Four former employees of a New York senior living community potentially face one to four years in prison for a December 2017 incident in which a resident with dementia allegedly wandered out of the building at night and spent hours outdoors in freezing temperatures before being found with hypothermia, bruising and frostbite.

New York Attorney General Letitia James

New York Attorney General Letitia James last week announced the June arrests and arraignments of three personal care assistants and a medical technician who were working at Brompton Heights, an independent living, assisted living and memory care community in Williamsville, NY, at the time of the alleged incident. The prison time would come if they are found guilty of a felony with which they are charged: endangering the welfare of a vulnerable elderly person in the second degree. The four also are charged with a misdemeanor: endangering the welfare of an incompetent person in the second degree.

Brompton Heights, in a statement to the media, noted that it fired the employees after an investigation determined that they had violated multiple company policies.

According to the attorney general, personal care assistant George Stokes allegedly slept for four-and-a-half hours on an overnight shift instead of monitoring a residential hall. During that time, James said, an 87-year-old resident, wearing only her nightgown, wandered out of the building through an emergency exit.

Personal care assistants LaQuanda Johnson and Caprice Newbern, as well as medical technician Stephanie Shinault, the attorney general said, were at a nurse’s station that monitored the wing of the senior living community on which the resident lived. They allegedly muted or ignored the alarms that were set off when the resident wandered through the exit doors. Subsequently, they took their breaks at the same time, leaving the building even though they know Stokes was asleep, the attorney general alleged.

The incident, according to the New York Department of Health, led to Brompton Heights being cited for multiple deficiencies after an investigation. “The Department will continue to hold providers accountable for their actions,” officials said in a statement.

Brompton Heights officials said the company has improved employee training, quality assurance and recruitment efforts.

“Brompton Heights has made significant strides in compliance and addressing concerns,” company officials said the statement. “Specifically, Brompton Heights has focused on training, staffing and fostering a culture of compassion. Doubling down on employee training, quality assurance, and recruitment are all ways Brompton Heights has paved a path forward to provide excellent care to each of our residents.”