Austin, Texas, — A family has filed a negligence case against a Texas nursing home where their relative was allegedly found with ant bites on her body in the weeks leading to her death.
Kathleen Laurel, an Alzheimer’s disease patient who was a resident at Brush Country Nursing and Rehabilitation in Austin, passed away on Sept. 26, 2021, after battling the debilitating disease.
Laurel got a visit from her family two weeks prior to her death after they got a report that the elderly woman’s room was infested with ants. It was then that Lisa Howard, one of Laurel’s daughters, saw the elderly woman’s body covered with tiny red welts which are believed to have been caused by ant bites.
“It’s something out of a horror story,” Howard said about her mom’s condition at the time, KXAN reported.
According to Howard, she talked to a nurse at the facility who said “she was the one taking the ants off my mother, and she was getting bitten as she was doing it.”
The family took pictures of the welts found on Laurel’s body, and when they asked the officials at the facility about the bites, they were told those were heat rashes.
“Which seems ludicrous to me, if you see the pictures. Then, heat rash begs the question, ‘Well why — where was she in so much heat that she got a heat rash?'” Kelly Pesek, another daughter of Laurel, said, according to the outlet.
Laurel could not raise her concerns to the officials during the ordeal as she was nonverbal. “She was completely helpless. Like I said, she was nonverbal. She couldn’t ask for help. She had no way of raising her hand and saying, ‘I need help; I’m being mistreated; I’m hungry; I have ants on me,” Howard said about her mother.
Laurel’s family is now suing the facility and its parent company, Dynasty Healthcare Management, for their negligence, the New York Post reported.
A report from Texas Health and Human Services Commission vouched that the facility had failed to monitor the resident, who had physical debilities and severe cognitive impairment, as needed throughout the night shift.
“She [Laurel] was found with active ants crawling on her while she was in bed with ant bites throughout her body causing resident pain, red welts, and hives that required immediate medical intervention and treatment,” the report noted, as per KXAN.
“The lack of care residents are receiving due to being short staff[ed] was heart-breaking,” one of the nurses reportedly told the surveyor, while others said the staff shortages have led to resident falls, missed meals and the failure to administer certain medications on time.
Meanwhile, a facility administrator’s interview cited in the same report claimed Laurel’s room had been “deep cleaned” and exterminators had been contacted to spray the area. The report added that according to the administrator and the director of nursing at the facility, they had evaluated all patients for ant bites and could not find “additional ants.”
When asked for a comment, the attorneys representing the facility reportedly told KXAN they could not make comments on pending legal issues. However, they denied all the allegations thrown at them by Laurel’s family and sought evidence of their claims when they filed an answer in Travis County District Court.
Laurel’s family now hopes that if the state enforces a minimum staffing requirement at nursing home facilities, it would bring a change to the system. They also said the lawsuit is “to make sure it does not happen to anyone else.”