HAVERFORD – The family of the elderly woman who was allegedly abused by caretakers at Quadrangle Assisted Living announced Tuesday it plans to file a civil lawsuit on behalf of the victim and every resident of the upscale facility on Darby Road.
“This case is about an assault on human dignity,” said attorney Robert Mongeluzzi, who was hired to represent Lois McCallister and her family. “We would ask (a jury) for a reward to punish them for what they’ve done.”
Three former employees of the Quadrangle have been charged criminally with abusing 78-year-old Lois McCallister, who suffers from dementia.
On Friday, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare pulled the facility’s license, citing “gross incompetence, negligence and misconduct.”
The victim’s daughter, Mary McCallister-French, and her husband, Paul French, sat on a couch in the living room of their Haverford home Tuesday morning fielding questions from reporters about her mother, the Quadrangle and the pending litigation.
McCallister-French said they moved her mother from Pittsburgh to the Quadrangle in January 2009 based on the facility’s reputation and the proximity to their suburban Philadelphia home. Her mother, she said, was involved in the decision.
The out-of-pocket cost to the family was between $7,700 and $8,000 a month, Paul French said, adding that the Quadrangle did not accept Medicare.
In January, the elderly woman began showing signs of advancing dementia and was moved into the assisted-living portion of the Quadrangle in January. Three weeks later, on the advice of the staff, she moved into the dementia unit. It was around that time McCallister began complaining that someone was hurting her, her daughter said.
“She started in early March saying someone was hurting her, hitting her,” said McCallister-French.
Concerned, she told Quadrangle administrators about her mother’s claims. The facility’s administrators said they would investigate. On March 14, the couple was told the allegations were unfounded and were attributed to the victim’s dementia.
“We just thought there was more to it,” McCallister-French said.
Five days later, the couple noticed visible bruising on the victim’s left hand and wrist. They did not report that to the administration, but took photographs of the injuries instead, according to documents filed in the criminal case.
Paul French installed a surveillance camera disguised as a clock in the victim’s room. What the video camera captured shocked and sickened the couple.
Three employees were allegedly seen taunting, mocking and assaulting the partially naked woman. As Lois McCallister tried to put a long-sleeve shirt over her head, one employee is seen grabbing the shirt and putting her left hand under the shirt near the victim’s face. The same woman is also seen striking the victim in the face and head and shoving her down on the bed, according to the criminal complaint.
After seeing the video, Paul French went to Haverford police.
After an investigation, three Quadrangle employees were charged in connection with the alleged abuse.
Samirah Traynham, 22, of the 800 block of Whitby Avenue, Yeadon, Tyina Griffin, 21, of the 2800 block of Susquehanna Avenue, Philadelphia, and Ayesha Muhammad, 19, of the 1300 block of North 49th Street, Philadelphia, are charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, criminal conspiracy, harassment, neglect of care-dependent person and reckless endangerment.
According to McCallister-French, the abuse her mother suffered appears to have been going on for some time. One of the women charged with abusing Lois McCallister told investigators she was working on another floor the night the clock/camera captured the scene in the elderly woman’s room.
“They called the third girl down from another floor and said, ‘Come down, we’re going to start,'” McCallister-French told reporters. “We trusted our mother to a place that just didn’t do what they said they would.”
Quadrangle administrators were not cooperative with investigators, she added.
They also failed to report the suspected abuse to the Department of Public Welfare or any local agency as required by law.
McCallister’s daughter said they are filing the lawsuit to get the attention of the Quadrangle’s parent company, Sunrise Assisted Living, in the hopes it prevents any future abuse of others in their charge.
“We would ask for a reward to punish them for what they’ve done,” she said.
A call placed to Sunrise Living LLC was not returned Tuesday.
Mongeluzzi said Sunrise is a $1.4 billion New York Stock Exchange company that has 22 facilities in Pennsylvania alone.
“Nursing homes are a big business,” he said.
Hitting them in the pocketbook would get their attention, Mongeluzzi added.
On Friday, the Department of Public Welfare notified Sunrise it was pulling the license for the Haverford facility, barring it from accepting any new clients.
The letter of notification read, in part:
“The pattern of interconnected negligent acts committed by multiple levels of management at Quadrangle Assisted Living as described on the enclosed violation report and settlement violation report demonstrates gross incompetence, negligence and misconduct in the operation of Quadrangle Assisted Living by Sunrise Continuing Care LLC.”
This, Mongeluzzi noted, comes one year after the Department of Public Welfare issued a consent order after problems were reported at the firm’s Newtown Square facility. That order mandated that Sunrise enforce all rules and regulations, implement training for its staff and change the culture to make it a resident-first facility. Sunrise was also ordered to close or sell five of its 22 facilities in Pennsylvania, he added.
But when allegations of abuse were brought to administrators at the Haverford facility, it was never reported to the Department of Public Welfare, Mongeluzzi said.
The Quadrangle appealed the revocation of its license within an hour of receiving it, Mongeluzzi said.
Paul French and his wife moved their mother out of the Quadrangle. Lois McCallister now lives with her daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters.
It’s a struggle, they said, watching the once vibrant woman who loved to bowl struggle with everyday life. The family, which includes two teenage daughters and several pet dogs, plans to put an addition on its home to accommodate Lois McCallister’s needs.
“It’s been an adjustment for her. She’s still fearful at times,” said McCallister-French. “When I get her changed at night, she sometimes makes comments like, ‘Don’t hurt me.'”
Paul French said he wants to see the three employees sentenced to prison time.
“I would like them to feel the pain she felt,” he said.