NEW YORK CITY – Paralyzed on his left side, frail 115-pound, 78-year-old Queens, New York stroke victim Bentsion Murakhovsky has limited strength on his right side, trouble speaking, and difficulty swallowing food. Early in 2014 he had reluctantly communicated to his wife and granddaughter that his previous home health aide, provided by Personal-Touch® Home Care, treated him improperly.
With more than 50 locations in 11 states, Personal-Touch Home Health Services (http://www.pthomecare.com) includes 34 offices that are Medicare certified. The healthcare company draws staff from a pool of approximately 12,000 paraprofessionals and 3,000 nurses, according to its website.
Before Personal-Touch sent a new aide for Murakhovsky, to guarantee that the frightened elderly man would be treated properly, his wife and granddaughter installed a Bluetooth-enabled and hard-wired video surveillance system that would monitor Murakhovsky’s care when neither of the two would be present in the apartment.
Their decision to install the camera followed their suspicions that a previous home health aide worker, also from Personal-Touch, was poorly trained and improperly caring for Mr. Murakhovsky. With no witnesses and Mr. Murakhovsky afraid to speak about not being cared for properly, installing a camera in plain sight to all who enter the room seemed like the best way to ensure future best care for him.
The system camera was in plain view on the living-room ceiling. Its field of view faced the elderly, partially paralyzed man’s hospital bed and wheelchair. Audio and video of any contact with the former Real Estate manager from Ukraine would be recorded and stored on the Internet.
In Spring 2014, Personal-Touch sent a new home health aide to the Murakhovsky’s Rego Park / Forest Hills apartment, Ihor Krutovskyi, of Brooklyn. When Krutovskyi first arrived, Murakhovsky’s granddaughter, Gabrielle (who is studying to be a physician’s assistant) pointed out the video camera to him.
“She warned Krutovskyi that he better take good care of her grandfather because,” Manhattan-based attorney Philip Monier of the Monier Law firm related, “she said she could be watching all the time through the Internet.”
One day in April Mrs. Murakhovsky returned home from work to see that her husband’s face was bruised. He also was unusually withdrawn, and appeared depressed and very frightened. She called her granddaughter. They checked the video archive and were distraught. There was no sound, but the video was shocking. After discussing the matter, and concerned that if they just complained to the company and switched aides he might be sent to another unsuspecting elderly patient, they called the NYPD.
The sound was missing because the cable between the camera and the Murakhovsky TV system had been removed. But video kept working because it was hard-wired, and also connected to the Internet via Bluetooth.
“If Krutovskyi disconnected that cable and thought the surveillance system was disabled, he was mistaken,” Monier explained. “The video was all the proof the police needed to charge Krutovskyi with two felony counts.” The video Murakhovsky’s wife and granddaughter, and police saw was “frightening and damning,” Monier added, “his denial of doing any of these acts proves to me that he was sure that he had disabled the camera.”
“Mr. Murakhovsky was a prisoner of his own body, defenseless to stop the healthcare worker looming in front of him,” Monier said. “You see a fearful, elderly man being terrorized by the home healthcare aide. The most shocking video shows the home healthcare aide violently grabbing Mr. Murakhovsky’s hand away from his face holding his weak non-paralyzed arm by the wrist and slamming the wrist down to his side. And then the aide takes a towel, grabs Mr. Murakhovsky’s nose and grinds the towel into his face. It’s a disgrace,” Monier said.
“In other videos, all of which occurred over a five-minute span during feeding on April 8th, you see this vulnerable elderly man being tapped hard on the forehead to get him to swallow; being screamed at by the aide who bellows at him just inches from his face; getting his nose grabbed and pulled violently to turn his head and get his attention and, perhaps most disturbing being slapped hard on his arm for having the audacity to try and use his blanket to wipe his mouth. The way his right arm shakes in anger and pain, his face grimaces and he cries is disturbing.”
No one should be treated like that,” Monier said, “this company is supposed to be sending trained and qualified workers to help elderly disabled people like Mr. Murakhovsky, and they are getting paid a lot of money for sending unqualified workers.”
Monier represents Murakhovsky and his wife, Valentina. On August 5th they sued the New York City branch of Personal-Touch, Personal Touch Home Care, IPA, Inc.; the corporate parent, Personal Touch Holding Corp.; and Krutovskyi, (together, “Personal Touch Defendants’).
The civil suit, filed in Kings County Supreme Court, seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for, “…severe personal injuries and other damages…while being fed, while having his clothes changed, while having his diaper changed, while being cleaned, while being transferred from his wheelchair, and while otherwise being cared for by the defendant, Ihor Krutovskyi.”
“Healthcare providers sending workers into the homes of vulnerable, elderly persons have an obligation to ensure that their workers are property trained, certified, and supervised,” Monier said. “Had this been done with Mr. Murakhovsky, he would not have been terrorized, injured and degraded. I shudder to think of how many vulnerable elderly people are handled roughly by home healthcare workers in New York alone. In this case, thank goodness for hard-wired closed-circuit Bluetooth surveillance systems.”
In addition to the criminal charges, which are pending, Krutovskyi also is subject of an order of protection requiring him to have no contact with Murakhovsky or his family.
The New York Daily News reported an exclusive on the story.
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