Margaret Collins’ family is suing the Abington of Glenview Nursing & Rehab Center after a Snapchat video showed aides apparently mistreating her for a laugh.
The video, captioned “Margaret hates gowns” and followed by two laughing emoji, showed staff members relentlessly taunting the 91-year-old woman. An aide was shown shoving a hospital gown at her while she struggled to resist them. Gowns are a common fear among elderly residents, who are often upset due to experiencing feelings of having their dignity and modesty stripped away.
According to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in Cook County Circuit Court, the staff were well aware of Collins’ fear. “They deliberately taunted and bullied my mom,” daughter Joan Biebel said in a statement. “They did this for their own entertainment and posted it for their friends.”
Bryan Cortez, 20, and Jamie Montesa, 21 — the two aides allegedly involved in the abusive behavior — were suspended while Abington investigated but were back at work in less than a week. Cortez and Montesa even confessed their involvement, and the Glenview Police Department said they were charged in January with disorderly conduct.
While it was enough to charge them, it was not, apparently, enough to draw professional repercussions. Despite the video evidence, the accusations were “concluded to be unsubstantiated,” according to an Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) report. Both aides were back at work in less than a week.
The IDPH further said that Abington “failed to implement its ‘Abuse Prevention Policy’ by failing to ensure that a resident is free from staff-inflicted emotional abuse,” and that failure left Collins to face “degradation and shame.”
According to that same report, both aides admitted they knew about Collins’ fear and that they knew it was wrong to make the recording. But Cortez also said he was just “playing” with Collins, and Montessa denied posting the video to Snapchat. The lawsuit accuses Abington of dragging its feet until it was forced to act.
“This was elder abuse, and they did nothing about it,” said Steven Levin, one of the attorneys representing the Collins family in the suit:
They didn’t do what they’re required to do; they didn’t call the police. They didn’t call the state ombudsman. They didn’t call IDPH, and they denied to the family these people had traumatized Mrs. Collins even though there was a video proving that they did.
Despite being moved to another facility, Collins remained in such fear of a “repeat attack” that her health began to deteriorate. Eventually, her family was forced to find a private caregiver. The family is suing Abington, its parent company, and the aides for over $1 million in damages.