The family of a 91-year-old woman with dementia is suing a suburban Chicago nursing home and two caregivers after a video surfaced on Snapchat of the aides teasing the elderly woman with a hospital gown as she struggled against them.
Margaret Collins was living at The Abington of Glenview Nursing & Rehab Center in late December 2018 when her family was made aware of the video showing an aide shoving a hospital gown toward her as she repeatedly resisted.
On Snapchat, the video was posted with the caption "Margaret hates gowns," accompanied by two laughing emojis. The staff at the nursing home knew Collins was afraid of hospital gowns, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Cook County Circuit Court.
“They deliberately taunted and bullied my mom,” Joan Biebel, Collins’ daughter, said in a statement. “They did this for their own entertainment, and posted it for their friends.”
Collins' family notified Abington staff about the video, and the two aides involved, Bryan Cortez, 20, and Jamie Montesa, 21, were suspended as the nursing home staff investigated.
But the allegations were "concluded to be unsubstantiated," according to an Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) report, and Cortez and Montesa were back to work after six days.
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Collins was moved from The Abington, but she was afraid of a "repeat attack" and her family had to hire a private caregiver to be with her because her health deteriorated. Collins' son, Tom Collins, said the incident "really set her back."
Collins' family, who also said she "was heartbroken because she loved these kids," had also contacted police after seeing the video.
Cortez and Montesa confessed to being involved with the video, and were charged in January with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, according to a report from the Glenview Police Department. They were both released on $75 bond, and are due in court later this month.
Both aides said that they had an inside joke about Collins' aversion to hospital gowns, and knew it was wrong to tape her refusing to touch it, according to the IDPH report.
Cortez said he was "playing" with Collins, and she was "playing back." Montesa said she sent the video to former co-workers, but had never posted it on Snapchat.
Collins' family's lawsuit said Abington failed to follow protocol and file a report with the state until the aides confessed to police and were charged.
“They didn’t do what they’re required to do; they didn’t call the police. They didn’t call the state ombudsman. They didn’t call IDPH, and they denied to the family these people had traumatized Mrs. Collins even though there was a video proving that they did," Steven Levin, one of the attorneys representing the Collins family, said.
"This was elder abuse, and they did nothing about it," Levin said.
The IDPH report said The Abington “failed to implement its ‘Abuse Prevention Policy’ by failing to ensure that a resident is free from staff-inflicted emotional abuse."
The report said that failure left Collins to experience "degradation and shame."
"What’s really scary is I wonder how many other people they’ve done this to,” Biebel said.
The family is suing The Abington, its parent company, Cortez and Montesa for more than $1 million in damages.
The Abington of Glenview Nursing & Rehab Center did not respond to a request for comment. It's unclear if Cortez and Montesa have attorneys, but none are listed on court documents.
Elisha Fieldstadt is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.