Amid sexual assault investigation at AZ nursing facility, Midlands professional advises on how to protect loved ones

Assisted living facility safety concerns

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A criminal investigation continues in Arizona after a woman, who has been in a coma for nearly 15 years, unexpectedly gave birth to a baby boy. Since that news broke earlier this month, people across the country have been asking how this could happen at a nursing facility. That includes here in the Midlands, where those in the assisted living industry want to help families protect their loved ones in the hands of caregivers.

Kesha Hayes, an experienced assisted living administrator, now runs a non-profit helping to educate and train caregivers. She tells WIS-TV, unfortunately, abuse in these facilities happens far too often.

In the case in Arizona, an unnamed 29-year-old woman living at the Phoenix nursing facility has been in a vegetative state for 14 years after a near-drowning accident. She gave birth to a baby boy in December, but an employee at the facility says no one knew she was pregnant.

A sexual assault investigation is now underway. Because of the woman’s condition, she would not have been able to defend herself or communicate that she was pregnant.

Hayes says when looking for a safe and effective nursing facility, you can never ask too many questions.

“How much is it going to be? Do they actually have staff that is going to be with my loved one enough time for them to be engaged in activities? Do they have the proper amount of staff that are going to provide the care that they deserve? Or do they have a high turnover rate? Find out what their inspection rate is. Speak to families. Speak to residents who have lived there to find out the true “behind the scene” things that go on,” Hayes said.

Hayes also says families should be actively involved in this process all the way through. This begins with choosing the nursing home, and then continuing to keep a close eye on how well your loved one is being cared for while living at the facility full-time.

“Whenever you do visitations, you can find out so much about your loved one, because you’re looking at them from head to toe. You can see if they are being provided with nutrition. You can look and see if they’re being malnourished or losing weight that doesn’t have anything to do with some type of illness. You can look and see if they are being given proper hygiene and you can also look to see if there are marks that are visible. You can look to see if they are depressed or if they’re off to the side by themselves for no medical reason,” Hayes said.

Investigators in Phoenix are now collecting DNA samples from staff members at the Hacienda Skilled Nursing Facility. According to an employee there, there has also been a change in protocol on caring for female patients. Male staffers must now have a female staffer present anytime they’re caring for a female client.

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