April 23, 2003
Sean Caine, 410-576-6357
CAREGIVER CONVICTED OF ABUSING
DISABLED PATIENT IN HER CARE
Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today that Elizabeth Ann Smith, a former
house manager at Progress Unlimited, Inc. was found guilty of abuse
of a vulnerable adult and reckless endangerment for an incident
that occurred while she was feeding a developmentally disabled woman
who was in her care.
Vicki Ballou-Watts of the Circuit Court for Baltimore County sentenced
Smith to two years incarceration, suspending the entire sentence.
She also ordered the Defendant to refrain from providing care to
vulnerable individuals for a period of two years. Judge Ballou-Watts
further placed the Defendant on two years supervised probation followed
by two years unsupervised probation.
Smith, 57, of the 6100 block of Alta Drive was a paid caregiver
for three developmentally disabled women who reside in a group home.
One of the women who Smith was paid to care for is profoundly mentally
retarded, non-verbal, and suffers from a swallowing disorder known
as dysphagia. According to the consumers physicians
orders, her caregivers are required to puree her food in a food
processor with thickened liquids before feeding her. Otherwise the
consumer runs a high risk of aspirating on her food.
to the eyewitness account, on March 17, 2002, Smith was feeding
the consumer her lunch. Instead of pureeing the consumers
food as the doctor had ordered, Smith fed the consumer a whole submarine
sandwich. When the consumer refused to open her mouth to eat the
sub, Smith "popped" the consumer on the mouth with a forcible
slap. The slap left a red mark around the victims mouth. Smith
turned to the eyewitness and told her not to worry, that the victim
did not bruise for long. Smith then shoved the sandwich into the
victims mouth. The victim was having difficulty swallowing
the sub. As she was attempting to chew the food, she was making
choking noises as if she were struggling to breathe. At that point,
the eyewitness confronted Defendant Smith about the victims
aspiration precautions. Smith told the eyewitness that she was aware
of the doctors orders to puree the victims food but
that the victim could eat whole food that was not pureed. Smith
also told the eyewitness that she had fed the victim food that was
not pureed on several other occasions.
Smith fed the victim whole food rather than pureed food, she created
a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury. Feeding
whole foods to an individual with dysphagia against doctors
orders causes a high risk of aspiration. In addition, if an individual
with dysphagia swallows whole food, the food can settle in the lungs,
causing aspiration pneumonia, which can lead to severe medical complications
Smith knew that the victim could only have pureed food, yet she
forced the victim to eat whole food after exacting physical abuse,"
Attorney General Curran said. "She is the perfect example of
the kind of person who should not be allowed to care for another
case was prosecuted by Attorney General Currans Medicaid Fraud
Control Unit, which has jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute
abuse of vulnerable adults in facilities that receive Medicaid funds.