- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

NEW HOPE, Minn. (AP) - Two former employees of a New Hope nursing home may face criminal charges after hidden “granny cams” set up by concerned family members allegedly recorded the workers physically abusing at least two residents.

The two nursing assistants were fired from Saint Therese of New Hope on June 29 “following confirmation of allegations that they physically abused two residents,” the senior home said Wednesday in a statement to The Associated Press. Eight other nursing assistants were fired for allegedly failing to report the abuse or for using cellphones in resident rooms.

KMSP-TV was first to report the alleged abuse and firings.

“We are cooperating fully with authorities,” Saint Therese said. “We have taken numerous steps to prevent a recurrence, including implementation of a plan of correction. … Any abuse of residents is intolerable.”

Saint Therese says it has apologized to residents and their families.

City attorney Steven Sondrall said he will wait for results of a Minnesota Department of Health investigation before filing any charges.

“They did things that I would not want done to relatives of mine if they were in a nursing home,” he told the Star Tribune. “Inappropriate conduct definitely occurred.”

The extent of the alleged abuse is unclear. In a July 1 letter to residents’ family members, Saint Therese referred to the conduct as “abusive” and cause for “great concern,” but provided no details.

New Hope Police Capt. Scott Slawson told the AP the video shows a “range of behavior” from a possible failure to provide care to possible assault.

The Star Tribune reported that family members installed the hidden cameras after noticing bruises and cuts on their loved ones. The two workers were arrested after New Hope police watched the video, which was recorded over several weeks.

Sally Wright moved her 92-year-old mother to a new senior home after learning of the alleged abuse. She said she’d seen bruises on her mother’s arms and legs in recent months but assumed they were from when she gets moved in and out of her wheelchair and bed. But now, Wright said, she’s not sure.

“My God, it’s a terrifying feeling to have a parent with Alzheimer’s in a facility where there is alleged physical abuse,” Wright said. “She can’t tell me if something is not right, and I can’t be there 24 hours a day . so I was left with no choice but to move (my mother). The trust was gone.”

Although some states limit electronic surveillance for privacy reasons, family members have increasingly used hidden cameras in nursing homes. In New York, 19 nursing home staff members were arrested in 2008 after hidden camera footage showed them talking and watching movies instead of checking on patients.

In this case, New Hope police have recommended both former employees be charged with mistreating residents.

“Without the video, it would have been a really difficult case,” Slawson said. “This is a very vulnerable population and they are susceptible to injuries, and it’s always hard to say what the origins of some of those injuries are. . The video gives a very clear view of a slice in time.”

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