Nursing home nightmares, Part 1

By Aaron Diamant

When it comes to nursing homes, families should feel secure knowing their loved ones are getting the best possible care. Target 5 investigates "Nursing Home Nightmares." We heard heartbreaking tales of neglect from all over the Mid-South, some from people who actually blame the nursing home for the death of a loved one.

Nine months after Starleen Stotts lost her husband Thomas, she still has trouble sleeping. Starleen Stotts lost her husband. "Sometimes, at night, I still cry about it." Tears of grief, but also tears of guilt. "I thought I was getting a good nursing home." Stotts trusted American Transitional Rehab and Specialty Care to take care of her sick husband, but says the home's staff broke that trust. "They were just horrible with him." She says the home at times failed to provide even the most basic care. "Sometimes I would go in there and change him myself, I would get the gloves and change him myself." It broke her heart, and her daughter's, to watch him get worse and worse. Daughter Shawn Stotts said, "The hardest part was knowing that he suffered and that really hurts that he suffered."

Earlier this year, the Stotts family filed a wrongful death suit against American Transitional claiming the "total lack of care provided to Mr. Stotts shocks the conscience." Malnourishment, acute dehydration, and "severely infected" pressure sores which the suit claims "ultimately killed him." Beverly Enterprises, the company that owned the nursing home told us, "In this case we do not believe the facts support the allegations. We intend to vigorously defend ourselves, and expect to prevail once all the facts are known."

Here are some facts we know about Beverly: It recently sold American Transitional because, according to the company, it was a financial liability. Right now there are nearly two dozen lawsuits filed against former Beverly facilities in Shelby County, including four for wrongful death. And just two months before Mr. Stotts moved in, documents show State Health Department inspectors cited American Transitional after finding patients with preventable pressure sores. Shawn Stotts added, "I would tell them if you're not in the business of caring for people you need to find a new profession because that's what it's all about."

That's what it was about for this woman, who asked we call her "Bea," when she checked her mother into St. Francis Nursing Home back in 2001. "I wasn't asking for a miracle, I was asking them to give her the best treatment that they could possibly give her." But, like Starleen Stotts, "Bea" says she felt betrayed, and now she too has many restless nights. "Now some nights I just toss and turn. I can't sleep. I start thinking about these awful sores I had to look at. The first time I saw one of them I almost fell flat on my face in that nursing home."

In the last two years State inspectors cited St. Francis with 29 deficiencies, including six for quality of care. "Sometimes it make me wonder why didn't you chose some place else, but see I wasn't familiar with the place." And that's what really keeps both "Bea" and Starleen Stotts up at night. We talked to Saint Francis Nursing Home incidents like that regrettable. You'll hear more from them Monday night at six. Also, we'll show you which Mid-South nursing homes have a history of questionable care according to state inspection reports. How you can find those reports. And how to increase the odds your loved one will get the best possible care.