WEST BABYLON, N.Y. (AP) — An 85-year-old woman with dementia had a male stripper gyrate in front of her against her will at her suburban New York nursing home, according to a lawsuit filed by her family but the facility’s lawyer said Tuesday the performance had been requested by its residents.
John Ray, the attorney for Bernice Youngblood and her family, said the woman’s son found a photograph of a man in white briefs dancing in front of his mother when he visited her in January 2013 at East Neck Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
The photo, which Ray distributed to reporters, shows Youngblood putting money into the dancer’s waistband. Ray said Youngblood had been urged to participate and did so against her will.
Franklin Youngblood, who attended the news conference outside the Long Island facility, said he immediately went to a nursing supervisor for an explanation. The lawsuit claims the nurse attempted to grab the photo from him.
Ray said Bernice Youngblood, who herself had worked as a health aide for the elderly when she was younger, had her dignity taken away when “nursing home employees subjected her to this disgraceful sexual perversion.”
Bernice Youngblood, who attended the press conference in a wheelchair with some of her relatives at her side, mumbled in a barely audible voice that she felt “terrible” and “ashamed” about what happened, but had no specific recollection of the details of the incident.
Ray said he has yet to determine who took the photograph, or how it got in the woman’s bedroom drawer.
Howard Fensterman, an attorney representing the facility, said a 16-member resident committee had requested the September 2012 performance and the nursing home paid the $250 fee.
Fensterman said the facility’s management reserves the right to reject a request by the residents’ committee, particularly if the activity were deemed detrimental.
“But in this instance these are adults who wanted to have this activity, they requested it, they voted on it and the nursing home approved of it,” he said.
The claims and counter-claims came during a sequence of heated news conferences outside the facility in West Babylon. Reporters and cameramen jostled in a large scrum around Fensterman and Ray when they briefly became embroiled in an argument after Ray presented his counterpart with a copy of the lawsuit complaint.
Fensterman said the girlfriend of one of Youngblood’s sons had taken her to the stripper show, and not nursing home employees.
Ray said Youngblood’s son disputed that claim and, in any case, that does not mean Bernice Youngblood was not harmed by what she saw.
Fensterman also chided Ray for claiming that Bernice Youngblood was suffering from dementia, while at the same time noting the woman signed a power of attorney document claiming she was competent to sign it.
“Ms. Youngblood suffers from partial dementia,” Ray said. “She has moments of partial lucidity.”