MORRISON, Colo. (CBS4) – A Jefferson county grand jury is investigating accusations of neglect at a Morrison nursing home, the Bear Creek Center, after a 77-year-old resident from the home was hospitalized with bedsores, dehydration, a urinary tract infection, and oral hygiene problems in February. That resident, Mary Alice Rateau, had bedsores so deep, bones and tendons were visible, Rateau’s daughter, Julie Dobbs told CBS4.
“I was mortified at her condition, she was almost dead,” Dobbs said.
Rateau was admitted to the Bear Creek Center on Dec. 7, 2018. She suffered from dementia and Alzheimers.
“We were hoping and trusted them to take care of my mom. They assured me they would,” Dobbs said.
State reports indicate Rateau was in good health when she entered the facility. But barely two months into her stay at Bear Creek, Dobbs and her brother visited their mother on Feb. 12, 2019 and found her suffering from not only deep bedsores, but also significant dehydration, a urinary tract infection, oral thrush, and a host of other ailments according to later, documented reports.
Rateau’s children called an ambulance which transported their mother to a Littleton hospital.
Doctors and nurses there called police, according to documents obtained by CBS4, “regarding improper care of the resident at the facility,” initiating an investigation by Morrison police.
A spokesperson for the Morrison police department told CBS4 the department recommended to the district attorney that criminal neglect charges be filed in connection to Rateau’s care. He would not elaborate on who investigators felt should be criminally charged.
Prosecutors have since taken the case to a grand jury according to Pam Russel, a spokesperson for the D.A.’s office. She declined to provide any further specifics on the grand jury investigation.
Lori Mayer, a spokesperson for Bear Creek Center, which is owned by Genesis HealthCare, a nationwide chain of health care facilities, declined to answer questions from CBS4 but issued the following statement:
“Bear Creek Center is committed to providing high-quality care to our patients and residents. Unfortunately, we did receive a Citation from the Department of Health earlier this year. Since that time, we provided additional staff education and training, and submitted a plan of correction to the state. At this time, we are in compliance with state and federal regulations. Bear Creek Center is currently rated a 4-Star for Quality Measures.”
However, in a report from the Colorado Department of Health dated March 26, 2019, the agency said its review found “confirmation of the facility’s failure to provide (Rateau) the services planned and necessary to prevent neglect.” The state report quotes a former nurse at Bear Creek, telling police, “the facility had neglected (Rateau) due to a staffing shortage.”
Health department investigators also interviewed multiple nurses and administrators from the nursing home. One nurse said, “staffing on the unit had been really low recently and there was no way that all care needs and tasks were being completed for every resident when the unit was short.”
Another nurse reported, “it was impossible to complete all of the care and duties for the residents on the unit on schedule, every shift. She said there were simply too many residents with too many care needs and not enough staff to complete the care required.”
State documents also show a unit manager told state investigators her unit was “understaffed” and with short staffing, there were “lapses in care.” State investigators concluded “the facility failed to have sufficient staff with the appropriate competencies” in the area of the facility where Rateau had been living.
The Colorado Department of Health noted that staffing deficiencies were also found in December 2018. Investigators said Bear Creek corrected the problem at the time, but “the facility has not maintained the compliance and the scope and severity of the deficiency has increased to a level of immediate jeopardy for serious harm.”
The review also concluded low staffing levels in February 2019, “contributed to serious resident harm and the facility’s continued failure in March to provide sufficient staffing on the unit made it likely serious harm would continue if staffing levels on unit 2 were not corrected.”
This is not the first time the state has found issues at the facility. State compliance records show since 2015, the facility has failed to follow state regulations 40 different times.
Inspection records reveal in 2015, an 89-year-old woman went 10 days without bathing due to short staffing. In 2016, inspectors found another resident only received two showers in 12 days, because of short staffing again. In 2017, inspectors found one resident would go up to two weeks without a bath, and “nursing staff would tell him that they did not have enough staff to complete the baths.”
Since 2015, inspectors have found repeated concerns with food served at the facility and residents not being treated with “respect and dignity” by staff, according to state inspection documents.
As the grand jury investigation continues into the case of former resident Alice Rateau, her family is considering taking legal action against the center. Their attorney, Daniel Sloane, told CBS4 what happened with Rateau at Bear Creek “is the worst care I have seen in 25 years of nursing home cases, bar none. In a short, short time, they ruined her, they destroyed her.”
Rateau was released from the hospital and is now living in a different nursing facility. Her family said her condition has improved.
If you would like to learn more about your family member’s nursing home in Colorado, you can find inspection reports, complaints, and other information, by clicking here.