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Investigation finds Ely Carefree Living worker grabbed resident's wrists, threatened to break his hands

The staff member no longer works at the facility.

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ELY — A former staff member at Carefree Living nursing home in Ely was found responsible for abusing a resident, the Minnesota Department of Health found after an investigation of maltreatment.

According to the MDH report, a staff member lost his temper with a resident and grabbed the resident by his wrists while yelling at him for several minutes. Facility staff reported the summer 2022 incident to the Department of Health, and the investigation was completed in November.

Two staff members who witnessed the incident told MDH the employee was having an "off night" and was told to take a break, but he refused. According to the report, which included information from the witnesses' interviews, the staff member stood over the resident, aggressively grabbed and shook his wrists, and began yelling at him for four to five minutes. An audio recording reviewed in the investigation revealed the employee yelling, “I have had enough of you, you hear me? I have had enough!” and “You think you're strong? I will break your hands! I am sick of you yelling at people!” among other things.

The resident was heard responding to the staff member, “I am not yelling,” in a soft voice, to which the staff member responded, “No, not now, because you are scared!”

The witnessing staff at Carefree Living could be heard on the audio recording telling the employee to "stop" repeatedly and telling him to step away from the resident.

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The resident was in an assisted living facility memory care unit, and had been diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, which causes behaviors including outbursts, verbal aggression and poor decision-making skills. The patient's state of confusion, agitation and irritability usually increased at night.

"The resident would yell out, and staff were instructed to use a calm approach, reminisce with the resident, distract with a 1:1 activity, and encourage the resident to assist with tasks like folding laundry to help keep him busy and reduce sundowning behaviors," the report stated.

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In an interview with MDH for the investigation, the employee said he had been working long hours and requested to not work with the resident because the resident's behaviors were causing him to feel stressed. The staff member stated he did scream at the resident, grab his wrists and threaten to break his hands, but said he was not aware he had lost his temper until he heard another staff member screaming his name.

The employee left the facility after the incident and is no longer employed there.

The investigation determined that abuse occurred, and the individual staff member was responsible for the maltreatment. Facility staff were educated on abuse and abuse reporting, dealing with difficult behaviors, and caregiver burnout. During the time of the investigation, which was done in early November, there were 41 residents at Carefree Living receiving services under the assisted living dementia care license.

Carefree Living did not respond to a request for comment.

Laura Butterbrodt covers health for the Duluth News Tribune. She has a bachelor of arts in journalism from South Dakota State University and has been working as a reporter in Minnesota and South Dakota since 2014.
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