Vancouver caregiver disciplined for abusing elderly residents

Her license has been revoked for three years

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter




Previously: Registered nursing assistant Susan Meade was charged with unprofessional conduct for mentally and physically abusing elderly adults for whom she was caring.

What’s new: The Washington State Department of Health suspended Meade’s license for three years.

What’s next: Meade cannot work as a nursing assistant and must complete anger management training before petitioning to her get her license back.

A Vancouver nursing assistant who mentally and physically abused three elderly adults for whom she was caring, including rubbing a soiled disposable brief in the face of one woman, has lost her license for three years.

The Washington State Department of Health also ordered Susan Meade, a registered nursing assistant, to complete anger management training before petitioning to have her license reinstated.

Meade was charged in March with unprofessional conduct for abusing three residents of a Vancouver adult family home. The charges were the result of a state Department of Social and Health Services investigation and a subsequent investigation by the Department of Health related to incidents that took place in early 2009.

Meade’s case was the focus of an Aug. 21 Columbian story, “When trust is betrayed.” The daughters of one of Meade’s victims spoke out about their mother’s time in Meade’s care.

As a result of the investigation, the state health department in August suspended Meade’s license for two years. However, the suspension was later vacated due to an error during the disciplinary proceedings.

Aggravating factors

Last month, Meade presented her case before a health law judge, who issued a written decision last week. Meade testified at the hearing by phone, as did Pam Pratt, the daughter of one of Meade’s victims. Other employees at the Vancouver adult family home and state officials from DSHS and DOH also testified.

At the hearing, Meade denied abusing the residents. But the health law judge ruled Meade was not credible based on the testimony of others.

The health law judge considered aggravating factors such as abuse of trust, emotional harm to victims, number and pattern of acts, and the vulnerability of the victims when determining sanctions. She also considered Meade’s lack of prior disciplinary action as a mitigating factor, according to the written decision.

DSHS issued a separate finding against Meade on May 27 prohibiting her from working in a position that involves the care of vulnerable adults or allows her to have unsupervised access to vulnerable adults.

Pratt said she was torn by the ruling. She wanted to see Meade’s license revoked permanently but also understands the demands placed on nursing assistants, who are some of the lowest paid, educated and supported caregivers of the elderly population, she said.

“I am glad there is a provision for some kind of training, although, I don’t think it’s enough,” Pratt said.

Pratt and her sisters have stayed active on this issue since The Columbian’s August story about their mother, who died in January. The three women traveled to Olympia on Oct. 18 to meet with state Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, and other stakeholders. They discussed tightening the investigation processes and improving communication between DOH and DSHS.

Pratt said she left the meeting feeling hopeful Moeller would continue to work on the issue at the state level.

“The three of us just feel like we were so helpless in what happened to mom that maybe we can do something for the other moms,” Pratt said.

Marissa Harshman:;;; 360-735-4546.