KIDNAPPING AND CONFINEMENT OF ELDERLY AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMAN PROMPTS FAMILY'S REQUEST FOR INVESTIGATION BY U.S. DEPT. OF JUSTICE
Buffalo, NY (BlackNews.com) -- The Britt family of Buffalo, NY is fighting to rectify the atrocities perpetrated against their elderly aunt, Lula Baity. Eighty-six year old Lula Baity, a then resident of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Complex, went to the rental office on September 30, 2003 to inquire about her current month's rent payment. The money order had been returned to Ms. Baity, because the amount was deemed insufficient. One hundred dollars and eighty-eight cents ($100.88) was remitted, as opposed to the one hundred eighty-eight dollars ($188.00), that would have served as the rental fee due for the month of September. Ms. Baity explained to the property manager that apparently, the corner store had made an error while issuing the money order. To assist Ms. Baity in resolving the discrepancy, the property manager directed her subordinate, a Housing Authority case management worker, to contact Ms. Baity's family and Family Services (a non-official agency, community based center, located within the housing complex).
The Housing Authority's case management worker did not assist Ms. Baity as instructed. Instead, she contacted Erie County Crisis Services, a community mental health outreach agency, with allegations that Lula Baity was not paying rent, was increasingly confused and disoriented, was unable to care for herself, and other false claims. The BMHA rental office was not an authorized reporting agency, approved by the Office of Mental Health. As the Housing Authority's case management worker, this employee's responsibilities fell within the scope of administrative and operational tasks, usually involving inspections and maintenance issues. It was not within her jurisdiction to request a mental evaluation of Ms. Baity. It has been confirmed however, that she identified herself, not as the Housing Authority's case management worker, but as Ms. Baity's "social worker." After her call and without verification of her credentials, actions were taken effecting the involuntary removal of Ms. Baity from the home she'd lived in for over forty years.
October 1, 2003, the same Housing Authority case worker, accompanied by two Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority police officers, a Crisis Services worker, and an Ambulance, went to Ms. Baity's apartment. Upon gaining entry, the Housing Authority worker proceeded to seize Ms. Baity, grabbing her by the arm.
"As my elderly aunt tried to pull away, this woman threatened her," says Lula Baity's niece, Carmen Britt. "She told my aunt that if she continued to resist and did not leave, the housing authority police would use force to remove her."
Against her will, she was strapped to a gurney and transported by ambulance to Erie County Medical Center. After being shaken up by the incident, she arrived at the emergency room with symptoms of increased blood pressure and a rapid heartbeat. Ms. Baity was admitted with a purported diagnosis of "unable to care for herself." Her family was never contacted by representatives of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority or hospital staff. An anonymous caller alerted her family.
Admitted for an emergency mental evaluation, Ms. Baity was subjected to a battery of medical tests, none of which were mental health screenings. Ms. Baity's given diagnosis of "inability to care for herself" was never confirmed by a psychiatrist. After ten (10) days of involuntary confinement, Dr. Phillip Rados, the attending physician, making an assumptive diagnosis of "advanced dementia" ordered Ms. Baity's transfer to Grace Manor Nursing Home.
Without court approval , 86 year old Lula Baity was transferred to Grace Manor Nursing Home, where she was confined to a locked third-floor dementia unit, and despite her objections, she was subjected to numerous unnecessary medical procedures. She was forced to submit to highly invasive daily enemas and suppositories. In a similar vein, without a written consent or a patient authorization, Grace Manor authorized the surgical extraction of three (3) of Ms. Baity's healthy teeth. Ms. Baity was also administered daily doses of the psychotropic medication, Risperdal, for the treatment of her alleged diagnosis of dementia that was never confirmed. Risperdal is grouped in a class of drugs known as atypical antipsychotics. The FDA warns against the use of atypical antipsychotics in treating elderly dementia patients. Risperdal has been found to be potentially hazardous and could result in death.
The New York State Department of Health, after conducting an investigation into the use of Risperdal by the nursing home, determined that there was no medical basis for administering the drug to Lula Baity and sanctioned Grace Manor.
The System Failed Ms. Baity
New York State and federal law provides mandate procedures which must be followed in all situations involving the involuntary confinement and/or hospitalization of any citizen. In the case of Lula Baity, no procedures, whatsoever, had been followed regarding crisis intervention or her involuntary confinement. She remained involuntarily confined at the locked dementia unit of Grace Manor Nursing Home for a period of ninety-two (92) days.
Ms. Baity's niece, Carmen Britt, retained attorney Richard L. Baumgarten, who petitioned for writ of habeas corpus, which was thereupon granted by a New York State Supreme Court judge. On January 10, 2004, after 102 days of being involuntarily confined to a hospital and nursing home, Lula Baity was allowed to return to her home. Soon after her release, Ms. Baity's condition was evaluated by her primary care physician, a clinical psychologist, and a psychiatrist; all concluded that she was completely competent. Unable to put the horrors of these events behind her, however she was diagnosed with posttraumatic anxiety disorder. Despite her fragile health and ripe old age of 86 years, Ms. Baity filed suit against all responsible parties. She did not live to have her day in court or an opportunity to tell her story to a jury of her peers. She passed away on May 9, 2006.
May is Elder Abuse Awareness Month
According to the American Psychological Association, elder abuse occurs when senior citizens are assaulted, mistreated, or taken advantage of, whether the abuse is intentional or not. Abuse can be verbal, physical, emotional, psychological, or financial. It can also be in the form of gross neglect or even isolation. Often, mistreatment occurs at the hand of family members, but in many instances, as in Ms. Baity's case, it exists in hospitals, nursing homes, or is caused by perpetrators who are unrelated to the individual. Any caregiver behavior which causes distress is considered abuse, according to the APA. Since aging seniors are more vulnerable to these types of attacks, it is important to recognize the signs. According to the National Elder Abuse Incidence Study conducted by the National Center on Elder Abuse, for each case of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation reported to authorities, five more go unreported. The American Psychological Association estimates more than 2 million older adults are victims of elder abuse.
The Family Vows to Push Forward
An On-Line Petition has been launched, urging Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., to conduct an investigation into the violation of Lula Baity's human rights, as well as to investigate the inadequacies that exist within the current system. The injustice that occurred in the case of Ms. Baity should stand as a caution to legislators. The current procedural safeguards in effect are inadequate to safeguard our elders from the type of abuse that has been shown to have occurred with Ms. Baity. Therefore, clearly, additional procedural safeguards need to be in place, and at the very least, those found in violation should be held accountable. Current regulations were not adhered to at the most critical juncture, where decisions are made by individuals and actions are taken by agencies and institutions leading to the removal of such elders from their homes. Measures need to be taken ensure that the provisions set forth are implemented and enforced, thereby protecting the liberties of our growing population of seniors.
The full tragic account of Lula Baity's ordeal, official court documents, and her video-taped deposition testimony may be accessed online. Please support Ms. Baity's cause by visiting the website and signing the On-Line Petition at www.baity-v-bmha-et-al.com. All support is appreciated.