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Former nurse's aide pleads guilty to abuse

A former nurse's aide whose rough handling of a nursing home patient was caught by a hidden videotape has pleaded guilty to abuse, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway announced Tuesday.

Jaclyn Dawn VanWinkle, a former nurse's aide at Madison Manor nursing home in Richmond, pleaded guilty Monday in Madison District Court to reckless abuse of an adult and was sentenced to 12 months in jail, Conway said.

On Aug. 18, Van Winkle used rough and excessive force when moving Armeda Thomas, 84, from her chair to her bed and back again, according to Conway. The incident was recorded by a video camera placed in the room by Thomas' relatives.

Van Winkle also was seen on the videotape taunting Thomas.

Instead of serving time in jail, VanWinkle was put on probation for two years, provided, among other things, that she cooperates and testifies in any case involving an investigation into alleged criminal conduct at Madison Manor, Conway said.

Thomas' relatives hid a video camera in her room without the nursing home's knowledge last year after they discovered bruises all over her body and didn't get satisfactory answers about them from the staff.

According to state records, the videotape shows eight other nursing assistants at Madison Manor physically abusing Thomas, of Irvine, and failing to feed and clean her.

No other arrests have been made, but Conway said the investigation is continuing.

Thomas died in November of complications from Alzheimer's disease. Her family cared for her at home after discovering how she was treated at the nursing home.

Thomas' daughter, Wilma Hamilton, said Tuesday that she was pleased that state and local authorities had worked to get a conviction:

"I'm glad that they are sending a message that this kind of behavior won't be tolerated," she said.

Thomas' granddaughter, Deborah Hamilton, said she is starting an organization called the Armeda Foundation, named for her grandmother, that will provide training, information and assistance to families of patients with dementia who are in long-term care centers.

"If any good can come out of our experience, we hope that it will be that we can help others in similar circumstances," said Deborah Hamilton, who is a state social worker.

Officials at Madison Manor said the nurse's aides involved in the incident no longer work there. State officials said the nursing home has corrected the problems that led to the facility receiving the most severe citation possible in connection with Thomas' treatment.

Conway said Tuesday that his office is making the prosecution of elder abuse a priority.

"I want families across Kentucky to know that if they have a family member who they believe is being neglected or abused," he said, "they can contact our tip line."

The number is 1-877-228-7384.

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