‘I just want the truth:’ Family, resident, and caregiver speak to abuse, neglect inside Grand Rapids Home for Veterans

Posted at 6:27 PM, Feb 19, 2016

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Following concerns of abuse and neglect raised in an audit pointing to short-staffing and lack of care at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, residents and family members call for justice.

“I truly believe that if we never would have put him in there that he would still be here to this day,” said Samantha Keep, Grand Rapids resident.

Keep told FOX 17 she wants the truth behind the care her father actually received at the GRHV.

“He died from his heart, his heart was failing,” said Keep. “But on his death certificate it says complications from dementia. I just want the truth.”

U.S. Air Force Veteran Orrin Keep passed Sept. 11, 2015. Samantha shared pictures of her father that showed his health quickly faded in his eight months of care at the GRHV. She said she had daily concerns of inconsistent care from his critical medication to feeding.

“They weren’t feeding him, like they were but they weren’t consistent with it,” said Keep. “They would just leave him in a chair, in front of the TV, and he was supposed to be in physical therapy.”

Then medication, as his legal guardian, Keep said she never approved.

“Why does he have bed sores? You guys aren’t moving him around as much; he’s just sitting in a dirty diaper, like what’s going on?” remembered Keep.

“They shoved Ativan down his throat more than they did his heart rejection medicine.”

Her father had a heart transplant about 15 years prior and depended on daily anti-rejection medicine. Keep found proof of a lack of care in a prescription list she found in one month before she lost her father, including the heavy sedative Ativan and a cream for bed sores.

Current GRHV Jerry Lucksted said he and other members have been raising these concerns for years.

“The care for the veterans has gone down dramatically,” said Lucksted. “Members complain all the time about different things, like being left in their rooms, having soiled in their clothes.”

“All these issues that we are finding on the audit, they have been coming up and nobody’s taking care of them, the administration failed to come and see what we wanted to put forth as far as issues, and they just didn’t want to listen,” he said.

A former certified nursing assistant, who FOX 17 will not name, described the neglectful working conditions. She worked at the home four years before leaving the profession.

“Frustrated CNAs that are being overworked,” she recalled.

She told FOX 17 the contractor J2S, brought on by the state to hire nursing staff, short-staffed the care workers, and forced her to work double shifts up to three times weekly. As a full-time employee she said she had no sick days or vacation time.

“I got frustrated expecting to leave but being forced into another eight hours, because at the end of the day, it’s about the care for the members, they deserve the absolute best,” she said.

For Keep, under-staffing does not improve the care her father had or anyone else. She wants justice.

“I want justice for the other families, especially the veterans that have to live there, because who knows what’s really going on?” she asked.

Another former caregiver also told FOX 17 currently the GRHV is short 17 to 19 caregivers daily, and said it takes staff a long time to feed every member. Although, during Friday’s press conference, GRHV staff said they have already begun making improvements.

According to an employee with J2S, the company is still staffing the GRHV. As of Friday evening, J2S has not responded for further comment.