A 71-year-old resident suffering from dementia recently wandered outside at Tumbleweed Care Center in Brownfield, Texas without supervision. Four hours later, Willie Joe Byers was found by a nursing home worker and was unresponsive.
Now, the facility could be facing criminal charges. Attorney General Mark White and Brownfield police are conducting an investigation in which they are interviewing employees and checking out stories in order to determine if it all matches up.
Brownfield police continue to investigate, but say that this was not the first incident at Tumbleweed, and that this was the third time in as many months that a resident had wandered off from the facility, according to police documents.
Just 3 days prior to Byers being found dead outside of the facility, another elderly resident wandered out unnoticed by staff members and was found two hours away in Aspermont, Texas.
According to police records, there have been many accounts of harassment and injuries at Tumbleweed. In 2010, the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services cited the nursing home for 10 deficiencies, which included hiring workers with legal histories of neglect and abuse, mistreatment of residents and a lack of safe living areas.
Cecelia Fedorov of the D.A.D.S. stated that “We did find there was a situation at the facility which was placing the residents in immediate jeopardy.” According to Fedorov, her agency is staffing the center with regional staff at the present to correct the situation and ensure that residents are no longer in jeopardy.
While no cause of death has been released thus far, Aaron Jewell, administrator at Tumbleweed, release a statement saying “Tumbleweed administration expresses its deepest sympathy to the family of our recently deceased resident. The matter is currently under investigation.”
It is a true shame that we cannot depend on nursing homes to care for elderly loved ones today. Patients with dementia and other mental conditions should be watched closely to ensure incidents like this do not happen, but all too often they do – ending in a tragedy like this one.
Brown Chiari is a prominent New York nursing home abuse and neglect law firm specializing in the rights of nursing home residents and their families.