Star Tribune Special Report. Each year, hundreds of Minnesotans are beaten, sexually assaulted or robbed in senior care homes. Their cases are seldom investigated, leaving families in the dark.
PART 1 ABUSED, IGNORED ACROSS MINNESOTA
Story by Chris Serres•Photos by David Joles•Star Tribune•NOVEMBER 12, 2017
For weeks before her death, Jean Krause lay in her bed at a northern Minnesota senior home, staring mutely at the walls.
Even when her children arrived with flowers or her favorite dessert, she did not respond. Or she would suddenly sit bolt upright, asking if her door and windows were shut.
This summer, nearly a year after Krause died, the family finally solved the mystery of her strange behavior. Late one night in May 2016, Krause, who was 78 and suffered from dementia, was sexually assaulted in her bed by a male nurse’s aide who appeared to be changing her underwear.
FAMILIES WAIT YEARS FOR ANSWERS
Story by Chris Serres•Photos by David Joles•Star Tribune•NOVEMBER 13, 2017
Clayton Braaten entered the rectory of St. Philip’s Catholic Church in Bemidji reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
He had come seeking help from a priest, hoping to control the rage that has boiled inside him since his late wife, Grayce, was molested three years ago by another resident at an assisted-living facility. The cleric urged him to forgive and not let the tragedy consume his life.
WHEN ROOMMATES ARE THE ABUSERS
Story by Chris Serres•Photos by David Joles•Star Tribune•NOVEMBER 14, 2017
Minnesota is failing to investigate thousands of cases every year of what is now the most widespread form of physical abuse in senior care homes: resident-on-resident violence.
The state Department of Health has received more than 20,000 complaints in the past five years alleging aggressive behavior by residents, including head-butting, punching, shoving and sexual groping. Most of them were never investigated by the agency charged with protecting vulnerable seniors in licensed care facilities, state records show.
Last year alone, more than 4,000 complaints of resident-on-resident abuse went uninvestigated by the Health Department.
SPEAK UP, AND RISK EVICTION
Story by Chris Serres•Photos by David Joles•Star Tribune•NOVEMBER 15, 2017
Estelle Schaust thought she was being helpful. On the veranda of her senior home in Champlin, she scooped up a large ashtray full of cigarette butts, placed them in a plastic bag, then knotted it around the doorknob of the manager’s office. She then taped the facility’s “No Smoking” policy to the bag.
Schaust, who is 84, suffers from a pulmonary condition so severe that a doctor ordered her to avoid smoke.
The next day, she said, she and her husband, Mathias, were summoned to the manager’s office and given a scolding. When the couple pointed out that the facility’s rules ban smoking, the administrator threatened to evict them for “misbehaving” and “stirring up trouble,” the couple told the Star Tribune.
A MODEL TO PROTECT SENIORS
Story by Chris Serres•Photos by David Joles•Star Tribune•NOVEMBER 16, 2017
The photographs showed an elderly woman with blood streaming down her face and bruises where she had been beaten with a baseball bat. Paul Greenwood stared at them, transfixed, as he stood outside the courtroom.
“This was a cold, calculated act of brutality,” the deputy district attorney said. “Once the judge sees these photos, he’ll understand why we’re absolutely not accepting any deals.”
In many states, a violent assault like this one would vanish in a bureaucratic haze. In Minnesota, thousands of allegations of abuse in senior care homes, including beatings and sexual assaults, go uninvestigated each year, records show.