The multi-million-dollar lawsuit was filed last month on behalf of Bernice Youngblood, an 86-year-old resident of the East Neck Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in West Babylon, owned by Cassena Care.
Youngblood, who has partial dementia, was subjected to an unwanted performance by a male stripper and “photographed by nursing home staff as a muscular, almost nude male dancer gyrated in front of her,” according to the lawsuit.
“I felt terrible,” Youngblood told reporters Tuesday, including CBS 2’s Emily Smith. “I was shaking and going on, and he told me what to do.”
Attorney John Ray told 1010 WINS: “He had a fistful of dollars in his hand, and she was putting a dollar in his pants at his demand. He’s leaning over her. He’s not just standing there; he’s intimidating her. This might be great for 32-year-old single girls, but this is an 86-year-old traditional, African-American woman who doesn’t want white men sticking their private parts in her face.”
The lawsuit claims the woman’s son, Franklin Youngblood, found the racy photograph in his mother’s belongings in January 2013. When he tried to ask the head nurse about the picture, she lunged at him and tried to snatch the photograph out of his hand, according to the lawsuit.
“There’s too much sex and craziness that’s going on. Now they’re bringing it to the nursing home, and it don’t belong here,” said Franklin Youngblood, adding that his mother was forced to tip with her own personal cash, which is supposed to be kept under lock and key by staff.
His brother, Darrell Youngblood, then called and spoke to another nurse who told him the performance was part of an “entertainment event” at the nursing home that was “planned, scheduled and executed by the facility, its agents, and employees and that it was done in ‘good faith,’” the lawsuit stated.
“She told me it was all in good fun, like this is something normal,” Darrell Youngblood said Tuesday. “I said, ‘What if this was your mother?’”
Residents and their loved ones a Riverdale nursing home echoed Youngblood’s feelings.
“That’s totally awkward. I think there’s no place for a person of such caliber in an nursing home,” Jason Vanhoven said.
“That’s not appropriate at all. You’re going to have them half naked and all that around old folks? That’s ridiculous. That’s crazy,” Tyrone Stuart told CBS 2’s Tracee Carrasco.
Youngblood and other patients do not have “the physical or mental capacity to consent to such vile acts or to defend themselves against such vile acts,” according to the lawsuit.
“She had no idea why she was doing this, and she felt very uncomfortable,” Ray said.
But Howard Fensterman, an attorney representing the facility, said a 16-member panel of residents voted unanimously to have the stripper perform, and the nursing home approved the activity and paid the $250 fee.
“There is nothing inappropriate about it. These are adults,” Fensterman said, adding that Youngblood had fun and was brought down from her room to the event by Franklin Youngblood’s live-in girlfriend, who appears in the photo. The family denies that claim, saying the woman in the photo is a staff member.
Attorneys for the Youngblood family called the strip show “grotesque” and claim employees did it “for their own sick amusement.”
The nursing home says on its website: “We honor the individuality, dignity, privacy, and safety of each individual with whom we have the pleasure of working, and we work closely with family members and caregivers to ensure that we stay focused on making everyone involved feel as confident, comfortable, and joyful as possible.”
The lawsuit claims Youngblood suffered extreme emotional distress, mental anguish, humiliation, shame, a diminished sense of self-worth and loss of dignity.
Bobbie Sackman, director of public policy with the Council of Senior Centers and Services, said she’s never heard of a stripper at a nurse home in her 40-year career, adding the activity is inappropriate.
“This was a situation of a woman with vast Alzheimer’s, and she didn’t know what was going on,” Sackman said.