A nurse providing care to a former California assisted living resident has been charged with felony elder abuse for failing to properly assess the woman’s failing health, ultimately leading to her death, the California Attorney General’s office announced Wednesday.

Emily Jones, a registered nurse with Miami-based provider of end-of-life care provider VITAS Healthcare, was charged with neglect and abuse of a 69-year-old female resident of the former Brookdale Riverside in Riverside, CA.

“Elder abuse does not always come in the form of a physical attack. It can result from utter neglect and lack of proper care, as we allege in the case of Emily Jones,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “Assisted living residents are a vulnerable population all too often victimized by acts of neglect and improper care.”

Jones was assigned as the resident’s case manager between May 25 and Aug. 14, 2017, according to an Aug. 19, 2020, complaint filed by Becerra, President Biden’s nominee for U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services. The complaint alleges that Jones did not record in the woman’s medical record the discovery of open ulcers and did not notify a physician or the resident’s family of the woman’s deteriorating condition.

As a consequence of this lack of care, Becerra asserted, the resident’s condition worsened, ultimately resulting in her death. The complaint states that Jones “knowingly and willfully” caused the woman, identified only as Marjorie S., to suffer “unjustifiable physical pain and mental suffering.” 

A Brookdale spokeswoman could not provide specifics on the situation because the community no longer is managed by Brookdale and Jones was not a Brookdale employee. Brentwood, TN-based Brookdale provides resources and access regarding referrals to assist residents and families with services, she said, but does not contract with companies for those services.

“Brookdale takes the safety and well-being of our residents very seriously, and this type of conduct or behavior by an individual at Brookdale would never be tolerated under any circumstance,” said Heather Hunter, Brookdale communications manager.

A spokesperson for VITAS confirmed that Jones’ employment was terminated in 2017 as a result of the incident. Citing patient privacy laws and the criminal charges filed, VITAS said it was unable to share specific details related to the case.

“It is important to note that VITAS Healthcare cooperated with state authorities and worked with the appropriate agencies to ensure that Ms. Jones is held accountable,” the spokesperson told McKnight’s Senior Living. “The level of care described in the complaint is completely unacceptable and does not represent our high standard of quality care required of all VITAS caregivers.”

Jones was arraigned Feb. 17 in Riverside County Superior Court. She pleaded not guilty and remains free on $50,000 bail. Jones faces up to 10 years in prison. 

The California Board of Registered Nursing opened an administrative investigation into Jones’ actions after receiving a complaint. That investigation concluded that Jones failed to properly assess an ulcer she discovered on the patient’s right heel. As a result, a plan of care was never developed, and the ulcer worsened into a wound that required emergency surgery to the right foot, which was septic and gangrenous. 

The resident’s health declined following the survey, and she eventually died. 

A felony complaint of elder abuse alleges that as a result of the abuse, the resident suffered great bodily harm. The charges stem from a criminal investigation by the California Department of Justice’s Division of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse.