By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities woman is accusing the nursing home that’s caring for her dad, a World War II veteran, of depriving him of basic necessities.

Wendy Rudek became so concerned a few weeks ago, she installed a camera in her father’s room at a senior living center in Forest Lake. What she saw disturbed her. Rudek, who is a nurse herself, calls it neglect.

“The aide came in to pick up his lunch tray and she’s eating it, while he’s sleeping in bed,” Rudek said as she pointed to the video.

This is just one of the incidents Rudek witnessed once she installed a camera inside her dad’s room at Birchwood Senior Living. Richard Haller is 94-years-old.

“He has dementia, he is legally blind although he can kind of see outlines,” Rudek said.

Nearly a decade ago her family faced the hard choice many do, to move her parents out of their home and into a facility. She watched Richard’s health decline over the last few years.

“He doesn’t have fluids, he’s hungry. There’s a strong odor there that he hasn’t been changed in quite some time. So we have had numerous care conferences with the facility talking about the issues that have come up with his needs,” Rudek said.

Her constant concerns prompted her to place a camera in his room to see for herself what was happening.

“And so the hidden camera really opened our eyes to really what kind of care he is getting there and it’s shocking and it’s very sad,” Rudek said.

Wendy points out her dads clothes weren’t changed for three days. And she says people leave food in his room, then leave.

“We have doctor’s orders to help assist feed him because he’s blind,” Rudek said.
He rarely eats. On more than one occasion the camera captured someone eating Richard’s food. And he’s looked for something to drink.

“They had a little cup of syrup and it shows him trying to drink his syrup because he’s so thirsty because there’s nothing else for him to drink. Here he’s going to take the lotion and drink it,” Rudek said.

One night Richard fell out of bed. Someone found him an hour later but he hadn’t been checked on in eight hours. She brought her findings to the staff.

“This right here, this is serious neglect. They couldn’t give me an excuse because I have it on camera,” Rudek said.

She’s reported what she calls neglect to the state. An investigation is underway. As a nurse, she fears what could happen in the time it takes to look into her claims.

“By the time that happens he could be dead. These are basic things that are everyday things. These are food and fluid. You have to them to survive,” Rudek said.

Birchwood Senior Living Center responded with a statement:

“Since March 23, when the family of our resident brought their concerns to our attention, we have met with them twice and taken many actions including working with the family on modifying our resident’s care plan, conducting audits of procedures, staff retraining, and, in one instance, the termination of one of our employees for eating our resident’s food. We are cooperating with the police in this situation and we also reported it to the Department of Health. We will continue to work with our resident, the family, our staff and our regulator to ensure our resident – who has been a member of our community for almost a a decade – is safe and well cared for in accordance with our resident’s and family’s expectations as well as our standards.”

Rudek said she feels stuck. Her family isn’t able to care for their dad full time, and medical assistance covers the facility. She said she’s also been warned that moving her father could be detrimental to his health.

Jennifer Mayerle

Comments (9)
  1. Suzy Knopf says:

    I wanted to let you know that neglect has been going on for a long time at Birchwood nursing home. My father was in there in 2007 he fell in bathroom nobody came to help him until his roommate started yelling. He was left sitting in hallway many times because they wouldnt help him to room they wouldnt give extra blankets when he was cold his clothes would dissappear. He was to be helped to bathroom no one would answer call button. Sadly my father has passed away. But I want something to be done about that place before more of the elderly are hurt. Suzanne Knopf

  2. Kevin Nancy says:

    My mom was in four different homes before she passed. Please take note of how your loved ones are fed in nursing homes. If they are unable to feed themselves – nursing homes are notorious for not feeding them. If you can – try and make frequent/random visits just to see how they are being treated. I found that not one of the four homes that my mom was in – would re-position her to stave off bedsores and meals were a night mare. Also – if all else fails – little cameras are very affordable these days and you can tune in on your cell phone to see how they are doing. Sadly – nursing homes do their best with the funding they get. It is just not enough.

  3. I & many have heard about these horrifying cases of neglect & abuse of love ones in the alleged care at this type institutions. I have two great aunts left surviving out of 13. One is 99 yrs old and was relocated from upstate NY to Atlanta three yrs ago to a facility near Northside Hospital off of Glenridge Dr. Her daughter & grand daughter are her guardians. But, sometimes I wonder if my great aunt is being cared for properly & humanly. I make a concerted effort to visit & video the staff and their interaction with my great aunt Bettie. I make a effort to visit her twice a week. Once, I visited and the smell in her room was unbearable…when the staff so us coming down the hall they dispatched two caretakers to her room ahead of us to change her, but it was to late…caught in the act of negligence. Families have to vigilant or else…

  4. Andrea Mauer says:

    Maybe if we started caring about the quality of care people receiving services, we would pay the workers a living wage and not have poor candidates applying for jobs they shouldn’t be doing. Politicians act like these elderly people are sucking off the system and will not approve funding in the Health and Human Services Bill to help with wage COLAs. The other issue of “for profits” bottom line just like hospitals are drain the budget to support to the profits.

  5. Katya Anders says:

    Shame on you WCCO – this rings of your annual ratings grab puppy mill story. Anyone with eyes can see problems with this woman’s claims – water cup visible on tray many times, including when he was drinking syrup. The fall is really sad, but unfortunately happens too often in all nursing homes, but to claim that no one checked on him for 8 hours is doubtful – camera is focused on the bed and you can’t see any staff that would be quietly peeking in every two hours in the middle of the night. The claim that he is supposed to be getting eating assistance is not believable either – residents having MD orders for food assistance have to eat in the dining room. Would it be wonderful for nursing homes not to even exist because we could all keep our loved ones home, sure. Would it be wonderful if there was enough money that nursing homes could have one on one staff all day and night, sure. But reality right now is otherwise. But to air this story as fact without fact checking this woman’s claims and without Birchwood being able to defend themselves due to privacy laws is not news, this is sensationalism.

    1. I worked there for a few years and I can honestly say that I have never seen anything like this. Staff were usually so good with residents. Sometimes there were shortages of Nurse Aides and everyone tried their best to make up for it by helping each other out. Yes, feeders were always fed in the dining room. I am so sorry to see Richard looking so frail but I realize age has a lot to do with changes in the body and internal illnesses. It is hard on the elderly to be moved to another facility. It confuses them more and can be overwhelming. People who work in the nursing homes are not paid enough for one thing and when short of help its even harder to give the proper time for all. The nurses try to help as much as possible but because the charting is overloaded for nurses they are lucky to get out on time after each shift they have worked. None of us want to see any of our elderly abused or hurt. Believe me these workers try very hard.

  6. The daughter says moving him could be detrimental to his health….well, leaving him there IS detrimental to his health…..If that were my father, he would be removed from there immediately!!! Shame on the care facility and shame on the daughter!!!

  7. Not all workers can be there at the moment some of the residents try to get out of bed or out of a wheel chair. Alarms were once used to protect residents but they may have done away with them d/t scaring residents who tried to get up and walk. Falls in nursing homes is not anything new. Years ago residents used to be belted into w/c and had to be removed every 1 to 2 hours.
    It did not help the residents mentally. Check with the state on how many nurses aides per every 8 to 10 people. Heavy skilled to walkers. I think everyone who wants to complain about the nursing homes should work in one for a month and see for themselves.

  8. I agree with Ms. DuCharme. No elder should suffer neglect but in some states putting a camera in a resident’s room and filming without consent of everyone is a felony offense.