Care giver testifies innocence to elder abuse charges

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A woman charged with mistreating an elderly person in her care took the stand Tuesday to say she and her husband used proper judgment in addressing apparent bed sores and gum disease.

Norma Childers, who owned and operated Nevada Cares Inc. with her husband, Mike, testified that allegations that 78-year-old Camille Catalfano was mistreated while under their care are unfounded.

She said the facility was never made aware of the depth of deterioration of Catalfano's health.

The pair were charged last year with felony and misdemeanor elder abuse when the Attorney General's Office learned of severe bed sores on her back and of mold on Catalfano's dentures. If convicted on both counts, they could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison and a hefty fine.

The health problems were discovered in early February 1998, when Catalfano was hospitalized. She was under the Childerses' care from September 1997 until February 1998. She died a month later.

The trial is scheduled to end today with closing arguments. Judge Michael Fondi said jury instructions will be prepared today at 9 a.m. prior to deliberation.

Childers said Tuesday that in their 13 years in the business, she and her husband have had more than 500 patients without complaint.

"I could have had 500 families come in here, because I never encountered anything like this," she said, referring to the charges.

"You get to know these people; it's like your children. You live with them."

During her testimony, Childers said she knew about bed sores developing on Catalfano's lower back, but noted that the deterioration wasn't significant. She read from a log book that noted red sores several weeks before Catalfano was hospitalized.

Childers said the wound was cleaned and dressed regularly, and that caregivers reported daily on the condition.

She further said that the sores may have been worse than they looked and exacerbated when Catalfano was brought to Carson-Tahoe Hospital.

A prosecutor's expert testified that the Childers should have known about the sores, while a defense expert testified that the sores can, on occasion, develop within 48 hours.

Catalfano defended that facility's treatment of Catalfano's teeth by saying they didn't appear to be in bad shape. "Her breath wasn't smelling; her teeth looked fine; her mouth looked fine," she said.

The Childerses sold their 118-bed facility to a larger corporation last year. They have since opened a facility in Fresno, Calif., called Fresno Cares.


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