Nursing homes have become some of the most dangerous places to work in the US, thanks in large part to COVID-19. Residents have been cut off from their neighbors and loved ones for over a year, leaving millions of elders in poor health. As many facilities lift their COVID-19 restrictions, we’re starting to come to terms with all the damage that’s been caused over the last 14 months.
However, COVID-19 isn’t responsible for all of the despair running through these long-term care facilities. Authorities are still investigating a gruesome murder at one facility in New York City. Clifton Bourne, 87, is suspected of brutally beating his neighbor. With no clear motive, his loved ones say there’s “no way” this elderly man could have committed such a heinous crime.
Investigating the Crime
Police officers were called to the Pinnacle Multi-Care and Nursing Rehabilitation Center in Co-Op City last Friday night at around 6:30 PM. They found the victim, Lloyd Godfrey, 83, face down and unresponsive in his room with trauma to his face. An EMT later arrived and pronounced Godfrey dead at the scene, according to the NYPD.
Upon investigating, detectives learned that Bourne and Godfrey could be heard arguing minutes before the alleged incident occurred. Bourne was seen going into his neighbor’s room, where the authorities say he repeatedly smashed Godfrey’s face into the concrete floor.
Bourne was then taken into custody and charged with murder. “There’s no clear and concise reason,” a spokesman for the NYPD told reporters on Saturday.
The facility says both men suffered from dementia and were known for being unpredictable.
“This is a shock to everybody,” said one staffer. “We are so sorry. Everybody is so sorry. It shouldn’t have happened. I couldn’t leave work because everyone was crying: ‘What went wrong? Why, why here? Why, when we are trying to do everything that is right?’”
“It is so sad. I can’t tell you how sad I am,” said another worker at the facility, identified only as Robinson.
“Peacemaker” or Violent Murderer?
Workers say Bourne’s condition was taking a toll. “When those people are in a rage, even I have to back up and run. I can’t stand in front of you, you are going to kill me,” the worker said. “You are not processing the way a normal person is processing things.”
However, Bourne’s ex-wife, Elise Freeman, doubts that he could have committed murder. “I know him very well,” she said. “There is no way, no way he would have done something like that. He is scared of his own shadow. They are putting this on him. He is a peacemaker. Where were the workers? Nobody saw anything?”
Police say they have received 171 complaints about the Pinnacle Multi-Care and Nursing Rehabilitation Center over the last four years. Records show the for-profit 480-bed facility lost 18 of its patients to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
It’s unclear if Godfrey’s murder were a symptom of dementia or if more could have been done to prevent the attack.
Elder abuse is becoming more frequent in nursing homes across the US, especially among residents with dementia. Around 50% of people with dementia experience some form of abuse or neglect. Social isolation and cognitive decline can make these individuals more susceptible to abuse.
However, a systemic lack of care is also a part of the problem. Ninety percent of long-term care facilities lack staffing for adequate care. Nursing aides may care for up to 30 residents at a time. Statistics also show that 90% of abusers in these scenarios are trusted individuals, such as residents or familiar visitors. Elders who have been abused also have a 300% higher risk of death when compared to those who have not been mistreated.
Godfrey’s death is a terrible tragedy, one that no nursing home resident should ever have to worry about.