OKLAHOMA CITY – A nursing home aide pleaded guilty Wednesday at the Oklahoma County courthouse to a felony charge of abuse and neglect by a caretaker, involving a 96-year-old victim.
The victim, Eryetha Mayberry, suffered the abuse last April.
“I’m curious to know what kind of a lifestyle she had growing up to be so mean and hateful,” Mayberry’s daughter, Doris Racher, said.
She’s referring to 24-year-old Lucy Gakunga, who worked at the Quail Creek Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Oklahoma City.
Racher and her sister, Earlene Adkisson, noticed their mother’s clothes began disappearing at the nursing home, so they put a hidden camera in her room.
What they eventually saw on tape was heartbreaking.
“It’s just indescribable, really,” Adkisson said.
A police report states Gakunga, who was in the U.S. illegally from Nigeria, can be seen “taking some latex gloves and slapping (Mayberry) in the face with them.”
Gakunga “then takes the gloves, wads them and stuffs them into (Mayberry’s) mouth.”
She then “forcefully holds the wadded gloves in the 96-year-old (Mayberry’s) mouth.”
The report states another employee from Nigeria, Caroline Kaseke, witnessed the abuse but has not been found by police.
“To think mother went through all of that stuff and we weren’t even aware of it,” Adkisson said.
“She was so helpless,” Racher added. “Her left shoulder was frozen up and her little hand tried to come up and push her away and she didn’t have the capacity to do it.”
Wes Bledsoe, an advocate for long-term care residents who also created the group “A Perfect Cause,” said that camera is why Gakunga plead guilty Wednesday.
“The assault was horrible,” he said. “The assault could have claimed her life right then and there and no one would have known what happened without that video camera. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, you must put a hidden camera in their room today.”
He also recommended looking for any signs of bruising or injury.
“Are they shying away from certain people,” he asked. “Are they talking about sexual incidents or physical incidents that are out of character for them? These are warning signs. Pay attention.”
As part of a plea agreement, Gakunga will serve about another 13 months in prison before eventually being deported.
Mayberry passed away three months after the abuse at a hospice in July.
Following the sentencing, a Quail Creek Nursing and Rehabilitation Center administrator said they have new management now with compassionate employees.