Former caregiver sentenced in death of patient
A former caregiver at a Kirkland adult family home was sentenced to 31 months in prison on Friday for the preventable death of Jean Rudolph, 87, who died from untreated pressure sores.
Seattle Times staff reporter
In a rare conviction involving elder neglect, a former caregiver at a Kirkland adult family home was sentenced to 31 months in prison on Friday for the preventable death of Jean Rudolph, 87, who died from untreated pressure sores.
Rudolph's mistreatment at the Houghton Lakeview adult home was detailed two weeks ago in The Seattle Times' continuing investigation into adult family homes. The Times reported that hundreds of seniors have been injured or died prematurely from substandard care, usually at the hands of scantly trained caregivers.
Rudolph, a retired nursing educator, languished for 22 days without proper care in 2008 before her family was notified that bedsores had burrowed to the bone; the sores ultimately killed her.
The caregiver, Effie Tutor, 40, was convicted of a felony count of first-degree criminal mistreatment and sentenced by King County Superior Court Judge Gregory Canova.
Her lawyer, a public defender, argued that Tutor was inadequately trained and did not promptly report the sores because the caregiver was afraid she'd lose her job.
Canova dismissed those arguments, noting Tutor had held herself out as a seasoned caregiver and manager.
Rudolph's son, James Rudolph, 56, told the court he was "appalled" by Tutor's inaction, which included ignoring other residents while she spent time chatting on the Internet to a boyfriend overseas.
"I just want to tell everyone that I'm sorry," Tutor told the court before being led away in handcuffs.
Also Friday, the owner of the adult home, Patricia Goodwill, 62, pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal mistreatment, admitting to creating an "imminent and substantial risk of death" by failing to ensure proper care for Rudolph, according to court records.
The charge of criminal mistreatment, a felony, is commonly used in neglect or abuse cases involving vulnerable adults. Senior deputy prosecutor Page Ulrey has asked for a one-year prison sentence for Goodwill. Her hearing is set for Oct. 29.
Washington's Department of Social and Health Services has licensed nearly 3,000 adult homes to provide board and care for up to six adults. Adult homes are less-regulated, less-expensive elder-care options than nursing homes.
Officials in the growing industry said the vast majority of homes are well-run and provide personalized care in familiar neighborhood settings.
The Times found that adult-home deaths indicating neglect occur at strikingly higher rates than comparable deaths at nursing homes. For example, pressure-sore deaths in adult homes occur at a rate more than 3.5 times higher, according to a Times analysis of death certificates from 2003 through 2008.
Rudolph, who had Alzheimer's disease and heart problems, entered Houghton Lakeview in 2002.
Neither she nor her family was aware DSHS investigators had repeatedly cited the home for serious health and safety violations.
While Rudolph lived there, the home was cited for employing at least three caregivers who had disqualifying felony convictions such as child abuse, assault and drug possession.
Tutor was cited for falsely claiming to be a licensed nursing assistant in 2007, but she was allowed to keep her job.
Ulrey said mistreatment convictions against adult-home owners and caregivers are rare. Victims who survive neglect may have dementia or other maladies that make them unreliable witnesses, making cases more difficult to prove.
In Rudolph's case, Tutor's former husband, Robert Dutton, was an eyewitness to some of the events, and he contacted DSHS and Kirkland police about Rudolph's death.
Houghton Lakeview was closed by DSHS after Rudolph's death.
Goodwill also owns a licensed adult home in Marysville, Our Country Home, opened in 1999.
DSHS officials said they are reviewing Goodwill's conviction to determine if she should be stripped of her license to operate the Marysville adult home.
Michael J. Berens: email@example.com or 206-464-2288.
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