KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — The recent death of a man outside an adult foster care home in Jenison was the second in a little more than a year in West Michigan involving the same company.
An 86-year-old woman who suffered with late-onset dementia wandered away from one of the company’s homes in Kentwood, undetected, and drowned last year, leading to a state investigation.
Jean Bruin, a great-grandmother, lived at Cobblestone Manor at Eastern Avenue and 60th Street SE in Kentwood, an adult foster care home operated by American House Senior Living. A state report on the death shows the woman, who was legally blind, was somehow able to get outside the home undetected after bedtime on June 2, 2022, without her walker. The state report said alarms on exit doors were “either inoperable or disengaged.”
The lead medical technician who found the woman, and who is identified in that state report, told Target 8 that staff had warned American House management that the door alarms were not working.
“Several staff members had said something, and there was a lot of things that were mentioned, but they were just neglecting it and were not paying attention,” the worker said.
She asked not to be identified, saying she feared retribution from the Toledo-based company. She said she quit last year.
“There should have been alarms on all buildings, you know,” she said. “I would have known. I would have known somebody would have gone out the front door.”
It wasn’t clear which door Bruin used to walk away.
Workers told the state the doors lock from the outside, but don’t keep residents from leaving.
It wasn’t until the day after the death, according to a state report, that workers installed an alarm on the front door.
“The following day I came back and they were installing the alarms,” the med technician told Target 8.
Also, the next day, according to a lawsuit filed by the family, a relative overheard a worker saying he had fixed the alarm on the side door, nearest the pond.
The state report shows the home emptied the pond the next day.
Bruin loved gardening, playing golf and spending time on the beach in Englewood, Florida. She had moved into the home in June 2021, 15 years after the death of her husband.
Relatives told the state that Bruin had had a bad day, hallucinating about her deceased mother and husband.
“She was just hallucinating,” the med technician said. “She was acting like as if she was going to go out to a party with her deceased husband.”
Staff at the home told the state the woman was in bed “peacefully sleeping” with her cat, Samantha, when they checked her room at 8 p.m. The lead med tech said the woman was gone when she checked the room on her rounds two hours later. By that time, she was working alone at the home that houses up to 20 residents.
“I was kind of panicking a little bit,” she said.
She checked everywhere inside, then out.
“The last place I checked was the pond. Like something just told me, just go check the pond, and, yeah, sure enough she was just laying there,” she said.
She was face down in a small pond, 4 to 5 feet deep, just feet from the side door.
Firefighters were trying to save her life until they were told by foster home workers that she had a do not resuscitate order. Lifesaving measures, according to the state report, were then stopped.
The state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs issued a violation for failing to provide adequate supervision and protection.
American House Senior Living operates 18 adult foster homes in West Michigan , including in Kentwood, Jenison, Holland and Spring Lake. Since last year, the state has cited six of the 18 for not having enough staffing to adequately care for residents, according to records reviewed by Target 8.
The same company also operates American House Wyoming, a much larger home for the aged licensed by the state to house up to 166 residents, including Alzheimer’s patients. The state cited the facility, at 5812 Village Drive SW in the area of Byron Center Avenue and M-6, in 2021 for not having enough staff.
The state also is investigating the Oct. 13 death of 83-year-old Calvin Powers, whose body was found outside after he had walked away from an American House adult foster care home in Jenison. That home has doors that lock from the inside.
Target 8 has reached out to American House officials in Toledo for comment.