State probes claims of abuse of elderly man

MILFORD – The state Department of Health and Human Services is investigating allegations of possible abuse of an elderly man.

The man, before his death July 10, was a patient at a local nursing home.

“We are currently reviewing, gathering information,” said John Martin, manager of the DHHS bureau of licensing and certification, Friday.

The man, whose identity has not been released for reasons of privacy, was a patient at The Elms Care and Rehabilitation Center, a nursing home at 71 Elm St., operated by SunBridge Healthcare.

SunBridge also owns and runs Langdon Place of Nashua, Crestwood Care and Rehabilitation Center at 40 Crosby St., Milford, and Bedford Hills Care and Rehabilitation Center in Bedford.

Martin said his office was notified and began looking into the case June 29.

Milford Police Chief Fred Douglas said detectives were called to Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in Nashua on June 28 after staff raised concerns about the condition of the man’s wounds.

Now, investigators are trying to determine whether neglect contributed to the man’s death.

Martin said his office is seeking to establish whether the concerns warrant further investigation.

DHHS investigators will review records, and if necessary, make an onsite visit, Martin said, adding he doesn’t anticipate a lengthy procedure.

“This particular individual was admitted (to the Elms) on May 20 and spent approximately 25 days at the facility, not consecutive days because he was in the hospital in between,” Martin said.

The state official said complaints alleging serious abuse and neglect of elderly patients are “fairly rare,” although his office receives a number of “benign complaints of a routine nature.”

Assistant Attorney General Jeff Cahill declined to comment on the case.

On Friday afternoon, however, Michael Johnson, administrator of the Elms, released a prepared statement, saying the former resident was “a frail diabetic with significant health conditions.”

“While at the hospital, the doctor conducted a wound care consultation, and the doctor noted the dressing was not embedded and was removed with a saline solution,” Johnson said in the release. “Other observations of this patient mentioned in the press are the unfortunate result of underlying medical conditions, all of which were being appropriately cared for by the staff at the center.”

Johnson said the health-care facility is cooperating with authorities, including “medical personnel” and the state, and has “the full support of the family” of the former patient.

He said the family of the former patient gave its permission to release some medical information that otherwise would be kept confidential.

“Our commitment to providing a safe environment and quality care to the patients and residents we serve is unwavering,” Johnson wrote. “We do not agree with the way our nursing center is being portrayed in the media surrounding this situation.”