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Family: Veteran died from nursing home neglect

Posted: 11:46 AM, Sep 15, 2015
Updated: 2015-09-15 11:46:56-04

A Seymour family is demanding answers after they say their loved one died as a result of nursing home neglect.

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Tim Johnson died in a Columbus hospital Oct. 11, 2014, at the age of 43 as a result of sepsis and cardiac arrest after spending four years at the Seymour Crossing nursing home.

“You put your loved one in there and you expect them to be taken care of,” said Rebekah Klaus, Johnson's sister.

State inspection reports and police records obtained by Call 6 Investigates raise questions about whether the nursing home adequately cared for Johnson.

Klaus tries to remember her brother, a Navy veteran, for how he lived, not how he died.

“He loved his daughter, he loved his family, he loved animals, he loved life in general,” said Klaus. 

Tim Johnson battled rheumatoid arthritis and other health issues, and spent the last four years of his life in Seymour Crossing.

“He couldn’t walk, that’s the reason he was at the Crossing,” said Klaus. “His knees wouldn’t go.”

Following the death of Johnson, the Indiana State Department of Health/federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) conducted an investigation and inspection at Seymour Crossing on November 3, 5 and 6, 2014.

READ | ISDH Full Report

The report shows on October 4, a staffer went to check on Johnson and found him lethargic, disoriented, whimpering and saying ‘please.’

Johnson ended up in the hospital with sores and wounds on his body.

The state/federal report said an Intensive Care Unit nurse at the hospital noted Johnson was unkempt, unclean and had a very strong smell.

“(The right arm dressing) was saturated and foul…smelled like it had been there a while and we were all wearing masks,” an ICU nurse told investigators.

Johnson’s family took pictures of the wounds, too graphic to show, including one on his right arm so deep it went down to the bone and muscle.

“I became infuriated,” said Johnson’s 15-year-old daughter, Sydney. “They didn’t care for him the way they should have.”

Johnson developed an infection complication known as sepsis, went into cardiac arrest, and was taken off life support at the age of 43.

“I have cried every single day for a year,” said Klaus. “I still look at those pictures. I still go out to that graveyard every day and it haunts me.”

Klaus and Sydney Johnson said they never noticed a wound on Tim’s arm because he was wearing a gown in his final weeks at the nursing home.

“He was constantly wearing a gown,” said Klaus. “I feel like there was more that I could do.”

Johnson’s family members said because they suspected he wasn’t getting adequate care, they tried to find another place to take him, but it was difficult to find another facility close by that accepted Medicaid.

State/federal records show the dressing on Johnson’s arm wound had not been changed since September 26, a week before he ended up in the hospital, on October 4.

Previously, the dressings were changed every Tuesday and Friday, records show.

According to the inspection report, the nursing home’s wound nurse was not following protocol, and ordered Johnson’s wound treatment to be discontinued.

“It’s abuse and neglect,” said Klaus.

The wound nurse is no longer with the facility, according to the Seymour Police Department report.

The Jackson County Prosecutor has decided not to file criminal charges in the death of Tim Johnson.

“We did receive an investigation from Seymour Police Department, as well as from the Office of the Indiana Attorney General,” said Amy Marie Travis, Jackson County Prosecutor, in an email to Call 6 Investigates. “Neither entity found evidence to support the filing of criminal charges in this matter and did not recommend charges.  My office did an independent review of the matter and did not find probable cause to file criminal charges.”

Johnson’s family is disappointed.

“I won’t have someone to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, and I won’t have someone to look up to the rest of my life,” said Sydney Johnson, daughter of Tim Johnson. “It infuriates me that somebody did this to him and made us go through all this pain and suffering and they’re not going to be punished for it.”

The state/federal investigation found Seymour Crossing failed to provide necessary care and services, and noted a deficiency in “Provide Care/Services for Highest Well Being.”

Seymour Crossing implemented a corrective action plan to better handle patient skin problems, including an in-service for licensed nurses and an audit tool to monitor treatment.

“Any non-compliance with staff will result in staff education and up to disciplinary action,” read the nursing home’s correction plan.

Klaus said the nursing home received a slap on the wrist.

“It’s not good enough,” said Klaus. “I still don’t have my brother.”

Seymour Crossing is one of 59 facilities owned by Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County .      

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Health and Hospital Corporation Spokesperson Curt Brantingham said Seymour Crossing corrected the deficiency found in the Nov. 6, 2014 report, and the Indiana State Department of Health found the facility to be in compliance after follow-up surveys in December 2014.

Seymour Crossing paid $7,897.50 in fines in 2014, according to CMS, however the fines were not connected with the death of Tim Johnson.

The fines were related to an October 3, 2014 inspection at Seymour Crossing that found four deficiencies including failing to maintain an odor free environment and failing to respect the dignity of patients.

“The facility is now in compliance with our program requirements,” said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) spokesperson Elizabeth Schinderle. “If a nursing home can demonstrate that it has remedied the causes of a deficiency and instituted reforms to prevent recurrence and sustain compliance, we provide the nursing home the opportunity to make such improvements and avoid the disruption to residents that closure of the facility might involve.”

The Indiana State Department of Health declined to comment on Johnson’s death.

“ISDH must honor the confidentiality of patients and residents that receive services from Indiana health care facilities,” said ISDH spokesperson Jennifer O’Malley. “We cannot disclose information or comment in any way in the context of an identifiable individual.”

ISDH is responsible for state licensing and federal certification programs for long-term care facilities, and conducts a comprehensive survey of a facility anywhere from once a year to once every several years depending on the type of facility and its survey history. 

“The Division of Long Term Care investigates all complaints that are received regarding compliance issues in licensed health care facilities,” said O’Malley.

Tim Johnson’s family hope sharing their story will encourage other families to speak up if they suspect nursing home abuse or neglect.

Seymour Crossing is operated by American Senior Communities.

An administrator did not return a phone call Friday from Call 6 Investigates.

You can file a complaint about an Indiana nursing home here .