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Family members of a mentally disabled woman have received a $150,000 settlement from the Portsmouth, Virginia (VA), group home and assisted living facility at which they alleged the staff abused and neglected the woman. Court documents indicate that relatives visiting the woman at the nursing home operated by Unique Friends LLC found her "bruised, dehydrated and unable to speak," according to a report in the March 1, 2011 Virginian-Pilot.

The woman, who died of an illness less than a month before the conclusion of her case, had testified that health care providers at the group home beat her and kept her locked in her room for long periods without food or water. In another possible sign of nursing home malpractice, staff at the facility repeatedly denied requests to allow the woman to travel to spend holidays with her family in Northern Virginia.

Unique Friends, which had operated in the 3800 block of Old Farm Road, had its license to house and care for disabled patients revoked by Virginia health officials in December 2007 after the allegations of abuse and neglect came to light. Three former directors and employees — Carolyn L. Walton, Cynthia Whitehead and Latosha Mack — were named as defendants in the original $5 million-plus civil suit.

Entrusting a daughter, niece, mother or grandmother to a nursing home for mental or physical care is a difficult thing for any family. When that decision becomes necessary, families need to know their loved one will be taken care of in the best ways possible. Too often, though, doctors, nurses and other employees at group homes and assisted living facilities break that trust.

Whether they result from overwork, stress, lack of training or, worst of all, lack of empathy, neglect and abuse of patients are never acceptable. I am glad the family of the woman apparently mistreated at Unique Friends has received some small amount of justice for the pain and suffering their loved one suffered.


About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm (VA-NC law offices ) edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services for consumers.

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