Police investigating alleged abuse of Westminster Towers resident

jzou@heraldonline.comMarch 18, 2014 

Police are investigating abuse allegations against a caretaker of a 90-year-old resident of a Rock Hill assisted-living community, authorities said.

The incident was reported to the Rock Hill Police Department by Mandy Stamper, vice president of operations at Westminster Towers, a continuing care center off India Hook Road that provides a variety of housing for seniors, including assisted living.

Stamper told police that the son of a female resident came to her with allegations that his mother was being verbally and physically abused by her caretaker. The son played a portion of audio he secretly recorded in his mother’s room last weekend to Stamper.

According to the police report, the caretaker entered the room while talking on the phone and is heard yelling at the resident during audio recorded early Sunday morning. The caretaker was helping the resident get out of bed and began tugging at the resident’s skin, causing a wound, the report reads.

In the audio, the resident is heard stating that she is hurt and that the caretaker made her bleed. The resident’s injuries were noted by Westminster Towers administrators, though the cause of the injury was officially listed as “unknown how occurred.”

According to Stamper, the caretaker has since been suspended and is no longer working at Westminster Towers until an investigation is complete.

Stamper said she could not comment on personnel matters or disclose whether the employee was suspended with or without pay.

“We have high expectations of all the employees that work here,” said Stamper. “Every time a concern is raised, we will always begin an investigation.”

Stamper noted that administrators have contacted the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control, as mandated by state regulations. DHEC oversees the state’s nursing homes and retirement communities.

Administrators are conducting a “discovery” process and interviewing several people to gather more information regarding the incident.

Lt. Brad Redfearn of the Rock Hill Police Department said the case has been assigned to an investigator who will determine whether there will be any charges or an arrest in the case.

The name of the caretaker was withheld in the police report.

The report also states that the incident made the resident fearful and has caused her “physical and physiological abuse.” Her injuries were treated with Steri Strips, a type of bandage used in place of surgical stitches.

The resident’s son, who first alerted staff of the abuse and decided to leave an audio recorder running from Saturday night to Sunday morning, declined to comment on the incident due to the ongoing investigation.

The report states that his mother told him that she was scared at night and was afraid of her caretaker, prompting him to record the audio.

In August, The Herald reported that Westminster Towers was under investigation by DHEC.

The investigation stemmed from a separate abuse allegation in January 2013, in which a nursing assistant had been fired for sexually abusing a 71-year-old resident.

Staff failed to report the incident to DHEC as mandated by department policy, which requires a report be made to the agency’s certification bureau within 24 hours of an incident, and within 10 days to the agency’s Division of Health Licensing.

The matter was originally brought to the attention of DHEC officials by the state attorney general’s Medicaid fraud control unit, which received an anonymous tip about the fired employee.

Westminster Towers was later cited by the Department of Social Services for failing to report the incident.

John Carl Williams, a certified nursing assistant at Westminster Towers, allegedly slapped the buttocks of a resident while changing her clothes.

DHEC officials declined to fine Westminster Towers for the 2013 incident.

Jie Jenny Zou •  803-329-4062

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