GRAND RAPIDS, MI -- Measures to upgrade safety for Alzheimer's patients at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans aren't enough for the daughter of a resident who died after he was beaten by another resident in April.
Andrew Ball, 84, a World War II veteran with Alzheimer's, wandered into the room of another resident with Alzheimer's around 4 a.m. April 13 and was struck repeatedly after he apparently tried to enter his bed.
He died days later from complications of his injuries. The resident who struck Ball was not charged. Since then, the home has added another caregiver to the night shift and placed mesh stop signs and tape across the doorways of some residents.
Jim Dunn, chief of staff for the Michigan Department of Military & Veterans Affairs, said the home is constantly striving to improve how it deals with residents with Alzheimer's.
"Alzheimer's is a very difficult disease to deal with. We are trying everything all the time.
"We are doing everything we know. If there is more to do, we are honestly open to suggestions."
Ball's daughter is not satisfied with the changes.
"You really have to fix the problem. I am not sure what they have implemented will fix the problem. I don't see that happening with a mesh stop sign," said Deb Keyworth, 53, of East Lansing.
Keyworth said she recently removed her mother, Elaine Ball, from the Home for Veterans to a nursing facility in East Lansing due to concern over the care she was receiving.
"Things were not looking good on her floor, either. We didn't feel good that she was there, where her husband was killed."
In contrast to the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, Keyworth asserted, her mother's facility in East Lansing uses an alarm system to assure that patients are monitored if they move.
"They have an alarm on her wheelchair, on her bed and on her. She can't move without them knowing."
Dunn said the Home for Veterans uses alarms as well, but that they can be disturbing to those with Alzheimer's.
"We are constantly balancing the benefits and the burdens and adjusting what we can," he said.
Keyworth said she detected a deterioration in the quality of care at the Home for Veterans from the time her parents moved there in March of 2011.
"When we first got there, we felt the facility did a nice job. It did decline over the months," she said.
In September, another resident with Alzheimer's suffered a broken neck when he was allegedly left unattended at the edge of his bed.
According to a lawsuit filed in Ingham County Circuit Court, Matthew Ambrose, a patient with a poor sense of balance, toppled from his bed after a privately-contracted nurses aide left the room to retrieve a lift apparatus to transport him from his bed into his wheelchair.
He was subsequently moved to another facility.
His daughter, Grand Rapids resident Janice Eskola, was shaken by what happened to her father.
"It's terrible, that some of the men are treated like this," Eskola said.
The incidents come amid charges by critics that budget cutbacks and moves to privatize care have compromised quality of care at the home.
The dispute escalated with the layoff in February of more than a dozen union employees and the announced closing of the facility's fourth floor and approximately 90 skilled nursing care beds. State officials insist budget pressures afford them little choice but to trim expenses because of a $4.2 million cut in state funds to the home and stalled plans to replace 170 union nurses aides with non-union contract workers.
Those plans were halted at the 11th hour on Sept. 30 when Ingham County Judge Paula J.M. Manderfield issued a restraining order blocking the workers' layoff. The matter remains on appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Dunn rejected claims that care at the home has declined.
"I think the care is excellent. The only thing I would say is that there is always an inference that state care workers are better than private workers and we have no indication that is the case.