Many people choose a nursing home for their loved ones based on their ability to visit and care for them easily. Unfortunately, Oklahoma’s News 9 showed that sometimes that visitation can be revoked after one woman had that right impeded when she received a nursing home ban.
T.J. Sarrington filed a complaint with the Oklahoma Department of Health in 2018 for neglect and abuse she had observed at the Meadowlake Estates nursing home in Oklahoma City. Meadowlake Estates, owned by the Texas-based corporation StoneGate Senior Living, was then investigated for those claims.
Ms. Sarrington’s claims proved substantial and included in the 25 violations that the Oklahoma Department of Health identified were abuses against the “resident’s right to a dignified existence, self-determination, communication, and to exercise his or her rights” of Sarrington’s mother and two other residents.
The day that the findings were published, Sarrington called the administrator for an explanation. Unfortunately for her, all she received was a nursing home ban. The administrator informed her that if she ever returned to Meadowlake Estates, she would be prosecuted for trespassing.
True to his word, when T.J. came to visit her mother, she was escorted from the property by Oklahoma City police officers. T.J. tried for months to reverse the nursing home ban, she told reporters that she “begged” and “swallowed every inch of pride” but the ban remained in place. During these months of pleading and negotiating, T.J’s mother celebrated her last Mother’s Day and her last birthday.
Finally, after T.J. Sarrington’s own mother presumed her dead from weeks of absence, her daughter stormed over to Meadowlake Estates armed with legal grounding. After consulting nursing home reform groups T.J. had unearthed a 2013 law that stated that residents had the legal right to meet with family and any other person while they were residents at a nursing home. That meant that the nursing home ban against T.J. Sarrington was legally unfounded, just as the officers informed the supervisor who called 911 to report her trespass.
Although the Oklahoma Department of Health stated that Meadowlake Estates was in line with their conduct following their correction of the 25 violations, they have now agreed to reopen lines of questioning within the facility.
Though T.J. Sarrington was eventually reunited with her mother, this story illustrates how fears of retaliation can curtail grassroots reporting of nursing home abuse. It falls to lawmakers and legal experts to safeguard whistleblowers from things like a nursing home ban that may disincentivize reporting of violations.
For more information about nursing home neglect, visit the National Association of Nursing Home Attorneys’ Neglect Page.