A hidden camera caught a home health aide assaulting a 90-year-old stroke victim at an assisted living facility in Park Ridge, said authorities who arrested her.
The micro-surveillance “Safe Care Cam” unit caught Mitsou Gottheim, 50, of Nanuet on video “physically assaulting the elderly woman, who is bedridden and unable to communicate verbally because of a stroke,” Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said Wednesday.
It is the first time that police charges have been filed against a caregiver as a result of video captured through the relatively-new state program, authorities said.
Gottheim – who was charged her with simple assault and endangering the welfare of an incompetent person -- is registered with the New York Department of Health as a certified home health aide but not by the New Jersey Board of Nursing, Grewal noted.
“The Board will review the matter for possible action against Gottheim,” he said.
Gottheim "isn’t an employee of the center," said Danielle DeVincenzo, administrator of Atrium Post Acute Care Of Park Ridge. "The daughter, on her own, hired a caregiver to provide private care to her mother."
Atrium has procedures to help families hire certified private-duty home health aides and obtain cameras, DeVincenzo said.
"In this case, this aide was coming into the building and registering as a visitor," she said.
DeVincenzo urged family members to consult facility administrators and "be our partners" in creating and implementing plans for their loved ones.
The video, given to police by the daughter, shows Gottheim “slapping the elderly woman’s hand and roughly pushing her head back onto the pillow several times as she attempted to sit up and reach for something outside the camera’s view” at the unidentified facility, Grewal said.
The family obtained the micro-surveillance camera from the state Division of Consumer Affairs, which loans them to New Jersey residents who suspect caregivers are abusing or neglecting their loved ones.
“Elder abuse is a national concern,” Grewal said. “This case illustrates why New Jersey took the unprecedented step of creating a statewide program to ensure that all residents, regardless of their financial means, have access to state-of-the-art technology to help protect their loved ones.
“While it is heartbreaking for any family to see their loved one being physically abused by a caretaker,” he added, “the video footage obtained through our Safe Care Cam program provided this family with the evidence they needed to immediately intervene to stop the harm and take action to bring the alleged abuser to justice.”
To protect the integrity of the program, state authorities don’t disclose how many “Safe Care Cam” units are in use at any given time. However, Grewal said requests for the equipment “have been steady and the feedback from participants has been positive.
“Many have said the recorded footage provided them with the knowledge and peace of mind that their loved ones are being cared for properly.
“Some have said the cameras revealed concerning behaviors that prompted them to hire others to care for their loved ones. And others have said the cameras led to frank discussions with caretakers that have opened lines of communication and resulted in better care for their loved ones.”
Once a camera is in place, “it is up to the participant to review the recorded footage, which can be played on a television or computer with adapters provided by the program,” Grewal added.
“Participants are not required to turn over footage captured by the cameras,” he said. “It is up to participants to decide to report any issues of concern to the Office of the Attorney General or other appropriate authorities.”
Anyone seeking a “Safe Care Cam” for use in New Jersey can call (973) 504-6375 and leave a message in a voice mailbox that will be regularly monitored by Division staff responsible for the day-to-day operation of the program.
Or call the Division on its toll-free line and follow the voice prompts to leave a message: 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or (973) 504- 6200.
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