him, saw his eyes were crusted shut and that he kept grabbing his groin area and moaning. I ran to get help – found no one but the receptionist at the front desk – she ignored me. Finally two hospice people arrived. We thought at first he had fallen again and Cherrywood had just not reported it. We began to give my father oral morphine – he continued to moan and grab at his groin.
The Hospice people took off his clothing and called me over to show me what they found – it appeared that his diaper had not been changed in at least three days.
His diaper was soaked with urine and liquid stool, and tissue on his genitalia was sloughing away as they tried to clean him. It would have taken some days of neglect for this to have happened.
Discussion with Hospice led to us to get equipment and medical supplies sent asap to my home; we were getting my father out of there! One thing that baffled me and Hospice people was that Angela at Cherrywood knew I was coming to see my father; does that mean that the condition he was in was acceptable and normal at Cherrywood? Hospice encouraged me to call the MN Vulnerable Adult Hotline and report the neglect and abuse that led to my father’s medical state. The aide at Cherrywood told us she tried calling 911 to get a non-emergency transport for my father – I told her to get her boss on the line and were then told we needed to call a van service.
When I asked what they have used in the past to move people out, I was told “people either walk out or leave in a body bag.”
The aide apologized and left. We finally got North Memorial Ambulance to come and get him; I raced home to make sure equipment was ready for him, as my bothers stayed with my father, astonished and devastated at how he looked. As they left with my dad, they saw a woman outside the facility asking if they knew of anyone she could talk with at Cherrywood – she was visibly shaken by her husband’s condition as she viewed him through a window.
My father died two days later, June 12, at our home, comfortable and with his family at his bedside. What I feel now is guilt – it was only with a mandatory quarantine that we found out my father had been isolated and neglected for months – and that no one at Cherrywood seemed to care. I am angry and sad and want others to know that when you look at a facility, remember to please look beyond aesthetics, and to constantly check on care. Placing a loved one in a facility when they really don’t want to be there is hard enough – realizing that the facility’s staff and leadership care only for the fees they collect is much, much harder. It looks like institutionalized neglect for profit – because THAT is what it is.