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Nursing home being investigated for negligence

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Siblings Jackie and Jeffery Thielen, at left, discuss their concerns about their mother's care Tuesday with the Heritage Living Center board, including Executive Director Curt Hansen and board member Daryl Bessler. (Robin Fish/Enterprise)

The children of a woman who died five days after being injured at the Heritage Living Center are accusing the Park Rapids nursing home of negligence.

According to siblings Jackie and Jeffery Thielen, their mother Bev Thielen was found in her bed with unexplained bruises on the morning of July 11. She died on July 16, age 79.

Jackie and Jeff told the nursing home board Tuesday about their mother, who had been a resident of the facility since July 18, 2018 and suffered from dementia.

“On July 11, I got a call from Diane George at 7:15 a.m.,” said Jeff. “I was told that an aide had went into mom’s room when she was awake, attempted to lift her up, and she hollered out in pain.”

On further examination, the aide found a large bruise on Bev’s temple. The aide summoned the nurse on duty, and they did a full body exam.

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“She had bruises from her temple, all the way down the left side of her body,” said Jeff. “Two fingers were twisted and bent down and black.”

During dinner the next day, he said, Bev experienced “what the staff referred to as recalling a traumatic event. She would stomp her feet. She would shake. It took us quite a while to calm her down. She stopped talking. She couldn’t swallow.”

“If she drank anything, it came right out,” said Jackie.

The day before, Jeff said, Bev fed herself. “She talked, teased the staff, everything. She was fine. She was mom.”

A preliminary investigation by George and Administrator Curt Hansen narrowed the time window for when Bev was injured to between 5:15 and 7 a.m., Jeff said. “Either my mother got up out of bed on her own and fell (and) was not physically able to get herself back up, or an aide was walking her and she fell, or they put her in the bathroom (and) left her in there.”

On a previous occasion, Jeff said, he and Jackie walked into Bev’s room and found her “in the bathroom, holding onto the safety bars, by herself, for over five minutes.”

The Thielens said that on two occasions, they caught a nursing assistant asleep on duty and reported them to Heritage staff.

Jeff said he believes one or more of the aides must have picked Bev up, cleaned her up and put her back in bed, but did not notify the duty nurse about the fall.

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“She went over an hour and 45 minutes without medical attention,” he said. “We buried her yesterday.”

Jeff acknowledged that Hansen called the city police to investigate the incident. He and Jackie passed around photos that Jackie took showing their mother’s condition after the fall, but they declined to share the images with the media.

“Keep looking,” Jackie urged meeting attendees. “They only get worse.”

Jackie explained that when she visited Bev the day after the incident, she saw bruises under Bev’s chin that they didn’t notice the first day. “She has bruises … behind her ear, down her neck.” She also pointed out that the pictures of Bev’s wrists showed what looked like finger indents.

Indicating a photo taken after Bev’s death, Jeff said, “Look at her left temple and tell me that she did not need immediate medical attention.”

“This fall was not reported to the nurse on duty,” said Jeff. “It was not charted in her chart. There was no doctor, P.A. or nurse practitioner called at that time. To the best of my knowledge, none was ever called.”

Jeff added that when he fired his complaint with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), he told Police Investigator Sabin Rasmus “that I was glad that after mom passed away that there was no autopsy to be done. He told me, ‘You’re telling me your mother died?’ I said, ‘You’re telling me Curt Hansen did not call the investigator that he called in, and tell you that she died?’ And he said, ‘No.’”

As a result, Jeff said, Hansen will be charged with gross misdemeanor negligence for not reporting Bev’s death to an investigating police officer.

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Jeff said an MDH investigator advised him they will be investigating the nursing home for multiple state and federal laws that were apparently broken before Bev’s death.

Relating a conversation in which Hansen told him that no one from outside the nursing home could have come in at night to cause Bev’s injuries, Jeff noted that a nurse advised him that a back door is left unlocked at all times so that staff can take smoke breaks.

“You guys, between leaving the doors unlocked and what happened to our mother, failed to protect her from this happening,” he said.

“It caused our mother’s death,” said Jackie. “To me, it’s murder.”

“We are going as far as we can with this,” said Jeff, listing potential charges: “Failure to report a fall. Failure to chart a fall. Failure to provide medical treatment. Failure to provide a safe and protective environment. I was told that her death would be ruled suspicious.”

He added, “Failure to report to an investigative officer the death of a patient. Failure to report to the county commissioners of a fall and the death of a resident of a county-owned nursing home.”

Jeff requested copies of Bev’s chart and investigative reports by George and Hansen. “I was informed that this is my right from the Department of Public Health. This will not stop. We’re going to vindicate what happened to my mother.”

Jackie said, “Whoever did put mom back to bed, whoever neglected to do anything, to report anything – they will also be charged.”

Board chair Char Christenson gave the Thielens 10 minutes for public comment, but allowed them to exceed the time limit.

Christenson reminded the board, “This is an active investigation, so we are here to listen but not to comment.”

Related Topics: CRIME AND COURTS
Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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