HAVERFORD – Though she is now living with her daughter after being removed from an allegedly abusive nursing home, 78-year-old Lois McCallister still begs her family not to hurt her as they tuck her in to bed at night.
At a Wednesday-morning press conference announcing her civil complaint against the Quadrangle, its corporate parents Sunrise Senior Living Inc., Sunrise Continuing Care LLC and three employees, Mary French said her mother’s ordeal has taken the joy out of her life.
“Her tormentors changed her life permanently,” French said, as she and her husband, Paul, spoke to reporters in their Havertown home. “Our mother has never been the same since the abuse. She entered the Quadrangle a happy, hopeful person, and now she is totally demoralized.”
Paul French said while his mother-in-law is functional during the day, she still has difficulty at night. She often tells her granddaughters, “Please don’t hurt me” as they say good night to her, he said.
According to the complaint filed Wednesday in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas, Quadrangle employees Samirah Traynham, Tyrina Griffin and Ayesha Muhammad physically abused McCallister in March by taunting, humiliating and assaulting her as she stood naked from the waist up.
In a video, the victim can be seen trying to escape her alleged tormentors, only to be pulled back into her room and further ridiculed.
The actions were recorded on a nanny-cam hidden by family members in McCallister’s room.
Quadrangle officials were initially dismissive of the family’s concerns and chalked it up to McCallister’s dementia.
Instead, Paul French went to Haverford police. Traynham, Griffin and Muhammad have each been charged with harassment, neglect, simple assault, conspiracy and recklessly endangering another person. The three women have pleaded not guilty and remain free on bail.
Their trial is scheduled for Nov. 14 in front of Common Pleas Judge Kevin F. Kelly.
The civil complaint was filed on behalf of McCallister’s family by the Philadelphia law firm of Saltz, Mongeluzzi & Bendesky PC.
Attorney Robert Mongeluzzi said the companies “created and fostered a culture of abuse and intimidation” within their facility. They were negligent by failing to properly pursue an investigation of abuse allegations brought by family members, he claimed.
When allegations of abuse were brought to administrators at the Haverford facility, it was never reported to the Department of Public Welfare, Mongeluzzi said.
DPW revoked the facility’s operating license in April, citing gross incompetence, negligence and misconduct.
State regulators also found that a Quadrangle administrator did not report allegations of abuse to the state or the county. Investigators found three different incidents or complaints of abuse from March.
In May, parent company Sunrise Senior Living Inc. said it reached an agreement with the state, but did not provide details of the pact that led to its license being reinstated.
Corporate leadership must be held accountable for the culture they create, attorney Andrew Duffy added, especially when the French family was charged a $110,000 up-front fee and $8,000 per month for their mother’s dementia care. McCallister resided at the Quadrangle for a little more than two years.
“The litigation will get to the truth as to what happened within the corporation and within the Quadrangle,” Duffy said.
Wednesday afternoon, Virginia-based Sunrise Senior Living issued a response to the civil complaint.
“Given the McCallister family’s prior statements, Sunrise anticipated the filing of a lawsuit,” the company stated in an email. “While we do not comment on pending litigation, Sunrise is committed to providing the best quality care to seniors and fostering a culture that supports independence, dignity and respect of our residents.”
For Mary French, it was a statement that rang pretty hollow.
“I think there is no feeling involved. I think it’s just them not taking responsibility,” she said.
French said she and her husband filed the complaint to help ensure no one placed in a care facility suffers the way her mother suffered.
Since news of the story first broke in April, Paul French said he has received letters and phone calls offering support and thanks.
One letter from a resident at the Quadrangle said since McCallister’s story made headlines, care at the facility is the best it’s been in two years.