9 Investigates: Complaint filed against Brevard County nursing home

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — Officials with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Agency for Healthcare Administration are reviewing a complaint in Brevard County after a woman said her elderly mother came home with head-to-toe bruises following a stay at Vista Manor Nursing Home during Hurricane Irma.

Doris Martin died days later and her daughter, Debra Burleson, said she was temporarily placed at Vista Manor during the storm due to concerns about power loss and evacuations at her Merritt Island home.

A Titusville Police Department investigation cleared the nursing home of any criminal abuse, but the woman’s family still has questions about potential neglect.

"I just feel like a failure that I let her down," Burleson told Channel 9's Karla Ray.  "I want answers."

Martin, 81, was near the end of her life.  She had been receiving in-home hospice visits for months, but Burleson said she has never seen her mother the way she looked after a two-day stay at Vista Manor.

“I knew she was sick and ready to go home to Jesus, but I was just in total shock that she looked this way,” Burleson said.

Burleson showed 9 Investigates photos of deep purple bruises and skin tears covering Martin’s body that she said were taken immediately after Martin came home from the nursing home. An investigation revealed Martin had to go to the hospital after either falling from, or throwing herself from, her bed there. Records show workers knew Martin was a fall risk upon arrival, meaning her bed was lowered and the staff was to check on her every 15 minutes.

The nursing home executive director did not want to speak to 9 Investigates on camera, but the Titusville Police Department investigation showed a nurse noted she “did not think Martin would make it through the night based on her condition” when she arrived at Vista Manor ahead of the storm. Employees noted Martin was “malnourished” and “emaciated” and that her “COPD caused her skin to appear bruised,” which is something the woman’s daughter disputes.

“She was perfectly fine when she left my home. No bruises anywhere on her body,” Burleson said.

Police also noted Martin’s nursing home roommate had concerns, stating it took someone “longer than (she) would have liked” to come to the room after Martin fell.  When asked if that roommate herself had ever been abused by any of the staff, she said, “more like neglect.” She also indicated Martin did not want to be in the facility and may have thrown herself from her bed, causing the injuries.

Vista Manor spokesperson Jennifer Trapp told 9 Investigates in a statement: “Vista Manor’s top priority is always the privacy and well-being of our patients and residents, therefore, we will not comment on allegations or release information that would in any way jeopardize the privacy of those entrusted to our care.”